Photo Log: Island Turtle Team

Isle of Palms/Sullivans Island

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Nest #8 for Isle of Palms

May 25



A nice surprise for Bryan Stephens whose birthday is Saturday. This morning he and Allen Owens found Nest #8 at Mariner’s Walk in Wild Dunes. Laura Lovins and Holly Barron were also in patrol in that section. There were 119 eggs that were moved to a higher and safer location off the flat beach near that spot and still at Mariner’s Walk.




Two More Nests for the Turtle Team

May 24

Nest #4 for Sullivan's



Bob and Laurie Snyder found Nest #4 for Sullivan’s Island this morning. It was laid a few hundred yards SW of the Sand Dunes Club path where the erosion is extreme in some places with some steeply ‘scarped dunes. It was a good find because the tide had erased all but a couple of feet of the turtle’s tracks. The nest was laid close to the edge of the eroded dune in a very precarious spot. For this reason we moved the 126 eggs farther back away from the edge at that same location for a safer incubation. Sullivan’s sometimes doesn’t get its first nest until the first week of June. So this is a continuation of the early season start there.







Nest #7 for Isle of Palms



Another nest in the Wild Dunes area of the Isle of Palms was laid on the flat beach just north of 53rd Avenue this morning. It was discovered by Linda Thompson, Bev Miller, Cindy Keane and Aelecia Rideout along with there dogs Harbor and Morgan. There were 108 eggs in this one which were relocated to a place near the 56th Avenue path near Nest #5 from three days ago.












Nest #2 & #3 for Sullivan's Island

May 23

Nest # 2 at Station 20.......................................... Nest #3 at Station 15 




SULLIVAN’s ISLAND Nests #2 and #3: It’s unusual for Sullivan’s to get many nests in May, but there were two laid there last night which means it might be a bountiful year for our loggerheads in 2023. First Ginger Colvin, Tita Massie and Karen Bartlett reported tracks at the Sullivan’s Island Elementary School at Station 20. The outgoing tracks on the receding tide were much longer than the incoming ones which means she spent a while up in the dunes. But the really unusual thing about this nest was that there were NO TRACKS up in the dunes because the wind had completely erased them. We call this the “flying turtle” syndrome because it looks like she did not crawl on the ground to where the nest was laid. We were able to find a spot on the secondary dune line where there was a circular area of broken sea rocket plants because this turtle damaged, broke and buried the vegetation as she dug her nest and then covered it. We were able to locate the egg chamber and marked the nest where it was laid. We will find out how many eggs are in it when we do the inventory in late July.

The third Sullivan’s Island nest of the season was discovered by Diane Brumley and Joanne Staton near Station 15. There is no public access path there between the fort and Station 16. The beach is in really rough shape from erosion in most of that stretch, but this turtle managed to crawl back to an elevated dune to lay her eggs. Again, we felt that this spot was safe from anything but extreme storm erosion and so we marked the spot with a sign and a screen to keep coyotes away just like Nest #2. It might produce hatchlings at the same time as Nest #2.






Nest #6 for IOP

May 23



ISLE OF PALMS NEST #6:Janine Davis, Ann Thompson and Karen Novak were on patrol in Wild Dunes this morning when they found tracks at Seagrove, just north of the hotel at Grand Pavilion. This loggerhead laid 135 eggs which were moved out of the flood prone area to Beach Club Villas near the Wild Dunes Property Owners’ Beach House.






Nest #5 for IOP

May 21



ISLE OF PALMS NEST #5: On the Isle of Palms, again the extreme high tides showed us that Nest #5 found this morning by Gillian Ellis along with her father Richard and Todd Murphy, a new Turtle Team member, was also at the extreme high tide line and on the flat beach in this Wild Dunes section just north of the 56th Avenue beach access path. There were 131 eggs here that were relocated to the closest safe dune which was two doors south of the 56th Avenue path and screened for coyotes.







Nest #1 for Sullivan's Island

May 21



SULLIVAN’S ISLAND NEST #1: After two false crawls the first nest was laid on Sullivan’s Island last night. It was in the same section as yesterday’s false crawl, but the tracks were not the same measurement between rear flipper claw marks. Tracy Doyle, Alex Garcia and Joanne Lingerfelt were on patrol along with Alex’s friend Grace Johnston when they found long tracks between the paths for Station 16 and 17. Even though it was high on the flat beach, because of the extreme tides we are having and the wake of huge ships that pass by just offshore and flood the beach, it was also in a spot where the tide frequently comes when the moon is full or new. It was a small clutch of only 80 eggs in an oddly shaped body pit because the turtle crawled back over this field sign. We were visited by a new member of the SIPD named Monty who saw his first loggerhead tracks and eggs after stopping his patrol car. The eggs were moved to a slightly elevated dune close by at the Station 17 “Jungle Path” for incubation and it was screened for coyotes.






