If you have been on the beach nearing a new moon, you know just how dark the beach can become. When hatchlings emerge from the nest they are using light cues to guide themselves to the ocean. Unfortunately the horizon isn't always the brightest point during dark nights. House or business lights if left on can draw hatchlings in the wrong direction. We had one nest near development that was predicted to emerge close to the new moon and with all the lights behind the nest, the chances of them going the wrong way were high. Even with a light screen, they can turn and go the opposite direction.
The solution was to use a catch bucket. This is a last resort option but it is effective. It is a bucket without a bottom that is situated over the nest. When the hatchlings emerge, they are in the bucket until our turtle team releases them. I started night patrols on day 48 of incubation. The night patrols consist of checking on the nest at 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. but I did check it more consistently nearing day 50, 51 & 52 of incubation. The hatchlings emerged on day 52 at 10:30. We were thankful we were there when they emerged so they could get to the ocean quickly. We relocated them to a darker area of the beach so the lighting would not confuse them.
In the early morning there were two stragglers that made it up later. I released them before sunrise and got some photos!
I am thankful these hatchlings made it safely and that I can now get some sleep. The sleepless nights were worth it to know they have a better chance! This is the only nest that we will use the bucket on. This was the first time this bucket was used on our state park beach (as far as I know).
Sea Turtle Specialist