Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Sea Turtle Hatchling Release

We went to New Mexico for the wedding of my baby sister.  After the wedding, we traveled with my parents and one of my sisters to North Padre Island, Texas.  My family enjoys vacationing there, but this was our first time joining them.  We had so much fun at the beach, fishing, enjoying the aquarium, etc. with Papa, Grandma, and Aunt R. 

On Thursday morning, we got up early and headed to the beach to watch a Sea Turtle Hatchling Release.  The National Park Rangers ask beach visitors to report any sea turtles observed laying eggs, and stand guard over the eggs until the rangers can arrive.  Then they gather the eggs and move them to an incubator to hatch in protection.  Once they hatch, they release them into the ocean, again under protection.

When we arrived, we saw a crowd of people gathered around.  It was hard to see at times, and hard to get pictures.  Here is Steve and some of the kids trying to see the turtles.

The park rangers had a net canopy held over the sea turtles to protect them from the sea gulls.  The sea gulls can't eat the baby turtles, but they will snatch them away, and either injure them by trying to eat them or by dropping them onto the parking lot.  They moved the net forward as the turtles progressed toward the ocean.  There were also several people documenting the turtles' progress on film.  Those of us in the crowd were asked to turn off our flashes, which might disorient the baby turtles.

I actually took this photo of the netting towards the end, when the turtles had thinned out.  They were releasing 245 baby turtles that were 1 day old -- from 3 different clutches of eggs.  At the beginning, most were grouped together like this. 

One park ranger had the job of moving the slow pokes forward, 6 inches at a time, so they didn't fall too far behind the pack.  She picked them up, one by one, to help them get closer to the ocean. 

Other rangers walked along the edges, pointing confused turtles back toward the ocean, keeping the crowd from pressing in, reminding us to turn off our flashes, answering questions, and showing a couple baby turtles to the crowd.  These turtles were Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles.

The turtles made their progress toward the ocean slowly.  They often crawled forward 6-12 inches, then paused to rest before making another surge forward.  It was slow but steady progress.  This next picture shows a few confused turtles facing the wrong direction.

Two of them took the lead early on, and moved ahead of the rest of the turtles.

Finally, the very first Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Hatchling reached the ocean on the morning of July 23, 2009.  The crowd cheered as the wave first touched him, and again as the next wave swept him out into the ocean.

The rangers said that the turtles would settle down amongst the sea weed and eat until they were larger.  In a year, they'll be as large as a dinner plate, about 10-12 inches across. 

This process got a little too boring for my 5 year old, who wandered off, but the rest of the children enjoyed watching the turtles and listening to the park rangers.

And finally, a picture of Steve and the children in front of the sunrise, to prove we were there.  Now I'll confess that I didn't want to get the kids up for this.  I wanted Steve to take a few of the older kids while I kept the younger ones in the trailer and let them sleep.  But, I'm glad Steve persisted and we were all able to see the baby sea turtles.

Take joy,


  1. Marine Corps NomadsJuly 28, 2009 at 3:49 PM

    We had the pleasure of watching sea turtles hatch and head out to sea once. It's something we'll never forgot. Unfortunately, we don't have the pictures to show it since we did forget the camera. lol!

    You got lots of great pictures!! :)


  2. I've never seen a sea turtle release, but think it would be very interesting to watch and would love to take my children to see something like that. I think the last time I was at Padre Island was in 2000. Time flies! I should go back and take the children one of these days. Hope you and all of your children had lots of fun! I'm glad you took photos to remember it.

  3. We are so blessed to live close to the Smokies and we go to the National Park often. We love things like this. I wished we lived closer to the ocean to see a turtle release. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    Tim Tinkel


  4. Thank you for sharing your beautiful experience with those of us who live no where near such an event and have no idea when we might observe it in person. This is truly beautiful and such an expression of how God's creatures know (for the most part) where to go and what to do. It is only us humans that mess it up. Thankfully, this program is in the interest of preserving and protecting. God is so good!

  5. April, that's so cool! You got some great pictures. :)


    Christy (TOS Crew)

  6. WOW-how beautiful and what a wonderful opportunity. I'd love to experience that. Holly

  7. We enjoyed looking at the pictures tonight.


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