Nest #4 for IOP

May 20


This morning Liz Firestone discovered two sets of tracks, both measuring the same 21” diagonally. They were both at Beachwood East not far from Liz’s house. Linda Tucker was also out on patrol. One set was a false crawl almost exactly where yesterday’s false crawl was and the other led to a nest that contained 114 eggs. These were relocated off the flat beach onto a dune at Beach Club Villas just north of the Wild Dunes Property Owners’ Beach House.

Meanwhile on Sullivan’s Island, Paula Brady, Neil Hunt and Maureen McNichols discovered that a loggerhead had crawled ashore between Station 18 and the Sand Dunes Club where there is extreme erosion damage to the dunes. This poor turtle bumped up against the escarpment wall three different times trying to get up onto a suitable nesting site before giving up and going back to the ocean without laying eggs. This was False Crawl #2 for Sullivan’s. She could hardly have picked a worse spot to try to nest. We hope she will succeed next time.





Meanwhile on Sullivan's Island








Nest #3 for IOP

May 17


We had two sets of tracks this morning on the Isle of Palms. Michelle Blackstock found some near 27th Avenue where a loggerhead turned around without laying any eggs and went back to the ocean. And then Barbara Jervey reported more tracks just north of 45th Avenue. This turtle was still on the beach throwing sand after laying her eggs. Several large dogs starting bothering her in spite of Barbara’s attempts to keep them away as the turtle crawled back to the ocean. Her tracks matched the ones Michelle found, so it was possibly the same nesting female making both tracks. She did not get above the spring tide wrack line on this wide part of the beach to nest, so the 111 eggs were relocated farther south on the beach at 2204 Palm Blvd between 22nd and 23rd Avenues on a safe and suitable dune  



Counting eggs with a little help from a furry friend.



Nest #2 for IOP

May 15



Eggs were found and moved to Property Owners Beach House. Mary and Jo went straight to the Beach House to get the nest ready. 


The first Wild Dunes nest and Nest #2 for the Turtle Team was found this morning by Sue White, Kathy Guatteri and Rebecca Kaminski at 7 Dunecrest Lane. The turtle did not crawl up to the dune line and laid on the flat beach. From the track marks it appeared that she had a possibly problem with her left rear flipper which made digging difficult on that side resulting in an irregularity in the shape of the egg chamber she dug. However, she did lay a bumper crop of 142 eggs which were moved up onto a dune at Beach Club Villas north of the WD Property Owners Beach House for safe incubation.




"Shellabrate.....Shell Yeah!"


First Nest of Season for IOP

May 12



138 Eggs...Great Start to Season


A beautiful morning for the first nest of the season on the Isle of Palms. At dawn Sallie Campbell, Jeannie Yzquierdo, Joanne Robinson, Eileen Dulany and Helen Sullivan discovered tracks right at the 7th Avenue Path. There were 138 eggs laid and these were moved above the eroded dune line and out of the heavily travelled path to a dune very close by at 622 Ocean Blvd to incubate for a possible 138 tiny turtles to come out sometime in July.

Meanwhile on Sullivan’s Island Molly Shea also found short loggerhead tracks made before high tide just north of the Station 21 path. After extensive probing for eggs, we determined that this turtle went back to the ocean without laying any. Perhaps she will return tonight. The spot was marked with a plain stick showing that no eggs were found. But we can still confirm that by checking it at the time IOP Nest 1 produces hatchlings.





















2022 Nesting Season is over




Last Nest #42 on IOP Inventoried



Inventory of Nest #43 at 30th Avenue, our final one of the season, took place at dawn this morning after 75 days of incubation and no hatchlings emerging during that time. We found all of the eggs still in the nest with almost 25 percent of them containing embryos that died late in development from an unknown cause. This was a rather sad way to end the 2022 season which turned out to be strange in other ways as well, but occasionally this happens. Hatch and emergence success were both 0%.


