The Beacon

Blog Tags: Loggerhead Sea Turtles

Nesting Nights: Hoping for a Glimpse

© Oceana/Jeff Janowski

Editor's note: This is the first of a series of posts about Emily and Kerri Lynn's week-long trip to North Carolina in hopes of witnessing loggerhead sea turtles nesting.

Check out last year's trip to see sea turtles hatching. Stay tuned for more updates this week.

Greetings! Oceana science fellow Kerri Lynn Miller and I are down on Bald Head Island, NC hoping to witness female loggerhead sea turtles laying their eggs.

Yesterday evening we attended the Bald Head Island Conservancy’s sea turtle talk and spoke about Oceana’s work to protect sea turtles. We asked folks to sign postcards telling the government to put turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in all trawl fisheries in the U.S., which accidentally capture hundreds of sea turtles every year.

After the talk ended, around 9:45, several dozen of us with red-cellophane-wrapped flashlights headed to the beach in the hopes of seeing a female come ashore. Spoiler alert: we didn’t see one. But hey, it was only the first night.

We waited until almost midnight on the beach stargazing and talking turtles with Anna, one of the BHIC’s six sea turtle interns this season. She clutched a walkie talkie, hoping to get word from the other interns patrolling the beach on utility vehicles that they’d come across a turtle.

Around 11:30 her radio crackled – “Anna, can you hear me?” the voice said. A long pause, and all of us were suddenly on the edge of our sandy blanket.

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Waiting for Hatchlings, Part 4

© Oceana/Cory Wilson

[Several days after Day 2]

It’s the end of my week here at Bald Head Island, and I think it goes without saying (if you’ve read any of the previous posts), it’s been a great trip. I’ve been especially lucky with nest #89.

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Waiting for Hatchlings, Part 3

sea turtle hatchling

© Oceana/Cory Wilson

Day 2 (later that day)

After the morning of nest excavations, Cory and I catch up on sleep for a few hours. Before we know it, it’s time to check in with loggerhead nest #89 again.

Out on the beach the haloed moon is astonishingly bright, and seems to be directly in front of the turtle nest’s sand runway. There’s no question that if the turtles make it out alive, they’ll know where to go. By 8:30, a crowd of 15 people or so has gathered around the nest.

The two women from Kansas and Colorado are here again, and there are some newcomers, including a couple from Wisconsin. “How do they breathe under there? They’re buried alive!” the wife cries. Around 9, the sand starts to move.

Every few minutes, Donna the nest monitor says, “Did you see that?” The sand is moving, or “simmering,” in sea turtle-speak, a reference to what happens when all the turtles come pouring out of the nest – a “full boil.” I find it strange that we use cooking terms for this.

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Waiting for Hatchlings, Part 1

© Oceana/Cory Wilson

Greetings from Bald Head Island, North Carolina! I’m sitting on the porch of my parents’ beach house watching the waves break just over the dune ridge. It’s sunny, there’s a pleasant but insistent breeze, and a cicada chirps in a nearby tree.

Cory Wilson, expedition photographer, and I have been here for barely a day-and-a-half, and already there’s much to report. I’ll start from the beginning.  

Day 1

We arrive on the island at sunset after seven hours driving from DC. We are tired but relieved to find ourselves in a place where the only modes of transport are golf carts and one-speed bicycles and the main activities of the island include climbing the stone lighthouse known as “Old Baldy.”

After a brief stop at my favorite turtle pond to look for one of the island's gators, there's no more dallying. We’re on a mission – take us to the sea turtles, we tell our host, the Bald Head Island Conservancy’s (BHIC) head naturalist, Maureen Dewire. She directs us to loggerhead nest #89, which she thinks is “gonna go” tonight. “What time?” I ask. “Any time between sunset and sunrise,” she says. Oh. Why was I thinking there was a convenient window between 8 and 10 pm when they always come out? Wishful thinking.

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