Saturday Morning Turtle Patrol


Loggerhead Nest on Manasota Key

Loggerhead Nest on Manasota Key

Saturday morning…5:45.  Every time that music alarm goes off this early, I think, “What’s that?  What DAY is it, anyway?”  On “yoga days”, I’m up at 6:45.  It’s only on turtle days that I roll out of bed at the ridiculous hour of 5:45.  Still dark at that time here in Florida.  I move automatically…brush teeth, coffee (absolutely), iPhone in ziplock bag (in case I drop it in the Gulf), water, turtle shirt, shorts, flip flops and I’m in the car and and heading for the beach about 6:05 (unless, like today, I have to go back in the house several times because I forgot the coffee, forgot the phone, forgot my purse so I have my license in case I get stop for speeding or something.

We meet in the parking lot of a beach resort on the Key.  The beach is divided up into zones that are usually about 3/4 of a mile or a mile long.  Patrollers walk them every day.  Not the SAME patrollers every day.  I walk on Tuesdays and Saturdays with three other women who have become good, good friends.  There are hundreds of volunteers who walk from two to seven days a week.   We walk at dawn…better to see turtle tracks and much better for us once it gets really hot down here.  We start in late April and go till November 1, first looking for tracks that show that a mama turtle has dragged her 300 pound body out of the Gulf and onto the beach to make a nest (dig a hole), deposit about 100 eggs, cover it up again and drag herself back to the Gulf.

Today I met Margi and Pam and we began our walk north to see what we could find.  So far there have been eight nests on our zone.  We rarely see the mother turtles..they come in the middle of the night.  We don’t see the hatchlings often either.   They hatch in the middle of the night or very early in the morning.  Smart…less likely to run into trouble with preditors.

No new nests today.  Beautiful walk on the beach in the early morning but not at all productive.  We did see a dolphin out in the Gulf, a fisherman with a cute little dog on a leash, an armadillo wandering around the resort looking for food (we don’t like them…they eat turtle eggs).  We moved some beach chairs that someone had left out (not a good thing for mama turtles..they can get caught in them)

Easy morning …off the beach in time to get to yoga which NEVER happens once things start hopping.  Still, it’s a fabulous way to start the day…beautiful people to walk with and I’m not sure which time on the beach I love more…sunrise when the sun finally hits the water and everything sparkles or sunset when the sky is aflame and magnificent.  They’re both special.

My grandchildren think I’m out saving baby sea turtles.  It’s probably more accurate to say I’m collecting data (ha!  you teachers out there…imagine me voluntarily collecting data now that I’ve left the classroom)  These data helps determine whether a particular kind of sea turtle is endangered (loggerheads…which most of ours are…are not but they are threatened), what laws need to be passed to protect the species, how people can help, etc.

I took the photo of the nest you see at the top of the blog because I couldn’t figure out how the mama ever got to where she nested.  We’ve has lost a lot of sand and there are more rocks than ever on the beach.  The pathways up to the nest looked too narrow for her to get to..but where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Two mornings a week are enough for me.  It’s so early…and I’d really miss the yoga if I missed any more.  So it works…and I feel useful but not overwhelmed.  Again, I’m lucky.

Love to all..Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there….including the mama turtles!


11 thoughts on “Saturday Morning Turtle Patrol

  1. STILL using ziplock bag for your phone? You DO have a case you can attach to your shorts. LOL

  2. Happy Mother’s Day to you, also! Wonderful to be able to celebrate another one, right? And may we have many, many more! Much love, Sonia

  3. Very Nicely said…. I so enjoy the walks on the beach with such wonderful women too! Sure am tired today tho…guess we need to find some nests and do a bit of work! Happy Mother’s Day!

  4. So cool. Henry would be so intrigued by that adventure. I’m not sure the turtle patrol would ever be the same after trying to reign in that boy’s enthusiasm.

  5. Deirdre Christman

    Happy Mother’s Day, Turtle Mama! Good for you, protecting the wildlife. Sounds like a very pleasant way to spend the early morning. Now if it began at 9…

  6. Happy mom’s day to you Mary. Take
    care of all those turtle eggs for the mama turtles.

  7. Sounds lovely! Happy Mothers Day!

    Sent from my iPad


  8. Sounds delightful– just enjoying the early morning on the beach!
    Happy Mothers Day!

  9. WOW! Impressed that you are still setting an alarm 🙂 love this.

  10. Hi Mary – not sure of the best way to contact you but are you the Mary who wrote a letter about testing in schools back in 1999? If you are, are you able to tell me if there are any copyright restrictions on it being distributed? Many thanks.
    John Kennedy

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