Outdoor Resorts, Melbourne Beach, Florida

Part D - Waiting for nesting turtles

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Sea Turtle nesting season started May 1st. The county requires all lights facing the ocean to be turned off or dimmed during nesting season. The nesting season will be in full swing during June-August. Sue and Luke will be visiting us with their families in June. So we hope to take the time to look for nesting turtles while they are visiting us.

The following is from a letter I sent to Hannah. I felt it would be interesting to all of you.

Even though Sea Turtles swim for thousands of miles all over the ocean, they always nest on the same beach where they were born. This area of Florida (Archie Carr National Wildelife Refuge) is the largest Loggerhead nesting grounds in the world.

When Sea Turtles are looking to make a nest they are afraid that we may steal their eggs. So they only nest at night and not if they sense danger.

At night when they come out of the water they keep looking for danger (humans, animals, bright lights) and things which do not look right. So if we see one coming out of the water or moving up on the beach we have to quietly stand without moving and flashlight turned off. The slightest movement with scare them and they will head back to the ocean.

Because they want their nest to be well above high tide, even in stormy weather, they usually climb up on the sand dune to make their nest. It is surprising how those heavy turtles can climb such a steep dune.

When making the nest, the turtle uses their front flippers to level the sand. Then they dig a hole for the eggs using their rear flippers. This hole is about 12” in diameter and as deep as their flippers can reach. If the turtle senses anything wrong she will stop building the nest and head back for the water.

When she finishes digging the hole for the eggs she starts to lay the eggs in it. At this time they seem to be mesmerized and pay little attention to what is happening around them. Now we can walk up behind them and get a closer look. White light will scare them so we use a flashlight with red light. Hopefully there will be a moon so we do not have to use the flashlight.

The turtle will lay 100 to 125 eggs. They are about the size of a ping pong ball. When she is finished laying her eggs she uses her flippers to cover her nest. Then she tries to hide her nest by throwing sand all over the place.

After hiding the nest she heads back to the ocean. These turtles weight 200 to 300 pounds and have a hard time moving on land. So they move very slow and stop to rest often.

Here in Florida, the heat from the sun will cause their eggs to hatch in about 55 days. The eggs in the bottom of the nest, where it is coolest will hatch later and will usually be boy turtles. The eggs on top will hatch earlier and be girl turtles.

The tracks left by this turtle indicate that she got spooked about half way to the dune. She turned around and came back to the ocean. The track on the left is going up the beach. The one on the right returning to the ocean. The tide washed away part of the tracks.

At night we walk along the waters edge and look for tracks which go up the beach with no tracks returning. Then we slowly follow the tracks up the beach. The turtle lays it's eggs facing away from the ocean so we approach from the rear so not to disturb her.

Jimmy fishing for dinner.
A Heron waiting for a small fish or left over bait.
The tide is out and I'm just starting my walk.

On this day there were very few shells except for a 30 yard stretch up ahead.

The shells are hard to walk on.

This thatched umbrella has a dove’s nest under it.
We have been monitoring it for two weeks while she sat on the eggs.
Did not take any pictures of it, afraid to scare the mother.

Momma with baby peeking out from the nest.

I think I have the air conditioning set too low.

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