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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

NMB Nest #8---Hurricane Matthew

An unexpected surprise, NMB Nest #8, a late nest, last nest on NMB for the 2016 season was discovered by Jimmy, NMB Sanitation early morning of August 14th.  Mother was still on the beach between 5:30 and 6:30 AM.

Beautiful location, nest was left in situ or natural

Late season nest, emergence was expected sometime during the first or second week of Oct.  NMB STP Volunteers start watching this nest closely starting on Day 50 of incubation.  Slightly cooler nights and a wet August extended the incubation process.

  But mother nature has different plans,  Hurricane Mathew forms and starts coming up the coast from Florida.  Category 3 at times, other times a Cat one, hurricane was predicted to skirt the SC Coast before turning back to the south.  But this Hurricane had other ideas.  At around 11:00 a.m. EDT (15:00 UTC) on October 8, Matthew made landfall at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, near McClellanville, South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph (120 km/h).[27] This made Matthew the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States north of Florida in the month of October since Hurricane Hazel in 1954.   Traveling north,  hugging the coast, finally turning out to sea just north of Wilmington, NC.  NMB and this nest was in her direct path on day 56 of incubation.

Strong winds, blinding, pounding rain, a strong storm surge close to high tide all conspired against this nest.  Sunday morning, calm after the storm.  Nest is checked.  No traces of the nest left on the beach, dunes are eroded.  A pole marking the nest had been placed high in the dunes, the only evidence left of where this nest might be.   Cage, rope and poles protecting the egg cavity are gone.

Egg cavity is found and opened to confirm the nest.  Sadly, instead of eggs, hatchlings are found about 10 inches under the sand, packed together, all heads pointed up toward the top, all stopped in their tracks.  Decision is made to inventory the nest....Day 57........ no apparent emergence......

86 hatchlings are found, 85 are dead, drowned by the storm surge and water laying over the nest for a period of time....then a miracle, ONE LIVE HATCHLING is pulled out, strong and active, he is anxious to be on it's way.

Inventory Results:

Nest laid on August 14th

Hurricane over washed beach and nest on Oct 8, Day 56 of incubation

Egg Chamber is found and inventoried on Sunday, Oct 9th, no evidence of an emergence

94 eggs, 1 egg taken for DNA, 
93 eggs left in nest

7 Whole or unhatched egg shells, 

86 Hatched egg shells

1 live hatchling, 85 dead hatchlings, found half-way up egg chamber, 
drown as result of storm surge.

92.4% hatch success rate

1% hatchling emergence success rate

A sad end to a great nest, great location on the beach.....

Hurricanes are a natural event for sea turtles.  Storms are one of the reason sea turtles lay numerous nests in a season.   

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