Sunday, September 9, 2012

Loggerhead Turtles Return...Part II

 A Few Quotes from “The Beach House”
 ( written by Mary Alice Monroe)

          The temperature of the sand during incubation plays a role in determining
          the sex of the hatchlings.  Cool sand produces males; while hotter sand
          brings females.

          Sea turtles travel long distances as they migrate between their feeding
          grounds and nesting beaches.  Although there are many theories, no one
          is certain how the turtles navigate their way.

“Turtle Walks”

These started decades ago as wildlife officials and volunteers combed the beaches
to mark nests and tagged turtles to keep track of their numbers.  Federal and State
laws protecting the species allow beach viewers to watch only the threatened
“loggerhead turtle” laying her eggs.

          Hatching time approaches.  Inside the nest, the baby turtle picks away
          at its shell with an egg tooth.  The hatchling will remain underground
          for several days to absorb every bit of the important yolk sac for the
          energy to survive.  It also needs to allow its curved shell to straighten.

          The hatchlings remain quiet during the heat of the day, but at night,
          they scrape with their flippers, plowing through broken shells and
          compact sand, working as a team.  This causes the floor of the nest
          to slowly rise to the surface.

David Porter, a volunteer from the Marine Life Centre (Juno Beach, Florida)
has a walkie-talkie hooked to his shorts so he can keep in contact with the
dozen volunteers spread out over a mile on the beach.  Armed with radios,
night-vision scopes and bug spray, the volunteers quickly scout the beach
for signs of a turtle emerging from the water.  Within the first two  hours,
volunteers spot 2 loggerheads , but both crawled back to the ocean before
digging a hole or laying eggs.  The long night of waiting requires patience.
About 10:30 pm the volunteers heard a commotion on their radios.
A third turtle was spotted and started digging her nest ~ a sure sign she
will stay for as long as two hours or longer.  Nearly three hours later,
the turtle makes a slow turn toward the ocean.

          The hatchlings (about 3 inches long) are drawn to the brightest light. 
          In nature, this is the white light of the moon or stars over the ocean. 
          Artificial lighting can confuse the hatchlings and lead them to death
          in tangles of beach grass or on busy streets.

          The minutes spent dashing from the nest to the sea are very
          dangerous in a turtle's life.  This is the time for predators to
          attack the hatchlings.  If and when the hatchlings reach the ocean
          and get their first taste of the sea, instinct kicks in.  The crawling
          motion is replaced with power strokes by front flippers.
          The turtle will go nonstop for twenty-four hours in what's called
          a “swimming frenzy” to reach the Gulf Stream.  Once there, it will
          hide and feed in the relative safety of enormous floats of sargassum
          weeds and flotsam.

          The hatchlings are carried by the North Atlantic system of gyres
          to the islands off West Africa where the now-dinner-plate-sized
          loggerheads may remain for a decade or more.  When seen again
          along the eastern seaboard, the juveniles have grown considerably
          in weight and size.

          Hatchlings dine on small snails, microplankton and invertebrates.
          After they reach adulthood, their powerful jaws can crush heavy-
          shelled crustaceans and creatures that reside in reefs and rocks.
          Jelllyfish...are like candy treats!

“Turtle Friendly” Rules to Follow at the Beach

LIGHTS OUT!  Turn off the lights at dusk that are visible from the beach!
Close blinds and drapes on beach-facing-windows. Use motion sensor
security lights instead of outdoor porch lights.

STAY AWAY FROM NESTS!  Do not touch or disturb turtle nest markings.
Walking on the nest can crush the eggs below.  Please keeps pets on a
leash away from the nest.

DON'T PICK UP THE HATCHLINGS!  Crawling to the surf on their own
helps them to orient when they enter the sea.  When the female is mature
in twenty years, they will return to nest.

FILL IN THE HOLES!  Baby turtles can navigate a footprint, but large
moats around sand castles, etc. can trap them  Adult seas turtles can be
trapped as well.

mother turtle is disturbed by lights or people, she may abandon her
effort to nest.  Stay behind the turtle so that she can't see you and
do not try to touch her.

NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY!  Both the adult turtle and the
hatchling can be disoriented by the bright light.  It may be tempting,
but please avoid flashes from cameras or the white light of  flashlights.

REMOVE BEACH AND BOAT LITTER!  Balloons, plastic bags and
other non-degradable pollutants cause the deaths of turtles who try to
eat them.


Mary Alice Monroe dedicated this book
to her 13 fellow members  of the...
Isle of Palms/Sullivan's Island Turtle team
    and to all Turtle Volunteers here and elsewhere
who walk the beaches every morning
  to help our beloved loggerheads.


Consider the Turtle

Consider the turtle!  Perchance  you have worried , despaired of the world,
meditated the end of life...and all things seem rushing to destruction, but
nature has steadily and serenely advanced with the turtle's pace. 
The young turtle spends its infancy within its shell.  It gets experience
and learns the way of the world  through that wall.  While it rests warily
on the edge of its hole, rash schemes are undertaken by men and fail.
French empires rise or fall, but the turtle is developed only so fast..
What's a summer?

Time for a turtle's egg to hatch.  So is the turtle developed, fitted to
endure for he outlives twenty French dynasties.  One turtle knows
several Napoleans.  They have no worries, no cares, yet...has not
the great world existed for them as much as for you?

Henry David Thoreau
Journal ~ August 28, 1856,

Believe I shall reread this fantastic and inspiring, novel, The Beach House,
about Caretta Rutledge who heads back to the scenic Lowcountry
of her childhood summers (just as her life is spinning out of control).
Before long, the rhythms of the island open her heart in wonderful
ways as she repairs the family beach house, becomes a bona fide
“turtle lady” and renews old acquaintances long thought lost.

Merle Baird-Kerr … written September 4, 2012
Comments welcome...scroll down...may sign in as “anonymous”

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