The Loggerhead sea turtle is the most frequently observed turtle in SW Florida waters and with courtship activity occurring in late April to early June, nesting isn't far behind. Females nest a few weeks after mating with most activity on Marco beaches between May 1st and the end of September. Mating is triggered by the Gulf water temperature and since it was warmer earlier this year, we saw our first nest on south beach on May 2nd, compared with May 22nd last year.Hind flippers for digging, front flippers for covering... The female crawls ashore at night, digs a shallow pit for her body and begins digging the hole for her eggs with her hind flippers. She then deposits between 70 and 150 white, ping pong ball sized eggs and fills in the hole. To cam-ouflage the nest, she roughs up sand in a four foot area around it using her front flippers.CSI crime scene or has Mary been here? Some of you may wonder what the yellow tape and sticks are that suddenly sprout up overnight on the beach. It isn't a CSI crime scene, it's there to mark a new turtle's nest so that beachgoers don't accidentally interfere with the nest and eggs. Mary Nelson, aka The Turtle Lady, has been monitoring turtle activity on Marco beaches since 1995 and (together with 10 local volun-teers) is responsible for the tape and sticks. Mary has a wealth of knowledge about turtles and is out every morning in turtle season, so if you see her at a new nest, false crawl or on her ATV, say hello and see what she is up to.How you can help... All being well, that first nest should hatch sometime towards the end of June/beginning of July. Once hatching starts, the race is on. As though a starter gun went off, the hatch-lings all come out at once. They must find their way to the surf in the darkness by heading toward the brightest horizon. This is why it is extremely important to regulate beach lighting to prevent hatchlings from becoming disorientated. You should also keep the beach free of litter and barriers, take away what you bring and clear away sandcastles or trenches that you or your children might construct.Report injured or dead turtles or disorient-ed hatchlings to Mary Nelson at 239.289.9736 or Collier County Sea Turtle Protection at 239.252 2952.Summary of Turtle nesting season to date as of June 12th 2011 2010 Hideaway beach 2 4Main beach 10 3Sand Dollar 14 10False crawls 54 25Last year there were a total of 46 nests on Marco, of which 39 hatched, producing 2,995 hatchlings. Two nests were washed out and 5 inundated. The last nest hatched on October 2nd 2010.
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