My Amazing Time With The Turtles

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(By Kim Ryan) Last Friday, in the middle of turtle nesting season which runs May 1-October 31st, I was thrilled to accompany Cindy Johnson, one of many Turtle Time volunteers, for a 3 day dig. What you may ask is that?

Cindy Johnson from Turtle Time working her magic with the turtles.

It’s when volunteers go out 3 days after a turtle nest has hatched and dig deep, almost the length of your arm, to retrieve the shells and rescue any turtles who might not have made the long arduous journey out of the nest.  On this day, Cindy counted approximately 111 empty egg shells of turtles that successfully made it out and presumably into the Gulf.

As she was excavating the nest  in the oppressive morning heat and humidity she explained how the mother turtle crawls up, locates just the right spot and then digs and digs and digs. She carefully lays her eggs in the hole and then takes great care to cover them up protecting them from predators.

There they stay encased deep in the sand until they hatch 55-65 days later. The work for these little amazing creatures has just begun as they now have to crawl vertically making their way to the top under the cover of night. As they successfully emerge, the baby turtles follow the light toward the sea leaving tell tale tracks in the sand.

Cindy explained that this season has been extraordinary with record numbers of nests.  And while the numbers are exciting, she cautions that very few actually make it to adulthood so each one is precious. That’s why Turtle Time works so diligently to protect and document the turtle nests and hatchlings. It’s also why education is critical.

Education not only for Island residents, but also visitors, which was apparent on my visit to the beach. Cindy and I met a few visitors who were surprised and somewhat disappointed to hear that they missed the turtles march to the ocean just the night before as was evident from the tracks. These folks proudly stated how they followed the rules being sure to close the shutters/drapes by 9 and remove all of their beach furniture. Thankfully those rules were clearly stated in their rental house information.

I would encourage everyone to visit turtletime.org to learn more about these majestic sea creatures, familiarize yourself with what you can do to help and consider a donation to this great not for profit.

Kim Ryan can be reached at kim@beachtalkradionews.com