(North of Brisbane and near Bundaberg).
“Cut the glow to help the turtles go..” These were the signs posted at the centre and around the town. When turtles hatch they need to see the light of the horizon over the sea in order to swim off to their new lives. However, the glow from city lights often takes the tiny turtles in the wrong direction. During hatching season Feb-March, people are asked to cut down on the glow.
This was a Unique First Hand Experience
My wife, Trish, organized it as a surprise for me and I was NOT disappointed. We arrived at the centre in the company of enthusiastic adults and kids. We were arranged in groups and luckily Trish had not procrastinated and booked in advance. We were the first group called to follow the ranger onto a beach. We were there as darkness fell at around 7.30 p.m.
Where Are They?
This was a question asked by an impatient young boy who, like us all, just saw a mound of earth. “There is just one with part of her head sticking up?”
We all leaned forward and what looked like a small stone was evidently a head. These loggerhead turtles were taking their time.
“How do you know its a ‘she’? The boy asked. What we learned is that temperature in the first few hours of laying determines the sex and most of the hatchlings from this beach turn out to be females.
LOOK – I Can See Them!
This was a cry from not only our interested boy, but from many of the adults and children. Our enthusiastic little boy wanted to help the ranger get the turtles out, but she told him gently that Mother Nature was in charge and “she” knew what to do. The ranger took them out and handed them to a volunteer who put them in a net enclosure. She took the first few and between them, they let us hold a turtle in our hand. What an experience!
A loggerhead turtle is dark brown above, sometimes irregularly speckled with darker brown. The top of the head is dark brown, becoming pale on the sides with irregular darker blotches and white, cream or yellowish below. Hatchlings are rich reddish-brown above, dark blackish-brown below. The head of old adults is large. The shell is somewhat elongated and more or less heart-shaped with five costal scales on each side of the carapace (shell). Its head and body length can reach 1.5m
Habitat and Distribution
The loggerhead turtle has a worldwide distribution in coastal tropical and subtropical waters. In Australia, loggerheads occur in coral reefs, bays and estuaries in tropical and warm temperate waters off the coast of Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales.
Life History and Behaviour
Loggerhead turtles will travel vast distances from their nesting beaches. Females originally tagged near the south-east Queensland rookeries have been recaptured in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and other parts of Queensland. Loggerheads tagged in Western Australia have been recaptured in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Indonesia and Queensland.
In Queensland, loggerheads nest on the southern Great Barrier Reef and adjacent mainland coastal areas, including Bundaberg, Wreck Island, Erskine Island, Tryon Island, Wreck Rock beach and Pryce Cay. In south-eastern Queensland, mating starts about late October, reaching a peak in December. Nesting finishesin late February or early March. About 125 ping-pong ball sized, round parchment-shelled eggs are laid. Hatchlings emerge from the nests from late December until about April with most emerging from February to early March. In our viewing, 108 turtles hatched.
Diet: Loggerhead turtles are carnivorous, feeding mostly on shellfish, crabs, sea urchins and jellyfish. They appear to forage in deeper water