Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Loggerhead Turtles Return...Part I

The magnificence of Internet ~ the camera, the location, the photography,
the story. Recently, my son forwarded a sensational picture of baby loggerhead
sea turtles (about 20 or more) scrambling and hustling to the seawater for their
lives' survival. The drama of this photo recalled to my memory a novel I read
several years ago ~ The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe telling of
a woman's return to the family's island beach  house along the South
Carolina coast and becomes a “turtle lady”.

          “What is a loggerhead?”...I asked myself:
            a)  a tropical sea turtle with a hard shell and large head
            b)  a stupid fellow or blockhead  
            c)“at loggerheads” is to be in disagreement; in a quarrel

Loggerheads are oceanic turtles throughout the world inhabiting
the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean and Indian ocean/sea waters. 
The females tend to return to the beach on which they were
hatched...every 2 to 3 years to nest.  Mating season usually
starts around late March and may extend until early June. 
An adult loggerhead may weigh 170 to 350 pounds or more.

The female comes ashore to lay her 80 to 150 ping-pong sized
eggs in the nest that is 18 to 22 inches deep in the sand. 
They usually hatch within 45 to 65 days.
An estimated 14,000 females nest in the southern US each year
from South Carolina to Florida.  If the hatchlings make it to shore
...and eventually adulthood, they may live 30 to 50 years or more.

Preceding each chapter are loggerhead facts to inform the reader.

My recent blog, Mourning Dove Family III, so immensely impressed
me.  The parents are so loving, so dedicated, so protective of their
two-egg-babies called squabs...caring for them 24 hours a day
(2 weeks of incubation and 2 weeks of raising these wee ones
to a mature physical size enabling them to fly with their parents).
Now “time to face the world” learning how to survive!

          At last, the loggerhead arrives in familiar waters.   She waits
          in the swells near shore as a moon rises above the Atlantic.
          Her home is the sea, but instinct demands that she leaves
          all she knows and face the unknown dangers of the beach
          to nest.  Is it safe here...or should she swim further on?

          She has a keen sense of smell and even keener instinct
          for survival ~ one that has kept the species alive
          since prehistoric times.

How different the lifestyle of mating pairs of Mourning Doves and
the Mother Turtle who lays her eggs and then lumbers back to sea water
...never to return to her nest:
          leaving her eggs to “hatch alone”
          leaving the baby turtles to alone dig out of the sand
          and totally alone against predators
          and totally alone as they dash across the beach sand
          to reach deep water's safety.
Only one sea turtle out of 10,000 will ever reach adulthood
because she has left her 3-inch-long-hatchlings to wiggle out of
their sandy pits, into the water and away from the many predators
lurking nearby.  Some never make it out of the nest before they
are snatched up by some marine birds, by some land animals,
by reptiles and by humans (who illegally sell turtle eggs...
considered an aphrodisiac in some Caribbean culture).

          Though the mother loggerhead is tired and hungry,
          her work is just beginning.  She will nest an average
          of four times during this season, resting two weeks
          between each nest.

          Under the cloak of night, the loggerhead comes ashore.
          She slowly drags her body in a tanklike crawl to a dry
          sight high on the beach.  Only the female comes ashore.
          If the site doesn't feel right or encounters a root or rock,
          or if  senses an intruder, the loggerhead will return to the
          sea without laying her eggs...(known as a “false crawl”)

          The turtle uses her hind flippers in an elaborate digging
          ritual, alternately digging out scoops of sand to create
          an egg chamber  She then deposits her leathery covered eggs
          into the nest cavity, laying 2, 3 or 4 ping-pong sized eggs
          at a time.  While she labours, the loggerhead's eyes stream
          with tears.  These “turtle tears” are produced to rid her body
          of excess salt from drinking salt water.

          Her eggs laid, the mother loggerhead now uses her rear
          flippers to rake sand over her nest and her front flippers
          to throw sand to disguise the area.  When her work is done,
          the mother lumbers back to the safety of the sea.
          She'll never return to her nest.

Dear Readers....In Part II...I write about the Volunteers and their
contributions to the protection of these loggerheads.

I leave you with this quote from
Mary Alice Monroe's novel...the Beach House:

Life's most precious lessons ~
True love involves sacrifice.
Family is forever
Mistakes of the past can be be forgiven.

Merle Baird-Kerr … written September 3, 2012
Comments welcome...scroll down...may sign in as “anonymous”

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