A flatback hatchling on Far Beach. Picture: Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association.
A flatback hatchling on Far Beach. Picture: Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association.

TURTLE WATCH: Nesting season begins in Mackay

IN the next seven or so weeks, turtle hatchlings will take their first waddles towards the ocean on just about every beach across the Mackay region.

Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association spokeswoman Fay Griffin said this year's turtle laying would run until mid-January.

She said turtles returned to the same area every two to three years to lay three clutches of eggs at "roughly" two-weekly intervals with babies hatching about 50 days later depending on the weather.

A flatback turtle on a Mackay beach. Picture: Joely Whiting, Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association.
A flatback turtle on a Mackay beach. Picture: Joely Whiting, Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association.

"With the warmer weather, the eggs could hatch a few days earlier as in maybe 47 days.

"If it rains, they will take a little bit longer.

"If the sand gets too hot, also with the climate change, there has been occasions where some nests with sand have got too hot and the hatchlings have died in the egg.

"Once the nest hits 34 degrees, that can be fatal."

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Ms Griffin said temperatures also determined their sex, with cooler weather creating male turtles and warmer weather making females.

She said the hatchlings also faced other dangers like Mackay's 6m tides.

"If the tide goes over the eggs, because the egg is soft and pliable, the developing hatchling will drown," she said.

"Members of our group have a permit to relocate any nests that are in danger."

Flatback Turtle hatchlings on Far Beach. Picture: Joely Whiting, Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association.
Flatback Turtle hatchlings on Far Beach. Picture: Joely Whiting, Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association.

Ms Griffin said there were also risks from human intervention that could impact the egg chamber.

"With the windy weather, the sand is blowing and blows away any sign the nest is there," she said.

"If someone just happened to walk across a nest, that's not really going to impact too much.

"It was the motorbikes and the four-wheel-drives that we used to get on the beach that did all the damage."

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If the hatchlings make it through all those hazards, they then face bright lights dazzling them and turning them away from the moon.

Ms Griffin said this put them in danger of dehydrating before they made it to the sea.

"We'd like to ask people whose properties front on to the beaches, if they could keep their lights to a minimum during turtle nesting season," Ms Griffin said.

"If (people) do happen to see any hatchlings on the beach, they should not pick up those hatchlings and carry them down and put them in the water.

Fay Griffin from Mackay District Turtle Watching Association.
Fay Griffin from Mackay District Turtle Watching Association.

"That's the worst thing to do because hatchlings have to be allowed to cross the beach of their own accord so they get the magnetic imprint, especially for females, so they know where to come back to lay in 30 years time.

"If anybody does happen to see any nesting turtles on the beach, we would appreciate if they don't disturb the turtle and don't shine bright lights on her or make loud noises because the turtle is likely to turn around and head back to the water without laying her eggs."

Ms Griffin said people were welcome to contact her on 07 4954 9613.



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