"What Time Do The Turtles Get Up?"

Marked sea turtle nests on Canaveral National Seashore, Titusville, FL (c) SML

Ten years ago, at the very feisty age of sixteen, I had driven to Florida from Delaware on a quest to relax and have adventures while on spring break. Easter fell late enough in my school district that a beautiful thing happened; my break lined up perfectly with the first full moon in April and the official start to sea turtle nesting season in the sunshine state. I schemed brilliantly to attempt to watch females crawl onshore and deposit their eggs by researching nesting site data and looking up laws on observation. On the strongest lunar night I planned to take a nap, wake up in the twilight hours, and look for titans on the beach.

There was just one problem: my alarm never rang. My grandfather, a lifelong waterfowl hunter and early riser, found me asleep on the couch in the morning and roughly awoke me laughing and asking one question: “What time do the turtles get up?” To this day he teases me with this lamentable remark. And to this day, whenever I’m planning expeditions and adventures, I think of my missed opportunity and remember to double and triple check my alarms and wake up calls.

Luckily I now live so close to turtle territory that managing to see females, brand-new hatchlings, and nests isn’t quite the logistical nightmare. Yesterday I spied the first nests of the season – likely loggerhead – on one of my favorite beaches in the refuge system off of Canaveral National Seashore. Many people celebrate the cycles of the seasons from winter to spring to summer in other areas of the country. In Florida, I’m excited by the turning of the tides from seasons of an entirely different flavor. From right whale calves and fire season, to sea turtle nests and monsoon-worthy afternoon thunderstorms. Lets hope the turtles turnout a good yield of nests and that hurricanes stay offshore long enough to preserve the ping-pong-shaped eggs beneath. (And for any Florida residents, remember, its okay to educate the tourists whose feet stray too close to those nest markers.)

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