Night Walk 6/28 - A SUCCESS!
Our night walk on Tuesday was another short walk. We had a sea turtle emerging to the right of the office building as soon as we stepped out onto the beach. We waited as she found herself a suitable spot. She crawled up towards the dunes to an area that is well above the Spring high tide line - so no relocation necessary!
The following morning the dawn patrol team documented 9 nests and 2 false crawls! The nest we saw on our night walk program is marked as 230 on our beach. The dawn patrol team dealt with storms during their patrol but they did get the reward of rainbows!
Night Walk 6/25 - A SUCCESS!
On Saturday night we had the shortest walk so far this season! After the presentation concluded, I went out to check to the right/south end of our beach, which is not as popular of a nesting spot, when I came across turtle tracks! It was a very dark night so it was difficult to see her but I could still hear that she was digging. The group was able to witness this sea turtle a bit closer once she was at a safe stage to do so.
The next morning we had a busy patrol! There were 9 nests and 6 false crawls documented. The nest from the night walk was the first nest found in the morning, so now it is nest 206 on our beach!
See below for a few pictures of the night walk nest!
We have reached the 200th nest!
On June 23rd our dawn patrol team found 6 new nests! The last nest they marked is nest 200 on the state park beach! The turtles are having another record or near-record year and we look forward to seeing how many more we will find as the season goes on. Our nesting numbers have been similar to the record year in 2019 when we ended up with 351 nests. How many nests do you think we will have by the time the season wraps up? Stay tuned to find out!
Blog Post By: Sarah Glover, Sea Turtle Intern
During dawn patrol on June 8th, we found a loggerhead nest that needed to be relocated. This turtle could not quite make it up the steep scarp, so we decided to move her to a safer location down the beach. As we were removing the eggs from the original chamber, we discovered something rare. Several eggs in this clutch were not the typical ping-pong ball shape of most loggerhead sea turtle eggs. Instead, they were more oblong and contained multiple yolks. Some looked like one big, oval egg, while others looked like several eggs fused together. There were also several broken eggs within the nest, one of which was used as our sample for the DNA study we are a part of.
Believe it or not, the misshaped eggs found in this nest may still be viable. In multi-yolk eggs, the closer the yolks are together, the more likely it is that the egg will hatch. However, since we do not know how constricted the yolks are, we will not know whether or not these eggs were viable until we conduct an inventory on the nest. Inventories take place after a nest has hatched, which is 45-60 days after the eggs are laid. We will post an update on these eggs after the inventory, so stay tuned!
Night Walk 6/18 - A SUCCESS!
We did not have to walk far on Saturday and we already had a turtle ashore. She recently crawled ashore when we arrived and was still completing her body pit and egg chamber. We waited patiently until she was at a good stage to view her. It is hard to tell at night but it appeared like this nest was in need of a relocation. Well, the following morning the team did determine her nest was too low and below the Spring high tide line. They carefully moved her 98 eggs to a higher and safer location.
The sea turtle nest we witnessed is now marked as nest 175 on our beach! There was a total of 9 nests and 6 false crawls documented on Sunday morning See below for pictures taken during dawn patrol of nest 175.
Migrations to the Sargasso
Blog Post By: Dalton Moore, Sea Turtle Intern
After hatchlings leave the nest, some turtles slowly reach their way to the Atlantic Ocean. But what happens after these courageous swimmers paddle themselves into the moonlight? This time is a bit of a blur that scientist have termed the “lost years” of a sea turtles’ life. Furthermore, there is no concrete evidence about where hatchlings exactly travel.
Marine biologist from the University of Central Florida Kate Mansfield stated, “We don’t know where the turtles go, how they get there, how they interact with their environment.” For the Caretta caretta species (Loggerheads), the lost years phase lasts from 7-12 years from birth. This is considered a huge portion of their life that conservationist do not completely understand. Groups along with Kate Mansfield’s team have found ways to determine where the hatchlings advance. By tagging and tracking via satellite, adolescent turtles spend their early years navigating long distances and loitering around seaweed beds within the Sargasso Sea.
In order to conserve energy, it is expected that neonatal loggerheads take the Gulf Stream and follow the current into the mid-Atlantic where the genus Sargassum floats upon the surface. Within this area the infant turtles spend their time feeding on small crustaceans, hydrozoans, sargassum seaweed, jellyfish, etc. The turtles will also use the seaweed to stay hidden from predators. If they did not avoid coastal areas on the continental shelf, predators such as seabirds and sharks would likely interrogate them. They will continue to feed here until they become the approximate size of a dinner plate and travel back to their general area of birth where predators will not be as much as an issue.
Night Walk 6/16 - Lightning!
