Hi everyone! My name is Rusty Coonfield and here is my BLOG. That's short for "weblog" to you. Kind of like an online journal which may or may not include subjects like: how to use a Macintosh computer, cool and useful websites, new technologies, photos of outdoor pursuits and my family and friends. Please add you comments and have fun! -Rusty

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sea Turtle Dash

Wow! Last night Jennifer and I made a last minute run over to the Atlantic Coast after finding out that there was going to be a guided walk on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. The object of the tour… find a mama sea turtle building a nest and laying eggs!!

Jennifer found out at the end of the day that a couple of highly coveted spots on the reservation-only walk were going to be available. Problem was we only had 2 hours to get there! We managed to make the 70 mile drive in time and were rewarded with a spectacular evening.

Refuge manager for Archie Carr and Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuges, Joanna Taylor started off at 9pm with a presentation about the different types of sea turtles, the dangers they encounter and why Florida’s Atlantic coast is so important to them. Then, at about 9:45 the volunteer turtle scouts showed up with great news. A mama Loggerhead turtle had crawled up right in front of the boardwalk entrance to the beach! Having sited a Loggerhead as opposed to a Green, Leatherback, Hawksbille or other sea turtle was important as the Loggerhead is merely “threatened” and the only sea turtle NOT on the endangered species list and thus the only species we could legally observe nesting. We all piled into the cars and drove the mile or so to the parking area and because lights disturb the turtles the 15 or so of us carefully walked with no flashlights and no moon onto the beach. With a subdued red tinted flashlight we watched as the 200-300 pound mama Loggerhead had contractions and dropped 1-4 eggs at a time into the 24 inch pit she had meticulously dug. While we were watching the Loggerhead the dark shape of another sea turtle painstakingly made its way up the beach about 200 feet from us. We stayed quiet and still to avoid spooking her into a “false crawl” and not building her nest. After about 30 minutes of laying our Loggerhead covered up her 50-100 eggs and quickly beat feet toward the surf a mere 20 feet away. As we stood in the surf with stars overhead watching the hopeful mother head off to the mysteries of the deep it was dark enough to reveal bioluminescent micro-organisms that would light up like little sparkles as our feet disturbed the sand at the surf line.

If you want to see sea turtles at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge NOW is the season! May-July is when the nests are made and reservations for the walk are booked quickly. The next date that reservations are accepted by phone is June 15th. Reservations are taken starting at 8am and often all slots for the entire month are booked within 4 hours!!! Call 321-984-4852 to get your slot. Turtles lay their eggs only under the cover of darkness so no walks are available during the day. The presentation starts at 9pm and we were headed home by 11pm but often the walks will last until midnight or later because the staff is committed to you seeing these marvelous creatures.