By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Pretty much everyone has heard the saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” Those five little words do so much to encapsulate the riot of spring and the new life it ushers in.
Flowers aren’t the only bright new things that appear during this time of year, however; it’s also when many animals reproduce. In the grassy medians that divide Queen Isabella Boulevard here in Port Isabel, male grackles the inky color of midnight can be seen strutting, beaks high, in their attempts to impress potential mates. Already, one family of sparrows has gotten a jump start on the larger birds as their nest of young can be heard hungrily chirping all day long just outside the PRESS and Parade offices.
Everywhere you look, the dance of life, of renewal, continues on to an implacable beat. That includes a special group of creatures that only call the Laguna Madre area home for brief intervals every year, but which are nonetheless driven to return here by instinct.
I’m talking about the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, of course. Kemp’s ridleys, an endangered species of sea turtle which once numbered in the many thousands, could be found nesting in droves along the shores of southern Texas and northern Mexico before they were nearly wiped to extinction.
Conservationists have worked hard to help grow the remaining population of turtles, which can still be seen nesting along South Padre Island beaches and the National Seashore as far north as Corpus Christi. The staff at Sea Turtle Inc. take special care every year to search for and collect eggs from nests, nurturing them in the safety of a corral until they hatch and can be released into the Gulf.
We’re in prime nesting season already. Nine nests had been found as of press time — some by volunteers, some by local law enforcement who alerted STI about mama turtle sightings. In fact, the first nest of the season was discovered on Earth Day!
Kemp’s ridley turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they come ashore to nest during the day, which can make them especially vulnerable not just to predators, but to inadvertent harm from human contact. They don’t know whether or not a particular patch of sand is a popular hang-out for sun worshipers; they’ve got more important things on their minds. As such, it’s up to us to make sure mama turtles and their nesting are kept safe.
So, how can we do that? If you’re taking your vehicle on the beach, drive slowly. Our beaches are considered state highways and have 25 mph speed limits, but turtles need extra consideration this time of year, so please go slow.
If you see a turtle on the beach, don’t approach it. The turtle won’t hurt you, but you just might frighten the mama-to-be. Instead, be sure to call Sea Turtle Inc. right away. They’ve got trained staff and volunteers who can ensure the mama’s safety, as well as that of all her eggs.
Sea Turtle Inc. can be reached 24 hours a day during nesting season by calling (956)761-4511. Let’s all help make this nesting season as successful as we can. And as always, be sure to visit us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.
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