A Great Day for Turtles

As part of the #7Days4SeaTurtles focus this week, we’re following DNR sea turtle technicians Sarah Martin, Kyle Coleman and Jack Brzoza as they work the beach – Sarah on Little St. Simons and Kyle and Jack on Ossabaw Island. Here’s what Sarah encountered this morning. (Jack and Kyle were off.)

Today was an amazing day! What started off as a typical morning on the beach with a gorgeous sunrise turned into a day I’ll never forget.

Since Little Saint Simons Island had such a record-breaking nesting year last year, the island hired a shorebird and sea turtle intern, Kate Tweedy, to help out the researchers. Today was one of the days she helps and we decided to complete some nest maintenance (removing sand, vegetation, re-staking, etc.) so we started out pretty early.

Kate took the island’s northern beach and I took the south. The north beach takes longer and has more nests to deal with, both in processing new nests and maintaining the others. Since I had less to do, we agreed I would bike up after I was done and help her. Little did I know what I was in for.

The southern beach was the same as usual, with no activity to be seen. I moved to the northern beach to help, and had started nest maintenance when Kate texted me that she had found three nests – that meant the island had hit 100 nests!

This made my day, and I kept heading up the beach to see the special nest.

On my way to nest 100, I checked some of our nests that are ready to hatch. Nest 1 had a ghost crab hole going right into the nest cavity. I was none too pleased about this so I removed the screen and dug down to get the rascal.

While digging, I felt what I thought was a ghost crab leg. But when I pulled the suspect out, it was none other than a loggerhead hatchling! I just about screamed for joy, but I kept it together, gushed a bunch and put the little tyke back in the nest cavity.

LSSI_Sarah_Hatchling_KateTweedy
Sarah with the surprise hatchling (Kate Tweedy)

While going back in, I felt its siblings moving about and filled in the hole. We don’t want the hatchlings to leave the nest during the day because they have instincts to leave at night, and there is more of a possibility of detection from predators by day.

Afterwards, I joined Kate and helped her process nest 100. We then headed back to check on the nest and take some pictures. We plan to bike out tonight in the hopes of seeing the nest “boil.”

It’s amazing to see the months of work coming to fruition. Let’s hope for more hatchlings in the near future!

See video of Sarah and one of Little St. Simon’s first hatchlings of the season.

The turtle techs will be providing updates through Sunday, July 16. Check out other #7Days4SeaTurtles posts this week, including photos and videos, on the Wildlife Resources Division’s FacebookTwitterInstagram and Flickr pages.

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