Many stuffy marine biologists would scoff at the term “starfish” because these animals aren’t fish. But, by any name, they are awesomely cool.
As the setting sun lowered a crimson veil over the horizon, I took a late afternoon stroll down to a favorite marsh overlook and was greeted by a loud, clear rattling call that sliced through the calmness of the approaching evening. A disturbed Kingfisher stared at me with obvious irritation, its magnificent crest feathers stood erect, resembling a Mohawk hair style spiked up with gel.
Everybody probably remembers the fable by Aesop about the tortoise and the hare. Well, what about the sea turtle and the hare! Just kidding, but we do have a type of hare that lives in our coastal waters, just not the kind of four legged hare that you are probably thinking of.
During my life living and working along the coast and spending time on the water I have learned that no species of animal brings more joy, reverence and awe than the magical bottlenose dolphin. They command your full attention and seem to make time fly and stand still at the same time.
As a kid growing up in coastal North Carolina I spent many a hot summers’ day out on the barrier islands hiking through the sandy dunes, body surfing the ocean waves and walking the moonlit beach looking for ghost crabs.
During my career as a park ranger with North Carolina state parks I often received crazy reports of unusual and exotic animals in or near the park. There have been accounts of mountain lions, wolves and even a kangaroo prowling around.
Gliding gracefully above the water searching for a meal, the black skimmer may be one of the most recognizable coastal birds in flight. With a strange oversized beak, stubby red legs and bulky body, the black skimmer appears out of balance and clumsy on land. In the air, however, the skimmer with long delicate pointed wings is elegance aloft as it skims just above the glassy waters of a tidal pool.
Beachcombers intently surveying a cluster of oceanic gifts that marks the reach of the last high tide sometimes find an eye staring back at them. This “eye” is the dark spot at the center of a shark eye sea shell.
Autumn cool fronts have erased the hazy, sticky humidity that clouds the air, leaving the sky as blue as the eye of a northern gannet. This nip in the air signals the common buckeye butterfly to begin its southern migration along the East Coast. These buckeyes are the latest broods of those that had migrated north for the summer.
Anyone who has walked through the open sand flats of a salt marsh has probably heard the scurrying of little feet as a carpet of sand fiddler crabs quickly parts like the Red Sea to avoid being crushed by intruding humans.
The brown pelican has long been the proud logo of the N.C. Coastal Federation. We chose this stately bird because it is a symbol of hope, a living reminder that our coastal natural resources can withstand serious challenges. The struggles of the brown pelican, which weathered threats that brought it to the brink of extinction, mirror the challenges that continue to threaten the resources of our coast.