Apparently, nesting turtles can stand the rain.
The week of June 30 through July 6 brought approximately 6.54 inches of rain to Longboat Key — and 96 turtle nests on the Key.
Rain doesn’t appear to stop female turtles from nesting, according to Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist at Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program, as evidenced by this year’s nesting numbers.
And, although Mote received reports in early June of nests washing away during Tropical Storm Andrea, the storm didn’t have a major impact on this year’s nesting.
This year, Mote volunteers and researchers have counted 1,365 nests in the first 10 weeks of season — not quite as high as last year’s 1,765 nests, but still going strong compared to last season.
“This year started a little later,” Mazzarella said. “Last year, we had them quite early in the season. We already had several nests by May 1.”
Although the season’s numbers are high in comparison with totals in past years, Nadine Slimak, director of communications at Mote, cautioned against making year-to-year comparisons.
Researchers generally look at overall trends from the last five, 10 or even 20 years. Also, last year was such an outlier year that it isn’t the best year to use for benchmark comparisons.
Female turtles typically nest four to six times during a season every two or three years — meaning that this year’s turtles are probably not the same turtles that nested last year.
Last week, Longboat Key’s first nest of the season hatched near Longboat Harbour Towers. Longboat Key Turtle Watch held its first public nest opening of the season Saturday. (Check YourObserver.com for information about future nest openings.)
“A handful of nests” have hatched in Mote’s patrol area, according to Mazzarella, although the organization’s new nest-marking policy makes it difficult to determine an exact number. As part of Mote’s new policy for surveying the beach, it documents every nest, along with each disorientation, but it doesn’t document every hatching. Additionally, last week’s rain washed away the tiny tracks that hatchlings would have left behind when they made their way to the ocean.
There’s one trend Mote staffers have noticed this year that they hope to reverse: disorientations.
This year, multiple adult females have become disoriented. That’s usually a sign that lights were visible from the beach, because adults easily find their way back to the water in the dark.
Nesting season runs from May through October. During those six months, all lights that are visible from the beach should be turned off or replaced with low-wavelength lighting that turtles can’t detect.
To view turtle nests numbers on Longboat Key for the first 10 weeks of nesting season from the past five years, click here.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].