Monday, June 26, 2017

Sunrise bike ride yields surprising find!

During this morning's sunrise bike ride, Ralph and I came upon freshly made sea turtle tracks.  

Two roads diverged on a sandy beach... 

The tracks on the right were made when the female sea turtle came out of the ocean to lay her eggs.  The ones on the left, closer to where Ralph is standing next to our bikes, were made after she finished burying her eggs in the soft, dry sand and had headed back to the ocean.

Tracks made as mama turtle returned to the ocean

Below, you can see the slightly mounded area where the turtle laid her eggs and buried them before making her way back to the ocean.

I wonder how the eggs will fare...

The nest was about 20' south of nest #A32 about halfway between 27th Ave. and Hiles.

Nest #A32 marked and cordoned off by
volunteers from NSB turtle trackers

Shortly after Ralph and I began biking toward Hiles from 27th Ave., we passed a NSB turtle tracker truck. Volunteers from New Smyrna Beach Marine Turtle Conservancy patrol the beach every morning during sea turtle nesting season (May to October) to mark new nests and check the progress of existing spots where young turtles will hopefully emerge.

Photo credit: NSB Turtle Trackers

The truck we passed was on its way back from completing its morning route, which means the sea turtle must have come out of the water, laid her eggs and returned to the ocean after the volunteer's truck had passed that spot and just a few minutes before we got there. If we had only been a bit quicker at pedalling or if I hadn't stopped so often to take pictures of the sunrise Ralph and I might have seen mama turtle in action as she followed reproductive behavior as old as the ocean.

Photo credit: NSB Turtle Trackers

While her labor may be an instinctual effort, it is not without dangers. After laying about 100 eggs, a process that can take up to 2 hours, the buried eggs must avoid detection by a wide range of predators during their two-month underground incubation.  In addition to being disturbed by humans, turtle eggs are liable to be dug up and eaten by coyotes, raccoons, birds, dogs and ghost crabs.

A clutch of sea turtle eggs
Photo credit:

However, once eggs hatch, they have many more obstacles to overcome. They must then survive predation by birds, sea animals and human-made threats like fishing nets and garbage.

Although sea turtles can live 40 to 60 years, only one out of 1,000 eggs make it to adulthood. To improve the odds of having her offspring survive, each female sea turtle will lay between 3-5 nests during the nesting season.

Photo credit: Bill Curtsinger VIA National Geographic

Our was an almost-encounter that some might call a missed moment but that's not how I choose to see it. I was excited because we came closer this morning than we've ever come before to encountering a sea turtle on the beach and I know that one of these mornings on a sunrise bike ride, there's a very good chance our timing will be spot on.

I only hope the mama sea turtle timing is spot on as well.

One of these mornings, I'll capture a photo of the sunrise
shining on a sea turtle heading to or from the ocean


  1. Sherry, you are letting your journalistic chops get intertwined with your artistic photography skills - meaning you are educating folks in a way that is also emotionally engaging - what an idea....

  2. Look at all those turtles!! Beautiful picture