Our Night Walk on Thursday was cut short due to a storm that moved in. As soon as we finished the presentation, the rain came down and the lightning alerts showed it was too close. The following morning there were 7 nests and 6 false crawls documented. See below for some of the pictures taken during patrol. Nests 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168 and 169 were all marked and protected.
Night Walk 6/14 - A SUCCESS!
It was a full moon night walk and the group was feeling optimistic about a turtle sighting! It was a very hot night with very little breeze and the high tide was just receding. Only 0.2 of a mile walk down the beach and we had a sea turtle ashore! We waited patiently as she found her spot and began to dig. When she was at a safer stage, we watched as she finished laying her eggs and covering them back up. She was a larger loggerhead measuring in at 108cm (~42inches) in carapace length. We watched as she made her crawl back to the ocean under the full moon light.
The following morning there were 5 new nests found and 4 false crawls. The turtle we saw on our walk is marked as nest 147 on our beach. See below for pictures taken from patrol!
An EBSP First: PIT Tags
Blog Post By: Christine Segnari
On the first night walk of nesting season, the EBSP Staff Night Walk on June 2nd, we had an exciting discovery. We found a PIT tag in this turtle’s shoulder, and this is the first time we have encountered a sea turtle with a PIT tag during a night walk. PIT tags, also known as Passive Integrated Transponders, are used by both aquariums and several beaches to track the sea turtles they encounter or help. While Edisto Beach State Park (EBSP) do not tag the Loggerhead Sea Turtles that appear on our beach, we do check for these tags with any turtle we encounter. Using a scanner, we are able to detect the microchip (the PIT tag), and we get a series of numbers identifying the sea turtle.
By scanning the PIT tag of our night walk turtle, we were able to see its long journey. Notably, back in 2016, this sea turtle had nested at Wassaw Beach in Georgia (where they do tag the sea turtles they encounter). It was amazing to see the nesting history of this turtle and get a more accurate understanding of where turtles nest. Though it was once believed that Loggerhead Sea Turtles return to the exact same beach they hatched from, that is not entirely true. Sea turtles use the Earth’s magnetic field as a guide to find the beach to nest on, meaning the turtle may not be completely accurate and nest on a different beach throughout each nesting season. However, some turtles are able to return to the beach they hatched from. Through our DNA samples, we were able to see that one sea turtle laid all four of her nests on Edisto Beach State Park one season, all within our 1.5 miles of beach.
Night Walk 6/11 - A Success!
We had a turtle-filled night walk on Saturday. We had a very small night walk group of only 5 participants, as the storms earlier in the afternoon must have caused hesitation to sign-up. Thankfully all of the storms had moved on and we had a beautiful night for a walk.
As soon as we got on the beach, we had a turtle start to make her crawl out of the surf. Unfortunately, individuals walking from the other direction did not know what it was and when they approached closely, she turned around and left.
We continued on down the beach and found a set of tracks almost a mile down the beach. This time the turtle was well above the tide and back in the dune grass. At the same time we had another turtle way down the way start emerging. We were hopeful that one of these turtles would successful lay a nest! Unfortunately the one we were at crawled all the way back to the primary dunes and seemed to be fed up with all of the vegetation. We witnessed her as she crawled back into the ocean. In the morning, I did confirm that this was a false crawl. The second turtle also decided to turn around. So although we had turtle activity we had not yet seen one lay a nest.
On our way back from the inlet we finally got the chance to witness a nesting sea turtle! She was way up in the dunes at the campground. We are grateful for the beach goers that witnessed her that they kept their distance and kept their movement to a minimum so she would not be disturbed.
We saw her just as she finished laying her eggs and then watched as she covered them back up, keeping them protected down below.
In the morning we found 8 new nests and 3 false crawls (not including the ones we saw already washed away by the tide). The turtle we saw successfully nest is marked as nest 135 on our beach!
See below for pictures taken from the dawn patrol!
Night Walk 6/9 - A SUCCESS!
The turtles made us work for it on our night walk last night as all of the activity was at the inlet, 1.5 miles down the beach. We had a turtle emerging, so we waited patiently as she made the long trek at low tide up the beach to find a suitable spot to start to dig her egg chamber. While we were patiently waiting for this turtle to start to lay, another turtle started to emerge from the ocean! Through the night vision monocular, the group got a close up look as this other loggerhead sea turtle crawled up to the dunes to create a nest.
We waited for the second turtle to get up high enough in the dunes and then quietly passed below near the ocean to go see the first sea turtle. We got to witness this sea turtle cover her eggs and return to the ocean!
