Written by Andrea Stetson Special to The News-Press
Link to original article: http://www.news-press.com/article/20130501/ENT13/305010034/First-turtle-nests-appear-Southwest-Florida-beaches?nclick_check=1
Unlike last year’s fast start, slower cycle forecast for 2013.
Adults grow to more than 3 feet long and weigh 200-350 pounds
• They may travel thousands of miles from feeding grounds to nesting beaches.
• A female loggerhead may nest one to seven times during a season at about 15-day intervals.
• Incubation takes 55-65 days.
• Hatchlings emerge at night and are guided by the lighter Gulf horizon to the water.
The law states interior and exterior lights must not be visible on the beach, furniture must be removed from the beach from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. (must be behind the dunes and vegetation or up against the house). The rule is in effect from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. May 1 to Oct. 31
Source: Turtle Time
By this time last year turtle nests were already covering local beaches. But 2013 is expected to be a more typical season as nesting begins today.
Warmer water in 2011 and 2012 brought an unusual trend of early nests starting in mid-April. Experts say while the Gulf is warming up near shore and on the surface, the water farther out is chilly and that’s where the turtles are.
“The water column is quite cool out there, and they can’t respond overnight,” said Eve Haverfield, president and founder of Turtle Time, which monitors sea turtles in Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach. “I think we will be back more to the normal cycle.”
Captiva boasted one of the first loggerhead nest in Southwest Florida, laid Sunday. West Palm Beach has the distinction of being the first in the state with its nest on April 20.
“Last year we had the first nest in Lee County on April 20, ” Haverfield said. “In March this year we had colder water temperatures in the 60s.”
Turtles typically start nesting when the water temperature reaches 80 degrees. Even with the later nesting prediction Haverfield and her volunteers have started monitoring the beaches for nests.
“We started on the 28th officially, but we have actually been out there since mid-April,” she said.
Farther north, some visitors from Volusia County found the first nest by Tween Waters Inn in Captiva on Sunday. Amanda Bryant, who monitors turtles for the Sanibel/Captiva Conservation Foundation, said her group has been monitoring Blind Pass, because of a dredging project, since April 15 and will start regular patrols today.
The 2012 season had a higher than usual number of nests, but a storm in June and one in October washed away many nests.
Collier County just got its first nest Tuesday on Park Shore beach.
Maura Kraus, senior environmental specialist Collier County Department of Natural Resources, hopes for more early nests that hatch before the summer’s hurricanes.
“It’s already been a later start,” Kraus said. “The water temp is at 80 so I hope more are coming. We are hoping for some high numbers like we had last year.”
Kraus said a dredging and renourishment project that just wrapped up in Wiggins Pass built a wider beach on the south end of Barefoot Beach.
“That is nice because that was such a low elevation,” Kraus said. “Before, anything that would have nested there would have washed away in a high tide or would not have nested at all. It is a good place for them to nest because there are no lights, and it is in the preserve.”