Story time: A Loggerhead’s Journey to Nest

Join us for a multi-part story of a loggerhead’s attempt to nest on PCB to find out if she was successful.

Imagine you have been waiting all day knowing that tonight is the night to lay your eggs.  The sun has set and the beach appears darker.  You, the nesting loggerhead, choose a spot on PCB to exit the water, and crawl your ~300 pound self slowly about 80 feet onto the beach.  You begin digging your body pit and you are swarmed by the paparazzi.  Bright flashlights being shown on you, flash photos, a crowd getting a little too close for comfort and now you are temporarily blinded from all the bright lights.  You abort your digging and try to get away (but still can’t see clearly because of the bright lights) crawling another 25 feet toward the dune before figuring out the correct direction of the water.  The crowd is still very much nearby but you make a sharp turn and crawl over 100 foot back to the water to escape the paparazzi.  You made a good attempt but this wasn’t the time or place to nest.  Now it’s time to recover from that long exhausting and blinding crawl and decide where to next?

False Crawl (non-nesting emergence) by loggerhead sea turtle that was disturbed by beachgoers getting too close and using bright lights.

Birds eye view of the loggerhead false crawl as a result of disturbance by beachgoers using bright lights and getting too close

This is the scenario of a recent False Crawl shown in these photos.  It is evident by the photos as well as other beachgoer reports that this nesting loggerhead was disturbed enough that she was not able to nest at this location which is what is called a False Crawl (a non-nesting emergence).  Very near the trash can is where she finally turned and made her way back to the water.  Her crawl at that point was very hard to see in person given all of the footprints all around. 

How could her experience have been a better one?  Beachgoers that encounter a nesting sea turtle (or hatchlings) should refrain from using any lights or flash photography. There is enough ambient light on our beaches that your eyes will adjust and you will be able to see what is happening without any additional light.  Stay behind the turtle, out of her line of sight, remain quiet and just observe nature.  As she moves, you should move too avoiding her crawl and staying behind her.  When you encounter a sea turtle on our sandy beaches, please contact PCB non-emergency at 850-233-5000 and they will dispatch our volunteers.  Please leave our beaches clean, dark and flat to provide the best nesting environment possible for these protected species!

Stay tuned in the coming days as we’ll share the next part of this nesting loggerhead’s journey.

Note: tire tracks near the water are from our morning surveyor that recorded data for this false crawl and then continued on with survey; other tire tracks are from law enforcement or vendors travelling the beach day and night and are the reasons that we respond asap to any report of a nesting turtle to get the area marked off for protection.  In this case, no nest was laid.

All work performed under MTP-038