Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Turtle's Journey

Now that turtle season is closely coming to a wrap-up - I've compiled some photos and will share with you what I've learned and what I do as a Turtle Patrol.
I begin my day before the sun rises - a few mornings per month I get to walk the east end of Sanibel under the moonlight - very special if I may say so myself. I walk along the high tide line, looking toward the sand dunes and looking to see whether or not a turtle came during the night to lay her eggs.

The tell tale signs are the turtle tracks. With the few years that I've been doing this as well as the training that I've received from Amanda - the SCCF Biologist - I can usually determine whether or not the turtle actually nested or just took a stroll up and changed her mind about the spot.

This was one of those very rare occasion when the turtle actually deposited her eggs while the sun was rising - maybe she was running late. As respect for our wildlife, we like to keep our distance and give her as much space as possible so that she doesn't get stressed out. Though.....truth be known....the turtles actually go into a trance while laying their eggs and the whole process cannot be interrupted. 

Job well done! After covering up her eggs with sand using her front and hind flippers, she turns around and returns to sea. This turtle will most likely return to a nearby beach in a couple of weeks to lay more eggs and will probably repeat this process a few more times. She will lay an average of 400 eggs - give or take a few - during that one summer. Once laying season is over, she will return in 2 years if all goes well.

This is how we mark the nests along with signs to keep people away and not disturb the nesting site.

A grid is sometimes used over the nesting area in order to keep the predators away from the eggs. Coyotes, Bobcats and Racoons have been known to have a meal from time to time.

This was on the west end of Sanibel - where we access the beaches with a Jeep - we cover 7 miles or so and take care of many nesting sites.

This is the vehicle being used on the Captiva beaches - that is another 6 miles of turtle patrol.

As the daily patrol progresses, we are often blessed with a beautiful sunrise which always makes me smile and reminds me how grateful I am for my life and to be able to do the things that I do.

Time goes and marches on and pretty soon it is turtle hatching time - our duties changes from watching for new nesting to baby turtle tracks and signs of hatching.

This is a perfect example of what a hatched nest looks like - a perfect round hole where the hatchlings have emerged.....if only the signs were as simple as that....sometimes we don't get all those signs especially when we get downpours overnight.

Three days after the nest hatched, we do data collection for the this particular case we had 12 unhatched eggs and 98 eggs hatched that went to sea  and that's what we like to see.

Sometimes we come across little hatchlings still lingering in the nest chamber - we keep them in a warm and dark place until the sun sets and then release the hatchlings into the ocean. This recreates how they usually enter the ocean and it gives them a better chance of making it. Had we released them during the day - they might have become lunch for critters that would be able to see them.

And here is a little hatchling that I released last night - she was feisty and really excited to hear the ocean - it's amazing how fast such a little creature can go. At that point it was all instincts and those instincts will bring this turtle back to our beaches 20 years from now to lay her own eggs.

And another journey was completed - to be repeated again, should we be so lucky to witness it's miracles.


  1. You wrote Such an informative post and took great photos. Thank you for volunteering with the turtle patrol. Your dedication is so appreciated.

    1. Believe me when I say the pleasure is all mine.....I love what I do!

  2. This is just awesome. Great way to educate people about the sea turtle.


  3. France, thank you so much for all you do!

    Great information packed in your post and we really appreciate the photos! I can feel the wet sand between my toes, the gentle warmth of the Gulf waters and the first rays of the sun hitting my face..........

  4. Wow, this is just awesome! What a fabulous pictorial story! How lucky to have seen all this. Can't believe I've never seen the adult mama turtles before in my visits to Sanibel and Captiva. Guess one has to get up pretty darn early (never my strong suit, lol)!

  5. Simply wonderful! Love the pictorial story. I can smell the salt air and miss those beaches on the islands. Can't believe I've never seen a huge mama turtle like that before down there! Guess one has to get up pretty darn early to see this wonderful thing (ahem, not my strong suit, lol).

  6. You might have to stay up all night and hope to see one - while trying to be everywhere at the same time LOL - luck of the draw I guess. I'll keep hope alive that I'll get to see more in the very near future.