Friday, July 24, 2009

Turtle Nest Dig

This morning we went to Buttonwood Lane beach access, to walk over to the turtle nest that hatched Tuesday, to watch as it was dug. It was hot when we arrived and there was no breeze.

The first thing I noticed was beautiful clouds.

Then as I turned to look toward the nest area, I saw a huge something! I couldn't tell what it was until I got closer and then decided it was a whale.

There was lettering dug into the sand that said something like...Made to scale teen whale shark. The whole sand shark was covered with brown seaweed and had two fins made of cardboard.

The huge shark on the beach would be a neat thing, but it isn't 'Turtle Friendly'. It will probably take a backhoe to level it.

Looking toward the hatched turtle nest, I noticed quite a crowd gathering. Most of the volunteer turtle walkers for this zone had come to watch the dig, along with others who heard about it and also passersby. Our very own Biologist and 'Head, Sea Turtle Lady', Amanda Bryant was there to observe. :-)

Three days after a sea turtle nest hatches, it is dug by a Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Permittee. This is done to rescue any baby turtles that might not have made it out on their own, to count the empty shells, any dead turtles and eggs that did not hatch. This information is recorded and sent to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This collection of data helps to improve the chances for sea turtles to survive.

A typical nest has approximately 100 eggs. It takes hatchlings 2 to 3 days to dig out of the nest. They usually dig and come out as a group. Tuesday morning just before sunrise, we saw one turtle go into the gulf. By looking at what we could see of the tracks, it looked like a large number of turtles had come out of the nest during the night, before a rain and a few more after that rain. Today there were a few more fresh tracks from the nest to the water.

Around 8:00 AM this morning, the nest was dug by the Permittee who was on duty. The nest was about a foot and a half deep. He did this digging with his hands, to avoid injuring any live turtles that might still be in the nest. The first thing he found was a live turtle, but it wasn't moving around much. It was placed in a small sand pail with sea water in it. Soon it began moving his little flippers and swimming around. There were a lot of unhatched eggs, which were taken out along with the empty shells, to be counted. I couldn't hear very well, but I think there were less than a hundred eggs, and about half of them hatched.

The baby turtle was taken a little nearer to the water and released. He seemed to be having a little trouble with one of his flippers at first, but after he reached the water, he appeared to be ok and swam off into the waves. The Permittee then counted and replaced the shells into the nest and covered it with sand.

Best watched in HQ on YouTube by clicking on the screen below.

It is believed that the newly hatched turtles swim for at least 3 days straight out into the sea to avoid the shore predators, then begins floating among sargassum weed, feeding on small creatures that live in it. Sadly, it is thought that only 1 in 1000 hatchlings survives to adulthood.

As I walked back, I kept looking out at the water, wondering if that little turtle would be one of the lucky ones.


Little Black Scrap Cat said...

I'm glad the last little guy got rescued. Thanks for sharing your turtle ventures with us!!

Snowbird said...

We can only hope he makes it, but here's good vibes heading in his direction.

gpc said...

My 2 little grandkids, both preschoolers, have asked to see the turtle videos over and over again - we also read a "Diego" book about hatching turtles. They are horrified (over and over) when the little turtle in the earlier video flips over on his back -- I'm pretty sure they will never be kids who leave unfilled holes behind after they are playing!

Tammy said...

Too bad you can't mark them in some way...this is a very interesting series!☼

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keep Florida alive. I, too, hope that when I'm diving off the coast of Florida that swim by this little fella.

Thomas Pryor said...

gorgeous, tootie, i love the turtles, story and pictures, hope all is well, tommy

Melli said...

I have watched shows on them on National Geographic and things like that. It IS just amazing what they are up against trying to survive! I sO applaud organizations like the ones you have down there that HELP these poor little critters to better their chances! And then once they get BIG, they have to watch out for the MOTOR BOATS with their big ol' props.