Loggerhead turtles are finicky nesters. They only nest every two or three years. If the water is the wrong temperature, they won’t mate at all. Once preggers, they’ll travel hundreds of miles to come back to the same island or region where they themselves hatched and crawled into the surf. If they happen to run into a rock or limb while crawling up onto the beach, they’ll turn around without nesting.
So conditions must be five-star this year, because South Carolina shores are seeing some of their best nesting numbers in years. By the end of August, S.C. beaches could have 4,000 to 4,500 loggerhead nests, making it one of the best nesting years since 1980, according DuBose Griffin, the state’s sea turtle program coordinator.
Some experts suggest the declining number of shrimp boats might have something to do with it, according to an Associated Press report last week. But a decades-long trend of declining nesting numbers still has some suggesting that the loggerhead could move from its current status as threatened to the more severe endangered by early 2009.
The work at this point in the season largely turns to protecting hatchlings as they try to make their way to the surf. One nest can hold dozens of eggs, but survival rates are low because of natural predators and the difficulty of getting out of the nest and into the ocean.
Local beaches are also seeing record numbers of leatherback hatchlings. Folly, Bull, and Kiawah islands have all reported nests. The little leatherbacks are a first for folks monitoring Kiawah.