We walked all the way to the inlet without a sea turtle sighting. Annie was ahead of the group to check potential hatching nests and to look for any mother turtle tracks. When we got to the inlet, Annie saw a turtle crawling up the beach! Unfortunately, the area she crawled up to had a steep 3 foot scarp and there was no going up that! We waited to see if the turtle would try to go elsewhere and find an area to nest. She did a couple circle and then decided it was a lost cause. We quickly radioed the group when she was turning around but she was quick! You don't always think of a sea turtle as a quick animal but after false crawling on the beach, they can hurry back to the water. A few individuals got a glimpse of this mother turtle as she left the beach.
On the way back we noticed one nest had hatched! The hatchlings had left by the time we got there but it was still neat to see the tracks they made in the soft sand.
The following morning we found a new nest during our patrol! This marks 150 on our state park beach. Perhaps it was the same turtle that caused the false crawl earlier that night.
With the new moon came really high tides. We had 16 nests overwashed over the course of 3 days. Although many get worried when they see water washing over a nest it can be a good thing for our turtles. The water allows the nest to cool down, which could increase the success of the nest. If there are too many washovers on a particular nest or if it has standing water on top of the nest, then it has the chance of drowning the eggs. The issue we are having with our renourished beach is that it is eroding away very quickly! Some nests that seemed to be in a great location at the time the turtle nested, now are at the edge of a scarp and are getting washed over many times throughout their incubation process.
With one particular nest, the screen and posts were removed by the water so we could not relocate the egg chamber. A visitor of our park was walking the beach and went down the scarp and the sand gave way to reveal eggs, pipped eggs and hatchlings! We were happy to find this nest again as the next night, they may have been washed out completely! We carefully relocated this nest by placing everything into a bucket. If they were hatchlings we recovered them with sand so they would stay dormant. We would prefer they come out of their nest when they are ready! We relocated this nest farther back on the beach and we are anticipating it hatching soon!
Another nest we saw was at risk of experiencing the same thing, so we needed to move it to a better location. In total we have had to do this three times this year. Last year we did not have to do this at all! Moving nests after they have been incubating for some time is risky as you have to be extremely careful moving the eggs. However, if we would not move them they have the risk of being lost completely.
Blog Post by: Annie Gentry
It is unbelievable how quickly the end of my time at EBSP is approaching! I’ve learned a great deal over the passed few weeks; something new everyday. This week marks the end of our nightwalks which means that I have the opportunity to lead! Tuesday night was my first time presenting the entire PowerPoint on the loggerhead and I was surprised at how easily the information came to me! Following the presentation, Leah gave me the opportunity to switch roles and walk ahead of the group in search for turtle activity. I fortunately came across two nests that evening that hatched: one with several stragglers and one was a full boil! There was a new moon so the night was very dark, so the hatchlings were a bit disoriented. However, all in all I think that my first time leading a walk was successful! I am excited to lead again this Thursday with a little more confidence now that I have one under my belt :)
On another note, I’ve gotten to see the not-so-glamorous side of my job as a sea turtle intern. On several morning patrols this month, I came across nests that have been predated. This means that the nest has been attacked by some of the beaches natural threats including raccoons, gulls, and my least favorite, fireants. Our protocol is to clear away the affected hatchlings so as to not draw attention from any other predators and hope that the other babies have a better shot! Amanda and I inventoried one of these nests the other morning during patrol and we were excited to see a high success rate despite the predation! Wildlife can be brutal, but that is the way the world maintains ecological balance. Nests are hatching left and right, and I’m excited to see the success rate as we continue our inventories and finish out the summer!
We had another successful night walk as we wrap up the final week of our sea turtle night walk program. This has been the most successful season for seeing a sea turtle so far! We have only had 3 night walks where we did not see any turtle activity.
Last night we saw a few straggler hatchlings emerge from nest 37 and I helped to keep the fire ants at bay. Annie, our intern, walked ahead to check a couple more nests. She spotted hatchling heads emerging from the sand in nest 38! We didn't have to wait long for the hatchlings to come out! We got to see a full "boil", which is when the majority of the hatchlings emerge from the sand to make their trek to the ocean. Unfortunately, last night was very dark and there was a lot of light pollution. This caused many of our hatchlings to become disorientated and go in the wrong direction. Annie, our volunteer, Lea, and myself started gathering the hatchlings that were going the wrong direction and placed them so they would go to the ocean instead.
