BIG DAY FOR US! THREE new loggerhead nests and one more loggerhead false crawl.
Most of the turtles continue to make the wise choice of nesting south of Mickler’s, where the beach is more natural, but one today chose a very bad spot north of Mickler’s.
The nest is right up against a seawall and very near a drain pipe that is draining from the top of the wall to the beach. The nesting turtle encountered seawall construction debris that had been buried and is now mostly exposed, including uncut bolts, broken pieces of vinyl sheeting, hazard flagging, and hardened concrete. We will hope for the best for this nest, and just be grateful the nesting turtle did not injure herself (we found no blood).
South of Micklers (1.7 miles) is still winning in nests, 8 to 4, even though the section north of mickler’s is a half mile longer (2.2 miles). North of Mickler’s is still winning in false crawls, 6 to 2. The false crawl on the north end today is a perfect example of why we get more false crawls north of Mickler’s.
Sadly, we had no new crawls yesterday morning, but we did process our first batch of fresh eggs on Friday. For those of you who don’t already know, we extract a fresh egg from every new loggerhead nest for two very important research projects. The first is a genetics project by Dr. Brian Shamblin at the University of Georgia. Northeast Florida beaches, with only a few exceptions, have been participating in this study since 2016. Georgia and the Carolinas have been doing it for at least 10 more years than us.
Dr. Shamblin is able to track every nest of a female in every season she has nested. He has also been able to track the nests of daughters and granddaughters. There are many valuable research uses of his data, including the enhancement of other research projects, including that of the Florida FWC, the other study in which we are participating.
Dr. Simona Ceriana, with FWC, is able to determine where a turtle is foraging when she is not nesting. Dr. Ceriana’s research depends on Dr. Shamblin’s genetic analysis. Dr. Shamblin is able to extract the mother’s DNA from the inside of a fresh egg, and Dr. Ceriana does her isotope analysis using the separated yolk and albumin. Here are our prepared samples.
As of yesterday, we entered double digits with another leatherback nest. Then today we had a new loggerhead nest.
The loggerhead nest was south of Mickler’s (south is beating north in nests 8 to 3) and one more false crawl north of Mickler’s (north is winning in false crawls 5-1).
The leatherback was unusual in that she crawled around in the vegetation. She also left a few things behind, including 3 “spacer” eggs in the middle of her outgoing tracks. She also left areas of green liquid on her incoming track, something we have never noticed before. Dr. Stacy (NOAA sea turtle vet) said reptiles can have bile-colored GI contents, especially if they are not eating, which is probably typical of a female during her nesting season. The green liquid discharge was probably watery feces or feces-stained urine. (I guess I won’t be reusing the plastic container in which I gathered a sample!)
What a difference a year makes. Last year on this date we had 42 nests. This year we have 7, which is below the 10-year average of almost 12. BUT! In 2010 we only had 3 nests on this date and ended up with 96! It might just be a late-arriving crowd this year. Everyone please cross your fingers!
Another false crawl yesterday. We now have 7 nests and 5 false crawls. This false crawl was unusual in many ways.
We found nothing today, but yesterday there was another loggerhead nest south of Mickler’s. So far, south of Mickler’s is winning 6 nests to 1 nest, even though the south end is 0.5 miles shorter — go figure?!? The north end is winning in false crawls, however, 3 to 1.
We had no new crawls on the 18th, but we got one yesterday and one today! Unfortunately, we’ve fallen behind the daily average. We will catch up!
Yesterday’s nest was the first one for the Sea Hammock Condos, which is usually a popular area for the mama turtles. It is a beautiful natural beach with no hard armoring, no snow fencing, and rarely any holes or trash left by beachgoers.
Another loggerhead nest today! Yay! 6 total nests. Less than our average, but there is a lot of season still to come. The homeowner, the very turtle friendly Kevin (who now has 2 of our 6 nests), was able to figure out the approximate time of the nest. There was a short rain shower around 10pm, and he pointed out that her incoming tracks were specked with raindrops, but the outgoing tracks were not. She emerged from the water around 10pm, when it was raining. How is that for turtle CSI?!?
One more loggerhead nest and one more loggerhead false crawl today. We’ve added another row to our “Annual Comparison Chart.” The bottom row shows the average number of nests on this day since 2010 and the average annual seasonal total since 2010. We are right on average with 4 nests as of this day, but it just seems like a such a small number after last year!
The 2020 season for Mickler’s Landing Turtle Patrol got off to a very unusual start. The effects of the Covid-19 virus changed many things. First was the way that the Nesting Survey Workshop was conducted by FWC. Turtle patrol members from all over joined a virtual conference room for the annual training. The closure of the beaches brought uncertainty as to when we would be able to start our patrol. We were finally given clearance to begin walking on April 18 just three days later than the planned April 15 date.
The patrol moved to a modified system to comply with social distancing. The patrol is divided into four zones, each about two miles down and back to be patrolled solo. If a nest is found a “crawl worker” is notified to work the nest. Anyone who joins the crawl worker to assist with working the nest is required to wear gloves and a mask.
Once patrol began, we were off to a slow start. Mother’s Day came and went and still nothing. Finally, May 12 was the day. Mary Lynne Smith found the first nest but not just any nest, it was a Leatherback and it was quite a sight!
Marshall Read was patrolling a little further south in zone four where he found a false crawl and a Loggerhead nest.
Nancy described the Loggerhead nest as textbook. She dug straight down and found the clutch in no time at all. Check out the diameter of the hole.
Wednesday was non eventful. Then on Thursday, we had the first nest on the north end. MN001 (Cc). It was located in almost the exact location as last year’s first north nest. There a few inches of soft fluffy sand on top, but a few inches down is hard packed dirt. Last year 39 hatchlings were trapped in it and died. Hopefully we will have a better outcome this year.