Saturday, June 28, 2014

Leatherback Sighting / Sea Turtle nesting Season

Leatherback Sea Turtle with Head Up
Leatherback Sea Turtle with Flipper Waving
While the sea turtle nesting season in South Carolina mainly consists of loggerhead turtle nests, the occasional green sea turtle and leatherback sea turtle come ashore in the Palmetto State. Turtle nesting teams are on patrol every morning along barrier islands, looking for sign of a turtle crawl, and for signs of a nest. A 'false crawl' is when they find the overnight tracks on the beach, but no nest digging. The first loggerhead nest of the year came fittingly on Mother's Day, May 11 on Seabrook Island. Then on June 14 on Pritchard's Island the first Leatherback nest was discovered, followed up by a second leatherback nest on Fripp Island on June 24. There is a chance that the same Leatherback sea turtle created both nests, since they tend to nest twice. It is still rare to have them nest in S.C., and they are much more common in the Southern waters of Florida and the Carribean. The SCDNR turtle nesting survey for 2012 shares that a total of only four Leatherback sea turtle nests were found out of a total of 4623 sea turtle nests. Then the 2013 nesting year had new record for S.C. beaches with 5198 nests recorded. Did you know that the Leatherback sea turtle is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard shell? Its carapace is composed of a layer of thin, tough and rubbery skin. They are much larger that loggerheads in size and for more life history info check out this link on the SCDNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program. Sometimes recreational anglers will encounter Leatherback sea turtle while fishing in the ocean, and I have seen them myself a few times over the years, with the most recent sighting being on June 23 when I made these photos. This turtle was alone, but in the past I have seen them in small groups with the largest pod consisting of five Leatherbacks swimming together - which was a beautiful sighting in our natural resources that I may never forget. Turtle nesting season continues into July and turtle hatchlings begin to emerge from August on into the Fall, and can create even more excitement.

To view past blog entries click on 2012 World Sea Turtle Day or 2011 Mid-Season Nesting Report or 2011 S.C. Aquarium Sea Turtle Release at Kiawah Island or 2009 Release at Folly Beach
Leatherback Sea Turtle with back exposed

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