Turtle Talk: Good News/Bad News

I have some very good news to share.

And those of you who have been keeping up with my morning turtle walking might even think you know what the news is. But you’d only be half right.

But let’s start at the beginning. A few months ago, I saw a post on FaceBook that a new group was forming here in South Walton called Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles. It was a group dedicated to turtle conservancy through education and awareness. They needed folks to man social media, create educational materials, and basically get the group going. I signed on to write a blog and even ended up being on the board of directors.

The existing turtle group in the county is called South Walton Turtle Watch. This group has been around for about 20 years. Their focus is on walking the beaches during turtle season in order to locate freshly dug nests. They mark off the nests and keep an eye on them until the hatchlings crawl to the Gulf. Our new group, Friends of SW Turtles, would act as a partner to Turtle Watch by educating locals and visitors to 30A about keeping turtles safe.

The two groups decided it would be great to have some overlap and communication, so a few of us from the Friends group signed up to be turtle walkers. We’d not only talk the talk, but we’d be walking the walk.

As I’ve said it previous blogs, I’ve always been fascinated with turtles of all kinds, and since moving to the beach about nine years ago, turtle walking was on my bucket list. My job prevented me from volunteering to walk, but this year I was available. I was so excited to finally be a turtle walker.

On an early morning in late April, Valerie from Turtle Watch met me on the beach at Rosemary to train me on what to look for.

Here’s where things get interesting.

My husband Dan came along for the training. We knew that I had a summer trip to visit family in Kentucky, so he was planning on filling in for me while I was gone. And he did. He and our son walked for me a couple of weeks in May. They didn’t find any nests, but they did see a turtle swimming near shore one morning. They sent me a video, and I was a tad jealous. Every time I had walked, the only turtle-like thing I’d seen was a sand sculpture of a sea turtle.

But now I’m back and have been dutifully walking on my appointed day. Dan and I even heeded an early-morning text to go see some fresh tracks so we would know exactly what we were looking for. He almost always walks with me, and we make it a fun morning exercise. We pick up trash on our return walk and sometimes grab coffee on the way home.

But let’s be perfectly clear on one thing:┬áMy husband thinks sea turtles are cool and all, but turtle walking was my dream. Got it?

So then this happened.

This past week, a dear friend of mine lost her son. Our whole group of friends was devastated by the news. The funeral was out of state…a 10-hour drive at least. Some of us really wanted to be there for her, but plans were made so quickly, we weren’t sure that we would be able to make it. But a friend of a friend offered up the use of a private jet. Several of us dropped what we were doing and hopped on that plane to hopefully lend some comfort. I had to be at the Destin airport early. On my day to turtle-walk.

Are you starting to see what’s coming?

My dear husband didn’t hesitate. He told me not to worry about it, that he’d gladly cover the turtle walk. He was planning on going on the walk with me anyway.

I was literally about to board the plane when I got his text:

Dan Turtle Tracks 2015

He’d found some tracks.

Let’s say that one more time: My husband had found some turtle tracks. That led to a turtle nest. Without me.

My initial reaction was sheer joy. Any nest found is one that’s safer than a nest not found. We mark off the nest and post signs so that vehicles and people avoid the nest. We can’t save the eggs from predators, but we keep an eye on them and be a watch dog. So I was thrilled that a mama turtle’s hard work would be protected.

Then it hit me. He’d found a nest without me. I was disappointed. Who wouldn’t be? But I was only disappointed for a moment. Dan is always willing to pitch in and help people out. He would do anything for me and do it with a smile. If anyone deserved to find a nest, it’s him. He’s been a great sport getting up at the crack of dawn to walk with me, and he’s actually walked a couple of times more than I have. I was helping out someone I care about, and so was he. So there really isn’t any bad news.

It’s all good.

And besides, nesting season isn’t over yet. There may be a nest in my future after all.

To be continued…

By Elaine Parrett

Click here for information on helping Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles.