MANATEE -- That was fast.
Anna Maria Island’s first sea turtle nest of the year was discovered early Wednesday morning behind Club Bamboo, between 24th and 25th streets, in Bradenton Beach.
April 27 is the island’s earliest start date to turtle nesting season since records started being kept in 1982, according to Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Protection since 1996.
The turtle nesting season doesn’t official start until Monday and runs through Oct. 31.
Fox got the call with the news at 6:30 a.m.
“Our beaches are much darker, so I feel like we’re going to have a good year,” she said. “A sea turtle this early is a good sign.”
Nesting turtles need darkness as they exit the Gulf waters and slowly make the trek up the beach to find a nesting spot.
Properties on nine nesting beaches across the island were recently retrofitted with new outside lights, none that can be seen from the nesting beaches, Fox said. The funding came out of the money Gainesville-based Sea Turtle Conservancy received from BP following last year’s Gulf oil disaster.
Wednesday’s turtle mother chose one of those nine nesting beaches.
Nine Turtle Watch volunteers walk one of nine beach zones across the island each morning during season looking for new nests. There are about 75 volunteers in total.
From 2001 to 2010, an average of 134 nests were reported annually, according to Turtle Watch statistics.
Each nest has about 100 eggs, Fox said.
Last year’s numbers: 135 nests, 11,106 eggs, 60 percent hatch rate (6,731).
The previous earliest start to a nesting season was April 29 in 1997.