Lucky LUCY...or LARRY?
There are many pathways to the ocean. Mine was via car today. While driving along the beach to do my bird stewarding duties on Huguenot Beach I saw the Park Naturalist surrounded by a small group of folks intently watching as she excavated a turtle nest site. I had to stop and grab my camera just in case. This nest had hatched a few days prior. The Park Naturalist (Shelley) had dug up and excavated nearly all the 116 shell remnants when she felt one lone hatchling that had not made it out. Since it was near the bottom of the nest I called it Lucky Lucy, a baby Loggerhead Turtle.
Finding no more stragglers, we formed a protective ring around the lucky survivor while Shelley took it down to the oceans edge. Its little flippers and feet seemed anxious to head to sea. It paused a moment to imprint the beach in its little brain before taking the plunge. If Lucy is indeed a female, (it could turn out to be a “Larry” instead), maybe in about 35 years it will return to this same beach and hatch another generation. The sex of turtles is determined by the sand temperature. Hotter seasons produce more females, while cooler summers produce more males. It has been a hot summer indeed and probably most of the eggs hatched are female. Loggerheads are named for their huge head and powerful jaws used to eat a variety of crustaceans. In the Southeast US adult Loggerheads average about 250 lbs and grow to be about 36 inches long. Found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Tropic and Sub-Tropic Oceans, it is the most common turtle found in US coastal waters. The hatchlings head out to sea in search of “sargassum” (floating patches of weeds) and feed there until about 10 or 12 years old in this pelagic environment before returning to coastal areas to feed in the benthic zones of bays, rivers and coastal waters. They feed there for about another decade or two before maturing and making their first reproductive migration. A female will return to the beach where it was hatched to lay its eggs. Typical nest may contain up to 120 eggs. Eggs typically hatch in 50-70 days depending on the temperature. They mate (after maturing) about every 2-3 years and can live to be 50 years old or more.
Lucky Lucy's pathway to the ocean was lead by human hands. I said a prayer for this lucky survivor and hope someday it will indeed return to this beach. Without parents to protect it, life and survival are a daily challenge. If you had two parents that raised you with love, make sure you let them know how lucky you are! Blessings. Harry