Today I was allowed to go on a sea turtle nest patrol with park ranger Drew Turner and we found a new nest of turtle eggs. Sea turtles only come in at night to lay eggs and the park rangers only go out in the morning at sunrise to see if any have come to shore and laid their eggs.
As we drove down the beach we looked for turtle tracks leading up to the sand dunes. We were told by a man named Doc that he had seen turtle tracks further down the beach and we headed towards the tracks.
When we came upon the tracks Drew pulled over and there were definitely tracks leading to the dunes and back to the water and the hunt for the nest was on. Because I am only a volunteer for the park, I could not help dig for the eggs. But Drew is trained and licensed and knew exactly what he was looking for.
I watched him search in several different spots. He gently started digging into the sand, and explained to me that he was looking for a place where the sand had been disturbed and was easy to dig. After several tries in different spots, he finally hit what he was looking for and dug down to the eggs, pulling one out to make sure this was a sea turtle nest.
The eggs looked like small ping pong balls with little dents in them. The reason the rangers dig is to make sure the turtle actually laid eggs. Once a nest is confirmed, they put a protective covering over the eggs to protect it from predators, and mark the spot with pieces of fence to warn people away, along with a post with a number on it so they know the date the eggs were laid and approximate date the turtles will hatch. Once they hatch, they have to get past predators, such as osprey, sea gulls, foxes, raccoons and coyotes, to start new lives in the ocean.
Cindy’s and my supervisor, Renee Market has allowed us to take one of the Kubotas out to the beach in the evenings to hopefully find the turtle hatchlings escaping and running for the ocean. We have not found hatchlings, but several of the nests are ready for them to crawl out of the nest and we hope to be there when they do to capture the moment on film and photos. Thanks to Drew, I had a awesome day today and wanted to share my experience with you.