In our sea turtle world we refer to August as our “crossover” month; interns, hospital staff and sea turtles are all “crossing over” to another phase. Our summer interns are packing up to head out, and our regular hospital staff is heading back to work on a full-time basis. The interns did a great job with turtle care and helping with tours while we took our mornings off to recharge, so kudos to them. Summer just went by way too quickly.
On the island our Topsail Turtle Project volunteers are working double time. Mama turtles are still coming up to lay nests, 50 as of this writing, so the troops continue to patrol all 26 miles of the island every morning looking for those tractor-like flipper tracks. The nests laid early in the season are beginning to hatch, (four so far) and if it’s “your nest,” the one you found, you certainly want to work the night shift to be on hand for the climactic event! Mamas will continue to lay through the end of August, and the babes will continue to hatch until at least 60 days after the final nest on the island has been laid. We’re issuing a BOLO for any and all turtle activity to all our visitors and locals. There are always surprise nestings and hatchings no matter how vigilant we are so please continue to report any sea turtle activity (nestings, hatchings, strandings, and injuries) to Terry Meyer (910-470-2880,) Jean Beasley (910-470-2800) or the NC Standing Hotline at 252-241-7367. We will also pick up on our hospital line (910-329-0222) during regular hours.
With all the exciting sea turtle goings-on we’re constantly asked “when and where can I see a nest will hatch?” Our answer is always “we don’t know.” Only the hatchlings know. But if you are lucky enough to be on-hand during a hatch please pay close attention to the instructions that our Turtle Project volunteers are giving you. The survival of the species depends on your cooperation during this critical part of the long and dangerous journey these bitsy critters are about to undertake.
Our hospital continues to be a true destination spot with visitors from near and far, and we recently welcomed 150 international teachers for a morning of Sea Turtle 101. The K-12 teachers were housed at UNCW for 10 days while taking part in the Summer Institute program DEN – Discovery Educator Network. And they came dressed for the occasion; their T-shirt had a big sea turtle on the front of it. After a welcome by our director, Jean, our volunteers took them through the entire facility where they were able to see the inside (radiographs) and outside of our patients. We were warned during the introduction that these kind-looking educators might be “giving us the finger,” but that it would be a good finger that they twirled in the air when they really, really liked what they were seeing. Our staff got a lot of fingers that morning, and the program leader told us that it was the best excursion they had in their 13 years of doing the program. DEN is affiliated with Discovery Communications and The Discovery Channel who obviously have the capability to produce filmed and live programming. Stay tuned, literally, for any developments in that direction
We’re still on our summer tour schedule, open daily (except Wednesdays and Sundays) from Noon – 4 p.m. for the next month or so. In mid-September we go to our fall/winter schedule of two days a week. Attendance averages between 800 and 1,200 visitors a day so lines can be long at times. Bring umbrellas for shade and lots of water to stay hydrated. The tour takes about 30-40 minutes once inside the doors so plan your schedule accordingly. Hope to see you all soon – we speak fluent sea turtle at our house!
Karen Sota is the volunteer media coordinator for the Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach.