By Mary Pringle for Island Eye News
Sometimes loggerheads come ashore and crawl around without laying any eggs. On the morning of July 7 there were tracks in Wild Dunes at Shipwatch, at Ocean Club Villas, at Ocean Point and at Dunecrest Lane. But none of them had the characteristic “body pit” where the turtle had made a wide disturbed area after she laid and disguised the spot where she made the egg chamber underground.
Then the next morning on July 8 there were tracks all again with the same measurement of approximately 20” between rear flipper claw marks at 57th Avenue, at Grand Pavilion, at Beachwood East and at Ocean Club Villas. We followed each set of tracks looking for the body pit and did not believe that this turtle did anything but these “false crawls” as the scientists call them. We were thinking that either this was a very particular turtle or that she did not like something about the area. They normally try to find an elevated spot, but there are none anywhere near the ocean in that newly renourished section.
But on August 17 a vacationing family had their children on the beach at Beachwood East. Two little girls were digging in the sand near a place where the surf had eroded or “scarped” a place on the edge of the beach causing about a one-foot vertical drop off.
They noticed some round white eggs that were exposed by the erosion. They did not know where to report this. However, there was a truck with officials from Coastal Science Engineering, the company who is monitoring the recent renourishment project in that area. They asked one of the workers where to report these eggs and he called the Isle of Palms City Administrator’s office.
We were asked to respond to what we thought might be new tracks and a new nest.
But when we arrived, we could see that instead it was an older nest that had been unearthed by tidal erosion near the edge of the water. The eggs did not appear to have been discolored or damaged by water. So we did what is known as an emergency relocation. Normally if relocation is required because of where a nest is, it is done the morning after the nest is laid while the eggs are still very fresh and the embryos have not begun to develop. But it was obvious that the surf would eventually destroy this nest if it was left there.
We carefully removed them and determined that 81 eggs were laid. Then we placed them on a suitable dune near the 51st Avenue Access Path in the Wild Dunes area to finish incubating.
That meant that in our records False Crawl #11 was renamed Nest #18 for the Isle of Palms and we are hoping that it will produce hatchlings.
Mary Pringle has been the Project Leader for the Isle of Palms/Sullivan’s Island Turtle Team since 2000. It is one of about thirty nest protection projects under the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. She is also on the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.