August 2015

Go On a Turtle Treasure Hunt

Cape San Blas, and Gulf County in general, is a huge hot spot for turtles – especially loggerheads. We are the highest density-nesting beach in North Florida. The area we patrol, St. Joseph Peninsula, goes from the St Joseph Peninsula State Park boundary (the Park has their own Turtle Patrol) down to the Stump Hole. It’s part of an aquatic preserve.” says Adventure Guide Jessica Swindall proudly. “This year we are up to almost 149 nests!”

We take a turtle walkabout every morning at sunrise. We look for signs of crawls. If we see a false crawl (tracks in the sand but no nest), we mark it. Or, we meet up as a team; then go mark nests we find together. Generally it takes about an hour or so. It’s a strenuous two miles. We try to keep moving because we don’t know what else we have to go out and mark.

But, we invite people to meet us and join us for the second half of our walk. It’s easier. We meet at a middle point and we drive to each new nest so visitors can watch and participate in the whole process. They help with paperwork and watch us with crawl and measuring. We walk people through why and what we are doing. It’s really fun and up close and personal.

This part of the walk is really about marking and protecting the nests. Nests just look like big disturbed area of sand. The mom’s do a good job of camouflaging their nests. We determine where the clutch is and dig just to the top egg. Once we find that, we measure the depth and then put a self-releasing screen on top for protection. We place posts and caution tape around the nest so people know to stay away. We number it and place a sign on it. We can continue to get new nests from May through early to mid Sept.

During the end of summer and later in the season this part of the walk is really exciting. We are looking for signs of hatching. Baby turtles emerge from nests at night. So, if we see signs, we record that. Most turtles have a 60-day incubation period so we know approximately when nests will hatch.

We only take about four people out at a time. One family or a few couples. Ten people is probably the max. It’s one on one. Not a huge group. So everyone can really get to see what’s going on. And, it’s a beautiful time in the morning.

Sign up for a turtle walkabout with Jessica and the SJP Turtle Patrol. It’s great exercise and the perfect “GCFL first” for you and your family!

Updated: Apr 13, 2017 12:05 pm

Published: Aug 11, 2015 2:45 pm

Jessica Swindall

Jessica Swindall Local since 2007

Volunteer Coordinator for the St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol, Jessica has a passion for the beautiful sea creature. She loves the relationship between people and the turtles as well and even started an ‘Adopt A Nest’ program!

Jessica Swindall loves your questions.
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Jessica Swindall - “In Gulf County we get lots of nesting Loggerhead turtles. On our 6-mile stretch, St. Joseph Peninsula, we average about 90 to 100 nests. This year we are almost up to 149 nests. It’s a record setting year!”
Go On a Turtle Treasure Hunt
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