Our part of the Outer Banks is the northernmost nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles. The mama turtle will come up on the beach under the cover of darkness, dig a hold, and deposit her clutch of 100 or so eggs. About two months later the babies will hatch out of their eggs, clamber to the surface, and make a run for the ocean. The emergence is generally also at night which helps protect the hatchlings from predators.
On a recent Friday evening those of us on the four wheel drive beach had the pleasure of experiencing one of these hatchings in daylight!! Since the loggerhead is an endangered species, volunteers work to provide the safest environment and help maximize the hatchlings chances for survival. We monitor nesting activity by surveying the beach in the early morning hours looking for the characteristic crawl of the mama sea turtle.
We then mark the location of the nest and leave it to “cook”. About 55 days later, we start monitoring the nest for hatching activity. Often we will see a depression in the sand anywhere from an hour to several days prior to the actual emergence. This is because the babies have hatched out of their shell and are moving around, jockeying for position, before making their climb to the surface.
Generally we will see one or two “scouts” come out first and make their way to the ocean. Then we will see a “boil” where they all come scrambling out at once. Once they safely get to the ocean they will swim in a frenzy for two days until the get to the gulf stream and the relative protection of the Sargasso Sea.
Those who have been lucky enough to experience this phenomenon have said they could watch it over and over. The hatchlings are precious and I am proud to be part of the volunteer effort to assist the sea turtles.
Until Next Time
Your OBX Bloggers
Posting today: Karen Gregory