2016 Sea Turtle Season Update
This season was a record-breaking sea turtle nesting season! Overall, there were 102 nests laid on Bald Head Island. This is the most nests BHI has seen in over 20 years. All nests this summer were Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nests. The nesting season stretched over 111 days, with the first nest being laid May 11th, and the last August 30th. The hatching season began on July 19th, and is not over yet! There are still two nests incubating on our beaches.
This summer, 43% of the nests laid on Bald Head Island were relocated. BHI Conservancy Sea Turtle Biologist and Sea Turtle Interns determined when relocations were necessary, and followed both Conservancy and NC state standards for ensuring the safety of the eggs during the relocation. Eighteen nests were relocated due their proximity to an eroding escarpment. Ten nests were laid precariously close to the tide line, while another fifteen were relocated due to being laid in a narrow stretch of beach known to be inundated at high tides.
This summer saw two large storms. Hurricane Hermine passed over Bald Head Island as a tropical storm over Labor Day weekend. Hurricane Matthew passed as a Category 1 hurricane on October 8th. Both storms had an associated storm surge that covered most of South Beach. Three nests were significantly washed over by Hermine, and did not hatch as a result. Matthew hit when only one nest was left on South Beach – we are still unsure of the impact of the storm on the remaining nest. Besides the three nests washed over by Hermine, three others did not hatch this summer due to unknown causes. Hurricane Matthew resulted in some sand loss on our beaches, which actually exposed a nest that had been missed during regular patrols. This nest appeared to have hatched.
Of the nests that have hatched so far (e.g. not including Nest #101), the average hatching success rate has been over 77%, which is above the last five-year average. Sixty of the inventoried nests had a hatching success rate over 80%, which is fantastic! So far, over 8,000 hatchlings have made it the ocean from our beaches this summer.
The BHI Conservancy would like to thank our Volunteer Nest Monitors for their countless hours dedicated to monitoring and protecting Bald Head Island’s nests and hatchlings. We would also like to thank the members of the community and visitors to the island for their interest and participation in our conservation efforts this summer!