The loggerhead sea turtle builds its nests on Tyndall’s beaches between May and October. When the turtles make their way on shore to dig their nests, they leave behind tracks called a beach crawl. Approximately 60 nests have been laid on Tyndall’s beach this nesting season. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shannon Secco)
When the turtles make their way on shore to dig their nests, they leave behind tracks called a beach crawl, shown more closely in the image above.The loggerhead sea turtle builds its nests on Tyndall’s beaches between May and October. Approximately 60 nests have been laid on Tyndall’s beach this nesting season. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shannon Secco)
by Airman 1st Class Christopher Reel
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
7/13/2012 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The morning light peaks over the horizon and dances on the early morning's waters. Waves crash on the beaches, slowly erasing the beach crawls, tracks made in the sand, from the expecting mothers that made their way to shore sometime in the middle of the night.
Around 5 a.m., the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron Natural Resources teams load up the Mule and four-wheelers onto trailers and haul them to Tyndall's NCO beach.
As the sun begins to stretch higher into the morning sky, members of the 325th CES Natural Resources teams, venture down Tyndall's beaches and begin scanning the 17-mile coastline for any signs that female sea turtles made it to shore to lay their eggs.
Sea turtle nesting season begins in May and continues through October. The first nest of this year was found May 15.
Loggerhead sea turtles reproduce every two to three years, laying three to six nests a summer with approximately 100 eggs per nest.
According to Wendy Jones, 325th CES Natural Resources wildlife biologist, the nests will hatch approximately 60 days after they were laid and the survey teams will keep watch to make sure the nests are doing okay.
"Every morning we search Tyndall's beaches looking for sea turtle tracks that would lead us to a new nest," she added.
They document the width and distance of beach crawls, beach location, and turtle species. It is then determined if the nest needs to be relocated. If the nest is too close to the water, the tides could wash out the nest.
Because the survival rate for turtle hatchlings is very low as they face many predators and threats on land and in the water, Natural Resources tries to increase the success rate of nest production.
"Natural Resources team members maintain dark, undisturbed beaches for sea turtles to lay their nests and cordon the nests off with posts and flagging tape and place a wire screen over the top of it to help keep natural predators out, such as coyotes or raccoons," said Jones. "It is important the teams go out daily and early in the morning because if the nest needs to be relocated it must be done before 9 a.m."
Our goal, explained Jones, is to only relocate the nest when absolutely necessary.
Natural Resources identified 60 nests on Tyndall's beaches; 13 of those nests were completely washed away during Tropical Storm Debby and 19 were washed over by water, but may still survive. The remaining nests are doing well, Jones said.
"Even though the nest numbers are significantly lower in this part of Florida, our sea turtles are very important to the biodiversity of the overall sea turtle population," she said.
If a sea turtle or a beach crawl is found on Tyndall's beaches, contact Natural Resources at (850) 283-2641, and for beaches off base contact the Florida Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404- FWCC (3922).