Nest #42 on IOP Inventoried




What an odd week it’s been with hurricane Ian and then winterlike temperatures. Nest #42 incubated for 55 days and turtles were seen coming out of it on Saturday morning after Ian came through on Friday. Fortunately the wind was circulating around the storm and coming from the back of the island when high tide and storm surge happened this time just as it did last season with hurricane Isaias meaning there was very little erosion damage on the Isle of Palms and no nests were lost with only the last two remaining in the sand at 30th Avenue.


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It’s strange to have 50 degree weather overnight this early in October. These loggerheads are cold blooded reptiles, so their body temperatures are the same as the air around them. They do not function well when the temperature is in the 50’s. The turtles were slow and lethargic on the beach on Saturday but did better when they got to the water which is still warmer than the air. One was washed back near the pier after floating 16 blocks for hours and having to be rescued on the beach there. He is being warmed to be released again.


The nest did well. It only had 68 eggs laid since it was a late season August nest. We found only 5 undeveloped eggs and one live hatchling with 62 empty eggshells. Ann Evans and Terri Stafford released this one hatchling who spent a few minutes on a hand warmer in a small bucket to give him a better chance. Hatch Success was 91.1%.




Getting Ready for Hurricane Ian


After the inventory some of us went to 30th Avenue where the last two nests of the season were relocated on August 7. Here we put 4’ tall stakes up in the dunes 10’ from the egg chambers of Nests #42 and #43. We also removed the plastic screens and stakes at SCDNR’s request so they would not litter the beach or ocean if the tide takes them away. We are hoping that Friday’s storm surge will not come at the time of the over 8 foot high tide and that the dune there will not wash away. Those final two nests are very close to emergence.



Nest #41 Inventoried on IOP



Nest #41 at Beach Club Villas had hatchings come out Sunday night. It contained 93 eggs that were laid low on the beach at that location on August 2. Today we found 71 empty eggshells, 45 dead hatchlings and 7 live hatchlings still in the nest. Sue White released these to crawl to the water. The Firestone and Naylor children were happy to see the seven healthy ones crawl into the wind whipped ocean prior to the arrival of Hurricane Ian. It was a chilly and windy morning, and the water was warmer than the air, making it a better temperature for the little turtles. Hatch success was 76.3%, but only 20.4% made it out of the nest. We do not know why so many died in the nest after hatching.

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Nest #38 Inventoried on IOP



When we inventoried Nest #38 on the Isle of Palms this morning, we found 61 empty eggshells and 63 undeveloped eggs. Avery Firestone got permission to be late to her class at Sullivan's Island Elementary School in order to be at the inventory of this nest that she and her mother found on July 23rd at 56th Avenue near the hotel in Wild Dunes. There were no hatchlings left in the nest dead or alive. Hatch success was 48.8%. Because ghost crabs had preyed upon the hatchlings as they came out of this nest three nights ago, we put nine PVC pipe ghost crab traps around the two remaining nests that are at that location and still unhatched. We will remove traps when the time comes for those two final nests to hatch and hope to catch some of the crabs before that time. 


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Inventories of Nests #39 and #40 in Wild Dunes

Nest #39 incubated for 53 days. This morning we found 84 empty eggshells from turtles who made it to the ocean three days ago. There were also 37 eggs which failed to develop and two hatchlings who had just come out of their shells and were weak and not ready to make the migration. Because of our SCDNR Guidelines, they were reburied so they could gain their full strength before coming out of the nest. Hatch Success was 67.7%.

Nest #40 incubated for 53 days and produced turtles four days ago. This was a small clutch of 74 eggs. We found 70 empty eggshells and three undeveloped eggs. Sadly, there were also 36 dead hatchlings who had died from an unknown cause after hatching. For this reason Hatch Success was 94.5%, but Emergence Success was only 49.9%.  


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Nest #35 Inventoried


Just as we suspected, two of the 3 relocated egg hatched and turtles emerged and one did not develop in this nest that was depredated by coyotes when it was laid on July 14. Since only two of them were doing all the digging, it took 60 days for them to incubate and emerge even though the eggs were not buried as deeply as we would have done for a full clutch. For Because of this coyote damage, the hatch success was only 3.2 percent. 


