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Photographing the Sea Turtles of the San Gabriel River

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Animal Updates | Reptiles | Volunteering

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hugh

Learning the surfacing patterns of urban sea turtles.

Since August of 2008 my wife Pam and I have been conducting an informal survey of the green sea turtles of the San Gabriel River for the Aquarium of the Pacific. While Pam handles the data gathering portion of the research I have the responsibility of photo documenting the resident turtles of this river that runs between Los Angeles and Orange County. In this week’s blog I’d like to share a few of the images that I’ve shot this past year of these improbable urban river residents.

Photographing sea turtles in the river can be quite a challenge. These turtles only surface for a brief second or two. Sometimes the murky water only allows you to see underwater a few inches. They can stay underwater for dozens of minutes at a time and to a person not familiar with them the turtles seem to surface randomly all over the river. However after over three years of watching them I’ve noticed that their surfacing pattern is not quite as random as it seems. By taking into the account the tide, the current from the powerplant outflows, the river flow, time of day and the critters activity level I can loosely calculate when and where these animals will break the surface and have my camera ready to shoot. The photos in this blog are the results of calculations made from experience.

To read more about these green sea turtles check out my earlier blog about them: THE GREEN SEA TURTLES OF LONG BEACH May 12, 2011

Photographing the Sea Turtles of the San Gabriel River
One of the smaller sea turtles in the river. The size of the sea turtles in the San Gabriel River can range from ones with tiny ping pong sized heads to huge full sized critters.  | Hugh Ryono
Photographing the Sea Turtles of the San Gabriel River
A turtle prepares to dive.  | Hugh Ryono
Photographing the Sea Turtles of the San Gabriel River
Sometimes the green turtles of the river display unique behaviors that distinguishes them from other turtles. This particular turtle would consistently raise both flipper high into the air before making his deep foraging dive.  | Hugh Ryono
Photographing the Sea Turtles of the San Gabriel River
A medium size turtle surfaces in clear water. A rare condition in the river.  | Hugh Ryono

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