Consecutive days of heavy rain on the island had little impact on sea turtle nesting season, but possibly claimed one nest.
According to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring education coordinator Glenn Wiseman, the nest thought to be lost to the barrage of storms was laid too close to shore by the female loggerhead.
Wiseman said the stakes were washed away, but he’s holding out hope that the eggs were not underwater for too long. Sea turtle eggs are permeable and hatchlings can drown in their shells if inundated with rain or waves.
“We just won’t know if they will hatch until the nest is due,” he said.
Wiseman said AMITW volunteers relocated five nests that were close to the high tide mark just to be sure.
“It’s sad because you just want to do something,” said AMITW first-year volunteer Alice Schubert, who walks sections 4 and 5, from the Manatee Public Beach at 4000 Gulf Drive to 66th Street in Holmes Beach.
“I guess you have to trust Mother Nature to take care of her own,” she said.
While the recent storms have had some impact on nesting activity, loggerhead sea turtle mothers continue to crawl onto the island shores and Schubert, along with her husband and fellow volunteer Glenn, discovered their fifth nest of the season in a section generally considered to be one of the lightest nesting areas.
The Schuberts moved to the Lakewood Ranch area about 18 months ago from Hawaii and are among the few people who can get away with saying they moved from “paradise to almost paradise.”
Glenn Schubert retired from the Army Air Force Exchange Services, more commonly known as the PX to military families, but the couple spent most of their time in Hawaii, where Glenn grew up.
Alice volunteered for a seal rescue group that was similar to her duties with AMITW.
“The seals would come up on the beach during the day to sleep and we would basically be posted as guards to keep the tourists from disturbing them,” she said. “Then during mating season, they would come on shore for up to six weeks. We would rope off the area and volunteers would keep guard over the area.”
Glenn’s father died last year and the couple have two adult children, one in Florida and the other in South Carolina.
“We knew if we ever wanted to see the kids, we had to move,” Glenn said.
The two looked for an area that had Alice’s love of the beach and Glenn’s love of baseball.
“She likes to do things like this so I come with her,” Glenn said. “In turn, I drag her to a lot of the Tampa Bay Rays games.”
Upon arriving full time in Florida, Alice contacted Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota to continue her marine life volunteer work.
“They didn’t need any volunteers at that time, but they said there were a lot of different groups in the area and told me about AMITW,” Alice said. “I contacted Suzi Fox and I’m happy I can be involved.”
Alice said in Hawaii, there are mostly green sea turtles that nest, a rarity on AMI with only five recorded green nests in the past 30 years. She explained the turtles do things a little differently on the shores of Hawaii.
“They will very often come on shore to sleep,” she said.
Her enthusiasm as a “newbie” to AMITW is apparent. Alice said everything about loggerhead season is new to her, so “I get very excited even when we find a false crawl.”
The couple walk their section every Thursday and despite walking once a week in an area that typically doesn’t produce the numbers of other AMITW sections, they found their fifth nest July 4.
“I’m really excited about the nests we have found and I can’t wait to hopefully see the little hatchlings,” Alice said.
Glenn agreed, saying the couple plans on spending a couple of nights watching over their first nest when it comes due to hatch, in hopes of witnessing what few people get to see, dozens of hatchlings making their break for open water.
Sea turtle nesting season runs May 1-Oct.31, although wildlife doesn’t always follow a schedule. Last year, a rare green turtle nest in Anna Maria was the last nest of the season to hatch, which was in early December.
Anna Maria Island is primarily a nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles, but AMITW has recorded five green sea turtle nests over the course of its 30-year history of documenting sea turtle activity on the island. Four of the nests have appeared in the past two years.
A female loggerhead lays an average of 80 eggs and the incubation period is about 60 days. The hatchlings will not break from the nest until the entire group is ready to make their break for open water.
Hatchlings primarily leave the nest at night and trek to the Gulf, guided by the reflection of the stars and moon on the water.