July 17, 2019

Dear Nest Adopters,

The Hilton Head Island beach is a busy place right now:  During the day, tourists and locals fill the sand and water with fun, noise and laughter.  But in the night, there are still a few mother sea turtles coming ashore to nest – and a lot of hatchlings leaving the nest, racing to the ocean.  Everyone on the island is working hard to educate our beach goers with simple instructions:  leave the beach at the end of the day as you found it!  Fill in the holes, flatten the sand castles and pick up the trash.  This is sea turtle territory!!

We now have more than 430 nests that have appeared on our island – and 24 of them have already hatched.  No one really knows when a nest will hatch – it can be any time between 45 and 65 days after it was laid.  But we do know that hatchlings prefer to come out in the night – it is cooler, quieter and safer for them.

Here is how it happens:  more than 100 eggs have been developing under the sand for almost two months.  Gradually, the hatchlings start to break out of their shells – still under the sand.  You can tell that this is happening when you see a depression in the sand that looks like a bowling ball was dropped on it – like this:

The hatchlings don’t just come out one at a time…..they wait until a whole bunch of them are ready to make a run for it – and lots exit the nest at the same time.  This is called a “boil”.  In the Coastal Discovery Museum, there is a model of what a nest looks like under the ground during the hatching.   Stop in and see it:

The hatchlings climb all over each other to get out:

and then race for the nearest light – which is supposed to be the ocean.  (If people have on lights in their beach front houses, the hatchlings will go that way and never make it to the ocean….very sad!) 

After a nest has hatched, there are the unmistakable signs of a hole where the depression was, and lots of beautiful baby turtle tracks coming out of it. 

If you happen to see a nest hatching, you are very lucky – but PLEASE keep a distance away, do not take any pictures, and use only a red turtle safe flashlight.  We want to protect every one of those babies!

Hatching will be happening until 60 days after the last sea turtle nest is laid – we still have a long season ahead!

More later –

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org


July 12, 2019

Dear Nest Adopters,

In 2016, a record number of sea turtle nests were laid on Hilton Head Island – 411 of them……. and that record has now been shattered!!  As of this morning, we are up to 417 nests laid on Hilton Head Island beaches – and there is still a month left to go in the season.   One mother even came ashore after sunrise today (they generally nest during the night) and put on a nesting show for the many respectfully distant spectators who happened to be on the beach at the time.  Fantastic year!!

There are still also lots of false crawls – 296 of those so far:

Interestingly, tests are being done on each of our sea turtles – without ever touching the mother!  One egg is taken from every nest; the yolk is put in one test tube and the shell in another.  These samples are sent to a lab in Georgia where the DNA of the mother turtle is tested.  From that information, we then will know where else the mother has nested this season and every season since this record keeping began more than 10 years ago.  Sometimes I am able to provide that information to adopters about their mother sea turtle – will keep you posted on that.

Occasionally, nature needs a little help!  When the mother sea turtle lays her eggs in a place that is too close to the high tide line, the nest is relocated by the Sea Turtle Patrol to a safer spot.  They very carefully remove all the eggs, dig another similar hole on higher ground, and gently place the eggs into the new hole: 

45% of our nests have been relocated this year.  Amazingly, statistics have shown us that relocated nests have a higher percentage of success than ones left in place.  Who knew?!

So much action on our beach this year by this wonderful endangered species!

More news later –

 P.S.  You might have heard the great news that Hilton Head Island has been designated as the Number ONE Island in the continental U.S. for the 4th year in a row!!!  Not just the sea turtles are happy here!

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org


June 16, 2019

Dear Nest Adopters and Sea Turtle Friends,

World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated every year on June 16th   Full focus is on the saving of this endangered species and how we can all help.

And no one can do a better job of telling the story than the people at the World Wildlife Fund.  Here is their list of

        Ten Things you might not have known about Sea Turtles

        (thanks to WWF for sharing this list as directly quoted below)

1.  Turtles don’t have teeth. Instead, their upper and lower jaws have sheaths made of keratin (the same stuff your fingernails are made of) that fit onto the skull like a pair of false teeth.

2.  Turtle shells are made of over 50 bones fused together – so they’re literally wearing their bones on the outside. 

3.The first few years of a marine turtle’s life are often referred to as the ‘lost years’. That’s because the time between when the hatchlings emerge until they return to coastal shallow waters to forage is incredibly difficult to study. The lost years they spend at sea – which can be up to 20 years – largely remain a mystery to humans.  

4. Sea turtle species vary greatly in size. The smallest is the Kemp’s Ridley, while the Leatherbacks can weigh more than 1000 pounds!  (We have had both nest – one time each – on Hilton Head Island.)

