Waties Island Nest Count

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

WISTMP Season 2021


We hope this message finds you all well and enjoying this warmer weather. I’ve heard from a number of you about volunteering this season and I do have some information to share.  This email will bring you up to date on the current status of the program along with some more detailed plans for how we plan to handle new volunteers as they join the program in the coming years.

Last year with the pandemic, only WISTMP Leads walked; no volunteers were allowed to participate at the direction of Coastal Carolina University (CCU).  At the end of last season, Dr Angelos Hannides, stepped down due to academic considerations. He asked if I would be willing to take over the responsibility for the WISTMP permit.  In order to do this, a CCU position had to be created.  This has been done, and I am now a CCU Affiliate under the supervision of Dr Paul Gayes.  I will now hold the WISTMP SCDNR permit for the 2021 sea turtle nesting season.

The start of nest monitoring is May 1st.  At this time, only the leads are going to walk since we are still governed by the directives from the SCDHEC, SCDNR, and CCU COVID guidelines.   As a group we discussed the possibility of allowing a limited number of volunteers to walk starting possibly in June or  July, depending on several factors:

(A)    CCU is currently in Phase 2 in their COVID response. Phase 2 has a particular restriction on Research and extension applications. The WISTMP team is in place for the four person limit, meaning only four people are to be on the island each morning.  This may be updated as things change. 

(B)    This decision will be based on the number of COVID cases at CCU which has more restrictive guidelines than the state of South Carolina.  If the COVID cases spike again, we will have to reevaluate this decision.  My main objective is keeping both the leads and volunteers healthy.

It is extremely important that anyone who wishes to volunteer fill out and submit the attached Volunteer Application.  Since all of the leads have been vaccinated, we are going to require all of our volunteers be vaccinated.  There are several other questions which will assist the leads in selecting the appropriate people to walk - short end vs long end.  

Since we are currently only allowed a team of four people, you may not be walking weekly.  Also, this year no visitors or family members are allowed on the island and there will be no public inventories.

Please fill out the application and submit it so we can begin to review them. Once we have decided to start bringing back volunteers, you will be contacted. 

Thank you,


Note: Not able to attach the Volunteer Application within the Blog - send an email to witurtles@gmail.gov and a copy will be sent to you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Summary of our Nesting Season

 December 1, 2020

Hi All - hoping you all are well and had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and now on to the Christmas holiday.

This year was a frustrating and challenging year for us.  Our challenges started when we were told only leads could walk, we dealt with not having our volunteers and students walk with us, King Tides, Hurricane Isasias which decimated the island, a new swash created at the upper end, and then the coyotes digging up our nests and taking advantage of an easy meal. 

Here's a summary of our Nesting Season 

- Our first nest was laid on 5/19/2020, the same as 2019

- 20 Nests Total -  17 In Situ, we had 2 PNs (Potential Nests) and 1 False Crawl which became nests - wonderful news

- 3 Relocated Nests

- Last Nest laid was on 8/5/2020 - the day after the passing of Hurricane Isasias 

- 11 False Crawls, last False Crawl was on 8/21/2020

Outcome of our Nests

- Inventoried - 6

- Lost to Hurricane Isasias - 7

- Unknown - 2 (these had evidence of hatching before the Hurricane hit, but we were unable to find the nests to do an inventory)

- Lost to Coyote Depredation - 5

We also dealt with issues from the Ghost Crabs - 52 eggs lost, but the Coyotes destroyed the entire nests they dug up  

We all are hoping for a better year in the coming 2021.  

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Thursday, October 8th, 2 Nest Inventories, and the end of the 2020 season

 Hi All - since it was going to be our last day, the LOAs went out together to the island for the first and last time this year - social distancing was practiced.

The first action was to dig and inventory Nest 16R, which was located right at the access road.  This nest was 70 days old today, it was laid on July 30th, we had not seen any evidence of hatching or emergence, and the nest was caged for protection.  Val and Bill started the digging and we were hoping for the best, but after much digging and others taking turns, it was decided to call time on this effort, so the nest will be logged as lost.  This was a relocated nest, so we know there were 92 eggs moved, but lost.

Our next action was to dig up and inventory Nest #18. This nest EMERGED on Monday, October 5th, and Barb reported lots of tracks.  This nest had been caged and various actions were taken to deter our canine friends on the beach.  Thank goodness some good news!  The inventory results were 73 hatched eggs, 15 unhatched, 0 dead hatchlings - AND - we had 8 live hatchlings!  This nest was laid right after Hurricane Isasias, August 3rd.  This nest was also deeper than we thought, and it had been washed over by the August King Tide. This nest had a 73% emergence rate.  We watched the little ones head out to sea, they were very determined.  Thank goodness for some good news!

