The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 41 - July 1, 2009


First turtle nests due to hatch any day


PHOTO COURTESY OF AMITW Glenn and Claudia Wiseman
painstakingly verify a nest in Bradenton Beach. They found the eggs,
which were left undisturbed, and the nest was staked off for safety.

This is the time during turtle nesting season that volunteers love. The turtles are coming and going in near record numbers, so Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteers are out on the beach at the crack of dawn finding nests that were laid during the night, and they are beginning to keep their eyes on nests that were laid earlier in the season, which runs from May 1 to Oct. 1.

"The volunteers call their coordinators when they find a nest," said AMITW Director Suzi Fox. "We verify the nest, stake it off and try to be off the beach by 7:30."

That can be a difficult task, according to Fox. There were five nests and six false crawls found Sunday morning in a stretch between south Holmes Beach and north Bradenton Beach.

"We check to see that there are actually eggs, and that the turtle didn’t change her mind and head back out without laying her eggs," Fox said.

To verify a nest, a trained volunteer gingerly and carefully digs down into the sand in the place the eggs are most likely to be found. Sometimes it takes as many as seven or eight tries before the volunteer either finds or doesn’t find the eggs or learns that there are no eggs in the nest and it is a false crawl, where a turtle crawls ashore, digs in the sand and doesn’t lay her eggs.

If the eggs are found, the nest is staked off. The stakes include information about when the nest was laid, what section it was laid in, what nest number it is in the section, the earliest possible hatch date and the initials of the walker who found the nest.

In a case where the volunteer is fairly sure there are eggs, but for some reason they can’t be found, a larger area is staked off to protect the eggs, which could be crushed if someone walked over them accidentally.

"Sometimes something spooks her," Fox said. "Maybe there’s a lot of noise, maybe a cat comes by when the turtle’s getting ready to nest. We never really know why, but for some reason, the turtle returns to the sea when she doesn’t sense that the conditions are safe for her to nest."

First nests due

The first nests of the season are due to hatch sometime this week.

"With all the heat we’ve been having lately, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the nests go out early," Fox said.

This is a time of year when everyone needs to be very careful about making sure that no lights are visible from the beach.

Artificial lights can lure the hatchlings, leading them away from the warm waters of the Gulf. When this happens, it’s called a disorientation. Sometimes the hatchlings get dehydrated and just die. Sometimes they wander out onto the roads where they are crushed under the wheels of cars and trucks. Sometimes they’re found in storm drains or swimming pools.

"It’s not good when that happens, and what’s really heartbreaking is that it’s so easy to prevent," Fox said. "Just go down to the waterline, squat down low and imagine how things look from a turtle’s perspective. If you can see lights, the turtles can see lights."

Sometimes it’s as easy as moving a floor lamp or table lamp away from a window or making sure the blinds are closed after dark.

There are safe, effective ways to shield lights or move them so they won’t impact turtles.

If you have questions about how to make sure your lights won’t hurt sea turtles, call the code enforcement officer in your city.

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