Saturday, May 14, 2011

First sea turtle nest sighting - N 2

With the arrival of May each year everyone who lives at, visits or loves the beaches of northeast Florida is reminded of the return of sea turtles to our shores. It's the beginning of the season during which turtles return over and over again to the areas from which they entered the water as hatchlings, this time to lay their own eggs. People who live at the beaches must be careful about lighting at nighttime, when turtles come ashore to dig nests and lay eggs, and hatchlings try to navigate from sand to sea. Those of us who visit the beaches must be thoughtful about how we change things by our presence: when we dig metal detector and fishing pole holes and sand castle moats, we're creating potential death traps for baby sea turtles. When we leave behind the even the most innocent-seeming garbage we may be leaving booby traps from which baby turtles and other wildlife can't escape. The good news? We get to watch the progress of the season, and take a small part in the successful efforts to preserve these amazing animals.

In 2010, the beaches of GMT MERR hosted more sea turtle nests than ever before in the recorded history of the organization. Is there a correlation between the amazing numbers of nesting turtles and the BP oil spill? Biologists think not, because turtles come home to nest, so to speak. As an observer, I credit Mother Nature and applaud the support She got from the biologists and other staff members at GMT MERR and especially the volunteers whose vigilant care helps ensure the success of these delicately balanced species.

Haven't seen it for yourself? Come on out! You can park in any of the three lots along A1A, walk across the road and enjoy a stroll on a pristine beach. Keep your eyes peeled for markers like the ones shown in the photo. Sometimes you can see the remaining imprint left in the sand by the body of a sea turtle. Now and then you might encounter one of those volunteers and have a chance to chat briefly about the work they do. And even if you don't, you'll have had a bracing walk along one of the most beautiful and best-protected beaches in the southeastern U.S. Don't forget the sunscreen. You'll want to stay awhile.

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