5. It’s estimated that as few as 1 in 1,000 sea turtle eggs will survive to adulthood. And if beaches are strewn with litter, it can prevent hatchlings reaching the sea.

6. Female leatherbacks make some interesting noises when they are nesting – some of which sound similar to a human belch.

7. Turtles seem to prefer red, orange and yellow colored food. They appear to investigate these colors more than others when looking for a meal. 

8. Sea turtles can migrate long distances – the known record is a female that swam nearly 13,000 miles over 647 days from Indonesia to the west coast of the United States! 

9. Female sea turtles often return to nest on the same beach from which they hatched. Sea turtles’ amazing ability to navigate comes from their sensitivity to the Earth’s magnetic fields.

10. Even with all these amazing features and adaptations, sea turtles are threatened with extinction!  One major threat to sea turtles is plastic pollution. It is estimated that at leastone sea turtle out of two has ingested plastic often mistaking it for food such as jellyfish.  Luckily, Hilton Head Island has greatly limited by ordinance the use of single-use plastic bags, and many Hilton Head restaurants have stopped offering plastic straws. 

We can all do something – spread the word – Happy Sea Turtle Day!

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org

June 8, 2019

Dear Nest Adopters and Friends,

What a season!!!  Just to give you an idea of the numbers, here is the comparison for numbers of sea turtle nests on Hilton Head Island in past years –

by June 7th:

2014:   28 nests

2015:   106

2016:   120

2017:   105

2018:   47       

2019:  169 NESTS!!!

Wow!  Not only that, but there have been lots of spottings of the mothers on the beach.      

A reminder, if you see a mother sea turtle, keep a good distance away, do not take flash pictures, do not distract or bother her in any way.

Often a sea turtle mother comes ashore and does not nest.  We have had 111 false crawls so far this year – that is a big number!  Sometimes she is scared off,

sometimes she runs an eroded cliff of sand,

and sometime she is stopped by unnecessary “stuff” on the beach. 

Help us by keeping the beach clear at night!! 

More news coming soon –

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org

May 24, 2019

Dear Friends of Sea Turtles,

Nests are being laid on Hilton Head Island like crazy!  Those sea turtle mothers are making up for lost time – and it looks like they might continue at this rate all season!  As of today, we are well beyond 60 nests – a good number considering that in last year, we did not even get our first nest until the middle of May! 

It is great fun to see how and where the mother sea turtles nest.  These two nests are just next to each other – like sisters!  You can even see the mother’s tracks from the nest on the right.

In fact, that nest is directly behind the dune retention fence.  She came in one side and went out the other! Look closely for the signs of the sea turtle’s nest digging efforts to the right of the orange tape, the the tracks:

This mother found a safe place between a fence and a storage box!

And here are the tracks of a mother who took a v-e-r-y long walk on the beach this week, before she finally settled on a spot near the top of the beach – a long way for her to crawl……and a long way for her babies to go back to the ocean after hatching!

And this morning, a mother left a meandering track as she trudged exhaustedly back to the ocean:

We have some VERY creative sea turtles!  More news later –

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org

Dear Nest Adopters,

WOW!  Lots of huge surprises for Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle watchers:

  1. The first sea turtle nesting of the season on Hilton Head Island was REALLY early in the season – yesterday morning, April 26th, a mother sea turtle crawled ashore to dig a hole in the sand and lay her eggs.   This is the earliest nesting in most people’s memory, and is probably due to the warmer than usual weather recently.
  1. The sea turtle was a Kemp’s Ridley – the rarest and one of the most endangered of the sea turtle species!  Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are much smaller than the loggerhead sea turtles which generally nest on Hilton Head. This is the first time a Kemp’s Ridley has nested on Hilton Head Island and only the fourth in South Carolina since record-keeping began.  (Interestingly, another Kemps Ridley beat out ours by laying a nest on Kiawah Island the evening before.)
  1. This sea turtle mama came ashore in broad daylight!  Loggerhead sea turtle mothers generally come ashore to nest during the night, so spotting one on Hilton Head is a rare treat.  The Kemp’s Ridley is a more of a daytime nesting creature, so this event gave lots of our beach-going locals and tourists an amazing show.  There is a video of the action on the Island Packet website. https://www.islandpacket.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/untamed-lowcountry/article229722764.html

Now the mother has gone back to the ocean, never to visit her nest again. And her eggs will lie undisturbed in the sand for about 60 days.  Hoping for a successful hatch of our first Kemp’s Ridley!

So we are off to a great start!  Will keep you posted as the season unfolds…..

Andrea

Andrea B. Siebold

Sea Turtle Nest Adoption Coordinator

Coastal Discovery Museum

843-415-2211

andreabsiebold@gmail.com

www.coastaldiscovery.org

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