Nature Note #204: Web Heads

If you're as tall as I am (6' 3" to be precise) then you have no doubt experienced the horror, dread, and inconvenience caused by a spider web as it wraps around your head and neck. Frantically, you pull at its sticky strands with growing concern that the web's creator is just a short leap from your neck. Nine times out of ten, you're lucky enough to rid yourself of the nefarious net. The other day, I could have sworn I felt the spider moving in a panicked pattern up and down my neck as I tried to free myself from its trap. Later, I thought that maybe it had bitten off more than it could chew. That, of course, was a silly thought, though. If it really wanted to eat me, it would have to be massive and if that were the case, we humans would have bigger problems fighting an army of 6 foot long Shelobs.

There are three web weavers on the island that are frequently encountered: the golden silk spider (Nephila clavipes), the black and yellow orb weaver (Argiope aurantia

Nature Note #203: Fiddlers on the Move

Few animals are as synonymous with the ocean than the crab, ranging in size from the monstrous king crab of Deadliest Catch fame to the minute hermit crab, a favorite childhood and classroom pet. The most enigmatic can be found in the salt marshes of Bogue Sound and is easily recognized by their diminutive size and asymmetrically large claw; the fiddler crab. Of the six species of fiddler crab that can be found along the Atlantic coast line, we have three species: the Atlantic sand fiddler (Uca pugilator), the Atlantic marsh fiddler (U. pugnax), and the red-jointed fiddler (U. minax).

Their name derives from the large claw of the males either in reference its overall size or due to their tendency to move it back and forth like a bow across the strings of the fiddle. In fact, their mating display involves the males waving their large claw back and forth in a bid to attract females.

Given my inexperience with identifying crabs, I would have to say that these little ones were either sand…

Nature Note #202: Fall Flight

As fall draws closer, migration is in full swing with birds, dragonflies, and butterflies traveling hundreds of miles to reach wintering grounds along the coast, towards the interior, or even further south towards Mexico and South America. At the Trinity Center, some of our most noticeable migrants are yellow-bellied sapsuckers, cloudless sulphur butterflies and, green darner dragonflies. Animal migration is triggered by several factors including seasonal changes, food availability, and reproductive needs. During this time of year, I keep my eyes peeled to look out for these incredible travelers, allowing me to catch a glimpse of an important event in Nature’s calendar.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) are common winter residents to the pine forests of coastal North Carolina. While their name is certainly creative, they don’t exactly suck sap. As a member of the woodpecker family, they use their sturdy, pointed bills to peck away at the tree bark to reach grubs and beetle…

Nature Note #201: Blue Cranes and Long Whites

There is a small pond on the Trinity Center property I walk past everyday and is exceptionally buggy. Even when you are covered head to toe with 25% DEET bug spray, it seems to have no effect. The other day, as I rounded a bend, something lifted off from the top of a gnarled cedar. A tall bird croaked with agitation, flying away on long wings and extending a snaking neck. The bird in question was a great blue heron (Ardea herodias), a charismatic and recognizable marsh bird that is familiar to most people. Despite their common presence around wetlands, ponds, and rivers, I have heard them mistaken for another tall marsh bird, and are sometimes called "blue cranes".

Bird misidentification isn't a new issue. Even as naturalists and budding ornithologists like John James Audubon and Alexander Wilson were traveling the country identifying the birds they could; even they used colloquial names to describe their appearance. The title of this post refers to two nicknames, one fo…

Nature Note #200: OBX

I want you to think of an island and what that means to you. Go on. Imagine an island. What do you see? I reckon the first thing that popped into your head was the stereotypical deserted island. A small plot, not too big, maybe about the size of a football pitch complete with palm trees, rolling dunes, and blue waters on all sides, as far as the eye can see. Or perhaps you thought of the jagged rocky outcrops of Ireland that Luke Skywalker was hanging out on in the latest Star Wars film. Those are some good examples. The island I'm living on for the year is a little different though.

Certainly it's in a warm climate with beautiful sparkling water surrounding it, but there is a lot more drama happening on the sand than one might suppose. The island I'll be living on for the year is called Bogue Banks and it is part of the barrier island chain known as the Outer Banks. This 200 mile chain of land runs from Currituck Banks in the north all the way south and east to Bogue Bank…

Nature Note #199: Birding on Bogue Inlet

It's amazing how spending a little time outside can revitalize your sense of well being. For me, nothing makes me happier than when I'm birding. Being able to spend time with birds is necessary for my well being as a human being, they speak to my very soul. That said, after spending a week on the Bogue Banks, I knew I needed to start finding hotspots to check out.

While the Outer Banks is a prime migratory stopover for shorebirds, getting there can be difficult especially if you haven't gotten a handle on the ferry schedule yet. For my purposes starting out, the closest and easiest to reach was the public beach access at Bogue Inlet in Emerald Isle, NC. Finding the beach access was easy enough, but finding adequate parking was trickier.

Like many towns with beachfront property, parking on the sides of roads is prohibited with limited opportunities to find free parking unless you are within proximity of a business district or public beach lot. Initially, the only lot I coul…

Nature Note #198: A Few Months On

Writing has always been a way for me to express what I see in the natural world and to focus things that many don't take the time to appreciate in their busy lives. The past couple of months have piled up without so much as a wink of information as to why I stopped writing. I'm not going to go into depth here, but I don't think that just saying "life happened" is a justified answer either.

Last night, I read a blog post by author and serial wanderer, Ken Ilgunas as he lamented not updating his blog and how his uncertainty made him feel inadequate about where his future lay. This experience spoke to me deeply as does all his writing. On the drive down to North Carolina, I listened to his first book, Walden on Wheels about his two and half year journey to become debt free after college during which he traveled across the country, working odd jobs and eventually living in a van for several semesters while in graduate school at Duke.

The past seven months have contai…