Sea Turtle Update March 3, 2015

Dear 2014 Sea Turtle Adopters,

Many of you are shivering, as winter sends a continuous blast to much of the country.  But while we are dealing with all kinds of weather here on land, our mother loggerhead sea turtles are happily swimming in the Sargasso Sea, resting up and bulking up for their summer expedition to our  beaches where they will lay their eggs. Our job is to protect this endangered species.

Since the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project began more than 25 years ago, we believe that we are now seeing the results of protecting those eggs all those years ago:  many of them are mother turtles who are returning to our beaches in record numbers.  We hope the trend continues this year!

Although the first turtles will not arrive until May, we are now taking applications for the adoption of 2015 Hilton Head Island turtle nests.  Many of you have already sent yours in (thank youJ).  For the others, attached is the application for 2015 – just fill it out and send it in.  BE SURE to let me know if you have any location preference…. (ie Port Royal beach, Palmetto Dunes, or near marker 100) so that we can assign you a nest that you can easily visit, if you wish

This year, we have specially designed green shirts that are only available to nest adopters – it is the same one that our turtle patrol staff wears.  Here is a picture of Amber Kuehn, HHI Sea Turtle Protection Project Manager, wearing one.

Sea turtles Hilton Head Island

If you would like a shirt, mark the appropriate size on this Sea Turtle Adopt application 2015.  Adoptions help to fund the non-profit Coastal Discovery Museum (which operates the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Program) – and also help to educate and entertain adopters with the comings and goings of the sea turtles.

We truly thank you for your continued support!


Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project



Sea Turtle Update 10/16/14

Dear Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Nest Adopter,

Fall is here and the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle season is over……The beaches are bare of the nest markingsand the hatchlings are swimming way out in the distant seas,  but what a year this has been!  Here is a summary:

*  131 Sea Turtle Nests were identified on Hilton Head Island

–  126 on the ocean and 5 on Dolphin Head and Hickory Forest Beaches.

–  This is a 61% decrease from last season – reasons still unknown for sure.

*  42 % of the nests had to be relocated to higher, safer ground.

– Interestingly, more of the relocated nests were successful (91%) than the nests that were not moved (80%).

*  There were 70 false crawls (keeping our turtle team very busy!)

*  From the DNA analysis, we know that 49 different females laid the nests on the island.

– Only 2 turtles laid only one nest.

– One mother laid her eggs on 4 different beaches

– One mother laid 6 different nests (see map):  4 of them were at the very heel of the island in Port Royal Plantation and she laid her 2nd and 4th nests directly across Port Royal Sound on Bay Point Island.  I guess she needed a little swim between nest layings.

*  All the turtles nesting on Hilton Head Island this year were loggerhead turtles – except for one Green Sea Turtle – with 99 hatchlings!

Thanks to our wonderful Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project Team, led by Amber Kuehn!  (Here is Amber receiving an award from the State for her work with stranded turtles – Congratulations, Amber!)

These devoted people are truly making a difference in the preservation of the endangered Sea Turtles!  In the spring, I will send you an email with a little update to prepare you for the 2015 sea turtle nest adoption season.  In the meantime, many, many thanks for your interest, your support and your enthusiasm for saving the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtles!



Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project


Sea Turtle Update 8/5/14

Green Turtles on Hilton HeadWow – yesterday, beachgoers on Hilton Head were treated to a view of a Green Turtle nesting on the north end of Hilton Head Island – just up from the Westin in Port Royal Plantation!  We don’t see Green Turtles too often here (almost all of ours are Loggerhead turtles) so it is a treat when one selects our island for laying her eggs.  (It is Nest # 126.)  They are also very much an endangered species.  Here is what she looked like

Green Turtles not actually green on the outside but have a green “skin” under their shell. They are larger than Loggerheads and have a different “walk”, leaving different tracks in the sand – that was the first clue that one was here:  Greens walk with both flippers simultaneously vs. the Loggerhead which has an alternating gait.

Another clue was the nest – Green Turtles make multiple body pits and it looks like bombs went off where they nested.  It would be hard to miss these pits on the beach yesterday.

Sea Turtle Update 7/19/14

While we are waiting for the first nests to hatch (should be any day now!), following are answers to a couple of questions that some of you have been asking:

What kinds of sea turtles do we have on Hilton Head Island? 

Of course there are many turtles that live on the island in the lagoons and creeks – these are not the endangered sea turtles.  We are protecting mainly the loggerhead sea turtles which nest here – they weigh between 250 and 1000 pounds!  Here are two loggerhead turtle pictures –

This is a momma swimming along the ocean floor (I actually saw one like this in the Australian Great Barrier Reef last month!!J).

Sea Turtle Swimming


Usually the mothers come ashore at night but occasionally one is found still working her way back to the ocean after the sun comes up.

Momma Turtle Heading back to sea


Why are some nests moved by the Turtle Patrol? 

If the mother has laid her eggs too close to the water, the nest must be moved to higher ground to prevent drowning of the eggs during a high tide.  When this happens, our trained turtle patrol very carefully digs up the eggs and moves them in a very delicate process: with gloved hands, they gently remove every egg and place them in a bucket for safekeeping during the transfer.  Then they dig a hole in a very similar shape to the original hole – and place the eggs in the new hole, one at a time, in almost exactly the same position that they were in before.  They cover up the nest, mark it, and let the eggs settle in for their 45-60 day incubation.  Amazingly, as of today, out of our 112 nests, 49 have had to be relocated – that is 43.7% – a lot of work for our Turtle Patrol!

Here is a picture of our team moving a nest –notice the mother’s tracks to and from the nest.

Sea Turtle Nest Being Protected

More later –


Sea Turtles On Hilton Head





Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project



By Andrea B. Siebold

Mama Sea TurtlesA little later than usual, but the mother turtles finally began laying their eggs on the Hilton Head beaches and now there are more and more nests appearing on the beach.  During the dark night, the mother turtle comes ashore and slowly drags herself onto the sand to find a dry spot on the beach to lay her eggs.


This is very hard for her because she is VERY large (around 300 pounds!) and she is not used to being out of the water (she has been swimming in the ocean for 25 years since she was born).  After she finds a good spot, she spends a long time digging a hole with her back flippers and lays her eggs (usually about 120 of them) in the hole.  She then covers the eggs with sand and slowly returns to the ocean.

Sea Turtle Nests on Hilton Head

Spotting Sea Turtle Nests on Hilton Head

Amazingly enough, this mother turtle will never come back to these eggs again – they are now on their own!  The eggs will stay in the nest for about 60 days while the hatchlings develop in the shells.  If you are on the island, you will spot these nests that are marked with three white poles.  There is orange tape around the poles marking the nests.

False Crawls

Sea Turtle Tracks and False Crawls

Sometimes  we see tracks in the sand showing that the mother had been there, but there is no nest.  These are called “false crawls” – they happen when the mother turtle comes onto the beach to nest, but then for some reason, she turns around and goes back to the ocean without laying any eggs.  So far this year, we have had 44 false crawls on Hilton Head!  Every false crawl is documented by our Turtle Patrol.

Adopting a Sea Turtle Nest on Hilton Head

If you would like to adopt a Sea Turtle nest please email Andrea Bhatt Siebold or fill out this Turtle Adoption Application.  Andrea is the Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator for the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project.  You will get a certificate of adoption, email updates like above and the location of your sea turtle nest once a mama sea turtle lays her eggs.  Families can have fun finding the nest they have adopted and Andrea will keep you up to date on the baby sea turtles.  Here is my families Sea Turtle story from years past.