On a recent vacation to Ocean Isle Beach I had an unexpected adventure! I was sitting on our 11th floor condo porch enjoying my coffee and taking in the beautiful ocean view when I noticed a small crowd gathering on the beach by the dunes.
It was early in the morning and not many people were on the beach, so my curiosity was peaked. With camera in hand, I headed down to see what was happening. The first thing I noticed were strange tracks in the sand leading up to the dunes and back down to the ocean.
Then I noticed several people in T-shirts which identified them as volunteers for OIBSTPO (Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization). A small group of volunteers were digging carefully in the sand looking for a nest that had just been dug by a female turtle. Because of the recent tropical storm, Ana, and the sand erosion, the volunteers were relocating the eggs to a safer nesting area further up the beach. A volunteer with a clicker counted the eggs as they were removed from the nest. Today’s total: 125 eggs!
From talking with the volunteers I learned several facts about sea turtles:
- The nesting period begins May 1st and goes to the end of August.
- Gestation is between 45-90 days depending on the average temperature. The hotter the average daily temperature, the sooner the eggs hatch.
- The latest hatching recorded at OIB was the second week in November.
- Ocean Isle Beach has an average of 20 nests per season.
- Last year, sea turtle nests across the whole state were down, with only four nests at OIB.
- Contrary to popular opinion, sea turtles don’t always lay in the same spot, but do lay in the same general area.
- Sea Turtles often lay over 100 eggs in a nest.
- The eggs are the size of a ping-pong ball and sort of rubbery.
- Using DNA testing at the University of Georgia, it has been determined that three generations of mother turtles have laid their eggs at OIB.
- Sea turtles can lay eggs up to seven times in a 10-day to two-week period because the eggs have already been fertilized within her.
Deb and Jim Boyce took over as coordinators for OIBSTPO five years ago, but they have been volunteering for the past 18 years since moving to Ocean Isle Beach.
“We moved from Pennsylvania, and being a country girl I’d never encountered sea turtles before,” Deb said. “One day I was walking on the beach and saw these huge tracks and thought to myself: What idiot drove a John Deere tractor from the water to the dunes and back again!
“Of course, they were turtle tracks, and that was the beginning of my sea turtle education. When my husband and I saw our first turtle hatching that August, it just grabbed our hearts and we’ve been volunteering ever since.”
OIBSTPO has a core of 25-30 volunteers, which increases once the eggs begin to hatch. Even people on vacation can volunteer to help site turtle nests by contacting the organization at Oibcturtleorg@atmc.net.
During the summer months free turtle talks take place each week at OIB. See OIBSTPO website for more info.
© 2015 article and photos by Sandra Chambers