Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring is two nests shy of tying its 2012 record of 362 nests.
Volunteers in Section 3 have confirmed an unverified nest near the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria.
An unverified nest, or possible false crawl, occurs when volunteers spot a potential crawl, but are unable to confirm the nest by digging down and locating eggs. The area is marked as if a nest existed, but not recorded until hatching occurs and can be confirmed.
Employees at the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, arrived to work in the early morning hours of Sept. 6 and spotted a hatchling in the parking lot. They scooped it up and began looking for where it came from and located the nest. They then found a phone number on the nest marker and called AMITW.
Section 3 volunteers, law enforcement officers and neighbors soon joined in the search for wayward hatchlings and found two more “vigorous” hatchlings searching for the Gulf of Mexico, according to AMITW volunteer Marilyn George.
George said dozens of hatchling tracks were found at the nest site leading to the water and the three wayward hatchlings also were released into the Gulf.
In recent days, AMITW volunteers located a couple of hatched nests that went unrecorded. According to AMITW executive director Suzi Fox, the nests were laid about 55 days ago during high tides and storms, when volunteers struggled with difficult beach conditions.
Because female sea turtles typically emerge at night on the shore to nest — the species only venture on land — it often can be difficult due to weather and wave action to locate the crawl and the nest.
The number of nests stood at 354 for two weeks, but between the unrecorded nests and unverified nests, the number has climbed by six.
Fox said between the possibility of other unverified nests and late season nesters, the 2012 record stands a good chance of being broken.
In the meantime, more than 12,000 hatchlings have sprinted from nests to the sea and there are about 200 nests that have yet to hatch.
Section 3 remains the hot spot for nesting out of the island’s nine sections. The stretch of beach from Pine Avenue in Anna Maria southward to 66th Street in Holmes Beach has recorded 80 nests, 74 false crawls and 1,056 hatchlings from 36 hatched nests.
Sea turtle nesting season began May 1 and officially ends Oct. 31, although, as proven last year with a green turtle nest that hatched in December, sea turtles can stretch man’s calendar beyond the official dates.