Sea Turtle season stated yesterday and the very first patrol got to see a mother turtle preparing her nest and laying eggs. Witnessing a mother sea turtle lay a nest is a once in a lifetime event. Yesterday, the very first nest of the year was a Kemp’s Ridley Turtle. This turtle is very rare to our area. Tyically only one or two a year are all that we see. This turtle is unusual because it lays its eggs during the day.
This is a very vulnerable time for a mother turtle because during the daylight hours predators can see her dark body against the light sand in our area. Most predators will leave her alone but they will go after her unprotected eggs once she heads back to the water. This is why she buries them. In fact she buries these ping pong ball like eggs so well often you can even tell she has been there. The only tell tale sign is her flipper and body marks she left as she came out of the water and returned to it. These marks are called a crawl. This is what the volunteers from the share the beach program look for when doing morning patrols.
Once these nests are fond by the patrol they are dug up to make sure we know the exact placement of the eggs. Once they are found if they are not too close to the water they are recovered and marked so that they are not trampled by visitors to the beach. You will see them surrounded by 4 stakes and brightly colored ribbon arond with signs telling about the federally protected animal.
After about 55 days the turtles are ready to hatch out of their leathery shells. Once they are out they head to the surface of the nest whichs the beach. They take a brief rest on the beach they like little soliders they march often in line to the water just as quickly as they can. The Kemps Ridley babies hatch during the day as well which makes them vulnrable as they make their way to the water. Once in the water the babies look like they are flying. They swim to the nearest seaweed bed to eat and grow for a few years.
We cannot always post when a nest is found however the Bon Scour refuge does keep trackof them and they have a site dedicated to Alabama Sea Turtles. You can keep track of nests you may have seen on vacation. You can also learn all sorts of information on this site about sea turtles. Hopefully you and your family will have a chance to witness this once in a life time happening!