Everyone was so excited about seeing the tiny hatchlings! We didn't have any nesting activity last night but we did get to see tracks from the night before.
We had another successful walk as we got to see some hatchlings! Unfortunately, these hatchlings were disorientated and they were having troubles finding the ocean due to the light pollution. It was a very dark night as it was near a new moon and these hatchlings didn't know where to go. I was able to steer them in the right direction so they could start their swimming journey! In total we had about 6 hatchlings that we recovered from nest 25!
The following morning during patrol there was no new turtle nesting activity. Our season is definitely starting to slow down. The last sea turtle nest may be during the first week of August. During the morning patrol for cases like nest 25, we fill out a disorientation report. We also take pictures to show the hatchling crawls. I submit all the information to inform DNR of the lighting issues we are experiencing. See below for one of the pictures that was submitted with our disorientation report.
Our Thursday night walk was a special program for our South Carolina State Park Ultimate Outsiders. To be an ultimate outsider, you must visit all 47 state parks! It is quite the feat, I hope to visit all of the parks one day!
For our walk it was a very dark and starry night. We walked all the way to the inlet without any turtle sightings. I checked on several nests that were due to hatch and three had already hatched earlier that night! I did notice a slight depression on nest 11 so I made sure to check it on our walk back. When I checked nest 11 again it had a larger depression and then I saw movement. We gathered around the back of the nest and watched as 20-30 hatchlings emerged and made their way to the ocean. Later that night, more emerged as we saw more turtle tracks in the morning.
We had 1 nest and 1 false crawl found during our morning patrol as well as 4 nests that had hatched. That means we are now at 146 nests on our state park beach. If you would like to adopt nest 146, click on the button below to be taken to our adoption page. The unique ID you need to adopt this nest is: 208492. The proceeds from the adoption help support our South Carolina sea turtles!
We had an enjoyable walk under a starry sky last night but unfortunately there was no turtle activity seen! We did see a hatchling track coming from one nest that had hatched the night before. Chances are it was a straggler that didn't make it out with the others. We had one new nest the next morning, bringing our total up to 145 nests on our state park beach. We also recorded one nest this morning that had hatched last night.
If you would like to adopt nest 145, click the button below to be taken to our adoption page. The unique ID to adopt nest 145 is: 208224. The proceeds from the nest adoptions help support our South Carolina sea turtles.
The night walk this past Saturday was another eventful program! We made it all the way to the inlet without any turtle activity. When I checked on a couple nests at the corner I noticed a turtle head emerging from nest 14! This nest had already hatched a couple days prior so I figured there was a straggler or two. Well, as I walked around the inlet to see if any turtles came up farther, Annie radioed me that there were about 10 stragglers that were emerging from the nest!
Unfortunately, the moon had not yet risen and there were several house lights left on across the marsh. Thankfully there were less than a dozen and we were able to recover them and place them in the direction of the ocean. They were then able to make their crawl and head into the surf.
On the way back we got to see a sea turtle that was headed towards the ocean. Unfortunately this sea turtle did not nest but hopefully she returned later that night as one sea turtle nest was found the following morning!
If you would like to adopt the one nest that was found Sunday morning, click on the button below to be taken to the adoption page. Then choose the unique nest ID to adopt nest 143, which is: 207989. The proceeds from the nest adoptions help support our South Carolina sea turtles!
We had a busy night walk last night! Without going far down the beach we had a sea turtle crawling to find a good place to nest. We waited patiently as she crawled all the way up to the dune grass. Unfortunately she came across a lot of roots and was unable to nest. She tried to make a body pit but was fed up with the location and returned to the ocean. We got to see her make her crawl back towards the ocean. She didn't make a direct route however, and we don't know exactly the reason but it may have been the bright lights coming from the pier/road.
