Busy, Busy!

Our nesting season is in full swing having reached 30 nests and 20 false crawls.

We currently have three Green Sea Turtle nests on our beach and the rest are loggerhead. As a reminder, nesting (and hatching) typically occurs overnight so be sure to keep your lights off, don’t use flash photography if you encounter a sea turtle and give her space. Crawling on land when you are designed for water can be tiring, so we don’t want to stress or disturb a nesting turtle!

What happens when we find a nest? We follow FWC guidelines and our volunteers mark the area off with stakes and survey/caution tape. A green tag with the nest number (numbered serially as they are found) is added and it stays protected for the next two months while the eggs incubate until it hatches, usually at night. Our volunteers follow FWC guidelines and check the nests (using red lights as they are less disruptive) at night when it has been about two months. If they find hatching activity, they don’t use any lights and make sure the turtles make it to the water that night.

We don’t announce nest locations or predicted hatch dates. What we will announce are any public excavations we will hold. Those are typically late afternoon, announced 1-2 days in advance following a hatch. At an excavation we assess the nest productivity and explain what our program is doing to help protect sea turtles.

Please call the non-emergency PCB Police at 850-233-5000 if you are lucky enough to see a nesting sea turtle or hatchlings on the beach so they can contact our on-call volunteers to respond.

Fresh crawl with Volunteers marking the nest

Can sea turtles climb?

Why yes they can! Weather events like rough surf can cause a slope or escarpment at the water’s edge on our beaches. Over the years, sand dunes form at the dune line often growing sea oats in our area. This week, morning surveyors found examples of sea turtles showing off their climbing skills.

We had a green sea turtle choose a dune as a perfect place for her nest. She climbed the dune and nested within the sea oats. This is common behavior for green sea turtles, the 2nd largest sea turtle species.

We also had a large loggerhead scale an escarpment that was challenging for volunteers to climb easily. Unfortunately after that effort, she false crawled and returned to the water, basically sliding down that escarpment on her final approach to the water.

So yes, sea turtles can climb. But they can not go in reverse. So remember to leave our beaches clean, dark and flat so the only climbing they have to do is up the escarpment or dune!

Please call the non-emergency PCB Police at 850-233-5000 if you are lucky enough to see a nesting sea turtle so they can contact our on-call volunteers to respond.

Green sea turtle track with nest in the dunes

Loggerhead sea turtle scaled the escarpment and then false crawled and returned to the water

Thinking ahead to hatching season, answering a common question

We are still in our prime nesting season and aren’t quite to hatching season yet (about 2 months after a nest is laid). But one of our most frequently asked questions is, “how can I watch a nest hatch?” Well, mother nature controls sea turtle hatching. We don’t announce nest locations nor predicted hatch dates. During hatching season, our trained volunteers check the nests (using red light if necessary) looking for hatch activity. In the event of finding disoriented hatchlings, they follow FWC protocols and ensure they make it safely to the Gulf that evening. We excavate the nest 3-4 days following and generally announce this on Facebook inviting the public to attend. This is your best chance to hear about our program, the specifics of that particular nest and see the process that documents the success of that nest.

If you encounter a nesting female, a nest hatching or hatchlings on the beach, PLEASE do not use any photography or light. Your eyes will adjust to the darkness and you will be able to observe that wonderful sight from a safe distance. Call PCB Police non-emergency at 850-233-5000 so they can contact our on-call volunteers to respond.

P.S. We are currently at 18 nests along our 18 miles of beach. Seventeen are Loggerhead nests and today surveyors found our first Green nest of the season!

Clean, dark and flat….the best beach for our sea turtles

Please remember to keep the beaches clean, dark and flat. Sea turtles are designed for the water so doing our part to reduce the obstacles on the beach is the least we can do.

Last week, our volunteers responded to a report of a female attempting to nest, she had encountered a beach chair and crawled over it. She was also disturbed by people taking flash photos and shining flashlights on her. This is all very disturbing, we can all do better!

If you encounter a nesting sea turtle, turn off all lights, do not take photos, give her space observing from behind her line of sight. Call the PCB non-emergency police at 850-233-5000 so they can contact our on call volunteers.

