A Field Note from Rookery Bay Turtle Intern – Claire Charde –
It’s officially hatchling season here at Rookery Bay Research Reserve! Baby sea turtles are making their way out of their nests and into the Gulf of Mexico. The incubation period for sea turtles is around 60 days. When they break out of their eggshell they will wait for the temperature of the sand to cool down. This cooler temperature is their cue to start moving, which is why most hatchlings occur at night.
Upon emerging from their nests, the turtles will orient themselves towards the horizon and crawl to the water. When Rookery Bay’s Turtle Team monitors the beaches in the mornings, we are extra careful to look for any indentations in the sand giving us a clue that some turtles have made their way out.
Once the hatch is determined, we wait 72 hours based on state guidelines before excavating the nest. We will pull everything out from the nest chamber and count up the hatched eggs, unhatched eggs and see if there are any live hatchlings still in the nest.
We currently have 123 nests on our beaches, and seven of those have hatched! The average clutch size is 100 eggs, so hundreds of baby sea turtles have already embarked on their ocean adventures. A storm that occurred earlier in the season, Christobal, did impact some of our nests with waves washing over many that would normally have been safe from the average high tide. This wash over could potentially halt development since sea turtle eggs are porous.
Even so, these turtles are tough and we are hopeful that our nests will have a successful hatching season!
Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve stretches across 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters. We are committed to preservation through research, education, and land protection.