On one of our days in Trinidad the highlights fell not on birds, and the emphasis wasn't on digiscoping either... GASP! No on this day there was a unique treat in store, this was the day of the Goliaths!... (and an early birthday celebration).
The morning started with some birding that was really great, but I won't dwell on that for now. Instead I'll talk about a personal treat, running into Goliath Beetles. The male at top (while cool looking) was unfortunately dead, but still photogenic I might add. The girl below though was an alive one I found on a chain link fence that I had to share with my friends.
Below, Kim Kaufman finds the answer to one of nature's mysteries, "I wonder what would happen if I tried to get a picture of a Goliath Beetle on my shirt?!?..." also proving this was very much an alive Goliath Beetle. Sorry Kim, you didn't deserve it, but glad she waited to get off my hand! Perhaps it was something you said?!?.... ;p
Of course it wasn't long before the curiosity just leads to pure joy that any naturalist would be sure to feel at a time like this. I think the faces say more than my words possibly could. Above Bill Thompson, III & Julie Zickefoose are clearly thankful to be able to assist in the research taking place. Below Kenn & Kim Kaufman are equally blown away!
Despite the impression given by the photos, most of the time the beach is kept completely dark except for one or two dim red lights used by researchers. There are often many researchers and visiting guests on the beaches so young turtle hatchlings like these are sometimes collected and hand-delivered to the ocean so they are not accidentally trodden on. Guests donations and permit fees help to fund the project here and since its inception, the community has rallied behind the world class spectacle here. With the community support turtle nest poaching (once common) is now a thing of the past! Another example of how tourism has actually aided in preservation/conservation.
Now these tiny swimmers hardly seem worthy of the title "Goliath" however, if they are one of the very few to beat the odds and live long enough to return to this beach to breed they will indeed be giants. The largest of the Sea Turtles, Leatherbacks typically reach over 1,000 pounds! On this night we were fortunate enough to not only see hatchings but we had multiple adults on the beach as well. At first we had two together, one did a "false crawl" where it came out of the water and did a short loop then returned not finding the precise spot it wanted. The second began digging but the sand in this spot was too soft and the sides kept collapsing. As I said, most of this is observed by whatever ambient light the moon & stars cast, and to some degree the dim red lights used by researchers. It was amazing to watch as an enormous dark shadowy form would de deposited by the black waters retreating from a wave crest. I was forunate enough to be staring toward the sea as one of these shadowed behemoths magically "appeared".