Busy Hatching Season Slowing Down

Our volunteers stayed very busy the last few weeks.  We had many nests hatch and continued to experience severe hatchling disorientation. We have conducted many excavations and in most cases have found good hatch success rate.  Most recently we were impacted by storms and heavy rains that washed over (or washed out) a couple nests.  We also had 2 nests that suffered the effects of extreme and rapid rainfall resulting in some deceased hatchlings being found during excavation.  While that is difficult to witness, there is nothing we could have done differently and sea turtles have evolved to lay multiple nests in a season with the expectation that not all eggs will make it.

Over the next month our volunteers will continue to monitor a few viable nests that remain on the beach but the rapid hatching and excavations are behind us for our 2022 season.  Stay tuned to see how we finish out the season and if we’ll break the 3K hatchling mark!

Photos:
Excavation process with many hatched eggs, depression with tracks from 2 green hatchlings, a hatched and unhatched egg with a nest chamber in the background.

Half way with over 2K Hatchlings

We are thrilled to have reached our 2022 half way point!

Of our 44 nests we have had 22 of them hatch, all loggerhead so far. Our volunteers and surveyors have been hard at work checking for hatchlings of which we have accounted for over 2100 hatchlings! The majority of our hatches have experienced disorientation meaning the turtles did not head to the water, they went in the wrong direction where they will waste valuable energy. When we find this happening, we collect the hatchlings and take them to a dark beach to release them into the Gulf.

You can do your part to help by turning off exterior lights, closing blinds to limit interior light visible from the beach and keep the beach clean and flat.

We have also been conducting excavations per our FWC permit where we have experienced good success rate. If you are a Facebook user, tune into our page Panama City Beach Turtle Watch to check out our live coverage of excavations. Better yet, join us in person and get a chance to see hatched eggs, unhatched eggs and possibly a live hatchling that may still be in the chamber.


Lights cause disorientation (MTP-271)

Hatchlings found during an excavation, later released into the Gulf (MTP-038)

Our Panama City Beach Turtle Watch program contributes our nesting and hatching data to FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute as they track the Florida sea turtle nesting. So far the 2022 Sea Turtle nesting season is going well both local to PCB and statewide! We have marked 44 nests this year so far and still checking through mid September for any new nests. We are well into our hatching season, stay tuned to our counter to see it continue to increase, especially for hatchlings!

Recently FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute shared:

“How’s the 2022 sea turtle nesting season going in Florida?
GOOD NEWS! Preliminary statewide totals for sea turtles nesting on Florida beaches indicate the 2022 nesting season is very good for loggerhead and leatherback turtles. As of July 31st, 111,851 loggerhead nests and 1756 leatherback nests have been documented, these numbers are higher than the entire 2021 nesting season! It looks like the same forecast is also in store for the green turtle nest count with 24,577 nests as of July 31st, and we still have two months of heavy green turtle nesting ahead.
Thanks to all the FWRI partners involved in an outstanding community science effort to document sea turtle nesting activity statewide!”

2022 PCB Nest 44, a Green nest

Hatchling frenzy

Our volunteers have been super busy doing what they were trained to do…monitor nests and rescue any disoriented hatchlings.

The start of our hatching season could be described as a hatchling frenzy. We have had 8 nests hatch. Unfortunately, they have all been disoriented meaning the hatchlings didn’t make it to the water unassisted. When they emerged they headed toward the brightest horizon. In all cases so far, the hatchlings were disoriented by beachfront lighting. Either drawing them directly to the dunes or leaving them walking great distances from the nest before making it to the water or being collected. Disorientation causes them to waste energy and makes them more susceptible to predators.

You can help by turning off exterior lights and closing blinds/curtains at night. Fortunately, our volunteers have been present or arrived shortly after the hatch and have collected the disoriented hatchlings so they could be released on a dark beach.

If you encounter a sea turtle hatchling keep an eye on it and please contact Beach Police at 850-233-5000 and they will call us to respond.

We have also been busy excavating the hatched nests 3-4 nights after they hatch. This allows us to assess the nest contents and determine the hatch success. Several nests have had a straggler or two in the chamber that was collected during the excavation and released later that night on a dark beach. If you would like to attend an excavation or watch it online, please follow Panama City Beach Turtle Watch on Facebook.

Hatchlings from recent excavation
Photo: Loggerhead hatchlings recovered during a recent nest excavation and released that night.
Photo taken as part of MTP-038.

Nests have hatched!

We knew it was only a matter of time before we started seeing this year’s hatchlings and that time has arrived!

Over the last three nights we have had some kind of hatching activity. Our surveyors and volunteers are doing their best to help protect the hatchlings and ensure they reach the water.