Beach chair left unattended becomes an obstacle for a nesting sea turtle

Sea Turtle Tracks Summer Camp Success

Panama City Beach Turtle Watch was thrilled to partner with PCB Parks and Recreation as they offered Sea Turtle Tracks camp this week.  This summer camp allowed the children to learn about sea turtles, perform mock stranding activities, become a turtle encountering obstacles left on the beach and witness the PCB Fire Rescue Safety Division rescue an accidentally hooked loggerhead sea turtle. The campers were very engaged and enthusiastic about learning what they can do to help provide the sea turtles a safe environment. They wrapped up camp with a visit to GWMI! 

To quote one of the campers at the end of our second day, “this was definitely a core memory day”!

Educational Display

Taking stranding measurements
Taking stranding measurements

Acting as a nesting sea turtle and encountering obstacles

Acting as a nesting sea turtle and encountering obstacles
Before all of the adults start asking….sorry, this is only offered for the school age children 🙂

Thank you to our education outreach coordinator and all of the volunteers who helped make this first of a kind camp such a success!

World Ocean Day

Our volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate World Ocean Day yesterday at Gulf World. We appreciate the opportunity to share information about sea turtles and what everyone can all do to help protect them.

One month into the season!

It’s been 1 month since the start of our Sea Turtle season. We are happy to report that we have 4 loggerhead nests marked for protection at this time!

Our surveyors search each morning for mother turtle tracks (ranging from 2-3 foot in width) and when they find a nest they temporarily mark it. They call our volunteers to come protect it with 4 stakes, survey/caution tape and signs indicating the area is protected under our FWC permit.

Sea turtles often nest overnight, if you encounter a nesting turtle on Panama City Beach, please immediately call the non-emergency 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 or around the turtle or take flash photos, and stay at least 30 feet away and not in her line of sight.

Please also leave the beach clean, dark and flat. PCB has a Leave No Trace ordinance allowing us to each do our part to help visitors of our beaches (including people and wildlife).

Surveyors temporarily mark the nest

Volunteers protect the nest area with stakes and caution tape

2023 Season is underway

Just in time for Mother’s Day our sea turtle mamas started arriving. We have now marked 2 nests on Panama City Beach for protection. Our surveyors and volunteers are looking forward to this season! Remember to keep our beaches clean, dark and flat.

Did you know that in Florida the only time a Sea Turtle will emerge from the water is if she is nesting, sick or injured?
If you encounter a sea turtle on our sandy beaches, call the Beach Police at 850-233-5000 and they will call us to respond.

2022 Season Recap – Volunteers

We’d like to thank our 2022 Volunteers for the time they spent protecting our nesting and hatching sea turtles this year! They participated in FWC and local training required as part of our permit and were assigned various shifts throughout the season. While on the beach we are working to protect the sea turtles and provide educational information. We appreciate all of the dedication, we couldn’t have done it without you!
-Morning surveys ran from May 1 – Oct 23
-Nesting volunteers were on call May 1 – Sep 15 to mark any nests found at any time of day or night and responding to reports of nest damage (i.e. being washed away by high surf)
-Hatching volunteers monitored from July 22 – Oct 20 locating almost 2000 hatchlings that were disoriented
-Volunteers conducted excavations of all nests
-Classroom presentations were made to elementary students
-We conducted education outreach to share information on our sea turtle nesting and hatching protection efforts
P.S. Our permit has a limit to the number of volunteers. We collect volunteer applications early each year around February. If you are a resident interested in applying to be a volunteer, use the Contact form here on our website in February and request an application.

2022 Season Recap – Hatching

As part of our permit, we conduct an excavation of all nests to assess the contents. Compared to the last few seasons, we were fortunate and didn’t experience as many severe weather impacts to our nests yielding higher hatchling emergence compared to recent years.
We accounted for 3306 emerged hatchlings during 2022!

  • 3175 hatchlings from 3865 eggs for an overall emergence success of 82%.
  • Average loggerhead nest size was 104 eggs (ranging from 70-147 eggs).
  • Average loggerhead incubation period was 63 days (ranging from 58-69 days).
  • 131 hatchlings from 270 eggs (49%)
  • Incubation of 65 and 67 days
  • One of these nests was impacted by heavy rains yielding a very small amount of hatchling emergence.
Loggerhead hatchlings
Loggerhead hatchlings entering the Gulf just after sunrise
Green Hatchlings
Green hatchlings entering the Gulf at sunset