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Sept. 7, 2016

cage2-300With turtle nesting season overlapping with hurricane season, it is expected that if a storm nears Florida it will cause damage to the existing nests. These damages include inundations (high tides washing over nests), erosion (totally washing away nests) and accretion (of sand on top of nests). Sea turtles begin nesting in May and end in the middle of August. The eggs take approximately 60 days to hatch, so any eggs laid at the end of July and beginning of August are due to hatch at the end of September and beginning of October.

When Tropical Storm Colin hit on June 6 it caused 26 nest inundations, 10 washouts, and 1 accretion in the Cape Romano Complex. Colin's arrival early in the season allowed for the nesting turtles to make up for the losses/damages over the following two months. Now nesting season is complete and we have a total of 207 nests. This is a running total including nests that were washed out by TS Colin and Hurricane Hermine, as well as nests that have been depredated by raccoons before the cage could be installed.

197 Nests and Counting!

Sea turtle assessmentWe currently have 197 nests along the Cape Romano Complex which is 77 more than our total from 2015, and the turtles are still nesting - hopefully we will break 200! Nesting will end sometime within the next couple of weeks, and then we will monitor our existing nests for any signs of hatching through October.

So far, hatchlings have emerged from 23 of the nests that were made in the beginning of the season (May-middle of June). Tropical Storm Colin (June 6) washed away approximately 10 of our nests and some of the remaining nests were also inundated (flooded) by extremely high tides. Hatchlings have begun emerging from some of these inundated nests, which is great news. The number of hatchlings actually emerging from these nests is relatively low compared to nests that were not impacted by TS Colin that have had success rates between 90-100% develop, hatch, and emerge!

IMG 5690-webFor three days in a row we had false crawls in the same spot on Morgan Beach, and nests in the same area on Blind Pass - can you say turtle déjà vu? This picture shows three nests that were laid within a few days of each other along Blind Pass.

We now have caged a total of 128 nests along the Cape Romano complex, which is more nests than we had over the entirety of 2015, and we expect this number to increase! The nesting portion of turtle season is complete when the last nest is made, which is typically the end of July or beginning of August.

Within the coming week we expect the first few nests to start hatching out, and this will continue on through September and potentially October. Nests take approximately 60 days to hatch, so the end of turtle season on Cape Romano will depend on when the last nest is made.

turtle-nest-web 

 

Learn more about sea turtle research and monitoring.

 

norris-100Sarah Norris, Sea Turtle Intern

While on turtle patrol we don't often get to see sea turtles, but we do get to enjoy a lot of other wildlife, such as these ospreys. 

Sarah Norris, Sea Turtle Intern

We are one month into sea turtle nesting season and we have a total of 42 nests along the Cape Romano Complex!

false crawlWhile on turtle patrol we don't get to see the females that come up onto the beach to lay their eggs, but instead we see their tracks and other evidence that they leave behind. As turtle investigators we look for clues to determine if she has nested or not, and if so, where she has placed the eggs. We need to locate the nest in order to be able to center the cage around the eggs and protect it from predators such as raccoons. Sometimes females come up on the beach but does not lay eggs for a variety of reasons including thick vegetation, a steep escarpment, or other reasons unknown to the human eye! Find out how you can help support this program.

Although we usually don't get to see the sea turtles nesting, we do get to see a variety of other wildlife while on patrol, including birds, dolphins and manatees. This video shows one osprey enjoying a fish while another is watching and maybe waiting for something to drop.

norris-100Sarah Norris, Sea Turtle Intern

 

We are a little more than halfway through the first month of the sea turtle nesting season and we have five nests on the Cape Romano Complex. Interns, staff, and volunteers complete daily surveys looking for sea turtle tracks and record corresponding data. All nests are recorded, marked, and caged in order to prevent predation by raccoons.

This year we have started an Adopt-A-Nest program to help support the sea turtle monitoring on the Cape Romano Complex. All money donated goes towards supporting an intern and supplies including materials to cage the nests and gas for the boat.

turtle-cage-may-250Those who adopt a nest will receive a turtle tag with their name attached to the cage, details on the nest location, results after hatching, and an invitation to the Adopt-A-Nest appreciation party in October.

If you see a nest along the Cape Romano Complex with a turtle tag like this, now you know what it is all about! If you or anyone you know would like to adopt a nest, click here.

Or stop by the Environmental Learning Center to fill out the form and make your donation today! We appreciate all your support!

Click here to learn more about the nest monitoring program and see nesting activity updates.

 

Sarah Norris, Sea Turtle Internnorris-100

greg-and-sarah-nest-webThe first day of turtle patrol on the Cape Romano Complex was celebrated with a nest on the south end of Dickman's Island! Volunteers Linda Detzel, Brian McLaren and I attempted to locate the clutch in order to protect it with the wire cage. This is done by digging in the sand based on looking at the way the sea turtle crawled on and off the beach. The clutch must be located in order to properly center the wire cage over top and not disturb the eggs. Placing the wire cage in the ground protects it from predators such as raccoons.

This particular lady loggerhead had outsmarted us and we were unable to locate the clutch. In this situation the nest area is flagged in order for us to keep an eye on for any depredation, or hatch later on.

Greg Curry, also known as the turtle whisper, arrived back at the Goodland field station at the same time. Always curious about not verified nests, he wanted to take a look. The two of us headed back out on the water to take another look at the nest. He lived up to his name of the turtle whisper and was able to locate the clutch, which we were then able to successfully cage!

This was an exciting way to kick off the nesting season and we can only hope for no storms in order to have a successful year!

Sea Turtle Monitoring Updates

inundated-nrst-smStorms at the end of July leading into the beginning of August led to lots of damage on the existing nests on the Cape Romano Complex.

With the heavy winds coming from the Gulf of Mexico and high tides due to the full moon, we were unable to make it out to do turtle patrol for nearly a week! When we were finally able to safely make it out to the islands and assess the situation, we found nests that had washed out or were heavily inundated.

nest-with-accretion-smThere were 38 nests that were washed away and of the 49 remaining nests, 26 were inundated over multiple days. There were a few nests that did not wash out, but had the opposite happen, accretion of sand on the nests. This means that sand has been pushed up onto the beach, covering turtle nests. In one particular case, the entire metal cage has been completely buried, as seen here in the picture. All that was visible were the multicolor zip ties and the top of the yellow sea turtle sign. With the nesting part of turtle season complete, we will spend the next couple of months observing and evaluating all remaining nests.

On a positive note, nests that were not as heavily affected by this storm system should hatch successfully!

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