Despite the looming oil spill, last winter's cold spell and the constant threat of too-bright beachfront lighting, it seems that Clearwater's loggerhead sea turtle nests are doing a-okay — for now, at least.
Since May 23, staffers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium have discovered 43 turtle nests on public beaches.
"That's pretty normal," said Mike Anderson, the aquarium's supervisor of sea turtle nesting.
Honeymoon Island park manager Peter Krulder said rangers have found slightly fewer turtle nests on Egmont Key this year, and slightly more on Honeymoon Island.
As it turns out, though local wildlife suffered when the temperatures dipped below 40 degrees in January, loggerhead turtles off the coast of southwest Florida were largely unaffected, Anderson said.
His explanation: While green and hawksbill sea turtles bide their winters just off the coast of Tampa Bay beaches, loggerhead turtles spend the coldest months farther out to sea, in deeper waters.
The temperatures in those waters are much more consistent, he said, and resistant to temporary weather fluctuations.
That means that just as many loggerhead turtles as usual are now arriving on local beaches to plop their eggs in the sand. Their nesting season runs from May 1 to Oct. 31.
Still, residents living close to the surf need to remember to turn off their porch lights during egg-hatching season, Anderson said. The lights confuse baby turtles, who normally use the direction of the moonlight to find their way into the water.
"It's still a problem," Anderson said. "But we've seen a lot of improvement over the years."
Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224.