AMI turtle watch reaches peak of hatching season

Sea turtle nests on Anna Maria Island are in full hatching mode.

“This week has been the busiest week so far. We’ve had over 30 nests hatch out,” said Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director.

Fox said the recent hatches bring this year’s numbers of loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings to the Gulf of Mexico up to nearly 8,000.

“Thanks to the full moon, they made it to the water,” Fox said.

The Aug. 10 super moon and the waxing-waning nights before and after the super moon helped guide the hatchlings to the Gulf, and Fox said she saw fewer disorientations than in previous weeks.

According to Fox, there were 21 hatchling disorientations so far this sea turtle season – May to October– more than double the previous season’s numbers by this time in the season.

Sea turtles are guided naturally to the Gulf by the sparkle of twilight and moonlight on the water.

Star-gazers were drawn to the beach at night to observe the Aug. 10 super moon, when the moon is closest to the earth in its elliptical orbit, and the Aug. 12-13 Perseids meteor shower.

Fox said the celestial spectators were not problematic to the hatchlings.

“People were really minding their manners on the beach,” Fox said.

The AMITW performs excavations three days after the hatch and records data from the nest.

After the waiting period, volunteers dig up the nest. They take everything out and sort the contents, accounting for hatched and unhatched eggs and any live or dead hatchlings remaining in the nest. The data is used to create a nest success rate, Fox said.

“We’re having a very high success rate. When we get them running the right direction, it really helps. The moon was brighter than the houses. They’re hatching out fabulously,” said Fox.

Fox said nearly half of the sea turtle nests laid on Anna Maria Island have hatched. And AMITW volunteers found evidence of one latecomer — a new nest laid late in the nesting season.

“She’s a little late. We were all joking, we’ll be carving pumpkins when it hatches. We’ll need turtle friendly candles in our pumpkins,” Fox said.

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