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First nests mark start of sea turtle season

The first sea turtle nests were found on Redington Beach on Monday morning and at Fort De Soto on Tuesday, marking the beginning of this year's nesting season. Mike Anderson, the supervisor of the Marine Turtle Program at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, said the nests will be ready to hatch in about 50 days.

As always, Anderson and others concerned with turtles hope people keep all lighting to a minimum during nesting season as any lighting could distract the females and hatchlings from getting safely to the ocean.

"They see the moon and starlight reflecting off the water, and that's how they find their way to the water," Anderson said.

Artificial lighting can disorient turtles, making them vulnerable to raccoons and cars. People living on the beach are encouraged to keep their blinds closed at night, to use amber or red lights instead of white light and to keep lights low to the ground and off the beach.

"We have people on the beach trying to get the hatchlings to go the right way," Anderson said. "It's really cool to see, but it's kind of unfortunate that we have to be there to protect them."

Anderson and other members of the Marine Turtle Program comb the beach early each morning, looking for tracks and nests.