The very next evening after my last post I decided to wander to the beach to check on Nest #1. I rode my bike this time to save my newly pedicured toes (never mind what the beauty magazines say: beach sand does not exfoliate; it only exacerbates rough heels and erodes one’s orange and shiny toenail polish). Having indulged in the occasional pedi that very day, I thought I’d just take the bike rather than trudge through the sand, however pleasant a twilight-to-dusk beach walk really is. I knew that said nest was just north of the 19th Street beach access in Atlantic Beach, a short walk from where I’d park my bike. The evening sky was still light, hued in aquamarine with a half-moon overhead. People were still out, dog walking and enjoying the sea breeze, an everyday summer evening at the beach. Imagine their surprise to find about one hundred little sea turtles, shells still dusted with beach sand like confectioner’s sugar, fanned out a bit but each making their way, sure and steady, to the call the of tide.
When I realized what was happening and saw the handful of people at the ocean’s edge, I decided to hell with the pedicure and kicked off my flip flops and ran over to where the action was. I got there just in time to watch the final straggler waddle her last four minutes before she was swallowed up by the sea and hopefully, swam out of harm’s way and into a good, long life of a loggerhead sea turtle.
Afterward, we stood around, excited, marveling at this feat of nature, talking with someone who was there and knew a bit about sea turtles. I was on the phone with my sister in California who missed seeing this elusive event by a mere day. I was picking up bits and pieces of the questions and answers and this is what I learned:
a) As of that night there were 39 nests identified in our area (for up-to-date information on nests and hatchings and all things sea turtles please refer to Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol or their Facebook Page as my information is anecdotal only, and based upon what I see and observe on the public beaches around me.
b) Only one in every one thousand live sea turtle hatched will live to maturity; the rest are claimed by predators or otherwise die.
c) This nest was not expected to hatch quite so soon.
d) This nest hatched earlier in the evening than they normally do.
e) A local woman said she’s been walking these beaches for twenty years and this is the very first time she’s seen a sea turtle hatching.
f) This is my third observation in eleven years of beach life that I’ve witnessed baby sea turtles flip-flopping their way to the sea.
g) As mandated by the State, volunteers must wait a full three days following a hatching before they return to the nest site, disassemble the netting and sift through the sand, counting the shells and ascertaining the number of live births as well as those eggs that did not hatch. These statistics are reported to the State so an accurate account of annual sea turtle activity is kept.
h) Trained volunteers wear latex gloves in case they have to handle a sea turtle for some reason, and also while sifting the sand and counting the remains of a hatched nest.
People are euphoric after seeing a sea turtle hatch and toddle to the ocean. It’s one of life’s little thrills that elicits a smile to even the crabbiest of people. I know. I’m one of them.
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Jeannie Greenwald is a blogger, neighborhoods / 'go local' evangelist, hobbyist photographer, and degreed psychologist.