Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Sea Turtle Nest


If you look closely, you can see a sea turtle nest discretely tucked away in the dunes and the tracks of a UTV going past it. Each morning the patroler on duty will stop at every nest in their area to check for signs of predation. It's fairly common to find ghost crab holes around or near nests and a patroler will quickly fill them in. Ghost crabs are one of the worst predators of our sea turtle nests.

After 50 days or so gestation, patrolers will begin listening to a nest for sounds of scratching by placing their ear to the sand near the egg chamber.  Don't worry, we put a towel or sheet down first!  It can be a bit funny when tourists happen by and are concerned we've passed out or gone to sleep on the job.  Believe me, nearly every patroler has such a story.

It's hard to miss the sound of hatchlings digging their way to the surface!   And, as the sound gets louder, we know the hatchlings are close to emerging.  Once they become active, the nest starts being screened and supervised during the night. 

Several hours before hatchlings emerge we will see evidence of a 'cone' - a small depression in the sand immediately above the egg chamber.  When we see coning, we go on high alert.   Bio-techs and volunteers are almost always present to help the hatchlings make their way into the Gulf of Mexico and protect them from disorientation (heading away from the water and toward areas of light pollution) and predators.

This is turning out to be a record breaking year for sea turtles nests in our area of Gulf Islands National Seashore. After years during which the numbers of nests have steadily dwindled, and especially coming on the heels of the oil spill which was devastating to us last year, this has generated so much excitement for the Park and for all those who have a passion for these endangered marine creatures.

8 comments:

Annie Patterson said...

what a cozy little spot she chose for a nest!

Loui♥ said...

DJ..
beautiful and informative post!
excited?Yes!!
Like you stated, so many nests coming on the heels of the oil mess..
simply amazing..
Shows just who is in control!
sandy hugs..
Loui♥

Barrier Island Girl said...

Oops, better clarify that the biologist found this nest site! :-) This was an instance of the mama sea turtle laying her nest too close to the water and it had to be relocated by the biologist/bio-techs.

When at all possible, nests are left "in situ" - in their natural state. If, however, the nests are in a low spot close to or possibly even below the wrack line, about the only way to give the nest a chance it to relocate it to higher ground.

corley said...

Hi Ms. DJ!
We sent you an email. Hope all is well and that we hear from you soon!
The Corley's
Tuscaloosa, AL

Lorie said...

How many nests have there been this year????

Barrier Island Girl said...

It has been a wild and crazy year, Lorie. I believe we have about 80 nests at this point.

17 on Ft. Pickens, 11 on Pensacola Beach, 23 at Santa Rosa, and 29 on Perdido Key!

We will be anxious to see what happens in 2012. If we have another high year, it may signal that our conservation efforts are finally paying off! But turtles do not come ashore to nest every year. Generally it is every other year, and some turtles (like the Greens) we come to expect every third year. It's possible things just sort of realigned themselves this year. Guess we'll find out!

Lorie said...

That is awesome! Our Traveling Turtle Girl is looking down and blessing our beach for sure! :-) Think of Kirsten every time I see a nest!

Barrier Island Girl said...

Lorie, thank you so much for that comment. You have no idea how many times I think of Kirsten and what she would think of certain things going on with our sea turtles - last year's disaster, this year's boon.

I try to contact her family every year so they know she is not forgotten and that her influence is still felt in this area.

DJ