Green Sea Turtles

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Green Sea Turtles

Green Sea Turtles

The last day of this past July started off with a pleasant surprise when I saw the Volusia Turtle Patrol marking a new sea turtle nest in front of the house. I went down to check it out and took some photos of the nest and the tracks left on the beach by the adult female turtle.

TurtleNest_5639.jpg Green sea turtle nest in the dune

TurtleTracksSunrise_5641f.jpg Turtle Tracks at Sunrise

Looking closely at the pattern of the tracks, and checking various references, I concluded that these were probably made by a green sea turtle.

TurtleTracks_5645.jpg Green sea turtle tracks on the beach

This fact was exciting since most of the turtle nests nearby have usually laid by loggerhead turtles, with an occassional leatherback. Loggerheads make up nearly two-thirds of the over 200,000 sea turtle nests annually in Florida. Green sea turtles account for about a third with leatherbacks less than one percent and Kemp's Ridleys only totalling around a dozen in number statewide.

For comparison, here are some loggerhead turtle tracks with one human footprint for scale.

TurtleTracks.jpg Loggerhead turtle tracks

Turtle season in Florida runs from May 1 to October 31 with nearly all sea turtle nesting happening during that period. After the adult turtle digs a nest and lays her eggs, it is typically 45 to 60 days before the hatchlings break out of their shells and dig their way up onto the beach to crawl to the sea. Both the egg laying and the hatching usually happens at night.

I missed it, but this nest hatched exactly 45 days after being laid. The following Sunday morning the Volusia Turtle Patrol volunteers dug out the nest. This is done for all of the sea turtle nests after they hatch or even if they never emerge. A count is made of what is found in the nest providing a census of empty eggshells, unhatched eggs, dead hatchlings, and live hatchlings that may not yet have emerged. Any live hatchlings are either immediately released on the beach near the water or taken to the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet to recover before being released.

VoTuPa_NestDig_6360.jpg Volusia Turtle Patrol volunteers digging out the turtle nest

In this case, it took nearly an hour and a half for the two volunteers to dig out the nest using only their hands to find the spot where the eggs had been laid. The effort was well rewarded as about two dozen live hatchlings were unearthed along with the remnants of the nest.

Chelonia_mydas_6372.jpg rescued green sea turtle hatchlings in cooler waiting to be released

After finishing up the nest dig and recording the results, the hatchlings were released a few at a time since they were all so lively.

Chelonia_mydas_6378.jpg Three green sea turtle hatchlings heading towards the ocean

This was witnessed with pleasure by a small band of onlookers who had gathered on the beach.

Chelonia_mydas_6375.jpg Green sea turtle hatchling on the beach

For more information on Florida's sea turtles and the Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol, visit the turtle patrol website.

For more of my photos and information about green sea turtles, visit the Wild Florida Photo green sea turtle page.

Paul Rebmann

October 11, 2023