Turtling is done mainly by feel, not sight. The beach, thanks to El Grupo asking homeowners to turn out their lights which distract nesting turtles, is incredibly dark. So when I’m alone digging a nest I either hold the flashlight between my knees, or let my eyes adjust and find the nest by poking my stick blindly in the sand. Then I dig vertically where I feel the chamber give way, and sticking my arm shoulder deep in the damp and bring out the slimy eggs by the handful.
Last night this all went down as usual, until I reached in and felt something oblong and slippery, and as I started to take it out it wriggled! I screamed at the top of my lungs as I flung the live thing from me, and heard it land with a thud on the sand. Heart racing, I cautiously went over to investigate, and found a tubular fish, 8 inches long and gasping for air. It looked like a miniature sea monster with its flaring red gills, and rows of teeth visible in its sucker like mouth. I didn’t think about how it came to be buried with my eggs, I picked it up by its tail and chucked it unceremoniously into the ocean.
Somehow I composed myself enough to dig up the rest of the eggs, and later asked Frank what the hell a fish was doing in the bottom of a hole. It turns out that it was a lamprey; a parasitic fish that attach themselves to turtle’s flippers and underbellies. When they nest the fish can’t breath so they drop off, hoping to swim away, and are instead buried along with the eggs, and every once and a while a freaked out gringa digs them up again.