More Than a Wee Bit Dangerous and Still a Whole Lotta Funny…

A few days ago I shared with you our close encounter with blue crabs in a tide pool.  Today, I had another close encounter, but with a much larger critter.

The marsh directly off the second boardwalk. This is where I go down into the marsh, sometimes in knee deep water, to look for critters for my program participants.

I had a fantastic group of kids from the Jasper County Boy’s and Girl’s Club out on the salt marsh at the Coastal Discovery Museum this morning.We talked about what critters live in the marsh, and which ones don’t, including frogs, snakes, and alligators, and how on the rare instance that an alligator is spotted in the marsh, it is because it is just passing through on its way elsewhere.

I did my usual tromping through the marsh off the second boardwalk to see what sort of critters I could scrounge up for the kiddos to inspect before we headed to the covered observation deck at the end the boardwalk. We had not been under the glorious shade of that deck for more than a few minutes before the children started shouting that there was an alligator in the marsh! I’m thinking surely not, they just have alligators on the brain, a common occurrence for children and tourists alike. But I’ll be darned if they weren’t right!

If you look right in the center of the photo, between the two sections of Spartina grass, you will see the head of the critter headed straight for us.

Yep, that’s right! An alligator in the salt marsh, mere feet from where I had been in the marsh myself just a few minutes before.

I told everyone that I was done with the marsh walking for the day, lol. Despite being a bit scary, the kids were so excited to see the gator that it made my day.

A Wee Bit Dangerous, a Whole Lotta Funny…

I recently spent the afternoon on a beach adventure with a friend, her daughter (also a friend), and her three girls. These girls have gone on a number of beach adventures with me and are growing up to be fine beach nerds, my protégés making Miss Mary so very proud.

We were walking alongside a series of deep tidal pools with the girls trailing behind when, hearing a bit of commotion, we turned around to see only the head of Protégé K sticking out of one of the pools. The first frightening thought for the three adults was that K had dropped into an exceptionally deep pool, but it was quickly obvious, with a huge sigh of relief, that she was just “swimming” in the pool.

We watched as her sisters, Protégés C and L were dancing around, cheering her on. But then the cheers and laughter became screams for her to get out. K  (and we) were momentarily confused, but then K was also screaming and running from the pool. We rushed forward, and peering into the water could see that the pool K had been swimming in, in fact, all of the tidal pools, were teeming with Blue Crabs, some of them VERY LARGE. K could have easily been the victim of the fierce claws of crabs just acting to defend themselves.

Once the hearts stopped racing, the laughter set in and we busied ourselves counting crabs and trying to scoop some up in our buckets for closer inspection. We even found what appeared to be a mating pair (the male was cradling the female). As the water settled and cleared in the pool K had been in, we saw that not only had she been swimming with Blue Crabs, but there was also unbeknownst to her, a fairly large Horseshoe Crab.

With the excitement done, when continued our adventures, and even catalogued a few new critters like Sea Pansies and a Sea Anemone different than what I have seen here before.

Now I have to share the VERY disappointing aspect of our day’s adventure- the TRASH. I always make it a habit to pick up trash while walking the beach, a habit the girls have also picked up (YaY!), and although some days I come back with more beach garbage than beach treasure, this day set a record for the amount collected, not a record we were happy to set.

I Knew Blue Crabs Were Fierce, but…

Pine Island in Hilton Head Plantation. This is the northeast corner of the island looking across the marsh to the sound. To my back was the mouth of Skull Creek.

I was walking the beach on Pine Island in Hilton Head Plantation this morning when I noticed a large Blue Crab just off shore. I stopped to look, because I always stop to check out the critters, and I could see that my friend was a female because of her lovely painted nails (claw tips). Next thing I knew a fin broke the surface and there was a small shark circling the lady crab. And this in water not much more than ankle deep- I know because I had stepped into the surf for a closer look. I thought she was a goner for sure…

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The Amazing Horseshoe Crab

These amazing creatures predate the dinosaurs by millions of years. Although we refer to them as “crabs,” they are not crustaceans, and are more closely related to spiders than crabs. Because Horseshoe Crabs live in protected coastal waters, all photos were taken along Port Royal Sound on the north end of the island.

Horseshoe Crabs spend most of their lives moving along the ocean floor like a small tank, eating whatever lay in their way- fish, shellfish, worms, dead and decaying matter, and even algae. These animals have five pairs of walking legs and, a pair in the front, and one pair of pusher legs in the back used for swimming. (Did you know that they swim upside-down?). They have external book gills (so named because they sorta, kinda look like the pages of a book) that are used for breathing, but also assist with swimming.

This video is of the crabs swimming in the pooled water around the jetty at the heel of the island. You’ll notice smaller males clinging to the backs of the larger females. For more about the spawning of the Horseshoe Crabs, visit my post from May 7, 2016.

Spawning at the jetty…

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A New Page!!

Photo courtesy of Jim Turner

The long promised page about our wonderful Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin is finally live. Just scroll over Critters in the top bar and they will be the first in the drop down menu. Did I touch on everything you wondered about dolphins? Please let me know in the comments what you think, but be kind.