Then we continued to make our way down the beach to search for possible hatchlings or an adult that is nesting. I checked on several nests with no signs of hatching activity. I then spotted nest 9 and it had a tiny hatchling head poking through the sand. You could see a very caved in area as well as tracks already headed towards the ocean and some headed behind the nest. I was expected a few stragglers to emerge but what we got was a 2nd boil for nest 9! There were approximately 40 hatchlings emerge from the nest all at once and were making a made dash towards the ocean (or so we thought). It is best to few this without any lights as a red light can be enough to confuse them.
Individuals on the night walk mentioned they saw them crawling to the right and behind and sure enough we found approximately 15 hatchlings disorientating/misorientating.
A disorientated turtle is one that is doing circles and is confused because of the artifical lighting. A misorientated turtle is one that is headed in the direction opposite of the ocean - clearly headed straight for a brighter light than the horizon.
Unfortunately, there were house lights left on in some of the homes across the marsh and it was a very dark night so those lights stood out! Also, the moon had not yet risen so the horizon was not as bright. The beach also had a natural downward slope to the marsh which may have been confusing as well.
The following morning I joined Annie & Nona on patrol to document nest 9. I need to take pictures of a dis/misorientation of a nest as well as collect other data.
This morning we had two nests and 5 false crawls. We had some strange false crawls with many going parallel to the ocean instead of crawling above high tide. I guess many turtles had troubles last night with knowing where to go.
If you would like to adopt a nest that was found this morning, please click the button below to be taken to our adoption page. The unique ID's to adopt nest 141 & 142 are: 206849 & 206857. The proceeds from this nest adoption helps our South Carolina turtles! Check out the slideshow below for some more photos taken from the patrol this morning:
Blog Post By: Annie Gentry
It’s been an absolutely amazing week for BABIES! We had our first nest ‘boil’ over (Nest 1) this passed week, making it the first hatched nest in South Carolina. Leah had us inventory the nest on Sunday, and it was wildly successful! We dug up the egg chamber and sorted the eggs as being hatched, unhatched, or as a ‘pip’ which is when the turtle almost fully developed but did not quite get there. There were no dead hatchings and TWO LIVE BABIES! I didn’t realize how small they were. It’s amazing to think that they could grow up to be 375 lbs! We released the hatchlings to the water and cheered them on the entire way out to the ocean blue.
Since then, we've had more nests emerge! I was fortunate enough to witness a boil last Tuesday night on our nightwalk at nest 4. Leah strolled ahead looking for tracks and made the decision to go check out nest 4. Beneath all of the shells she saw a little head, and then dozens began the wiggle! She walkie talkied to me “We have babies! Bring the group!” I could barely contain my excitement. I lead the group over to where Leah was and we formed a semicircle around the back of nest, kept our voices low, and turned off our flashlights. It was only a matter of minutes until a 100+ hatchlings broke the surface and began their crawl to the water! We cleared away some of the cordgrass to create somewhat of a runway for the turtles and make their journey a little bit easier. From then on out we had to be extremely careful about where we stepped because they blend in so well with the sand and the shells.
We have our public inventory this evening, Friday July 14, and I can only hope that Nest 3 will exhibit the same success as out first nest. As if I didn’t love sea turtles enough, the hatchlings have just become the icing on the cake! Many hatchlings to come as we are up to 140 nests, we are ready for you babies!
If you have not been to the South Carolina Aquarium to see the new Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery Facility you need to go check it out! The turtle patrollers from South Carolina were invited for a preview night to see the exhibit before it officially opened.
Miss Murtle got to come as well and we recorded a video showing the new facility! It is so great and we recommend you go and check it out! See below for the video of the preview night.
