November 21, 2012

2012 Nesting Season Recap

Whew…what a season! This summer, we had a near record number of nests, early nesters (our first nest was laid April 20…more than a week before the official start of the west coast nesting season),  two daytime nesters, and two tropical storms.  The Islands have not had this many nests since 2008 and before that 2000! Sanibel finished out the 2012 nesting season with 314 loggerhead nests, one green turtle nest, and 661 false crawls (all loggerhead). Captiva had a total of 117 nests and 170 false crawls, all were from loggerhead turtles.

Loggerhead hatchling headed to the Gulf. Photo by: A. Bryant
Hatch success was not nearly as good as we would have hoped after having so many nests laid, but that was due mainly to Tropical Storms Debby and Isaac. Sanibel and Captiva had 103 and 36 nests hatch, respectively, with over 9,000 hatchlings reaching the Gulf.

August 20, 2012

Just when you think nesting is over...

Female green turtle nesting on Sanibel Island, FL
Mother Nature sends you a surprise in the form of a nesting green turtle! This weekend SCCF Turtle Program volunteers and several beachgoers got quite a treat. On a routine morning beach patrol, one of our volunteers spotted a sea turtle that hadn't finished nesting. When she reported it, the permittee hurried to the beach to help keep the public a safe distance away. The permittee quickly realized it was not the typical loggerhead turtle that nests so frequently on Sanibel and Captiva, but a green turtle! Everyone on the beach was superb. They watched quietly from a distance and allowed the turtle to finish nesting without being disturbed. She finished covering and camouflaging her nest then turned and crawled to the Gulf.

Green turtle crawl

July 6, 2012

After the Storm

Tropical Storm Debby arrived on Saturday June 23 and appeared to be much like other tropical storms, that is, until it decided to stick around. The high tides and winds associated with the storm wreaked havoc on the beaches and the timing could not have been worse. 

View of Sanibel's beach during Tropical Storm Debby

Statewide, Florida has seen higher than average sea turtle nesting this summer. Debby arrived just as the earliest nests laid were beginning to hatch. At the time of the storm there were 207 nests on Sanibel and 86 nests on Captiva. Overall, the storm washed away 65 nests on Sanibel and 62 nests on Captiva.  At least 130 of Sanibel’s nests and 15 of Captiva’s nests have been washed over by high tides and some have had excess sand deposited on top.  Seven of Sanibel’s nests appear to have made it through the storm unscathed and five of Captiva’s nests appear to have remained dry.

Sea turtle nest under water during Tropical Storm Debby

The silver lining is that while tropical storm Debby damaged many of the nests on the beach at the time of the storm, the storm occurred with two months left in the nesting season. Sea turtles wasted no time in returning to the beaches to nest, as soon as there was beach on which to nest. Since the storm, an additional 42 nests have been laid on Sanibel and seven nests on Captiva, and nesting shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Some of the nests washed over by the high tides have even hatched since the storm. While the success of these nests is below what we would usually see, it is promising that some of the hatchlings survived and continued to develop despite the high tides.

June 1, 2012

One Month into Nesting...

We rounded out May with a lot of sea turtle activity and a big surprise. In all, Sanibel and Captiva begin June with 101 and 36 nests respectively. Last year at this time there were 55 nests on Sanibel and 32 on Captiva.

The big surprise came in the form of a daytime nesting loggerhead spotted at 9:30 am on Wednesday at the end of the morning’s turtle patrol. The volunteer patrolling was able to watch her finish nesting from a safe distance (approximately 200 ft. away) and crawl back to the Gulf. 

Loggerhead returning to the Gulf after a rare daytime nesting.

May 4, 2012

First Week Recap

As the first "official" week of turtle season comes to a close, it seems the islands are off to a great start! Sanibel has a total of seven nests and Captiva has five nests as of today. Last year at this time Sanibel and Captiva had four nests and one nest, respectively
Loggerhead turtle crawl. Photo by: A.Bryant

Sanibel and Captiva strive to keep our beaches turtle friendly. As visitors and residents enjoy the islands' beaches, please keep the following in mind:
  • Shield of turn off all beachfront lighting
  • Remove all furniture and toys from 9 pm to 7 am
  • Honor the leash law
  • Keep the beaches free of trash
  • Respect all staked nests
  • Never approach a nesting turtle
  • Avoid using flashlights and flash photography on the beach at night

April 27, 2012

Let the Crawling Begin!

The first loggerhead turtle nest on Sanibel of 2012.
Each sea turtle season distinguishes itself in some way. So far, 2012 will be the season with the earliest start. Captiva had the first nest on April 20 and Sanibel wasn’t far behind with nests on April 25 and 26. This sets a new record for early nesting by Loggerhead turtles on the Islands. We were expecting nesting to begin earlier than usual due to the mild winter and warm temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, but not quite this early! One of the big benefits to the early start will be that nests will hatch before we start to see any tropical storms or hurricanes in the Gulf, enabling more hatchlings to safely make it to the water.

March 7, 2012

Red Tide Turtles Released

A red tide bloom began at the end of November and lasted until approximately mid-January at the mouth of San Carlos Bay. Many species including birds, fish, and sea turtles were affected by the toxin produced by the red tide organism Karenia brevis. During this time frame, a total of 11 Kemp’s ridley turtles were found on and near Sanibel. Nine were dead and two were found alive and taken to rehabilitation facilities.
A newly released juvenile Kemp's ridley. Photo by: R. Flynn

The two live turtles from Sanibel and an additional Kemp’s ridley from Lover’s Key State Park were released into Pine Island Sound on February 27 after receiving a clean bill of health. The SCCF Marine Lab provided boat transportation. SCCF staff were accompanied by Rhonda Bailey of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Eve Haverfield of Turtle Time, Inc. A video of the release can be seen at