We are so excited. Its almost time for the first of many Baby Sea turtles nests to hatch. Just a 30-minute drive from Downtown Savannah, Tybee Island is the perfect spot to watch these little miracles make the harrowing trek from the protection of their mommas nest, to the edge of the breaking waves of the ocean for saftey. There are 24 nests along the 5 miles of beach that stretch from North Beach to South Beach. Tybee Island will be booming with Babes for the next couple months.
Jamie and I recently had a chance to patrol a half dozen of these Giant loggerhead sea turtle nests and logged many of their incubation periods. The first nest is set to boil over with tons of baby loggerheads any day now. OMG! can you imagine.The best time to possible see a nest hatch is at dusk or dark, once the sand cools.
It was very interesting to see all the different nesting locations, even the sand was different from North Beach to South Beach. It ranged from a crunchy, shell like type sand in North Beach, that was almost too painful to walk on, to a smooth powdery sand with very fine granite particulate in South beach. Both locations offer awe inspiring views of both the sunrise and sunset.
The hatchlings begin their climb out of the nest in a coordinated effort. Once near the surface, they will often remain there until the temperature of the sand cools, usually indicating nighttime, when they are less likely to be eaten by predators or overheat. Once the baby turtles emerge from the nest, they use cues to find the water including the slope of the beach, the white crests of the waves, and the natural light of the ocean horizon.
If the hatchlings successfully make it down the beach and reach the surf, they begin what is called a “swimming frenzy” which may last for several days and varies in intensity and duration among species. The swimming frenzy gets the hatchlings away from dangerous nearshore waters where predation is high. Once hatchlings enter the water, their "lost years" begin and their whereabouts will be unknown for as long as a decade. When they have reached approximately the size of a dinner plate, the juvenile turtles will return to coastal areas where they will forage and continue to mature.
What You Can Do to Protect Loggerhead Sea Turtles:
- Remove beach litter
- Balloons, plastic bags, foam, fishing gear and other non-degradable litter can cause the deaths of many sea turtles who mistake them for food.
- Observe from a distance
- If you encounter a nesting turtle, do not shine any lights on or around her – she may abandon her effort to nest. Do not use flash photography. Stay behind the turtle so that she cannot see you.
- Do not harass a turtle
- Don’t touch or prod her to move. Stay out of the way as she crawls back to the water.
- Leave nest sites alone
If you see a dead or injured turtle or anyone harassing a sea turtle, call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-2-SAVE-ME. (If the sea turtle is tagged, include the tag color and number in the report if possible.)TI Marine Science Center – 912.786.5917
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