Blog post by: Amanda Csipak
Since I began this internship in May I have come to learn about many things such as the multiple threats sea turtles face whether they are natural or not. One of these threats is caused by humans which has to do with lights shining onto the beach at night. Bright lights on the beach at night can be harmful to both mother sea turtles while they are on the beach attempting to lay eggs as well as hatchlings that are making their journey to the ocean. When it comes to the mother sea turtles coming onto the beach to lay their eggs, they wait until it is night so that they are not able to be seen as well by predators. Since sea turtles are such incredible animals, many people will walk on the beach at night using bright white lights with the intention of seeing a nesting mother. Although this is a truly beautiful process to view, using the white lights on the beach as well as getting too close to the mother can cause the her to false crawl. As I mentioned previously, the mothers choose to lay their eggs at night because they feel confident that since it is dark outside the predators will have less of a chance of seeing them. When a light is being shined at the turtle it can easily spook her and cause her to crawl back into the ocean without laying her eggs. Going out on the beach at night to find sea turtles is discouraged for this reason as well as many more. Even if bright lights are not being used, it is possible to frighten the turtle if you get too close to her and she will not lay her eggs. The mother is able to have a few false crawls before she lays her eggs but there does reach a point where she must lay her eggs and she can possibly drop them into the ocean. This is why it is so important to respect these mothers while they come onto the beach to lay their eggs.
Hatchlings can also be negatively effected when people are using lights on the beach at night. Hatchlings wait to come out of the nest until it becomes dark so that they can avoid predators as well. When they all come out of the nest they are instinctually looking for the horizon to indicate where they should crawl in order to get to the ocean. If someone is walking on the beach with a light they can easily mistake that for the horizon and begin to follow that light instead which drains a great deal of energy that they so desperately need. These adorable hatchlings have a two-day swim to reach the Sargasso Sea and they will need all the energy they can store to make this journey successful. It is also very important to turn house lights off if your house is on or near the beach so that hatchlings do not mistake that light for the horizon as well. Turning off house lights at night, not using lights on the beach at night as well as simply not searching for the turtles on the beach is a great way to avoid accidentally harming a hatchling or mother sea turtle. It is very important to take this seriously due to the fact that hatchlings only have a 1 in 1000 chance of surviving until adulthood.
If you would like to see a nesting sea turtle safely you can join us on a night walk with Leah leading the way to ensure that we do not disturb any of these amazing mothers. You can also join us on the beach for a public nest inventory where you can see the success rate of a hatched nest and possibly see a hatchling safely and properly being released into the ocean.
We had our first public nest inventory yesterday evening and we had such a great turn out! Approximately 75 individuals joined us as we dug up nest 7 that had hatched 5 days ago.
The nest had a great success as there was 96 hatched eggs, 5 unhatched, 1 dead hatchling and one alive hatchling - that had nicknames of Virgil & Edisto.
We got to watch "Virgil" make a crawl towards the ocean. I then helped Virgil get passed a few big waves and then she was gone!
We will be having another nest inventory program on Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. at the white office building in our day use area of the park. We will then proceed to walk to nest 3 that needs to be inventoried.
We hope to see you there!
We had such a great time on our night walk! We got to see a nest emerge - it's nicknamed a boil as it looks like the sand is boiling with hatchlings. We didn't have to wait long either as they started to make their crawl a few minutes after we arrived. We all stood behind the nest and watched in the moonlight. I shone a dim red light every once in a while to get an idea of where they were but it's best to see them light-free!
On the way back from the inlet we saw a dark shape emerge from the surf! We stood still and quiet as she made her journey up the beach. I waited far back to listen for when she stops digging and begins to lay but unfortunately this turtle was not fond of the sand and abandoned her body pit. We got to see her crawl back to the ocean after her false crawl but hopefully she returned to nest that night!
The following morning our intern, Amanda and our volunteer, Nancy, were on dawn patrol. The found 4 new sea turtle nests and 3 false crawls. This brings our total up to 140! If you would like to adopt one of the nests from last night, click on the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The Unique nesting ID's for 137, 138, 139 & 140 are: 206263, 206266, 206267, 206271. The proceeds from adopting our nest help to support the turtle project!
See below for some pictures taken from the morning patrol:
We had a staff inventory for nest 1 to go over how to conduct nest inventories. It had such a great success. There were 130 hatched eggs and 9 unhatched! We also found two hatchlings that did not emerge with the others so we released them and let them make their way to the ocean.
Hatch Success: 92.8 %
Emerge Success: 91.4 %
We have our first public nest inventory tonight starting at 6:30 p.m. Meet at the white office building in the Day-Use area of our state park. We will then proceed to walk to nest 7 to conduct the inventory. You can watch us sort the hatched and unhatched eggs. Sometimes there are hatchlings stuck in the nest that you get to see! This is a free program with park admission. We hope to see you there!
