This time of year, sea turtle nests are a common site along the beaches of SE Florida. In fact, I don't think people even pay any attention to them anymore like they do for an osprey nest.
Nesting on our beaches begins as early as March. The early nesters are usually leatherbacks with the more numerous loggerheads arriving in significant numbers in May. Nesting continues into August and tapers off in early September.
Most of the Florida coast has adopted or is adopting a "no lights along the beach at night" policy because the lights disturb the turtles and disorient young hatchlings trying to make their way into the ocean. Rush Limbaugh is always complaining about having to keep his oceanfront lights turned out.
The female sea turtle crawls ashore at night to dig a nest, deposit her eggs, cover the nest and return to the water. While on the beach, sea turtles are timid and vulnerable and can be easily frightened away if disturbed. It takes between one to three hours for the female turtle to lay her approximately 110 ping pong ball-sized eggs.
Every morning, researchers patrol the beaches and mark the new nests with a stake and relevant information on the nest. Poaching turtle eggs is a crime although as a kid growing up in Florida I can remember people eating turtle eggs and turtle egg pancakes. It wasn't illegal then and the number of animals was much higher.
This is what the marked nests look like along the beach. Storms along the coast can wreak havoc with nests. I have been at the beach when huge waves have uncovered the nests and seen thousands of eggs washing in the surf. My sons have always enjoyed re-burying them higher up the beach away from the crashing waves.
Palm Beach County has an entire section on the web devoted to turtles:
From the picture below you can see the beachgoers don't pay any attention to the nests. This year, although we have had many storms and the nests have suffered from the high tides and big waves. And of course turtles suffer threats to their habitat and pollution as all other animals.
Here is Palm Beach County we actually have a marine center dedicated to the sea turtles.
They rescue and rehab turtles before turning them back to the sea.
The eggs hatch at night and the hatchlings make their way into the ocean where only a microscopic number will survive and return to these beaches to lay their own eggs. If they see lights at night, they get disoriented and can crawl away from the lights.
Once during the day I found a small turtle crawling across the parking lot at Jupiter Beach Park. Somehow he had made it across the dunes and through the brush but we generated quite a crowd when we released him/her into the waves and watched as it swam away.
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