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Date of Issue: June 17, 2009

Nests relocated as precaution

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Nesting by the numbers
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch reported 54 loggerhead sea turtle nests on the beach as of June 12.
AMITW also reported 31 false crawls.
Nesting season continues through Oct. 31, with the first hatchlings due about July 1.

Two loggerhead turtles stopped short in their nesting quests June 12, depositing their eggs too close to the Gulf for the comfort of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch members.

Those nests were relocated near White Avenue in Holmes Beach and near 11th Street North in Bradenton Beach early Friday morning.

AMITW walker Ed Heckman came across the White Avenue nest, marked the spot where the turtle dropped its eggs and called AMITW supervisors, who documented the nest and agreed to its relocation.

The nest, said AMITW executive director Suzi Fox, was in a swale-like dip on the beach and too close to the tide line. Nests that get soaked, or lie under water, can be damaged because the eggs are water-soluble.

Fox’s big fear was less what might happen to the nest tomorrow than in August, when the eggs are due to hatch and when wave activity typically increases with seasonal storms.

Last year, in late summer, high water and big waves associated with Hurricane Gustav washed over dozens of nests on the Gulf side of the Island. Other storm activity also damaged or destroyed nests last season.

“That was murder last August, to watch all those nests wash away,” Heckman said as he watched Pete and Emily Gross delicately remove turtle eggs from the White Avenue nest to be deposited in a hole he had dug near the dunes.

The adult turtle, based on the trucks, had actually started to nest even closer to the water’s edge, but then crawled on about 20 feet.

“That,” said Emily Gross, pointing to a wide dip in the sand, “is an abandoned body pit.”

Fox said the nests on the Gulf beaches sometimes are more vulnerable than nests on the Atlantic coast.

“On the East Coast, the dune level is huge,” she said. “If a nest were 10 feet from the water it would be OK in some areas.”

To relocate the White Avenue nest, Pete Gross removed the eggs — round and soft and about the size of a ping-pong ball — to a white bucket, while Emily Gross collected data.

Heckman dug a new hole near the dunes, measuring so the relocated nest would be as deep and wide as the turtle’s nest. His goal was to shape the nest like an upside down light bulb — wider at the bottom than the top.

At the new nest, as Gross buried the eggs, a crowd of beach-walkers gathered to ask about sea turtles, nesting, and AMITW.

“I think we should probably come back in August,” Samantha Pate, 10, a vacationer from Carbondale, Ill., told her mother. “We should see the turtles born, too.”