Watch & Learn About Sea Turtles, Coastal Nature
One of the best educational experiences at the beach on Amelia Island, Florida (for the young and old alike), is observing a sea turtle nest excavation. Watch the video below for a glimpse of what you might see during these beachfront nest digs that occur seasonally. Most nest excavations open to public observation happen from around mid-July through late September each year.
The 2015 sea turtle nesting season was a good one on Amelia Island and throughout Florida. Amelia Island sea turtle nesting begins each year on May 1st and ends October 31st. Activity is monitoring by a group of volunteers, the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch.
Nesting loggerheads are the most abundant visitors here (with some green turtles and an occasional leatherback). Fort Clinch State Park has their own volunteers and staff who monitor the beachfront on Amelia Island’s northend located within the park bounds.
(Youtube video by the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council.)
The best way each year to find out when a nest excavation will be happening on Amelia Island is to keep an eye on the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch website’s “excavation schedule.” Check it frequently, as the dates are typically posted only a few days in advance. The short notice is because they first wait for the nest to hatch/erupt naturally.
Once this occurs, the turtle volunteers wait three days and then excavate the nest to collect data and make sure no baby sea turtles were unable to dig themselves out. This is when the audience observing the nest dig gets a big thrill — if any live hatchlings are discovered. Then there’s a send-off, as the tiny turtles are released home to the sea.
Beach Etiquette: Tips To Help Sea Turtles & Birds
The beach is the natural habitat and nesting grounds for various species including many coastal birds. Interrupting the natural behavior of wildlife can impact feeding and reproduction and be detrimental to the species’ long-term existence. Here are some things the public can do to help:
1. Please follow the “carry on carry off rule” (whatever beach gear brought for the day goes home at night, plus all trash removed).
2. Please do fill in holes and trenches dug in the sand.
3. Property owners and visitors staying at oceanfront lodging during nesting season should turn off outdoor lights facing the beach and keep curtains and blinds closed at night (artificial light can disorient sea turtles).
4. Please refrain from bringing dogs to the beach, especially during nesting season. (But if you must, keep them leashed at all times, local ordinances require dogs be leashed.) However, NO DOGS ARE EVER ALLOWED on the beaches within Fort Clinch State Park and Amelia Island State Park).
5. While not all birds on the beach are nesting, please don’t disturb RESTING birds either (and teach children not to do so). Keep as wide a distance as possible from birds you see on the beach. (If you send them up in flight, you’ve encroached their space, their natural habit.)
Find out more about “sharing the shore with wildlife.” Also see the “Beach Hero” brochure at the city of Fernandina Beach website.
Additional articles about Amelia Island’s sea turtles: