2023 Season Summary

Our 2023 sea turtle season in PCB has come to a close. We’d like to thank all of our surveyors, volunteers, residents and visitors who played a role in the protection of the Loggerhead and Green sea turtles that we had on our beaches this summer.

While we had a record breaking number of green nests this year, our total hatchling production was down from last year primarily due to Hurricane Idalia’s visit to the Gulf leading to many of our nests receiving wash over and stopping the development of the eggs (or washing them out completely). We appreciate the help from our local police, code enforcement and our local lifeguards. We enjoyed the opportunity to share information about our program and sea turtles at local events, schools and excavations. We look forward to being ready to start our season again May 1, 2024!

Our 2023 nests are now found under History.

All work/photos conducted under MTP-038 and MTP-271

In Memory of Heather Bailey

2023 nesting green female, affectionately named Heather

PCB TW would like to give a special thanks to Jason Bailey (a Panama City resident) for making a generous donation to our program this year in memory of his late wife, Heather Bailey. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Heather during this difficult time. With this donation, we are honored to do what we can to educate PCB locals and visitors about sea turtle conservation and protection in Heather’s memory.

During our 2023 season, our volunteers had the chance to observe and tag a nesting green sea turtle. After having learned of Heather’s passing, we have given the name Heather to our only 2023 PCB tagged nesting female and we hope to see her again in future nesting seasons!

All work conducted under MTP-038.

Green hatchlings entering the Gulf at sunset the week we had an opportunity to host some of Heather’s family at some of our excavations

Hatching is winding down

We are reaching the end of our 2023 sea turtle nesting and hatching season. October 5th was a big morning for us as we found two green nests hatched! Nest 45 was located in the dunes and didn’t receive wash over so no surprise there with it hatching. Nest 44 was located mid beach and received wash over from Hurricane Idalia last month but still produced hatchlings! This was great to see after we have had numerous failed nests from wash over.

We’ll determine the success of each nest as we excavate nest 45 on Sunday Oct 8th and nest 44 on Monday Oct 9th. These may be the final successful hatches of the season. Will the results of these excavations help us cross the 2500+ hatchling mark for the season? Stay tuned to find out!

Following these excavations, we’ll have 4 nests remaining on the beach. We’ll give them a full 80 days from when they were laid for a chance to hatch but they may have stopped developing with the Hurricane Idalia wash over.

Photos and work conducted per MTP-038

Green hatchling heading to water from nest 45

Nest 44 with depression and hatchling tracks

Education Outreach

What else do our volunteers do when they aren’t on the beach protecting the sea turtles and nests? They spend time sharing information about our program, sea turtle species and ways we can all help protect them.

We appreciate the opportunity to recently visit Panama City Trilingual School to share this important information with them. The students were attentive and engaged as they listened to our volunteers and asked their questions.

Thank you to our volunteers for the many ways they contribute to our non-profit organization!

FWC MTP-038 allows for the possession of sea turtle specimens to use for educational purposes

Education Outreach Presentation

Students get a close look at our education outreach items

PCB nest impacts from Hurricane Idalia

First off our thoughts are with the cities and people in the path of Hurricane Idalia and all of the people that will be helping them recover and rebuild.

We are fortunate here in PCB to have only experienced high surf overnight causing the waves to push up to high beach. Our surveyors assessed all nests this morning and found that any nest not in the dunes had some or a lot of washover. Some or all of the stakes washed away from some nest areas. We have restaked/repaired the nest markings that we could and will give all nests on our beach a full 80 days from when they were laid in case the water slows the incubation.

The sea turtle nests can handle some amounts of water but they can not tolerate inundation or sitting in water, that stops the development of the egg. We will continue to monitor the nests and expect some of them may still hatch. Therefore, we’ll continue to announce excavations of hatched nests as they are scheduled. As we excavate unhatched nests we’ll post those results as well as we know some of you have a vested interest in some particular nests.

We won’t know the full impact of the storm until the season is over (when the last nest has hatched or 80 days from when the last nest is laid) but we will continue to monitor and hope we get to add to our 2023 hatchling count. To date we have had 46 nest, with 20 having hatched producing 1700+ hatchlings!

Morning survey found south stakes washed out, restaked

Morning survey found nest with heavy washover, likely won’t hatch at this point
Morning survey found light washover

Green hatchlings

Green hatchlings during daytime emergence

Our first green nest of the season has hatched and has been excavated! Beach goers received a surprise in the daytime when they witnessed 4 green hatchlings emerge from a newly formed depression in the peak afternoon heat! Fortunately, they notified PCB TW volunteers to ensure they reached the water following on their long crawl from the dunes.

Green hatchling swimming at surface, vulnerable to predators so we try to help every single one
Green hatchling swimming just below the surface

Later that evening, the full nest boiled and all of the hatchlings, in a much cooler time of night, made their way straight to the water.

In accordance with our FWC permit, we conducted an excavation of the nest 3 days later and found 4 live hatchlings in the chamber. Three of those hatchlings were entangled in roots from the dune vegetation in the first few inches of the chamber. This is not uncommon for nests laid in the dunes and fortunately we found them alive during the excavation. Another live hatchling was found among the 133 hatched egg shells about 24 inches deep! Overall the nest was very successful! Check out our Facebook live recording of Nest 18’s excavation on August 27 to see the hatchlings as they were found in the chamber, quite a relief to see the little flippers begin moving as they were freed from the roots!

Nest 18 sample contents include a hatched egg, unhatched egg, spacer egg and 4 live hatchlings
Green hatchlings are identified by their scute pattern on their carapace (their hard top shell)
Nest 18 eggs from excavation

As a reminder, sea oats are protected in Florida and are vital to our dune system. As volunteers we do our best to not disturb the sea oats and ask that you do the same if you encounter a nest in the dunes.

We’ll continue to monitor our remaining loggerhead and green nests for hatch activity and post excavations as we are able to schedule them for public attendance.

If you see a nesting or hatching sea turtle on the beach and volunteers aren’t present, please contact PCB non-emergency police at 850-233-5000 and they will contact our volunteers. Thank you for leaving the beach clean, dark and flat!

Photos taken under MTP-038

Volunteers are busy with nests hatching!

We have crossed the 1K mark for hatchlings so far this season!

We have had 12 nests hatch producing 1130 hatchlings so far!

Many of these nests have been disoriented meaning the hatchlings go towards the artificial lights instead of the Gulf of Mexico. We appreciate our volunteers for the many hours they dedicate to our nests during hatching season. They spend a lot of time in the dark and have paperwork to fill out following a hatch to help us document hatch behavior and disorientation occurrences.

During our hatching season, we should all remember the moto Clean, Dark and Flat. These are ways we can help these hatchlings reach the water quickly so they can begin their journey!

Volunteers filling out paperwork post hatch of a disoriented nest. Courtesy of Joyce, a beach goer lucky enough to witness the hatch and our volunteer’s efforts

Record breaking Green nesting year for PCB TW

We are happy to announce that we have reached 45 nests this season which exceeds our 2022 total nest count!

Even better news, we have a total of 9 green sea turtle nests marked for protection, a new record for our beach in a given season!

Nesting can run through early September so we hope to see our nest count continue to grow.
We are also getting into our busy hatching season as evident by our excavation announcements.

If you see a nesting or hatching turtle on the beach without our volunteers present, please contact PCB non-emergency police at 850-233-5000 so they can contact our volunteers.

When will a nest hatch?

“When will a nest hatch?” This is one of our most commonly asked questions. So here’s some info that may help.
Nesting season begins in May and we number the nests as we find them. So…they should hatch roughly in the order that they were found. So far nests 1-4 have hatched, so we’ll be watching for other low numbered nests to hatch soon. And then it will take several weeks for the higher numbered nests to hatch.
Currently we expect hatching to occur through early October as we continue to find new nests including Nest 43 laid by a loggerhead overnight last night.

The FWC permit we operate under doesn’t allow us to release nest locations, date laid or any kind of prediction on when it will hatch. We will announce on Facebook (Panama City Beach Turtle Watch) when a nest has hatched and an excavation is scheduled. Or if it doesn’t hatch (possible if inundated with water for nests close to the surf), we’ll announce that as well. So if you see a nest on the beach and you want to know the results, note the nest number and stay tuned to our Facebook page.

Remember, if you see a nesting sea turtle or a hatchling on the beach and PCB TW volunteers aren’t present, please call PCB non-emergency police at 850-233-5000 and they will get in touch with our volunteers.

Volunteers prepare to begin an excavation as part of MTP-038

A hatched nest as seen during a night visit under MTP-271

Hatching and nesting activity!

We have had our first successful loggerhead hatch this season (nest 2) and we continue to find new nests with the latest being another green nest!

We are up to 39 nests so far this season with 32 loggerheads and 7 greens.

On our beaches here in the panhandle, average incubation is about 2 months.  With hatching season starting we expect to see more nests hatch in the coming weeks.  We don’t announce the nest locations nor when they may hatch but be aware we number the nests as we find them.  We will announce the public excavations when they are scheduled following a hatch.

If you are lucky enough to see a nesting turtle, a nest hatching or hatchlings on the beach and our volunteers aren’t present, please call PCB non-emergency police at 850-233-5000 with the nest number/location so our volunteers can respond.  Please do not use any light or flash photography as it disorients the turtles.

On behalf of the sea turtles and everyone who visits our beaches, we appreciate you keeping our beaches Clean, Dark and Flat!

Volunteers marking a green nest
Volunteers marking a green nest
Excavation of nest 2 revealed 15 hatched eggs
Excavation of nest 2 revealed 15 hatched eggs (conducted under MTP-038)