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Sea turtles: Evening nest gives volunteers a rage glimpse of loggerhead

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

A loggerhead sea turtle that nested during the evening on the beach at DeBordieu provided a rare treat for volunteers with S.C. United Turtle Enthusiasts this week.

The group monitors nesting activity and records data for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Betsy Brabson, volunteer coordinator for DeBordieu and Hobcaw beaches, said she was alerted about the turtle at around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, when she got a call from DeBordieu Security. People on the beach had seen the turtle and reported it.

With her husband, Bill, she rushed over to the beach, worried a crowd would surround the turtle and perhaps inhibit her attempts to lay.

“Instead, we found a totally empty beach and the turtle already dropping her eggs,” Brabson said.

Sea turtles usually nest after dark or in the very early morning.

The last time the area had a daytime nester was last year at Litchfield by the Sea, when a turtle came ashore at about the same time, said Jeff McClary, head and co-founder of SCUTE. Before that, one was spotted at Hobcaw about three years ago.

“It’s a rare occurrence for us, just because we don’t get the numbers of nests that they do down south of here, around Hilton Head,” he said. “It’s a treat for everybody involved.”

Brabson agrees.

“It’s a real treat because we can take pictures,” she said. Flash photography shouldn’t be used around nesting sea turtles or hatchlings emerging from the nest — something else that usually takes place at night — so that normally makes picture taking pointless.

The turtle that nested on Wednesday was on the beach for more than an hour and laid her nest successfully, Brabson reported. Bill was able to measure her carapace and proclaimed her large and healthy, she added.

The turtle “made her way into the waves and came up for one last breath before disappearing into the deep.”

Susan Davis, a SCUTE volunteer who received her certification just last week, was given the honor of probing the nest and locating the egg chamber, as is done with every nest.

Volunteers had worked on what appeared to be a nest nearby earlier that morning, but couldn’t find any eggs and deemed it a “false crawl.” Bill Brabson and Kathi Aderholt wondered if the daytime nester was the same turtle responsible for the false crawl and braved the beach during the day because she was so desperate to nest.

Since nesting season started this month (the first nest was on May 5 and is the earliest on record), SCUTE has recorded 19 nests, 12 of which are at DeBordieu and Hobcaw. There were 22 nests at this time last year.

Four nests have been located in Garden City, two in Horry County and one at Huntington Beach State Park. No nests have yet been laid at any Litchfield beaches or Pawleys Island, which is unusual for this time in the season, McClary said.

“One thing I know from all my years working with turtles is they keep you guessing,” he said.

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