A Most Unusual Start to the Season

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.

We are up to three total!

Totals

RECORD BREAKING SEASON SO FAR

I apologize for not updating this site sooner. We’ve been so busy, I simply forgot! I’ve been updating the Facebook page daily, because I’ve been doing that for years, but this site is new, and it slipped my mind. I promise to do better in the future. As you can see, we already have six more nests than all of last season. All 56 of them are loggerhead nests. Our “false crawl” (non-nesting emergence) total is at 20 (all loggerheads). Still hoping for some leatherbacks and looking forward to some Greens!

THREE NESTS TODAY, 5/14/19

We didn’t have any nests yesterday, so our streak was broken at 5 days.

Here are three for today:

We are really outpacing all previous years!

Our beach south of Mickler’s, which is mostly real sand with no sand bags or seawalls, is only 1.7 miles, but has 7 of our 10 nests.

Our beach north of Mickler’s, which has a significant amount of seawalls, river dirt, non-dune plants, and giant sand bags, is 2.2 miles, but only has 3 nests. Someone else in the turtle business suggested that the turtles can smell that it is not sand. Definitely something to look into. We will see how the rest of the season pans out.

YEARLY COMPARISON CHART for May 10th

Here is the yearly comparison chart. This is how many nests we have had as of May 10th in every year since 2010.

We use 2010 for the start of this chart because before that year we only had 30 to 40 nests a year.

It is wonderful that the first yearly comparison chart shows a record number of nests for May 10th. Go turtles!

Second and third nests of the season

Both of these were the “tricky” kind, where the nesting turtle turns around after nesting and crawls out over her incoming track. The first one, on 5/8, MN001, was unfortunately laid in river dirt, which was unfortunately brought onto our beach after both Matthew and Irma. Unlike real sand, it holds water and compacts over the clutch of eggs. We are worried about this nest.

Nesting Sea Turtle Obstacle Course

May 1st was the first official day of nesting season. We found no sea turtle crawls, but we did find a “Nesting Sea Turtle Obstacle Course.” The nesting moms must first navigate the 4-foot wide and 4-foot deep “Sea-Turtle-Killing Hole,” and then escape the “Sea-Turtle-Trapping Snow Fencing.”

People often ask how they can help prevent endangered and threatened sea turtles from going extinct. One way is to help us protect their nesting habitat. Spread the word. Help us educate people. 

If you dig a hole on the beach, fill it in before you leave and ask others nicely to do the same. 

Snow fencing has never worked to build a dune (it’s purported purpose) on our beach. What works much better is planting sea oats. Encourage your friends and neighbors to spend their money on planting sea oats instead of erecting snow fencing. 

Not only are sea oats more effective at capturing sand and building a dune on our beach, but they do not obstruct nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. 

Sea oats grow with age and work even better. Their roots help hold the dune in place. Snow fencing gets old and falls down with age. When it gets hit by waves from a storm, it washes out, takes the dune with it, and litters the beach. 

I wish the sea oat salesmen were as convincing as the snow fence peddlers!