At least one mother turtle in the waters near Sanibel has a lovely sense of aesthetics. Her nest is in one of the most beautiful spots ever seen.


Nestled at the top of the beach between the sea grapes and the beach spiderlilies, this nest is the work of a master egg-layer, part of an unbroken chain of nest builders stretching to the time of the great dinosaurs.


Labeled “nest 21” by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), the information on the cart informs the beachgoer that this is a loggerhead nest (almost every nest on Sanibel will be from a loggerhead).


Baby loggerhead turtles grow under the sand for around 60 days. Under the sand, the turtles develop those traits – powerful flippers, salt excretion glands, even a compass in the nose – that will help them survive for 100 years or more – if they are very, very lucky. The sand temperature itself determines if this nest contains any future nest builders. Particularly warm sand will produce female turtles, future sculptors in sand. Cooler temps will brood male turtles, who may never touch the land again once they leave their birthing beach.


When those turtles emerge as hatchlings, all 110 or so of the siblings “boil out” of the nest at the same time. This is an adaptation to overwhelm the hatchlings’ many predators, which include ghost crabs, sea birds, and predatory fish. It is estimated that only 1 in 1000 will survive to adulthood, meaning for every baby turtle buried below this very sand, there’s still a chance.

Good luck, baby turtles! I hope some of you are as brilliant as your momma!

PS Here’s the sunrise this morning. Perfection!