Sea turtle spotted on Anna Maria island one day after nesting season began

mvalverde@bradenton.comMay 3, 2012 

MANATEE -- There are those who like to make a flashy appearance when everyone is watching, and then there are some who prefer to do so quietly. And they don't like flash photography.

"She comes in at night at high tide ... she comes in digs a hole with her back flippers, deposits her eggs and heads back on to sea," said Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

The sea turtle nesting season began this month, and just two days into the season, a turtle was spotted for the first time in a "false crawl" appearance.

Fox said a turtle sometimes goes onshore and crawls around the sand inspecting the site where it will lay its approximately 100 eggs, such was the case Wednesday. "But she decided it just wasn't quite the time," Fox said.

She predicted that the turtle will come back next week to nest her eggs.

Jim Kosco, 54, said he called Fox early this morning as he spotted the sea turtle on its false crawl. He said he walks around the beach early in the mornings and has been on the lookout for turtle nests for about eight years now.

"Last year I saw the first nesting," Kosco said. "So it's two years in a row now."

At least 82 volunteers walk the approximately 8-mile stretch on Anna Maria island looking for nests during the May to October season, Fox said.

This year volunteers from Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring are celebrating their 30th anniversary of scientific information collection, she said.

There are about five different sea turtle species that visit Anna Maria island, but the most common one is the loggerhead, according to Fox. It takes about 60 days for eggs to hatch and approximately one in 1,000 sea turtles make it to adulthood, she said.

At birth, sea turtles may weigh less than an ounce and grow into "a couple hundred pounds," Fox said.

If someone spots a turtle crawling out of the water or nesting her eggs, the person should remain quiet, give the turtle her space, and not shine light on it or take flash photography, said Fox. The noise and light could make the pregnant turtle go back into the water.

The organization has monitored about 150 nests a year in the past few years, Fox said.

"It's always about temperature," she said. "When the temperature reaches 80 degrees that is cue for her that the sand is warm enough to incubate her eggs. ... She knows weather better than we do."

The organization marks the locations where sea turtles lay their eggs so they can go back to them when they hatch. Fox urged anyone who notices a nest to call her at 941-778-5638. She said she has received calls at all times, like 3 a.m.

Fox said the nesting season was an exciting time for her, "like the first day of spring, or Christmas."

"I wait for this all year," she said.

Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow on Twitter@MiriamValverde.

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