It’s July, and there are thousands of visitors to the islands off the Georgia coast. They come on feet, paws, and flippers. That would be humans, dogs, … and loggerhead turtles.
Yep, it’s nesting season for loggerhead turtles, and recently, I was lucky enough to see a “turtle crawl” on an early morning jog. The tracks are very distinctive, and the disturbed area of sand at the end of the tracks is the nest.
Nesting season lasts from May to August, and typically, the female comes ashore at night, crawls to a spot above the high-tide line, and lays 50-200 eggs. Turtle-watch volunteers motor up the beach each day at first light, and mark the nests for protection.
This particular nest also has a plastic mesh to keep out hungry, digging critters, such as raccoons, and believe it or not, mink. The shoreline at Gould’s Inlet has a rocky line of riprap to prevent beach erosion, which is home to a small colony of mink.
There are a couple of things that I find particularly interesting about sea turtles. First, the gender of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the nest during incubation! If the sand temperatures are below 85º F (30ºC), the hatchlings are predominately male, above 85º and females predominate. Just think how much easier it would make things if this were the case with human babies.
And I’m fascinated by the turtles’ amazing migratory habits. Other than coming ashore to nest, loggerheads spend all their time foraging at sea. And boy oh boy do they get around. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has an ongoing project which uses satellite tracking devices to monitor the migration patterns of turtles. As this map clearly shows, “Lightning McQueen’s” recent ramble around the Atlantic and Caribbean has covered thousands of miles.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, reports that so far this year
118 133 sea turtle nests have been located. And given that the survival rate for hatchlings is estimated at 1 in 1,000, a high number of nests is good news.
1. By Damien du Toit via Wikimedia Commons
6. By Elise Peterson via Wikimedia Commons