Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch, Inc
P.O. Box 566
Fernandina Beach, FL  32035
The Year of the Leatherback
On June 1, 2012, AISTW was blessed enough to witness a nesting leatherback.  This is the 6th time a leatherback has visited our island this season.  
In the first stage of nesting, she uses her rear flippers to dig a cavity that will house her treasured clutch for the next 50 days. 
In stage two, she begins to deposit her eggs into the cavity she just dug.  Leatherback eggs are about the size of tennis balls.  Interspersed with her viable eggs, she will drop smaller eggs that are calcium deposits that will serve a spacers during incubation.  
In stage three, she will begin to replace the sand she took out when digging the cavity.  Methodically, she will pull the sand back into the cavity and begin to cover the eggs.  Using alternate strokes with her rear flippers, the turtle will cover the eggs with sand and firmly pack it on top of the eggs.  This creates a sealed cavity with just enough oxygen for the necessary gas exchange to enable the eggs to develop.
Camouflaging the nest occurs in stage four.  Once the eggs are covered, the turtle will begin a ritualistic behavior that will disguise the nest from predators.  With the front flippers, she will spray sand behind her, moving forward off of the original nest site.  This behavior will send sand flying in all directions and accumulate more sand on top of the nest. 
Once the turtle has completed her camouflaging, in the final stage five,she will crawl off of the nest and head to the sea.  She will not return until it is time to lay her next clutch of eggs.
The leatherback crawl is is unique. Not only does it measure over 6 feet in width, it also has a wavy, zig zag characteristic.

Above photo by Len Kreger.

Early morning green turtle nests on Amelia Island.


Early morning green turtle leaves her nest.

Green turtle photos above taken my Carol Condit

Tagged nesting turtle identified

 

A nesting loggerhead was observed to have a flipper tag.  TTR403 was seen nesting at about 4:00 AM on June 26.  We checked with the Archie Carr tagging database and found that TTR403 was tagged in 2006 on Little Cumberland Island while she was nesting.  No one has seen her since.  The database workers were glad to know she is still alive and well and successfully nesting on Amelia Island four years later.



Leatherback crawl
Leatherback nest site.  She crawled out over her nest.
Leatherback egg.  About the size of a tennis ball.
Incoming track.  Looks like "her water broke!"
Leatherback eggs.