Storm tide troubles turtles
Lunar high tides combined with the passage of Tropical Storm Claudette in the Gulf caused problems for several sea turtle nests on Anna Maria Island.
"We had several nests under water for a couple of hours," said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox. "It always freaks people out to see that, but turtle nests are usually OK with some wash over or even with water that stays over the nest for a little while."
Fox said she always gets phone calls from people who want to dig up the eggs and move them to higher ground, but that’s against state regulations.
"The only time you can take the eggs is if waves have actually washed out the nest and the eggs are tumbling in the surf," Fox said. "Other than that, you have to leave them alone."
Fox said that when Sunday morning dawned with the highest tides we’ve seen all summer and the lightening accompanying Claudette, she ordered all her volunteers off the beach, and she did the morning beach survey herself on AMITW’s ATV.
"Everything looked OK," she said. "I think the nests that stood in water for a while should hatch out without problems."
Fox added that as of this past weekend, roughly 42 percent of the nests laid on our shores have hatched so far.
"We even had one more nest last week on Aug. 13," she said. "The last nest in 2008 was laid on Aug. 8."
Bud and Gretchen Edgren, who are longtime AMITW volunteers, said they remember a nest laid so late in the season that it didn’t hatch until Halloween.
"This one should go out sometime in mid-October," Fox said. "But you know what? I just have this gut feeling that we still may get another nest or two."
On average, nests hatch about 55 days after they are laid. Some have hatched in as few as 32 days, and some go to 65 or even 70 days past the date when the mother turtle deposits her eggs in the sand.
Such things as the depth of the nest, the temperature of the sand, the number of sunny days and the temperature of the water can all affect length of the incubation period.
When a nest is identified and staked off, AMITW volunteers make several markings on one of the stakes.
The first number denotes the section of the beach where the nest is located and the number in that section. For example, if the top number on the stake were 8/9, it would mean that the nest is in section 8, and it’s the ninth nest laid this season in that section.
The second number is the date the nest was laid, and the third number is the date that’s 50 days after the nest was laid. When that date is reached, volunteers will check the nest each morning to look for signs of hatching.
After the nest has hatched, volunteers wait about three days and then excavate the nest to get a count of eggs in the cavity. Sometimes they find live hatchlings in the nest still lagging behind.
The eggs are assessed and counted as part of the keeping the statistics on the Island.