In beautiful Guana State Park, we're having a banner year for turtle nests. As we see more news stories about turtle hatchlings being released in other locations than the Gulf of Mexico, including the northeast Florida coast, I find myself fascinated with the topic. Well, after all, who doesn't like to see pictures of what we like to think are rescued animal babies, being released into what we hope is safe habitat? In species like most of the sea turtles still extant, we know nature is doing its best to ensure survival against daunting odds, if for no other reason than the sheer number of eggs one female produces in a season. There are lots of nests every year, each with many dozens of eggs. The hatchlings face human encroachment, predators, artificial light, beach driving, inadvertent daytime hatching...so many obstacles that serve to prevent their reaching of the open ocean and relative safety.
And it's one of the very few things we can all feed good about in the wake of this incalculable disaster. Most realistic people probably realize that this will be with us long, long after the well is finally sealed and cleanup efforts solidly underway.
Okay, okay. Nevertheless, most years see 90-100 turtle nests along the beaches of Guana in northeast Florida. These are watched over by a tiny, dedicated army of volunteers who get up in darkest dawn to check the nests, to mark the new ones made during each long, starlit evening and report the status to the biologists who keep careful track. The biologists in turn mark the date of the nest, and know down to a pretty specific estimate, when the hatchlings are due to emerge. They monitor nest viability and do all they can to ensure the success of each clutch.
But except for extraordinary interventions like the ones the news channels are reporting occurring as a result of the oil spill, they can't affect the number of nests. The turtles labor up the beaches every summer season, and most summer seasons they produce roughly the same number of nests. But not this year. As I've discussed before, this year, there are nearly 200 nests along the Guana beaches. This Sunday Rodney and I were delighted to photograph N125, which is the 125th nest in the northern section of the state park's environs. I find this nothing short of magical, and wanted to share pictures of some of the labors of the turtles, who must find their way from the water to the safety of the high beaches near the protective dunes to lay their precious eggs. And of course I couldn't finish without including a closeup up of N125, for which we continue to root as though for the Braves or the Red Sox. Yay, sea turtles!