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Volunteers celebrating the end of sea turtle nesting season

READ MORE: Volunteers celebrating the end of sea turtle nesting season
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Along with celebrating Halloween Friday, volunteers in Topsail Beach are celebrating the official end to sea turtle nesting season. Though it was a successful year, with thousands of baby turtles hatching, officials said there is still a long way to go before they can be pulled off the endangered species list. Volunteers at the Topsail Beach Sea Turtle Hospital work tirelessly year-round to protect and nurse sea turtles to good health. They have seen their hard work pay off. This year's nesting season producing 89 nests on Topsail's beaches. This comes after a record low season last year, with only 55 nests. Nesting program director Terry Meyer, said, "You might have high years and you may have low years, but since 1999 we haven't had more than one hundred nests in a season. So while we are delighted to have 89 nests this season, its still below the averages for the 90’s." The 89 nests produced more than 6,000 hatchlings. The sad truth is that maybe only one or two will grow to reach full maturity. Meyer said pollution, dangerous fishing practices, and overall careless behavior by humans keeps these creatures on the endangered species list. "There's a lot to swim in and out of, between leaving our beaches at 2 ounces and returning here twenty years later at 350 pounds," added Meyer. Meyer said all they can do is continue to spread awareness about protecting sea turtles and hope the community will chip in. "We need them to not disturb the nests, we need them to report disturbed nests. We need them to keep their lights out at hatching time. So it's a constant process," she said. Volunteers said the storms we had last month also made it difficult for hatchlings to survive. A few nests were washed away due to heavy rainfall and winds.

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Hurricane Hanna and the Turtles

It was unusual to see as many young turtles remaining in the area as late as they did this year. I saw dozens of them, most between ten and eighteen inches. They were all over the marshes and tidal channels well into October, but the reason was obvious: Hurricane Hanna had steered millions of cannonball jellyfish back into the inlets and waterway. The turtles were staying a little later than normal to feast on the windfall. I was out again this past week and did not see even one. The Winter transition has already taken place in the marsh. The eagles and osprey are gone (except for one adult osprey that is STILL remaining in the exact same area, week after week) The cormorants have returned and first-year, brown herring gulls are here after being born up North. I haven't seen a skimmer or oystercatcher in weeks, but I do see small numbers of buffleheads starting to arrive. It seems that everything except the turtles left early this year. The dolphin are already a rare site, even though the water is still fairly warm. It will stay warm for another three weeks or so, then plummet rapidly into the fifties. Two months from now it will be in the mid- to high-forties and the water will be crystal clear because of the algae die-off. You'll be able to make out bottom details in twenty feet of water. The Summer-only boaters miss the best time of year to be out there.

I

know. The seasonals all praise the summer here but it is our late fall and winter season that make for the best beaches. The sunsets and sunrises are amazing and as you said the water is clearer. I love living here during the fall and winter, the summer not so much...