BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Rare loggerhead sea turtles are busy digging nests and laying eggs on beaches in South Carolina and Georgia.

Wildlife officials in both states have reported finding dozens of nests since May 1, considered the unofficial start of the nesting season.

Loggerhead sea turtles, which grow to weigh as much as 375 pounds are protected under federal law as a threatened species.

Each spring and summer, female turtles crawl from the Atlantic ocean to lay their eggs on beaches from North Carolina to Florida. Wildlife officials and volunteers scout the beaches daily looking for new nests filled with eggs the size of ping-pong balls.

“During the day we’re checking any nests that are new,” Will Hicks, a research technician on Jekyll Island, Georgia, told The Brunswick News. “We’re protecting them with protective screens to keep out predators and putting a nesting sign that has general information for us as researchers to know what the nest is.”

In South Carolina, at least 47 loggerhead nests have been spotted. Roughly one-fourth were found in the Edisto Beach area.

So far, Georgia wildlife officials have reported more than 50 nests, with more than half found on federally protected Cumberland Island.

“We’re excited and optimistic for a great nesting season for sea turtles along our coast,” Michelle Pate, the state biologist who leads South Carolina’s sea turtle nesting program, said in a news release.

The sea turtles typically keep digging nests through August. Last year, there were more than 5,600 loggerhead nests recorded in South Carolina and nearly 2,500 in Georgia.