Turtle Patrol Report for the Week Ending July 16

The Nests Are Starting To Hatch

The first loggerhead sea turtle nest laid in South Carolina in 2021 has hatched on Seabrook Island’s beach – a bit shy and a little groggy!

Do you know how these turtles find their way to the water? They identify and walk towards the brightest horizon which is typically the ocean. Unfortunately, house/porch/landscape lights are brighter than the natural horizon and if they see lights on at the houses, they will head away from the ocean towards the lights. Please make sure any beach facing lights are turned off and draw curtains on any windows to block light from inside the house by 10:00 pm. This is something that should be done from May through October each year.

Once the babies have had time to clear out of the nest naturally, the Turtle Patrol will do a nest inventory to determine the nest’s hatch success rate to report to the DNR, and they will help any hatchlings left in the nest to the water. Turtle Patrol inventories will not be announced publicly this year due to CDC recommendations related to COVID-19. If you see the Turtle Patrol on the beach doing an inventory, you are welcome to watch at the walkway that will be set up near the water. We ask that you do your best to maintain social distance from other beachgoers. Please remember that children under 12 have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Check out this footage of Nest #1 hatching.  You can view timelapse or the full video.

New Nests This Week

Saturday, July 10 – Nests 66 & 67

The Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol added four new nests this week, bringing the total for the season to 69. We also saw the first hatchling emerge this week and held out first nest inventory on Friday, July 16.

Marnie Ellis and J-Anna Smith found a nice crawl on Zone 1 in front of the “Danger” sign. Joshua Shilko probed and found Nest 66. The 89 eggs were relocated north of the vehicle entrance. 

Lesley and Tony Gore, with their grandson Max, found a beautiful “classic” crawl just north of Peg 2 on Zone 4. Sandy MacCoss, Jane Magioncalda and Lesley all probed and found the eggs for Nest 67. The nest was relocated to the dunes nearby. 

Tuesday, July 13 – Nest 68

Today brought us nest 68 and our first major nest emergence! Over 80 hatchlings emerged from Nest 1 over night.

Zone 2 walkers Marnie Ellis and Vicky and Bob Becker called in a crawl just south of Boardwalk 6. The mama knocked over the post for Nest 62 while depositing her eggs. Judy Morr and Lesley Gore probed, and Nest 68 was left in situ.

Wednesday, July 14 – Nest 69

Walkers JoAnne Lewis, Wendy Holschuh, and Gail Koornick called in the only crawl of the day toward the end of the spit on Zone 4. This crawl proved to be trickier than it looked as the entirety of the body pit was in well over a foot of soft sand, making the nest chamber hard to locate. Even Leo from the Seabrook Island Equestrian Center helped look for it! Joshua Shilko examined the crawl in the afternoon and was able to locate Nest 69 with 126 eggs. Bill Nelson assisted Joshua in relocating the nest near Peg 4.

Friday, July 16 – Nest 1 Inventory

The first nest laid in South Carolina was inventoried on Friday, July 16, and it was a great nest to start out hatchling season! Nest 1 was found by Sandy MacCoss who was assisted by Lucy Hoover. It hatched in 69 days.

Egg Shells: 100
Unhatched Eggs: 10
Live Hatchlings: 2
Dead Hatchlings: 0
Hatch Success: 85.4%
Emergence Success: 83.7%

In case you are wondering what to compare these numbers to as the season progresses, these are our final numbers for last season:

Mean Hatch Success: 63.5%
Mean Emergence Success: 58.9%

Below are the last year’s numbers for the entire state of South Carolina. As you can see, we were well above average last season (and for several seasons before this). Each beach has its own challenges so it’s not always meaningful to make comparisons, but in general, 50% or above is a positive outcome. 

Mean Hatch Success: 45.3%
Mean Emergence Success: 42.8%

Over the next several weeks, nesting and hatching activities will overlap for our loggerheads until nesting tails off in August. Patrol members are so excited to see the first successful hatchlings of the 2021 season and you can continue to follow along with the patrol’s work through our website, siturtlepatrol.com, and our social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

-Submitted by Joshua Shilko