We also picked up all poles, markers and cages, our season comes to an end.  What started out as a challenging season, with the COVID pandemic, only LOAs walking, the hurricane, loss of all poles and DNR signs marking our nests, the coyotes patrolling our beach and digging up our nests, we ended with a happy ending with Nest #18.  In total we had 20 nests, 2 which were first recorded as false crawls, only 6 emerged, 14 were considered lost and 11 False Crawls.

I am happy I was able to write some good news for a change.  We hope to see everyone next year, but only time will tell.  

Just in case you missed the news of the helicopter (actually an ultralight) crash on Waties, you can read about it - https://www.wbtw.com/news/grand-strand/helicopter-down-on-waites-island-in-horry-county/

May the Turtle Force be with you all 

Pictures compliments of Bill, Sharon, and Leslie

Good morning Waties, our last day across the causeway

Start the digging process for Nest #16R - Val and Bill

Smile Bill, oh no, the hole is getting deeper, on your belly time

We stopped digging, the hole was large and deep - disappointment for the team.

We started on digging and inventory of our last laid nest #18.  Sharon started the process, but all assisted.  

Yippee! Hatchlings found

Barb and Val handled the eggs and sorting, Leslie wrote down the stats

We took the bucket of hatchlings and watched them crawl into the ocean, they were slow but determined.

We have hatchling tracks in the wet sand.  Have not seen this sight for most of this season

Saying our Goodbyes and wishing them lots of luck

We were determined to find nest #16R, so we tried again before leaving, by the time we left it was a wide and deep hole.

The beauty of Waties

The end of the 2020 Nesting Season

Monday, October 5, 2020

Some Excellent News!

Our season is winding down now with only two nests remaining on the island. Nest 16R at the entrance has been stubborn showing no evidence of anything going on, even though it is 67 days old.

But some excellent news from this morning's patrol: Nest 18, which was laid the day after Hurricane Isaias wiped out several of our nests, emerged overnight! This is Day 61 for this nest. We got to see lots of hatchling tracks heading toward the ocean and apparently with no interference from the coyotes who have been patrolling the beach this summer.

Nest 18 emerged!

Headed for the big swim

Any more left in there??

Coyote prints on top of hatchling tracks - the coyote was too late

It was a rewarding morning out there.

A few other sights were also seen - a HUGE jellyfish which was about three feet across - a moon jelly with a bite out of it - and "Big Bird"  All in all, an interesting patrol today.

Barb and Steve

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday, September 27, 2020 - Nest 15R Lost, and than there are 2

 Today Nest 15R was 70 days old today, we have not seen any sign of hatching or emergence, so Sharon dug both at the DNR pole and in the ghost crab hole that was very close to the nest.  Again. nothing was found. There were 21 eggs buried in this nest on July 19. This nest is considered "Lost".  It was one of our relocated nests, there were 3 relocated nests this year.

The season is winding down, and we have 2 nests left.  Nest #16R, our last relocated nest, which is to the right of the beach access road.  It is 59 days old today.  Our last nest laid is Nest #18, laid right after Hurricane Isasias, it is 53 days old today.  It is located past Marker 3, very close to Marker 4.

We are really counting on these nests to do something - we really need some good news.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday 9/23/2020 - Nests 13 & 14

 Beautiful picturesque start to the morning over the marsh!

Leslie and I found Nests 13 & 14 on 7/15 which made them 70 days old today.  After Isaias we all used markers, poles and GPS to try and find them the best we could.  Most of the dunes were swept away.

So today we started with #13 and actually dug three different areas.  At the GPS pole, secondary pole and a ghost crab hole between the two.  

 #13 dug really deep, found nothing.

At #14 we went to blog checked out pictures of dunes again. Using GPS and pictures we started at
different ends and dug to the center -  GPS coordinates.  Again we found no signs of nest chamber.

Unfortunately both nests will be recorded as Lost Nests.

Even though we did not have a great outcome, our island  always finds a way to lift our spirits!
  As we were driving back
We are all hoping for a different out come with our remaining nests!!

Sharon & Leslie

Monday, September 21, 2020

Monday, September 21, 2020 for your viewing enjoyment

 Hi All - just some interesting pictures from this morning, Team Monday, Bill and Flossie Chapman.  Pictures are compliments from Bill.

Well, the ocean takes and ocean gives back.  Bill was able to notify us that our DNR sign for Nest #10 has been returned to us from the ocean.  It looks like it took a beating.

And Bill  has a picture of a nice buck on the beach.

Enjoy - Leslie

Hurricane Isaias took most of our DNR and poles, but the ocean has returned the DNR sign that marked Nest #10