What a week!

Whew, our night crew is exhausted this morning after documenting and sampling FIVE nesting leatherback turtles last night!  That is the most that our night crew has documented in a single night so far this season.  Before we rehash our busiest night of the season, we want to fill you in on the last few nights on the beach…

After our hat trick of turtles on Sunday night, researchers were skunked on Monday and Tuesday nights and saw no turtles.  However, LMC biologists finally spotted a turtle early Thursday morning.  She was yet another new nester that had not been tagged before.  She nested near the Seminole Golf Club just after 3 am.  Researchers successfully sampled and documented this turtle, which was named “Brieanna.”

After a quiet few nights, researchers were surprised and excited to document turtle after turtle last night until all FIVE were documented!  The first four turtles that our researchers encountered were already tagged; three of them were documented on Juno Beach just 10 nights ago!  The last turtle to nest was a new nester.

The beach action began earlier than usual last night at around 10 pm when our first turtle of the night was spotted just south of LMC.  It was Waverley, a turtle that LMC biologists tagged for the first time early last week.  We were happy to see her again, still looking healthy!  Just minutes after our biologists spotted Waverley, they noticed another turtle-y object just about 100 yards down the beach.  It sure was a turtle: Electra.  Electra also nested just 10 nights ago on Juno, and she was just as big as we remembered!  The fun didn’t stop after midnight!  Researchers spotted Valencia at around 1:30 am, nesting near her previous nest from 10 nights ago on south Juno Beach.  Valencia and Electra nested just hours apart on the same night last week too!  The next turtle to nest was a tagged turtle that LMC researchers did not have a record of.  This turtle was likely tagged by another group, so LMC will reach out to collaborators in the hope of finding her history.  The last turtle of the night was a new nester that was not yet tagged.  She nested on north Juno Beach shortly after 3 am.  This turtle was smaller than most of the other turtles that our biologists have encountered so far this year; she was 145 cm in length.  The turtle was named “AbbyRae” and we hope she will come back to Juno to lay a few more nests this season.

It is exciting that our researchers are encountering more and more untagged leatherbacks each season.  It is possible that some of these turtles are “neophytes,” or first-time nesters, which would be great news for the local population!  Leatherback nesting numbers have been variable in the state of Florida for the last 20 years, but an increase in the number of new nesting females can be the start of an increase in the population.  Only time will tell, as nesting trends vary between seasons.  For now, how many more new nesters do you think we will see on Juno Beach this season?  Keep checking in with us as nesting season picks up to find out!