Kids learn about Turtle Watch
Sue Anderson, of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch
and Shorebird Monitoring,tells students at Anna Maria
Elementary School all about turtles and birds.
TOM VAUGHT | SUN
HOLMES BEACH – When a mother turtle comes ashore on Anna Maria Island, Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring does what it can to ensure that the mother’s eggs hatch and the hatchlings make it to sea. Anna Maria Turtle Watch also works to ensure safe nesting for seabirds and the second graders at Anna Maria Elementary School appeared to be aware of what the group does.
Turtle Watch volunteer Sue Anderson spoke to the students at the auditorium last week and was pleased when most of the class raised their hands when she asked who had seen a nest on the beach and who had seen hatchlings make their run for the Gulf of Mexico.
Anderson passed out cards showing the most common sea turtles including the loggerhead (most common); the green turtle, which has been laying more eggs on the Island lately; and the leatherback.
The cards had rules for protecting turtle hatchlings such as never point a flash camera or flash phone at a nesting turtle; minimize beachside lighting by closing drapes and shielding lights; never approach, touch or get in front of an adult turtle; don’t bring dogs onto the beach – they are prohibited by law anyway; and take a guided turtle walk.
Anderson brought a shell and two skulls taken from loggerheads that had died. She also brought a display showing how a turtle nest looks.
Anderson gave the kids turtle facts such as loggerheads lay between 80 and 120 eggs per next, the gestation period for the eggs is 60 to 65 days and after the turtles hatch, they go into the Gulf at night to avoid predators and they swim to about five miles offshore where there are sea grasses to hide them as they grow.
“Last year we had 365 nests on the Island,” she told the three classes of second graders. “That was a record.”
Turtle Watch has nine sections of beach to patrol during season and seven people are assigned to each section. The kids did the math and came up with 63 volunteers to tend to the turtles.
As for the shore birds, Anderson passed out more cards with pictures of shorebirds that might nest on the Island. She had wooden carved examples of a skimmer and a tern. She had two rules the kids should follow on the beach.
“Please don’t feed the birds and don’t chase birds,” she said. People who feed birds people food are not doing them any favors, especially if they feed them bread. Anderson said the bread makes their bones soft and can kill them. Chasing them robs them of the energy they got from their food. She opened a copy of The Sun dated Nov. 13 and showed them the “Live Like a Local” feature that showed a willet walking on the beach with the caption, “After a long day of crabbing, I’m not up for a game of chase – thanks.”