Melbourne Beach, Florida

Outdoor Resorts of America

Sea Turtle

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May through August is nesting season for sea turtles along the Florida coast.
The nesting takes place at night.

White lights spook the turtles and they will return to the ocean instead of nesting. So it is best to walk the beach under a full moon to look for the nests. I went down to the beach about 10:30 and did not get back until after midnight. I was lucky and saw two turtles nest. Just after seeing the first turtle start to nest a research group from Florida Institute of Technology came along. They are one of three different research organizations patrolling the beach. They use red lights to monitor the turtle. When she starts to lay her eggs, one of the researchers lays down behind the turtle and counts eggs dropping into the nest. After she lays her eggs she will stay until she covers them up, even if you shine a light on her. When the turtle starts to cover the eggs the research team really starts to collect data. Using a large caliper they measure the length and width of the shell, and the width of the head. Then they measure the arc of the shell length and width with a tape measure. Then they crimp ID tags on the two front flippers. They were very informative and explained everything they were doing and answered any questions. These eggs will hatch in about 50 to 54 days, depending on average daily temperature. The turtle will also be back to nest 4 to 5 more times this year.

I walk the beach 2 - 5 miles every day and look for the nests from the previous night. It is interesting to see how some of the turtles climb high up steep banks to nest and some just barely clear the high water mark.

This is interesting. The tracks on the left are of the turtle approaching the bank. It tried to climb the bank and caused a slide after it left. It's tracks returning to the sea are on the right. The tire tracks are from the Turtle Research Society dune buggy, which patrols at night.

This is about 11:30 PM.
This turtle laid 94, which is below normal.

After covering her eggs and letting the team measure and tag her,
she heads for the ocean.

Notice how big the rear flippers are.

The research team put this stake in the ground to mark the nest.
It is the 83 nest they marked so far this year. It was placed in the brush beyond the dune so it would not be disturbed by vandals.
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