Turtle nesting is a little behind last year’s numbers in the 55 miles of coastline served by the South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (SCUTE), according to co-founder Jeff McClary.
Last year at this time there were 79 nests; this year there have been 59.
“It’s an average year,” McClary said. “I think we’ll end up with 100 nests. I’d like to see 125. Last year we had 205.
Overall there have been 1,696 nests recorded in South Carolina. Last year there were 4,027 nests during the entire season.
In May, there were 967 nests in the state; in May 2011 there were 656 nests.
“The rest of the state is going with great guns,” McClary said.
Nesting started early in the state. The first nest was found on April 30, which tied the earliest on record. Nesting started two weeks early in Florida and one week early in Georgia.
Propping up SCUTE’s numbers is the DeBordieu area, which also includes Hobcaw Barony and North Island.
“It’s going great,” said Betsy Brabson, who leads the SCUTE group there. “We’re a little bit ahead of last year. We’re very optimistic.”
The first DeBordieu nest was found on May 4, the earliest ever.
DeBordieu has had 17 nests, Hobcaw 19 and North Island 94.
Hobcaw and DeBordieu traditionally account for 30 to 40 percent of nests in SCUTE’s area.
“They like to come here and nest,” Brabson said.
“It’s a great habitat down there and the turtles are finding that,” McClary said.
There have also been two nests on Pawleys Island, two at Litchfield By the Sea, one in South Litchfield, and none in North Litchfield.
“South Litchfield took a beating in the astronomical high tide we had,” McClary said. “Pawleys Island too.”
“It’s unfortunate the rest of the SCUTE area is not getting as much nesting as they did last year,” Brabson said.
Garden City had four early nests and then none since.
Brabson said all the nests keep the volunteers who patrol the beaches looking for activity every morning around sunrise very happy.
“We just have some great volunteers,” she said. “The wonderful thing about nesting it keeps our volunteers interested. It’s very exciting to come out and see that crawl.”
Nest numbers should rise in the near future as peak nesting times are the last week of June and first week of July.
By Chris Sokoloski
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