Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Turtles Have Landed


It's the time of year in South Carolina when the sea turtles leave the water to lumber up the beach and lay their eggs, in more than 6600 nests last year.  These dinosaurs of the deep are amazing creatures and we are so lucky to get to witness some of their activity.  

Grown loggerhead turtles weigh between 
Photo from the Charleston Aquarium
 155 and 350 lbs and their shells are 2.5 - 3.5 feet long.  
They are graceful swimmers in the water, but the trek up the beach through the sand to find a nesting site is exhausting and treacherous.
 
They are on the Threatened Species list in the U.S., 
mainly because their nesting habitat has been severely reduced by building on the coastal areas and beaches.  
(Turtle photo from the Charleston Aquarium).    

 Local volunteer organizations assist the Department of Natural Resources in identifying and caring for the turtle nests.  The organization in our area is called S.C.U.T.E. (South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts), pronounced "scoot".  Volunteers walk the 60 miles of our beaches every morning looking for nests.

In this photo from the beach yesterday, you can see the crawl, the track the female made coming up the beach and back to the water.  The volunteer on the ground is counting and removing eggs to move them to a higher spot up the dunes so they won't be washed away by a tide. 
 
A nest contains an average of 120 eggs and a female nests 3-4 times in a season.

A false crawl, below, occurs when the turtle decides it's not good place for her eggs or something frightens her and she returns to the sea without laying eggs.

 
 There are quite a few more false crawls on the beach than nests.  


 












A piece of strong mesh is placed over the nest to prevent predators from digging and the nest is cordoned off.  

Incubation is 55-60 days.  A successful hatch is about 65%.


  
I hope I'll be back in a month or so to show you some hatchlings. 

12 comments:

  1. Not just the sea turtles, our lagoon turtles are looking for nesting places. Mac raised 2 turtle one year, if we don't get the eggs the raccoons do.

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  2. HUGE! And very informative post; thanks!

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  3. Similar safeguards are put in place here (Australia) to protect the eggs
    from predators.......bird, beast and worst of all human feral!

    Don't the eggs hatch very early in the mornings? I am sure I read that somewhere
    so you better be up bright and early..like before dawn.
    Great post
    Cheers
    Colin from a very miserable wet and cold morning here in "not sunny or beach weather like Terrigal.

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  4. Sea turtles are majestic when they are in the water. I hope your efforts help the turtle survival.

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  5. Similar in Australia - and nice to read what happens in your area :)

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  6. The eggs get moved for safety. How cool! But I wondered why the mama doesn't know the best place to lay them.

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  7. So nice to read your post and see how well protected they are, hopefully they won't be on the endangered list for long. A great post.

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  8. So much eggs! I didn't know that. What a complicated way for them to lay the eggs. But great they get some help from the people to protect their brood.

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  9. The crawl pattern in the sand is so interesting and such a lot of work for a false crawl. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Dear Cynthia, thanks so much for this interesting and informative posting. I always learn from your blog! It's quite wonderful that humans band together to protect the eggs and continue a species. If only we all could be so concerned with the welfare of our planet. Peace.

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  11. It would be fun to see the babies emerging! :)

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