OBX Sea Turtles (2015) – Nest #11

OBX Sea Turtles (2015) – Nest #11

Nest #11 – 8 July 2015 – Corolla NC
We found Nest #11 in Corolla, North Carolina on 8 July 2015. Karen Clark, who is the marine biologist and educational specialist at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, determined that the nest was in a tidal depression and too close to the high tide line. The 102 eggs were very carefully placed in egg cartons and moved to a nest cavity away from the high tide line. As always, we wore rubber gloves to prevent contaminating the eggs and to protect us from any bacteria that they may carry. We were very careful not to tip or jostle the eggs. The eggs were placed in the new nest in the exact order that the female had placed them in the nest she had dug. We took careful measurements of her nest chamber to make the new nest an exact replication of the nest the mother turtle dug.

When checking the nest early in the morning on Day 60, two volunteers thought they detected a slight depression in the center of the roped off area. However, that afternoon strong winds caused a second major washover of the nest. Hopes were dashed as water obliterated the sinkhole and packed the sand down over the nest cavity.

Since no apparent activity had been detected in the nest site by Day 70, we excavated the nest. After carefully excavating a large area, one of our volunteers exclaimed, “It’s alive!” The lone survivor was placed in a tub of sand to be released after dark. Seven turtles were found dead; there were also four dead pipped turtles, plus 89 unhatched eggs. The unhatched eggs were opened to note their development, and then all the contents found were buried in the nest to replenish the beach. With all the eggshells accounted for, it seems that one other survivor had escaped the nest undetected!

Two survivors out of 102 eggs is a very disappointing result for a sea turtle nest. Statistics show that one in 100 hatchlings makes it to the Gulf Stream. We hope these two avoided all of the perils and are swimming and eating in the Sargasso Sea. The most dangerous part of a sea turtles perilous life is his quick crawl from the nest to the ocean. We hope we are improving the sea turtles’ survival odds by being there for them at hatching time.

Unfortunately, with this nest, nature threw us a big curveball and we could not successfully complete the job we have been trained for. And, as you can see from the results of some of our other nests this summer, nature has been cruel to our turtles this year. We rejoice in our successes and work to outsmart Mother Nature’s rough seas, distracting lights and the critters that prey on our little turtles.

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