Along the coastal beaches of southeast Georgia, northeast Florida, and the Atlantic Ocean, three out of five endangered and highly protected species of sea turtle come to nest here. The loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles come each summer starting from May 1 to Oct.31 to nest on these beaches. The other two species, the hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley come to nest on the shoreline of the state in the same period. But it is not only the calendar time that counts but many other factors, such as environmental variables, ocean conditions, and weather.
It is already known that females crawl on the sand only under the cover of darkness to lay the eggs. The female digs a hole on the beach, which will be the nest and after laying 100 ping pong-sized eggs, the turtle covers the nest with sand. Even if they seem to weep while they nest, these tears have the role of cleaning the sand of the turtle’s body. Each season they lay around two or three nests. The incubation period of the eggs is two-month long. After hatching, the baby turtles instinctively search for the horizon as the water reflects natural light.
Many volunteers developed programs to observe the turtle nesting process. After marking the nests, they make sure to protect it against predators. They also monitor the beach for signs of effects from the high tide. After hatching, each empty egg shell is counted to establish the hatching success.
Even if the young turtles manage to reach the water, they need to avoid larger fish and then, seek the cover of sargassum, a type of marine drifting vegetation. They spend the first years inside this vegetation and also feed with everything they manage to catch inside the sargassum.
If the sea turtles make it to the age of 20 to 30, the adult females will return to the beach they first hatch to make a nest and lay their eggs. Unfortunately, the real situation is awful as only 1 out of 1,000 hatchlings pull through and become adults. Still, turtles are known to live up 80, even 100 years.
As the nesting season is close, experts advise people to avoid driving on the beach at nights and leaving their outdoor lights on or not covered (if they face the ocean). The baby sea turtles may confuse the artificial light with the light reflected by the ocean and head inland which will lead to their death.