Loggerhead Turtle Hatchlings
Now this has to have been the highlight of my summer. Not only did I witness loggerhead turtle hatchlings making their first journey to the sea, but I actually managed to take some photos too.
The Nesting Beaches
Zakynthos has some of the few remaining loggerhead turtle nesting beaches in the Mediterranean. The main nesting beach on the island runs from Kalamaki to Lagana, and is roughly five kilometers of soft golden sand.
Unfortunately the beach is a bit of an eyesore at the Lagana end, with too many sunbeds all cramped together. However the sunbeds do have to be removed from the beach at night, so as not to obstruct any loggerhead turtles that come to the beach to lay her eggs. When a turtle walks into an obstacle she will return to the sea and abort her eggs. Which is a shame, considering loggerhead turtles are now threatened species.
Gerakas beach, Dafni beach and the beach on Marathonisi island are also nesting beaches and are patrolled by ‘turtle people’. If you have visions of people looking like turtles patrolling the beaches you will be disappointed. They are just ordinary people like you and me (I was gutted when I first saw them!). That confused person on the beach was probably me looking for a ‘turtle person’!
How I Managed To Get Photos
Getting down the beach early during hatching time does not ensure a sighting of a baby turtle. I’ve taken friends down at the crack of dawn, and not seen any. Most of the loggerhead turtle hatchlings make their journey to the sea undercover of the night.
The Lagana to Kalamaki beach is closed to the public from eight o’clock at night until around seven in the morning. And being an early bird I have often been down there as the sun is rising and have witnessed the loggerhead turtle hatchlings emerging from their nests before. But this is the first time I actually had my big girls camera on me! Tickled pink doesn’t begin to describe how I felt!
Promise You Won’t Tell And I’ll let you in on a secret…
Each and every time I have witnessed a baby turtle making it’s journey down the beach. I get a lump in my throat. It’s amazing to watch and something so natural, it really touches me. What can I say? Except I’m a soft arse?
I’ll Let The Photos Tell The Story
To see the loggerhead turtle hatchlings you must get down the beach early and even then it’s never guaranteed.
At one point I did think that this was going to be the only turtle we saw that morning.
Half way down the beach we came across this baby loggerhead trail. It’s little flippers had made the marks as it had dragged it’s way down the beach. So cute! Some of them have to drag themselves quite some distance.
As we got to the Kalamaki end of the beach we came across these turtle people shielding a loggerhead turtle hatchling from the sun. Taking photos is permitted, just as long as a flash isn’t used and you don’t obstruct the baby turtle in any way.
Baby turtles are so vulnerable and can easily die from the heat of the sun. In the end this turtle was going so off course that it had to be scooped up and placed near the waters edge. Only the turtle people are permitted to do this and it’s a decision not taken lightly. For the best chances of survival the hatchlings must make their own way to the sea, but things don’t always go to plan.
For something so tiny, getting into the sea is no easy task!
So near. Yet so far…
The little turtle got knocked off it’s flippers and sent a meter back up the beach, a meter must seem like a mile when you’re that small and tired. It seems like people were running to the turtles aid, they weren’t, they were actually jumping back and out of it’s way.
And There’s More…
Further down the beach this loggerhead turtle hatchling was at risk of baking in the heat of the morning sun. A beach bag made the perfect sun shield.
Getting too close to the hatchlings wasn’t allowed, so to get a closeup I zoomed in and then cropped the photo. The shot is not brilliant, but you can see more detail on the turtle. It’s positively prehistoric don’t you think?
As the sun rose higher in the sky, getting into the sea became a matter of survival for this turtle.
A cheer went up as this loggerhead turtle hatchling broke through the surf.
The journey isn’t over for this baby turtle. Very few loggerhead turtle hatchlings reach maturity. Many will fall foul to predators and many to the waste that is polluting our seas.
Maybe this turtle hatchling will return to lay its eggs twenty five years from now. Maybe it won’t. We’ll never know for sure, but I’d like to think that it will.
A Few Loggerhead Turtle Facts
I am no expert, however I have have learned a few facts.
- Loggerhead turtles will lay several clutches of eggs, spread out over several days. Each clutch will contain over one hundred eggs. Very few will survive.
- Mature females only lay eggs every two or three years.
- When she feels threatened the a female loggerhead will abort her eggs at sea rather than lay them on the beach.
- The temperature of the nest will determine the gender of the hatchlings; the hotter the sand over the nest, the more females will be produced. More female turtles means potentially more eggs in the future… So if you are asked to move to the front of the beach, there is a reason!
- Loggerhead turtle hatchlings use the night sky as a way of navigating there way into the sea after hatching. It is important they do this on their own, so they can find their way back to the same beach to lay their eggs (isn’t nature wonderful?).
- Most loggerhead turtles don’t reach maturity until they are in their twenties and some only when they reach their thirties!
- Loggerhead turtles always return to lay their eggs on the beach where they were hatched.
- Rubbish littering the seas and the loss of their natural laying habitat are two main reasons why the loggerhead turtle is now a threatened specie. I recently learned in a post by Rosie over at A Green And Rosie Life that it is estimated that the weight of plastic in the oceans is equal to 50% of the total weight of marine life. Now we all know that can’t be good! Together we can change that!
Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to see a loggerhead turtle or a hatchling?
© 2016, Debbie. All rights reserved.