By Mary Pringle for Island Eye News
Turtle Team members rise at dawn seven days a week to look for the telltale two-foot wide tracks of nesting loggerheads. But in addition to these, we often come across some very strange and wondrous discoveries. Some of these have been:
• Portuguese Men of War and other jellyfish. The fourth week of May, Dan photographed a beautiful but deadly Portuguese Man of War in the edge of the surf as the sun rose at the 18th fairway of the Links Course in Wild Dunes. It made a beautiful photograph.
• Horseshoe Crabs spawning. From April until July large horseshoe crabs crawl above the high tide line at new and full moons to spawn. Sometimes they get stranded far from the water and are put back in by caring team members.
• Manatees. In 2016, Kristen Ayers spotted “Goose” an adult male manatee in Dewees Inlet. He was pulling a white buoy that was tracking his route so scientists could follow his travels around our area.
• Stranded turtles and marine mammals. Unfortunately we also find dead or injured sea turtles, which are usually loggerheads, green turtles, Kemps Ridleys or more rarely, leatherbacks. We do stranding reports on the dead ones and have them buried. We transport the live ones to the SC Aquarium. With dolphins or an occasional small whale, we call NOAA and scientists from the Hollings Marine Lab will come and take them to James Island for necropsies.
• Bird Eggs. With the recent king tides, we’ve been getting calls of turtle eggs washing up on the beach. These were brown speckled shorebird eggs, often from laughing gull or pelican nests that have washed away when rookeries such as nearby Crab Bank have been flooded. They are not viable and cannot be saved. Sea turtle eggs are pure white and round, looking like ping pong balls. They are buried about 1-2 feet under the sand, so it would take quite a storm tide to unearth them.
• Money and Cell Phones. Many Turtle Team members have found cash, wallets and cell phones. If their owners can be identified, these are turned in to the police department who track down the owners. However, a $20 bill blowing down the beach is certainly fair game. What a reward for getting up at dawn.
• Clothing. It appears that many romantic trysts occur on our beaches after dark. One turtle nest near 51st Avenue a few years ago actually contained a buried pair of pink lace panties, oh my! And on May 27 this year there was a nice pair of high heels near 3rd Avenue that fit Christel Cothran perfectly. There was also a pair of shorts, but no one wanted to try them on…
And of course we are always indebted to team members who regularly carry large bags and pick up many pounds of litter. It does seem that people would know not to do this. You just never know what is going to be left on the beach at dawn.