A nest inventory occurs three days after movement of sand outside the nest has occurred which is usually around 60 days from being laid. According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, nest incubation can vary due to sand temperature and weather. This year, there were more nests on Fripp than in recent years and the nests were laid earlier than usual. One of the nests we observed had hatched the night Hurricane Irene blew by which I thought was super cool! It meant the water was closer to the nest so the hatchlings had less space to travel to open water.
To take inventory, one patrol member digs (with his or her hands) down to the nest and pulls up any shells, unhatched eggs or hatchlings. As the head patrol person stated, "We know y'all want to see some cute little hatchlings, but we want to find empty eggs cause that means all eggs hatched and the hatchlings were strong and healthy enough to claw their own way out of the nest. If they are strong enough to do that, they have a better chance of making it in the open ocean."
So, while we wanted to see this:
Which was awesome (for the turtles)! 113 eggs in the clutch and 106 empty, hatched eggs! Only 7 undeveloped eggs. The patrol was pleased.
Here are some other photos from our experience:
If you are on the east coast during the late summer or early fall, we highly recommend contacting the local turtle patrol to find out when the next nest inventory will be. Go check out some nature for yourself, but never do it by yourself. If you see one of these signs, please leave the baby turtles to grow.