TracksFriday May 8, 2015 – The sea turtles are here!!!

A very exciting morning – the very first nest of the season was laid on Hilton Head today.  Our turtle patrol team has been examining every mile of our beaches, every morning beginning 2 weeks ago, looking for the tell-tale tracks that the mother sea turtle leaves in the sand as she slowly makes her way to the sand dunes to lay her eggs.  Here is a picture that one of our adopters took this morning of the sea turtle tracks going to and from her nest.

Mama Sea TurtlesProtecting Her Babies on Hilton Head

Momma Turtle works for a long time in the dark of night, digging her nest, laying her eggs, and covering the nest to protect her babies; then she tiredly drags her huge body back to the ocean.  They are really amazing to see – you might be lucky enough to spot one on the beach in the very early morning, but don’t count on it…..I am on the beach every day and have NEVER seen a mother sea turtle!


Turtle Nest #1 on Hilton Head

Our turtle patrol then carefully marked the Nest # 1 to alert everyone that there is an endangered species nest there.   Here are turtle patrol members Dawn and Mary at the nest.  But, that is not all!  Today, in addition to our first loggerhead turtle nest, our turtle team also found tracks of a leatherback turtle.  The leatherback is much bigger than our usual loggerhead turtles, and we don’t see them around here very often – but this mother did not have much luck.   It looked like she tried to dig a nest 3 times in the same area but gave up without laying her eggs.  This is called a false crawl.  Who knows – she may try again on our beaches tomorrow.  Stay tuned!


Andrea Bhatt Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project

 Second Update on Mothers Day

LeatherbacksI don’t usually send you two emails in a weekend, but this is exciting news for our turtle lovers.  Remember I told you that a leatherback sea turtle had tried to nest in three locations on Friday but left without laying her eggs?  Leatherbacks are HUGE – can weigh 1500 pounds and can be 7 feet long – we don’t get them on Hilton Head very often.  Pictured here.

Mama Leatherback sited on Hilton Head

Turtle NestWell, here is what happened:  our Project Manager, Amber Kuehn, kept thinking that there must be a nest so she went back two days later and found it!  Below is her report – enjoy!  WELCOME BACK!!!  Sea Turtle Season is upon us, and it has been 2 weeks since 4am wake up calls became a part of my schedule.  Sea Turtle Patrol began on April 26th, one week earlier than normal.  Water temperatures are rising fast, and we wanted to be prepared for NEST #1.

This first nest (aka the “third nest”) was laid on May 8th.

Did you catch that??  Let me explain…The first nest encountered this season is actually documented as nest #3.  The patrol team on the morning of Friday May 8th, witnessed a female Leatherback on her re-entry into the surf.  It was 5:15am, still dark, but they will be talking about the vision for years to come.  What a rare treat!  The Leatherback attempted 3 nest chambers before settling in on a good spot.  This made it extremely difficult to locate.  In fact, after relieving the staff and spending over an hour on it myself, I could not locate the eggs that day.  Leatherbacks very rarely False Crawl, and I was convinced that nesting had occurred.  Sometimes, you just have to take a step back and re-approach.  I located it 2 days later, so technically nest #3 is nest #1!! And what a special nest it is.  We have hosted Leatherback nests on HHI in 2003, 2006, 2010, 2011, and now 2015!  We will wait for Genetic Analysis to tell us if she is a remigrant (repeat nester). Notice the size difference for tracks and eggs. The track is double that of a Loggerhead sea turtle. Thanks Dawn for the size comparison 🙂

I love the next picture, because Dawn’s probe is directly over the nest chamber located much later.  Note the large disturbed area…that was only half of it.

​ Another “tell tale” sign that she had nested was the orientation loop (tight turn) after the final body pit containing the egg chamber.  Notice the dramatic fin marks at the bottom of the picture above.  This was a puzzle and the staff worked hard to solve it.  We are more excited than you can imagine… I hope you can sense the “Turtle Geek” enthusiasm here.  ​

THE STATS…2015 Turtle Update on Hilton Head Island

There are currently 3 nests on HHI, All are in situ (not relocated)

There are 8 False Crawls to report (Tracks with no nesting)

There are 2 Strandings to report, one Leatherback and one Kemps ​The earliest that HHI has recorded the first nest is April 30, 2002 (since 2000, my archival limitation online.) ​The latest that HHI has recorded the first nest is May 25, 2005 (since 2000, my archival limitation online.)

It’s going to be an exciting season!

Amber Kuehn, HHI Sea Turtle Protection Project Manager ​

Adopt a Sea Turtle Nest on Hilton Head

If you would like to adopt a Sea Turtle nest please email Andrea Bhatt Siebold or buy or sell real estate with Hilton Head Properties and we will adopt a nest on your behalf.   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.   Turtle Adoption Application.