The turtle we saw nest during the night walk program is now nest 125 on our beach! In the morning the dawn patrol team found 3 new nests and 1 false crawl. The other turtle that we witnessed during the walk also was able to successfully nest, which is marked as nest 124.
Nest 125 was in need of a relocation, so the team carefully relocated her 113 eggs to a chamber in a higher and more suitable location. Check out the photos below taken during the dawn patrol!
Hot Chicks, Cool Dudes
Blog Post By: Sarah Glover, Sea Turtle Intern
Loggerhead sea turtles are the primary species that nests here at Edisto Beach State Park. Since their nesting season begins in May and continues throughout the summer, the temperature can change quite a bit while the eggs are incubating. As the season moves along, the air and sand temperature increase. However, it can also fluctuate depending on the weather. Interestingly enough, the temperature of the sand actually affects the sex of the hatchlings. If the sand is 85°F or higher, the eggs are more likely to be female, while sand that is less than 85°F tends to produce more male turtles. In other words, “hot chicks, cool dudes.”
Eggs that are laid early in the season tend to experience cooler temperatures and, therefore, are likely to produce more males. This is also true of nests that experience more wash overs. This year, sand temperature loggers have been installed all along the state park beach for the first time. Some are up in the dunes, while others are farther down near the spring high tide line. These loggers will provide us with information about the temperature of the sand – how it changes throughout the nesting season and how it differs between the higher and lower areas. This information will allow us to see how location and fluctuations in the sand temperature affect the nests that are located in the areas around them.
Our Night Walk program has started once again and we are excited to have started off with a successful walk! After the presentation wrapped up, we began our walk under a brightly lit beach under a clear starry sky. Only 0.2 of a walk down the beach and there were fresh turtle tracks leading up towards the dunes. A group of campers were waiting patiently in the dark and from a 20ft distance in order to ensure she can nest without disturbance. We appreciate them for following these rules to keep our sea turtles nesting safely!
When we arrived to her tracks she was still digging the egg chamber. We waited patiently until she started to lay her eggs. As we are permitted to conduct these walks, we were able to get a closer view of her dropping the eggs, covering and then watched as she swam down beneath the waves.
In the morning, our intern, Sarah, and past intern and now volunteer, Chase, documented this nest as 116 on our beach. There were a total of 4 new nests and 2 false crawls. They decided this nest was situated high enough on the beach so no relocation was necessary.
If you would like to adopt this nest, be sure to visit the Camp Exchange or the Environmental Learning Center and ask to adopt nest 116!
This was the perfect walk to kick-off the start to our Night Walk program. If you would like to sign up for a night walk, click on the button below:
Relocation of Nests
Blog Post By: Dalton Moore, Sea Turtle Intern
Occasionally, sea turtle nests are in need of relocation. A relocation occurs when a female sea turtle lays her eggs below the tidal line. If these eggs are not relocated, it may result in damaged eggs that experience severe washover. Another reason for relocation could also be due to high traffic areas on the beach. Lastly, If people walk on undocumented nests, this could cause severe damage to the clutch of eggs.
To avoid any of the situations that we just discussed, our staff has been permitted by the Department of Natural Resources in South Carolina to document and relocate nests if necessary. We establish where the egg chamber is within a nest and communicate with one another to determine if it is needed to be relocated. If this is the case, we will then place soft sand in our relocation bucket to allow a smooth bottom for the eggs. We then removed them from the egg chamber to the bucket. The eggs will then be moved without any rotation to ensure the developmental stage is not stunted whatsoever. The process is very tedious, but it is mandatory to have a successful hatch rate.
Approximately 120 eggs will be removed and placed into the relocation bucket. After the eggs are dislodged from the chamber, we place a soft towel and sand on top of the bucket to help cover the clutch. It is essential to avoid any significant amounts of sunlight directly on the eggs; this could damage their development. We then create an artificial egg chamber that is highly similar to the original nesting chamber. Ordinarily, the egg chamber will be 18-24 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter at the top. The diameter gradually increases to 12 inches as the cavity gets deeper and forms an hourglass shape. We then will put the eggs into the artificial chamber, making sure to be cautious and not rotate them whatsoever. Finally, we then will cover the eggs with soft sand and mark where the artificial hole. As you would with an in-situ nest, we screen the relocated area and put all required stakes around it.
We have data recorded from previous years that show how successfully relocated nests are compared to in-situ nests. For example, Edisto Beach State Park had a relocated percentage of 31% in 2021. The success rate of the relocated nest was similar to the in-situ nests, with a mean success rate of 81.6%. As of now, we have 81 nests where 39.5% have been relocated. We are optimistic with the proper training we have, and with the permission of the Department of Natural Resources, our success rates will be proven to be thriving!
Sea Turtle Biologist