"Jeannie, wake up! It's time to get up!" (Jeannie is Sparky's REAL name, in case you didn't know. :-)
"Hunnnnhhhhh....I'm too tired, I'm gonna sleep in..."...
"It's turtle nesting time, remember? You said you wanted to go...."
Oh, yeah...forgot....Every Saturday and some other days as well, the Mote Marine staff heads out to the local beaches to check the status of the loggerhead turtle nests during nesting season, May 1-October 1. And every Saturday, the public is invited at the crack of dawn, 6:45 AM, to join them as they walk the beach, look for nests, monitor any new turtle tracks they see, measure tracks, and do all the cool things they do to protect the loggerhead turtles from people and predators. Sparky dragged herself promptly out of bed after remembering this.
This morning we met out at the Hilton hotel pool area at Longboat Key promptly at 6:45 AM to head out onto the beach. There was a marked nest right outside the beach chairs on the hotel front property. It's the orange tape in the background near the water. It's actually closer to the beach chairs than it is to the water.
This was the turtle track that the Mote worker saw the turtle making this morning. Here is a better view.
Unfortunately, this particular turtle chose to try and navigate around some beach chairs. Condo owners are requested to bring in their chairs at night to help the sea turtles be able to nest, but the best that some people can do is to group the chairs in bunches off to the sides. It's a hassle schlepping the chairs back and forth every day at some distance for some of the residents.
The female turtle had lots of trouble. The researcher showed how she came in to the edge of the sand and grasses bank, got trapped around the lounge chairs, and struggled to get back out. Turtles can NOT back up on land, so this turtle went in and around the chairs in circles. Something instinctively didn't feel right about the chosen site, so she left and went back out to the water.
It was documented as a "false crawl". Somebody asked what happens to the eggs if she is not able to lay them? The researcher said they don't really know if she'll come back and try again, or they will get released in the water or exactly what happens.
red. Apparently, red lights do not affect the turtles' orientation as the hatchlings emerge from the nest at night, seeking the brightest light which is the horizon and the seawater. She said that if anybody even turned on a regular light inside their condo and had the drapes open, that the baby turtles would head towards the condos when they hatch. They have light ordinances in the coastal beach communities to protect the turtles' nesting and hatching instincts.
The researcher said that in addition to observing lighting ordinances in these communities, people can help sea turtles by diligently picking up trash from the beaches, and filling in holes in the sand after digging and having fun burying your family and/or friends. The baby turtles fall in the holes that people dig and can't get out. Then the gulls swoop in and eat them....
The researcher was glad to see this black crowned night heron walking the beach with us this morning. Night herons are not all that common on the beach she said. They eat ghost crabs, which eat baby turtles, so that's a bird you want to see roaming the beach where the nesting sites are!
After about an hour, it was time to head back....A wonderful early morning walk on a Saturday morning. Sparky might just get to be an early bird riser....(HA! says E. This I gotta see!) He's the early bird--about 5:00 or so, Sparky is more like 7:00 or so....Until next time.....