Folly’s last numbered nest of the season came as a wonderful surprise on August 17th when Julia and Sarah saw tiny hatchling tracks along Lighthouse Inlet beach.
Rewind to June 24th …
It was a gorgeous morning when Candace found clear evidence that a loggerhead sea turtle had come ashore and attempted to create a nest. Everything looked simple until Candace, Bob and Nancy could not find the eggs to confirm the nest. Agh. Lighthouse Inlet, with its dynamic tides and high water table, is not where you want to leave a nest, so finding the eggs is pretty important … usually.
In this case, Momma Turtle’s timing and site selection worked well (hatching about 10 days before the August King Tides), and Sarah and Julia saw the hatchling track evidence. Success was further confirmed three days later when Julia and Bob inventoried the nest — 140 eggs laid, 135 empty shells, 5 undeveloped, 0 dead, and 1 live straggler to wish farewell. 95% nest success for a presumed false crawl. Unexpected joy is mighty sweet!
The arrival of Nest #97 on August 3d went unnoticed during morning rounds as volunteers concentrated more on nests hatching than new nests arriving. A mistake soon corrected by the Public. THANK YOU!
The site that Momma Turtle selected on the old Coast Guard Station oceanfront was about 4′ seaward of another nest — borderline, but acceptable, so it was marked in place.
It’s expected hatch date was the end of September, early October — a time period that has gone down in SC history as the floods of 2015.
A few washovers during high tides were the first indication that we had a minor, but not unexpected, problem.
Then suddenly the stakes were washed away, save one that Becky grabbed from the pull of a knee-smacking wave. Secondary markers were put in place 30, then 40 feet landward of the nest site to try to retain the location, but over the next two days, they, along with a huge volume of sand, were pulled from the beach.
Nest #97 is recorded as a “loss” — one of two of this season’s Folly nests that were lost to the ocean. It’s these nests that tend to stay with you instead of the many successful ones.
We could always count on Sarah to not only substitute when asked, but encounter lots of turtle action when she was on the beach. Thanks to Shannon for helping and photographing the joy!
This was Sarah’s great find in middle of The Washout where she not only found the eggs quickly, but made the good decision to move them higher. As a result, this was our last nest to hatch and avoid being lost to the extreme high tides of late September and flooding of early October.
Results? 91% hatch success with 4 little stragglers left at inventory time for beach visitors (and volunteers) to enjoy watching as they entered the ocean for the first time.
A few days earlier, we were very fortunate to have watchful folks notice the sand on top of the nest begin to move just before dark. They stayed to see if the hatch would happen and it did! A nearby streetlight caused the hatchlings to crawl toward the street, but the Hatchling Heroes prevented their loss by redirecting them toward the ocean while calling Dispatch. Excellent work!! We are very grateful for your smart assistance in saving these little sea turtles.
Nest #95 was discovered as a complete surprise to nearby beach visitors, Public Safety and us when a very high tide eroded away the edge of a dune. Eggs were uncovered along with a couple of hatchlings that swam into the ocean.
Fortunately, a Public Safety officer was checking another issue nearby and was alerted to the sudden appearance of eggs. A quick call to Dispatch brought us to the beach to check out the situation and secure the nest which became known as the Wild McGees in honor of the folks who helped to get help and protect the nest. Thank you, McGees!
Shannon stood guard at the next high tide and had to do an emergency relocation to keep the eggs from washing away. 71 hatchlings survived to leave empty eggs behind for us to inventory. Great results!
No relocation required! What a change for Judi in the County Park area.
As it turned out, this nest was overwashed by high tides during its incubation period, but … it hatched! And had a very good 77% hatch success.
Lynn confirmed another nest in the busy area near 1400-East. This was a borderline placement by the Momma Turtle, but we decided to leave it where she laid it.
We did not see signs of hatching near what should have been its normal incubation time, so we were required to leave it in place until it reached 75 days old before inventory. The nest escaped most of the high tides, and even had about 8″ of sand deposited on top during a series of receding tides.
The site remained very stable until the 1000-year flood event of early October when the stakes were washed out, along with all the accumulated sand and, we suspect, the eggs. No inventory was possible. Major bummer.
Sometimes there’s a little competition for nesting space.
This Momma Turtle really liked this upper beach spot on the old Coast Guard Station oceanfront. So had another Momma who had already nested there.
Newest Momma managed to break the tape and knock down a stake on the previous nest as she approached her chosen site next door. Though she buried the stake several inches deep during her prep or covering, no previously laid eggs were disturbed.
Teresa quickly found the new eggs (and buried stake) and got both nests well-marked for continued monitoring as we await hatching time.
As it turned out, Nest #92 had a 93% hatch success, and its neighboring Nest #66 had a 95% hatch success. Pretty smart Mommas!
At this writing, the DNA history for Nest #92 is not known, but yes … there is a chance that the same turtle laid both nests 17 days apart.
How does a “false crawl” become a nest? When it hatches!
The tracks to what became Nest #91 on July 19th was first identified as a “false crawl” on May 24th when the clutch of eggs buried in the sand could not be found. Because the field signs were convincing, the site was marked with stakes, tape and DNR’s orange sign. This enabled us to keep monitoring the area in case signs of hatching appeared later in the season.
And they did! From a clutch of 132 eggs, 120 hatchlings emerged to make their run to the ocean.
Judi spotted these beautiful tracks in the middle of the County Park area.
After assessing the site, she decided to relocate what turned out to be a big clutch of 137 eggs to a safer location higher on the beach.
Good thing! The nest would have been overwashed and possibly lost otherwise. Instead the nest produced 118 hatchlings! Great move, Judi.
An excellent track find, egg confirmation, nest assessment and relocation, followed weeks later by a very successful 93% hatch success. Thanks so much, Donna, for your hard work making it all look simple!