AMI sea turtle nesting surge follows tropical storm

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Newly marked loggerhead nests are scattered across the sand May 29 in Holmes Beach, following Subtropical Storm Alberto. Islander Photo: Chris-Ann Silver Esformes

Surprise.

Tropical Storm Alberto arrived ahead of hurricane season, which began June 1.

It brought plenty of wind and rain to Anna Maria Island over the three-day Memorial Day holiday.

And a flotilla of female sea turtles.

According to Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird monitoring executive director, there often is an increase in nesting after a storm, and the numbers don’t lie.

As of May 31, there were 83 loggerhead nests on the island — three more nests than the same day in 2017.

The first named storm of nesting season passed in the Gulf of Mexico 165 miles west of the island May 26-27, causing high tides to completely wash out two nests and partially wash over three nests, leaving the eggs exposed, Fox said.

Fox said she relocated the three nests with exposed eggs higher in the dunes, where they may still incubate and hatch.

Fox said turtle watch volunteers and marine rescue are the only people allowed to touch federally protected sea turtle eggs. She said if people see eggs in the sand or surf during or after a storm, they should call turtle watch.

“Always call turtle watch first,” she said. “Then we will direct you.”

When a storm causes increased rainfall and higher-than-normal tides, sea turtle nests lining the beach can become “wash-outs,” inundated with water. The standing water can diminish the survival chances for the hatchlings inside the eggs, said Fox.

Sea turtle eggs absorb water and hatchlings can drown before they emerge.

“Cross your flippers, I did see many nests that were OK,” Fox wrote in a May 27 email to volunteers. “And, we have loads of nesting to come to replace whatever we lost.”

By May 29, there were 21 additional loggerhead nests on island beaches.

“Early storms leading to washed over nests are pretty much an inevitability,” Fox said May 25. “It’s good we got this one so early, so there is still going to be a lot of nesting to come.”

She said after a storm, new nests often are laid higher up in the dune area.

With sea turtles nesting farther from the water, it is important to remove beach gear, including chairs, canopies and inflatables at the end of the day.

Female sea turtles only come ashore to nest, so any objects in their path can distract them and lead to a failed nesting attempt — a false crawl.

Additionally, a sea turtle can become trapped in beach chairs and canopies, which can be a deadly hazard.

Fox said since Alberto’s passage, temperatures and humidity have increased, providing a good nesting environment for the turtles.

“The moist, tropical heat is here now,” Fox said. “The turtles will be nesting in force, so this is the time to really keep up with best beach practices.”

For more information on nesting season, contact Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Visit myfwc.com/seaturtle and click on “Sea Turtles and Lights” or “Wildlife Friendly Lighting” for more information on keeping beaches safe for sea turtles.

 

AMITW resumes turtle talks, LBK-Mote lead walks on beach

Sea turtle season has begun and, with it, come precautions to protect the animals and their habitat.

To learn guidelines and some sea turtle factoids, join Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring for Turtle Talks at 10 a.m. Tuesdays in June and July at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

The presentations, which last about 35 minutes, consist of video and photos, a question-and-answer session and interactive activities. Attendees receive promotional materials, such as stickers, door hangers, temporary tattoos and flyers.

For more information, contact AMITW executive director Suzi Fox at suzilfox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Additionally, Longboat Key Turtle Watch, along with Mote Marine Laboratory, is hosting turtle walks led by Mote-trained volunteers on sea turtle patrol.

Volunteers will scout for signs of nesting, and share tips on wildlife history and habitats.

The walks, which may be up to a mile and a half, begin at 6:45 a.m. Saturdays in June and July and depart from the public beach access at 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Walks are rain or shine, but volunteers do not walk in thunderstorms.

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