Hatch activity is commonly overnight, if you sea turtle hatchlings keep it dark (no flashlights or pictures) and enjoy the moment! If our volunteers are not present, call the Beach Police at 850-233-5000 and they will call us to respond.

Since we don’t know when a nest will hatch and we keep it dark during a hatch, we use our excavations to help share information. An excavation is conducted per the FWC Permit we operate under. Our volunteers will share information on how we found the nest, protected it and found it hatched. We’ll also share information on the sea turtle species common to our beaches and how you can help protect these wonderful creatures!

These excavations will be announced via Facebook Events hosted by Panama City Beach Turtle Watch.

Nesting + Hatching = Busy TW Team

2022 VolunteersWe are at the point in our season where we continue to survey and locate new nests AND we are out checking for any hatching activity.

Average incubation on our beaches is about 2 months so the early season nests should be hatching soon and we are ready! When the hatchlings emerge they will head toward the brightest horizon. Hopefully that will lead them to the water but on our beaches we typically have a lot of disorientation. You can help by keeping the beaches clean, dark and flat. Avoid using lights around the sea turtle nests or any sea turtles seen on the beach. Turn off exterior lights, close your blinds on beachfront properties and remove everything from the beach when you leave for the night.

If you encounter any hatchlings (or nesting turtles) on the beach, please give them space while you stand between them and the dune and refrain from using lights or taking photos. Call the Beach Police at 850-233-5000 and they will inform our permitted Turtle Watch volunteers who will respond to the area to ensure the turtle(s) are protected and make it to the water.

We will announce when a nest has hatched and an excavation has been scheduled. At the excavation we will assess the contents of the nest, collect data, retrieve any hatchlings that did not successfully emerge from the chamber and inform anyone attending about our program and our sea turtle species.

Note: the permit we operate under does not allow us to list nest locations or provide ‘expected’ hatch dates. As with any nature, incubation and emergence are not an exact science and it will happen when the turtles are ready.

Amazon Smile helps our turtle program

Did you know that your Amazon Smile purchases can help Panama City Beach Turtle Watch as we continue to help protect Sea Turtles?

It’s simple, use the Amazon Smile app or shop through smile.amazon.com and establish our organization as the beneficiary of donations based on your purchases.

Then each time you shop from your browser go to smile.amazon.com or use the Amazon Smile app, you’ll help support our organization which is focused on protecting sea turtles along Panama City Beach!

Follow the link below to select our organization for all of your future Amazon Smile purchases, we appreciate it!

2022 Nesting milestone

We have officially surpassed our 2021 PCB total nest count! We are now at 33 nests so far in our 2022 season versus 27 last year. In July we expect to continue to locate and mark off new nests. We also expect our early season nests to begin hatching late July.

Please do your part to help. Leave the beach clean, dark and flat (Leave No Trace ordinance https://www.visitpanamacitybeach.com/things-to-do/beaches/leave-only-footprints/ ).

If you see a sea turtle on Panama City Beach, please immediately call the Beach Police at 850-233-5000. They will forward your report to Turtle Watch volunteers who will respond to the area to ensure the turtle(s) are protected. Don’t shine lights on the turtle or take flash photos, and stay at least 30 feet away and not in her line of sight.
Volunteers marking nest

Shorebird Update

Did you know there are several shorebird nesting sites along Panama City Beach? Our surveyors keep in touch with FWC and Audubon Florida as they work to protect the threatened shorebird species that nest along our beaches. This year there are nesting Least Terns and Black Skimmers with some of those nests are already hatching so there are chicks in the area!! If you come across one of these marked areas on the beach, please be mindful of the marked off area and any chicks that may have wandered out. Please also refrain from shooting off fireworks near the protected shorebird areas. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

FWC Shorebird Monitor

Posted Shorebird Area

Chicks present, be cautious

No Fireworks

Nesting Continues!

Loggerhead nesting continues on PCB, having reached 22 nests so far!
We have had one Green false crawl (she returned to the water without nesting) so we are still awaiting our first green nest (fingers crossed we get a couple this year).

Considering our first 2022 nests were laid late May, we’re patiently waiting for late July when our hatchling season should begin.

We appreciate your help to keep our beaches clean, dark and flat. If you see a nesting turtle on Panama City Beach, please immediately call the Beach Police at 850-233-5000. They will forward your report to Turtle Watch volunteers who will respond to mark the nest. Don’t shine lights on the turtle or take flash photos, and stay at least 30 feet away and not in her line of sight.


Photo: A birds eye view of nest 12 found during morning survey before being marked for protection.