For anyone that walks on our beaches between May and October usually comes across areas on the beach with stakes and caution tape wrapped around them. These are sea turtle nests from the various species that call Florida home.
On Friday on my Facebook feed I saw a post from the Panama City Beach Turtle Watch group that they were excavating a nest on the west end of the beach near where I live on Sunday. My wife and I made the trek over the Pinnacle Port at 5:30p to see what exactly they would be doing. The turtles had hatched on Thursday night and most of them made it to the Gulf of Mexico. 3 Days after they hatch the turtle group excavated the nest to do an inventory of how many eggs were laid and how many were successful. In case they find any live stragglers they also collect them and release them later in the evening.
Volunteers were not overly optimistic that the nest would be very successful because Tropical Storm Debby flooded the nest in June. Despite the bad news with Debby they did verify they had almost 70 turtles that escaped the nest Thursday night. The unsuccessful eggs were likely in the bottom of the nest and the successful ones were likely higher up above the water table that rose with Debby. In all... most turtles lay between 100-110 eggs with success rates being estimated as being as low as 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10000 surviving to adulthood.
While the experts dug the nest volunteers were standing around to answer questions and hand out literature. It was so much fun to see the looks on all the kids faces. They also let you hold and touch a hatched and unhatched turtle egg.
While digging out this nest we got lucky and found TWO live baby sea turtles that had not escaped the nest! The squeals from the kids were great!
After giving people a chance to photograph the baby turtle they were placed in the cooler so that they could be released after sunset in Sunnyside.
This was a real neat experience... especially because we got lucky and found a couple live babies in the nest. While seeing a nest at night would be cool... you are not allowed to photograph turtles at night because the flashes from your camera can distract the turtles and cause them to go away from the water and toward the lights.
Panama City Beach Turtle Watch
The PCB group posts on their FB page when they will be excavating nests so follow along and join in on the experience. There will be another excavation on 8/14...
Nest 16 at the Long Beach Resort hatched Saturday night and will be excavated Tuesday at 5:30 pm.
The first half of the nesting season was very busy with record numbers across the panhandle. This second half will be when the nests begin to hatch... usually 2 months after the eggs were buried in the nest.