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Date of Issue: May 21, 2008

Island, Mote report first turtle nests

Tractor-like tread marks were left by the first loggerhead sea turtle known to create a nest on Anna Maria Island this spring. The nest was made May 18 near Park Avenue in Anna Maria.
Debbie Basilius of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch marks the area designating the first nest of the sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island. The nest was made May 18. People reported seeing the turtle nesting Sunday night and AMITW volunteer Carol Soustek saw the turtle tracks on the beach near Park Avenue in Anna Maria on Monday morning. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff.

Under a full moon on the beach near Park Avenue in Anna Maria May 18, a loggerhead sea turtle made the first documented nest of the 2008 season.

First nests also were found in the same beach zone last year and the year before, according to Debbie Basilius of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. From a distance, in the moonlight, she watched the turtle make the nest. “After all this time, that was the very first time I saw a mother nest,” she said.

Early May 19, AMITW members marked the nest and placed stakes in the area to show passersby - and new-to-the-program volunteers - the tracks the turtle made as it crawled from the Gulf of Mexico and then returned.

Carol Soustek, a volunteer with AMITW, stood by, looking at the tracks, which resemble tractor-tire treads. The first nest was made on her watch and she recognized the tracks immediately. “I’ve been doing this 19 years,” she said.

Residents in the area also turned out to look at the nest and celebrate the repeat of their first-of-the-season nest.

AMITW executive director Suzi Fox said first nests have been made earlier on the Island and later - an average date usually is mid-May, around Mother’s Day.

To the south, Mote Marine Laboratory, which monitors nesting sea turtles on Longboat Key, as well as Venice and Lido, Siesta and Casey keys, had reported 21 turtle nests as of May 15.

Mote also reported 22 false crawls, incidents in which sea turtles crawled out of the water onto the sand, but did not nest.