Green sea turtles nests are common in Florida but are rarely seen in Alabama.

Update on August 24th at 9:03am by Lisa Graham: "After all the hours of monitoring this nest closely, 89 babies managed to escape the nest on their own and make it approx. 200’ to the water. I’m guessing they emerged between the 1am and 3:45am checks when the 14 were found in the cage at 3:45am. They escaped from outside the cage either via a crab hole or dug out where we found the one hatchling escaping.  The hard rain erased any evidence of tracks. Thank goodness the moon was up to lead them in the right direction, the beach was raked and loungers were stacked (by our LOF Coastal Resources Night Crew) leaving less obstacles in their path!  The efforts of Phoenix and Brett Robinson to go dark was huge and the combination of it all let Nature do its thing!"

"Final egg count was 113, 105 to the water, 8 infertile. It was 20” to the top of the nest and 29” to the bottom!"

By John Mullen

August 21, 2019 - Orange Beach, AL - (OBA®) - On Aug. 21 around 3:45 a.m., the second green sea turtle nest ever laid in Alabama hatched as the first 15 hatchlings made it into the Gulf. Orange Beach Share the Beach Team Leader Lisa Graham said recent rains may have compacted the sand and making it difficult for the turtles to make it to the surface.

Volunteers aren’t sure how many eggs are in the nest because it didn’t have to be moved after it was laid. Green turtles average about 135 eggs to a nest. 

lisa grahamOn June 23, the big momma turtle caused quite a stir among Share the Beach volunteers when she went way up on the beach to the foot of the dunes to lay her clutch.

“We were thrilled,” Graham said.

It was far enough ashore that it wasn’t washed away in Hurricane Barry in mid-July like 72 of the 82 nests which were lost in the storm. The only other green sea turtle nest on Alabama beaches wasn’t so lucky.

“The last one that I knew of was in 2008 on Gulf State Park beach,” Orange Beach Team Leader Lisa Graham said. “One of our tropical storms destroyed it. We had another around the same time but it turned out to be infertile. There was one year when one came up in front of Lighthouse in Gulf Shores but it didn’t nest.”

Graham said the crawl of green sea turtles is unique from the more common loggerhead turtles that nest on Alabama beaches.

“If you look at it compared to a loggerhead, greens crawl with an even flipper mark,” Graham said. “They move simultaneously. Loggerheads crawl by alternating flippers. It’s so pretty and perfect. She’s also got a bigger tail drag in the middle and there’s little ridges. You can tell this is not our loggerheads.”

She was also a little bit more determined that the loggerheads as well.

“She knew what she was doing,” Graham said. “Our loggerheads have been nesting too close to the water. They stop because of the loungers or the lights or whatever. This one, she went 205 feet to the dunes. She actually went up into the dunes and turned around and came back out and nested right down in front of the dunes.”

There was evidence on the beach that someone was in the area while the turtle was crawling to nest and nesting. She also avoided several obstacles to carry out her mission, Graham said.

“When we got there, we saw fresh footprints all around and back behind her in the dunes,” Graham said. “Somebody had placed a log up there where she turned around and I don’t know if this person was trying to help her or harassing her. We just don’t know. We were thrilled we got a nest out of her because they could have very well scared her off the beach.

“She ran into the vendor’s white boxes on the way out and she started heading into a lounger but turned to avoid and got back to the water. She also hit a lounger when she came in and turned at the lounger and came it. She had obstacles and somebody was out there and she still nested.”

Graham said green sea turtles are also bigger than loggerheads by 100 to 150 pounds and can grow to as much as 450 pounds. The width of the crawl was 43 inches.

While they are rarely seen in Alabama, there is a thriving nesting population in Florida and they also nest in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, among other places around the globe from the Pacific islands, Hawaii and Oman in the Mideast.

“Nest numbers in Florida have ranged from 435 laid in 1993 to 13,225 in 2010, which likely represents over 5,000 females nesting in 2010,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.

Graham said she hopes another rare turtle sighting is in store for Share the Beach volunteers.

“The leatherbacks they are out in the Gulf and we don’t have any documented nests on our beach but they are getting a little closer,” she said. “They’ve been over in Panama City and Navarre and nested over there. I’d like to see a leatherback next.”