Unfortunately a lightning storm made us cancel the walk for July 8th. We still had the presentation but when we were ready to walk the storm was too close. The beach is a dangerous place to be during a lightning storm.
It was very disappointing but we cannot control the weather and it is best to respect it when it is that threatening! We had a severe thunderstorm warning and the town beach put out a warning to the residents.
The following morning I was on patrol with out volunteers, Ashby and Ray. We found two sea turtle nests (131 & 132), one which needed to be relocated. We also had one false crawl. If you would like to adopt one of the nests from that night you can click the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The unique ID's for the nests are: 205890 & 205897
Although it was a slow morning for nesting it was a busy morning for trash! We picked up over 12.5 lbs of trash ranging from plastic bottles to diapers! Please pick-up after yourself at the beach or if you see trash take it with you and dispose of it properly. Check out some of the photographs from the morning patrol:
We had a long night walk as we went all the way to the inlet with no turtle activity. On the way back from the inlet and less than half a mile back to the start of the walk there was a turtle making her crawl up from the ocean.
We waited patiently as she created her body pit and dug her egg chamber. Once she had started to lay her eggs we got a closer look. She was the largest sea turtle we have seen on a night walk this year. Her carapace measured 43 inches long and 41 inches wide. She even had part of her carapace missing by her rear left flipper from an old injury of some sort (possibly tiger shark!). By the time we made it back to the start it was nearing 1:30 a.m. but everyone was excited to have seen a turtle.
The next morning we marked this nest as 126 on our state park beach! We had 3 nests and 1 false crawl. If you would like to adopt this nest, click the button below to be taken to the adoption page. The unique ID to adopt it is: 204656.
The next morning we also saw that a nest hatched last night! This means we will be having our public nest inventory on Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. at our state park. We meet at the white office building in our Day Use area. You can call our learning center for more information. Look at all the hatchling tracks in the photo below!
Check out more pictures taken of nest 126 during the morning patrol!
We are so excited that our first nest of the season hatched last night! The night before there were some raccoons that had dried digging but the screen kept them from predating any eggs or hatchlings, thankfully! So last night I decided to keep those pesky raccoons at bay as I was hopeful they would emerge sometime soon.
Nearing midnight and the sand started to drop showing off a few hatchling heads near the surface. Then after a while, more hatchlings started to crawl near the surface. Once they were ready they all emerged at the same time making a mad dash to the ocean. As you can see they had a ways to go but they were very quick and made it there in no time! These hatchlings have a lot of energy compared to the ones seen at our public nest inventory events.
The other exciting news is that we may even be the first nest to hatch in the state!
Go turtles go!
On July 4th, I was on morning patrol with our volunteers, Sherry and Kelly. Before we got to the half mile marker on our beach, we already had used up all the nesting supplies I had gotten ready! So it was back to the shed to pick up more. I gathered 5 more nesting supplies in the hope to have 8 nests. We ended up having to use all the nesting supplies as we had a busy morning with 8 nests and 2 false crawls. It seems like the turtles were celebrating the 4th as well!
That brought our total up to 121 nests and 102 false crawls. See below for some pictures taken by Kelly. I hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July!
Well for those that don't know, July 1st is Canada Day - our independence day (and yes I'm from Southern Ontario), so I was wearing my Canada Day hat during morning turtle patrol. We had only one nest in the morning bringing our total to 109 nests.
We had another full night walk that night with several individuals who had never seen a nesting sea turtle before. We made it not quite a mile down the beach when I saw tracks! I quietly made my way up the tracks to find a nesting loggerhead digging her egg chamber. The group waited far away while I was a little closer to listen for when she was done digging. Once she had started to lay her eggs, we all got to see the rest of her nesting process.
The following morning our intern, Amanda, was on patrol with our volunteer, Lea and they found 2 new nests. The nest we saw that night marks nest 111 on our state park beach. If you would like to adopt the nest, click the button below to be taken to the nesting page. The unique ID you need to adopt it is: 203428
Also, see below for pictures from the morning patrol!
Sea Turtle Biologist