On Sunday, May 1 — the first day of turtle-nesting season — turtle watchers discovered not one, but two loggerhead nests on Longboat Key.
Volunteers from Longboat Key Turtle Watch, which patrols the Manatee County portion of the island, discovered one nest in the 6600 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive. Turtle Watch President Tim Thurman, who led the team that discovered the nest, said that the nest was shallow and the tracks were narrow, which indicated that a young turtle had laid the nest.
Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol, which walks the Sarasota County side of Longboat Key, found the other nest on the southern side of the island. (Mote officials declined to give the location of the nest, however, according to Hayley Rutger, public relations specialist, researchers believe it had been there for a day or two.) However, it wasn’t the first Sarasota County nest of the season. The first nest was discovered April 23, on Manasota Key.
This season’s Longboat Key nests were found 13 days earlier than the first nest of last season. Last year, volunteers spotted the first Longboat Key nest of the year May 14, just south of the former 7-Eleven.
Veteran Turtle Watch volunteer Freda Perrotta said that it is the first year in recent memory in which nests were found on the first day of season, although seasons in which nests were laid prior to May 1 have occurred.
“It’s surprising how early it was,” Perrotta said.
But, according to Rutger, the timing is right on schedule. And, as of Tuesday, at least 10 nests had been documented in Sarasota County.
“What we’re seeing this year is pretty much normal and business as usual,” Rutger said.
This year’s warm weather could be a factor in the season’s start date. Researchers believe that warm water temperatures are a cue for turtles to begin nesting. But, regardless of the progression of this year’s nesting activity, volunteers will be on the beach rain or shine every morning in search of nests to stake out and document.
Turtle-nesting season runs through October. For information, go to lbkturtlewatch.com or mote.org.
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