Blog post by: Amanda Csipak
I was very excited to attend my first night walk in the hopes of being able to see a nesting Loggerhead Sea Turtle. The night began with Leah’s presentation about the Loggerhead Sea Turtle which enlightened us all about the biology of the Loggerhead, the many experiences she has had with them, conservation efforts and much more. After the presentation, flashlights were distributed to each person for the walk on the beach. These are not regular flashlights, instead they have a dimmed red light that allows for us to view the turtle without disturbing it with a bright white light. The reason for using these dimmed red flashlights is due to the fact that red is the first wavelength that is absorbed in the ocean which means that the turtles are not able to see it very well. It is very important for people to be aware of the things that can disturb the Loggerhead Sea Turtle such as searching for the nesting turtle at night, especially when using a regular flashlight. Unfortunately, when people use regular flashlights to look for turtles at night they can disturb the turtle which will cause the mother to false crawl. It is good to know that the turtle should be given plenty of space when she is trying to find a place to lay her eggs. Although it is very exciting to see them on the beach, we have to respect these amazing creatures and give the mothers the space they need so they can feel relaxed and lay their eggs. If they are disturbed by people crowding around them, talking very loudly, taking pictures with flash, or simply shining a bright white light on them, the mother can feel threatened and crawl back into the ocean without nesting. Her goal is to find a place that she feels will be safe for her babies and it is very important not to disturb this process as only 1 in 1000 hatchlings survive.
With that being said, Leah and I both had a radio on us that was on a low volume so that we could communicate since Leah was walking about 30 feet in front of the group. Leah walks ahead so that she can search for tracks in the sand in the hopes that there will be a nesting turtle. When she found tracks as well as a turtle that was beginning to dig her nest she called back on the radio so that the group would stay where we were. We do so in order to give the turtle plenty of space so that she can begin to lay her eggs. After being told that the turtle had begun laying her eggs, we were able to walk over quietly to view this beautiful process. I was in absolute shock and amazement being able to see such an incredible creature for the first time in her natural habitat. I could hear the mother letting out breaths of air as she had worked very hard to crawl to the spot she felt was correct on the beach and continued to work hard to lay her eggs. After she had laid her eggs, we were able to watch her knead and pack down the sand as she filled in the egg chamber with the surrounding sand to protect her babies. It was incredible to see how much time she spent covering and packing down the sand to ensure their safety. As she finished the entire process of laying her eggs, we were able to watch her crawl back to her home in the ocean. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend such an amazing event and I will never forget what I was able to see and learn.
Sea Turtle Biologist