Two hawksbill sea turtle nests
are a first for the seashore
DNA results have confirmed that at least two sea turtle nests this
season belonged to a visitor rarely seen during the nesting season on
the Outer Banks -- hawksbill sea turtles.
One successfully hatched. It was located south of Ramp 55, the
southernmost turtle nest on Hatteras Island for the 2015 season. The
nest was laid in mid-July and hatched in early September. Park
biologists recorded 62 eggshells, 1 dead hatchling, and 31 unhatched
eggs during the nest excavation. The second hawksbill nest was
lost, washed out by the northeaster that occurred before Hurricane
Joaquin passed by offshore, impacting the Outer Banks with heavy surf
and severe shoreline erosion in early October.
The successfully hatched nest marks the northern-most nesting site on
this side of the Atlantic Ocean for the federally endangered hawksbill
sea turtle, as noted by the North Carolina state sea turtle biologist,
Matthew Godfrey, and park biologist, Randy Swilling. Hawksbill
sea turtles have been found in the waters off the North Carolina coast,
but a hawksbill nest has never been recorded on the seashore.
As of Sept. 23, park biologists have recorded 289 sea turtle nests – a
record breaking number for the Seashore. With Hurricane Joaquin
approaching at the beginning of October, staff hurried to document the
fewer than 14 sea turtle nests remaining on the beaches of the
seashore. After the impacts of the offshore storm subsided, one
nest out of the 14 remained on the beach south of Ramp 30.
Against all odds, this nest hatched on Oct. 16 and, when excavated
several days later, 83 eggshells, 3 live hatchlings, and 24 unhatched
eggs were found in the cavity resulting in a 74 percent emergence
success and 77 percent hatch success.