Last Inventory for Sullivan's Island #13


Nest #13 on Sullivan's Island ended the season of nests on this island with a very strange inventory. This nest was found by Cyndy Ewing near the elementary school. We searched quite a way before finding a low dune that we thought was suitable to relocate the 102 eggs off the flat beach where the nest would have flooded many times. After 53 days, we saw an emergence crater despite the rainy weather. For the last week, the heavy rain along with flooding full moon high tides and strong wind pushing waves onshore has caused water to flood the beach on all sides of this low dune. We discovered multiple roots that had surrounded the eggs and trapped dozens of hatchlings in the nest. The ground water had risen into the bottom of the egg chamber apparently drowning 8 hatchlings. Each of the live hatchlings, who were energetic and needing to get out of this perilous situation, was carefully examined to make sure there were no signs that any of them would be lacking the full strength it would take to begin their ocean migration. They were released as they came out of the nest and swam away. Hatch success was 90.1%. Many thanks to all Sullivan's Island Turtle Team members who did so much hard work to make the nests there, including this final one, so successful.



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Two More Inventories on IOP Nest #36 and #37


Nest #36 was inventoried this morning after it boiled in the wee hours on Sept 9. It incubated for 56 days and 24 undeveloped eggs were found along with one dead hatchling and no live ones to release. Hatch success for the 96 eggs that were laid was 73.9

At Nest #37 we found that this loggerhead who climbed up on a nice dune at Jeff & Susan Jacob's house had laid a total of 95 eggs & the nest incubated for 53 days. Only 8 (plus our DNA sample egg) failed to develop. Hatch success was a very good 90.5%. We did not find any hatchlings left in this nest that produced turtles four nights ago. Many thanks to all of you who helped with the nests in this south end of the island this season. We are happy that they were all successful and we did not have any hurricanes to deal with even though we have passed the peak of the season !


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Two Inventories on IOP Nest #33 and #34


Two Inventories were performed at 36A this morning after we could not do them yesterday.

Nest #33 which was laid on July 11 had 5 undeveloped eggs and one live hatchling left in the nest for a 91.4% hatch success. The hatchling was released to crawl to the water by Aidan Griffin and Meagan Puryear from Denver, Colorado.

Nest #34 was found at Ocean Point in Wild Dunes the next day after Nest 33 on July 12 but was partially destroyed by coyotes the night it was laid. Clutch count was 105 but only 40 eggs were unbroken and relocated to this spot. We found that 22 of those had hatched and left the nest and 18 did not develop. This brought the hatch and emergence success down to 20.9%. There were no hatchlings left in the nest at the inventory.


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Two Inventories on Sullivan's Nest #11 and #12


After being rained out yesterday, we were able to inventory the two nests near the Sand Dunes Club on Sullivan's today. During the night the 8' high tide from the almost full moon and the strong east wind washed wrack onto Nest #11 that was close to the edge of the dune. But it was not damaged.

Nest #11 was laid on July 9 and it was decided to leave it where it was laid. We hoped that it was not a too precarious spot and it would survive. It incubated for a long 59 days before the turtles came out of it. We counted an even 100 empty eggshells and 25 undeveloped eggs. We also found one live hatchling who was apparently stuck on the wall of the nest chamber hole. This hatchling was released by Turtle Team member, Janet Kennedy and only had a few feet to crawl to the ocean since the tide was up almost to the nest. Hatch success was 79.3%.

Nest #12 was laid one day after #11 at Station 28 1/2 in a scarped and washed over area and needed relocation. So, 117 eggs were brought to a dune near Nest #11 to incubate which it did for 54 days. A large crab hole was found going into the egg chamber at the inventory, but fortunately the crab was gone. We found 7 undeveloped eggs and no hatchlings. Hatch success was 93.1% on this one.


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Inventory of Nest #32 on IOP Inventoried


Nest #32 which was laid at Seagrove in Wild Dunes and moved to the 30A path had NO undeveloped eggs when we did the inventory this morning. It was laid on July 8 when we found one broken egg deep in the clutch of 123 eggs. We used the broken one for our genetics sample and every one of the 122 remaining eggs developed and hatched successfully. We knew it was a good "boil" of turtles when we saw a beautiful sight of over a hundred tiny tracks there on Wednesday morning. It would have been 100% except for that one egg. Hatch Success was 99.1%


Although there were no hatchlings left in the nest to release, there was one left from Nest #27 nearby which was inventoried ten days ago and several hatchlings were found that were too immature to release at that time. When this happens, DNR Guidelines say to put them back in the nest and check after 5 days. But this turtle, who was just pipping out of its shell and had a curved over shell on August 24, was still there and still alive after twice that amount of time despite our checking on him 5 days ago. The other 4 were gone. It was released by Debbie Kurtz, Nicki Rambeau and Louise Martin who found today’s inventoried Nest #32.


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