And they are off.
The six-month sea turtle nesting season has begun on Boca Grande with the first nest identified Saturday by the Coastal Wildlife Club. No. 2 was laid on island Sunday.
"So our total now is two nests," said Norma Jean Zvosec of the Boca Grande CWC on Monday. "We have also had six new nests on Manasota Key."
Florida accounts for more than 90 percent of the loggerhead nesting in the United States with one of the two largest remaining nesting aggregations in the world. Loggerhead sea turtles nest worldwide but about 80 percent of the population is believed to nest on Florida beaches and Oman on the Arabian Peninsula.
About 3,000 people, mostly volunteers, help monitor 800 miles of Florida's nesting beaches. More than 140 volunteers monitor beaches ranging from South Venice to the Boca Grande Pass.
"Walking every morning, we identify and mark nests and, after hatching occurs, we record extensive data on each," said Wilma Katz of the Coastal Wildlife Club, which covers Boca Grande, Manasota Key and Little Gasparilla Island.
Katz encourages beachfront property owners to get in the habit of turning lights off and drawing heavy draperies during the six-month season. Artificial lights can draw hatchlings away from beach water.
She also encourages walking the family dog off the beach and on a leash.
Manasota Key and Gasparilla Island nesting season runs from May through August. Nests incubate 45 to 60 days.
The 2011 season surpassed 2009 totals by more than 600 nests even though Little Gasparilla Island had fewer nests this year. The 2011 total of 2,528 nests at Manasota, Gasparilla and Little Gasparilla fell 628 nests short of the record 1998 season's 3,156 nests - about 81 percent of the all-time best total.
All sea turtle species are considered threatened or endangered under state and federal laws with green turtles particularly rare.
To volunteer for the CVC, contact Grace Harvey at (941) 964-5642.