There is no autumn on the gulf coast, such as there is in other parts of the country—no chill in the October air, no crunch of the dry, falling leaves—but here I know it’s October by the disappearance of the many scattered, protective turtle egg cages. I’ve learned a number of things about sea turtles over the past months: that they will return to that beach where they were hatched; that most will weigh between 300 and 400 pounds; that their footprints coming up and down the beach look like someone had worn a too-large boot on each hand and each foot and then trudged up and back down the dune, away from the high tide mark; that the season runs from April to October and that there are usually between 50 and 100 eggs in a nest; that the hatched eggs look like deflated ping pong balls; that the primary predator is the armadillo; and finally, that the eggs don’t always hatch at night, but rather when the temperatures have cooled.
Here, the county employees carefully monitor the nests on a daily basis. They know when a nest has been dug, by the clear footprints of the mother turtle. They then construct a chicken wire cage sunk around and well below the surface of the sand in an area approximately 4 feet square. They know when hatching has occurred by a disturbance in the surface, and then they dig down into the nest to remove and count what’s left of the shells.
In keeping with a promise to introduce some books, readers might not have read, these are 3 of my favorites:
BEACH MUSIC by Pat Conroy (1995). This is also an old movie with Nick Nolte and Barbara Streisand. Largely set in South Carolina, it’s the story of a man coming to terms with his past. Sad, but beautifully written. It first introduced me to the protection of sea turtle nests.
GIFT FROM THE SEA by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1955). Using different seashells, the author traces stages in a woman’s life and the need for having time to oneself. The first edition had beautiful water color drawings. It is one of my favorites, and one I’ve shared with many.
THE SHELLSEEKERS by Rosamunde Pilcher (1987). This also has several movie versions where a woman looks back on her life from the present to WWII. Set in London and Cornwall.