Walton County's 10th Loggerhead Turtle nest of 2009 was found in Alys Beach yesterday at 5:15am by Charlie Reichman.
Charlie is the husband of Louise Reichman, who serves as Human Resources Coordinator for Alys Beach. The husband and wife team has volunteered their pre-sunrise mornings every year (for the past 5 years!) to help walk the beaches during the 6-month turtle season, in an effort to locate new nests before they can be destroyed by accidental foot traffic.
Nest #10 was found near Alys Beach's new Beach Green walkover.
Female Loggerheads dig their nests in the sand using their hind flippers, creating a pit for the eggs. Then, one-by-one she plops out her delicate-shelled, ping-pong ball-like eggs into the hole, before covering her nest over with sand.
Nests typically contain 85 to 100 eggs that hatch in about 60 days, although the time for a nest to hatch here is a little longer because of our beautiful white sand (the sun's heat bounces off the white sand and so the incubation period is longer).
When the hatchlings emerge from their nest (usually at night, when protection from predators is greater), the little guys instinctively dash for the Gulf waters, literally running for their lives. Once in the water, they swim for 24 hours straight out into the Gulf in an attempt to reach the sargassum weed that will provide food and protection. For the first few years, the young turtles seem to disappear, as they hide and feed among the sargassum weed.
When the turtles fully mature (after 25 years), they actually return to the very same beach where they were born, where the cycle of mating and laying eggs is repeated all over again.
Loggerheads are among the largest of the hard-shell turtles, with adults weighing 200 to 350 pounds. (In contrast, the average hatchling is only one and three-quarters inches long and weighs about four ounces.)
So far this year, a total of 12 sea turtle nests have been found and protected by a volunteer group known as South Walton Sea Turtle Watch. The turtle season began in May and continues through October.
Congratulations and many thanks to Charlie and Louise for their dedication to such a worthy cause, and a big beachy "Welcome!" to Alys Beach's newest 85 to 100 residents! We wish you all long and happy lives...