Sea turtle nesting season off to slow start in Georgia, neighboring states

By David Pendered

The sea turtle nesting season is off to a slow start this year along Georgia’s coast and other southern beaches.

Loggerhead turtles, like the one, crawl ashore to lay eggs in nests along the southeastern coast. Credit: noaa.gov

Loggerhead turtles, like the one, crawl ashore to lay eggs in nests along the southeastern coast. Credit: noaa.gov

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources reports that the first loggerhead nest to be found in Georgia this year was located May 13 on Wassaw Island, off the coast of Savannah. May 5 is the average arrival of the first female to lay eggs. Last year the first nest was discovered April 25 on Cumberland Island.

North Carolina beaches evidently are a little more inviting this summer. The first loggerhead nest to be spotted this year in the Tar Heel State was found May 12 on Oak Island, near Wilmington, according to seaturtle.org.

Like Georgia, other states are reporting sluggish starts to the sea turtle nesting season.

The first nest to be spotted at Hilton Head was May 22, according to a story in islandpacket.com. That was just a few days after the first nest in Beaufort County was spotted, on Fripp Island on May 19. Another nest was found on Fripp Island between May 19 and May 22, according to the story that quoted the Fripp Island Turtle Protection Program.

Sea turtle nests have been spotting along Georgia's coast. Credit: turtle.org

Sea turtle nests have been spotting along Georgia’s coast. Credit: turtle.org

Down in Alabama, the first sea turtle nest of the season was spotted May 20 along a stretch of private beach west of Gulf Shores.

And along Florida’s very long waterfront, the season is slightly delayed because cooler water temperatures are keeping the turtles at sea, according to a group named Turtle Time that watches the coastline near Fort Myers. The state’s first turtle nest was spotted April 20 in West Palm Beach, and the first nests on the state’s west coast were spotted April 28 on Captiva Island.

Georgia officials are not raising concerns about the comparatively late start to the nesting seasons. Record totals have been recorded in Georgia over the past three summers, including a 24-year high of 2,241 nests located in 2012.

Mark Dodd, who coordinates the sea turtle program for the Georgia DNR, said the start of the nesting season is no predication of how the season will go.

“There’s not a correlation between when nesting starts and how high nesting numbers will be,” Dodd said in a statement. “No need to panic.”

Dodd noted that 1,760 nests were found in 2010, and just seven nests had been discovered May 15.

Sea turtles species report

All the sea turtle nests found along Georgia’s coastline, to date, were made by loggerhead turtles. Credit: seaturtle.org

This year, other loggerhead nests were discovered May 15 on St. Catherines and Ossabaw islands. DNR views those discoveries as evidence that the sea turtle season is beginning.

So far this year, 64 turtle nests have been discovered and all have been loggerhead, according to seaturtle.org. The website provides some very detailed information about turtles and other species around the world.

For example, the snapshot of Georgia’s sea turtle nests so far this year shows:

  • Total nests: 64
  • Nests left in place: 28
  • Nests relocated: 36
  • Nests incubating: 64
  • False crawls: 87
  • Estimated eggs to date: 4,508
  • Eggs lost: 121

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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