Early birds protect turtles
Threatened loggerhead sea turtles have a dozen volunteer coordinators to thank for making Anna Maria Island beaches a safer place for them to nest and for their eggs to hatch.
The “daybreak dozen” gets up before dawn to walk the beaches in search of telltale turtle tracks indicating either a new nest or a newly-hatched nest – both events happen mostly at night.
Each coordinator or coordinator team is responsible for a group of volunteers who also walk one or more of the Island’s nine sections of beach, from Galati Marine in Anna Maria to the Longboat Pass jetty in Bradenton Beach.
Occasionally you may see coordinators riding an ATV on the beach to get to a nest site, but mostly, they’re on foot, in all kinds of weather except for lightning, marking new nests with stakes, recording their positions by GPS, calculating when the nests will hatch and checking hatched nests for stragglers. They also give turtle talks to beachgoers.
Nesting is just about over for the record 2012 turtle season (May 1 – Oct. 31), but the hatchings continue.
You can help turtle hatchlings get to the water safely by not allowing lights to be seen from the beach at night and moving everything portable off the beach at dark.
Cindy Lane | Sun
Emily and Pete Gross watch for turtles from 66th Street to Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach, sections four and five. Turtle Watch volunteers for five years and coordinators for four, they posted a nest
excavation on Facebook recently and 300 people showed up to see two live hatchlings liberated from a nest that had already hatched 113 others, according to the eggshell count. Pete is the official statistician of Turtle Watch.