A beach bike ride is often an explorative journey. When pedaling along the shoreline right on the beach (when the tide allows, within an hour or two of low), one never knows what’s awaiting discovery.
It’s that time of the year on Amelia Island when an early morning beach bike ride (or walk) may reveal the previous night’s visitors. Every day is a new day during summer to see whether any sea turtle nests have been located and marked by the volunteer force, the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch. This group patrols the beach daily near sunrise looking for turtle tracks.
Amelia Island’s Atlantic coast shoreline is divvied up between the turtle patrol volunteers, each walking and monitoring a particular section of the beach just after day’s dawn when there’s enough light to see.
“Three’s A Charm”
On this May 23rd morning (which happens to be “World Turtle Day”), it was a particularly interesting beach bike ride. Paying attention and looking for trails and nests along about two miles of coast, there were three new turtle nests marked with the trailing tracks in the sand, not yet washed away by the tide.
All three nests were toward the north end of Amelia Island (two near Fernandina Beach public access #5 off South Fletcher, just north of New York Avenue, and one in Fort Clinch State Park). There was also a false crawl (when the female sea turtle comes ashore but abandons her attempt to nest, departing back to sea without laying eggs).
Being three weeks into the 2011 sea turtle nesting season on Amelia Island (which runs May through October), as of yesterday, nine sea turtle nests had previously been marked. With these additional three this morning, at least a dozen nests have been marked, to be added to the nest tally with the next update of the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch website. (But who knows how many others may have been discovered this morning along the other 10 miles of beach.)
The Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch volunteer organization keeps track of the nests and publishes the information online. In July, the turtle volunteers will start digging up the nests, one by one.
Since sea turtle eggs hatch around 50 to 60 days after being buried, the Sea Turtle volunteers will begin excavating the nests in July. The majority of nesting turtles here on Amelia Island are loggerheads (but last year there were several green turtle nests and a much more rare leatherback, too).
Spend some time outdoors this summer, enjoying the beach and coastal nature here in northeast Florida. If you like nature and wildlife, be sure to attend a sea turtle nest excavation. It’s a perfect opportunity for some quality family time, and it’s free and rewarding.
The nests are dug up to record each nest’s success, count the shards (empty eggshells) and unfertilized eggs, and sometimes uncover and rescue baby sea turtle hatchlings who didn’t make it out of the nest. The hatchlings are then released to the sea. Finding this buried treasure – live baby turtles in the nest – is indeed a highlight of these digs and a real crowd pleaser. However, one can attend excavations and, more times than not, no hatchlings are uncovered. A nest that has mostly shards (the baby has left the shell remnant and gotten out) and no live turtle hatchling equates to a successful nest. (But it can be a disappointment for the kids hoping to see some baby turtles.)
Follow what’s happening with Amelia Island’s Sea Turtles and keep track of nest excavation schedule by visiting the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch website. In July, the nests laid in May will start hatching, so the Sea Turtle Watch site will start publishing information about when they will be excavating a nest. People gather to watch these nest digs and the turtle volunteers provide information and answer questions — it’s a wonderful educational experience for kids and adults alike. Keep an eye on the website since the excavation info is usually published only a day or two in advance of the event. Nests are typically excavated in the early evening around 7 pm.
HAPPY WORLD TURTLE DAY 2011!
Just yesterday on Amelia Island, two rehabbed green turtles were released back home to the sea during the Wild Amelia Nature Festival, an annual event held each May. Take a look at Amelia Island Living’s FACEBOOK photo album of these two beautiful sea turtles at Main Beach Park in Fernandina Beach, Florida.
WATCH A SEA TURTLE NEST EXCAVATION
Local residents and Amelia Island visitors can learn more about the sea turtles by attending a nest excavation in the early evening at the beach (happening in July, August, September and early October). Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch volunteers dig up nests (after they’ve hatched) to record each nest’s success, count the shards (empty eggshells) and unfertilized eggs, and sometimes uncover and rescue baby sea turtle hatchlings who didn’t make it out of the nest. The hatchlings are then released to the sea. Finding this buried treasure – live baby turtles in the nest – is indeed a highlight of these digs and a real crowd pleaser.