I can’t say exactly when because I don’t know. But I have been to the beach often these nights-before-dusk, softly padding past several nests on my way to Nest #1 and #2. Both are nearby, so I figure it’s worth it to pay them a nightly visit right about now. Their time is drawing near.
Keeping an eye on certain nests just ups your chances of being on hand to behold an actual hatching. That’s exactly how I was lucky enough to be there when I saw one hatch about a year and a half ago. I trudged to the beach nightly at dusk, gazing onto the nest from behind the orange netting, to ascertain any shift in the sand that might indicate ‘there’s turtles comin’ up’!
I was really hoping my sister would be here to witness a hatching but now she’s gone and the nest was still the last time I checked. Each day that goes by now, my chances are greater and greater that one night soon, they will come.
Oh, it’s all about timing of course. Once they break the surface of the sand, they’ve been at it, digging their way up from deep in the sand where they’ve been gestating in peace for about two months, for three or four days already. Who wouldn’t be exhausted from that kind of effort? In the blink of an eye, they waddle surely to the sea and off they go. Probably straight into the mouths of waiting predators, some are lost at once. But the females who do make it and grow to maturity? They come back, to these very shores, and dig a nest of new baby sea turtles of their own.
We’re passionate about our sea turtles here. We love seeing all those orange nets posted on the beach. I love identifying a nest and watching it when its time grows near. If I am vigilant, I can track the gestation time all by myself and know when to start hoping that this time, I’ll get lucky once again.
It’s the only time I go to the beach without my camera. Flash photography is prohibited as the light could confuse the turtles and alter their clear path to the sea. No flashlights either; that’s why oceanfront homeowners are encouraged to snuff the lights during hatching season. It seems they will follow the light as their path to the sea, so all precautions are taken so as not to impede their journey.
When I saw the nest hatch, those little babies seemed undeterred in their march to the sea and just like that – they were gone.
If you’re watching a nest yourself, please go with care.
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Jeannie Greenwald is a blogger, neighborhoods / 'go local' evangelist, hobbyist photographer, and degreed psychologist.