Sunday, April 22, 2012
Flipping Crabs and Other Games Naturalists Play
Now that the Delaware Bay water temperature is approaching 60 degrees F. (it is 56.8 degrees as of 11:00 a.m. today at the Brandywine Shoal Light), Horseshoe Crabs are beginning to move into the shallows, and some spawning has already occurred, evidenced by excavated "nests" and upended crabs left after high tide.
Yesterday at low tide we walked from Norbury's Landing about a mile north along the bay, finding many upside down but still alive crabs. Many of these had broken or injured tails, as you might expect, since the tail is key in helping them right themselves after being tumbled. Gulls preyed on some, and we found a few with their blue blood pooling in the shell, while others lay dead and surrounded by pieces of gills and other innards picked away by the scavengers.
We made a project of flipping every crab right-side up along the way, a task easily done without bending over by using bare feet. Once flipped, those still strong enough immediately dug down into the wet sand to moisten their gills. A few even began the trek down the slope of the beach to the water. After "rescuing" well over 100, at least until the next tide, it was gratifying to look back down the beach and see the world rightside up, for once. Will it make a difference? Well, it did to the ones we flipped.
This morning I went back to the bay to take pictures, and found more good Samaritans on duty with the crabs left by last night's high tide.
Without much in the way of serious birding, I added a bunch of year birds the past few days, from a pair of Green Herons flying across the Garden State Parkway on the way to work (me, not them) to Ovenbirds which now seem to be singing from every wood, to "Eastern" Willet and Caspian Tern at Forsythe NWR and Short-billed Dowitcher on the Bay and a solitary Black Skimmer loafing on Nummy Island. The six Whimbrel at Shellbay Landing would have been year birds had it not been for the outrageous wintering bird we saw during the Cumberland Christmas Count on January 1. Yesterday while cycling I heard a Northern Parula at Cox Hall Creek WMA, and a Prairie Warbler down along the Cape May Canal, two more FOY's (First of Year).
A bit of foreshadowing: listen to Carolina Chickadees much? Ever notice how their songs vary? Ever notice where in southern NJ their songs vary? It's something I've become curious about. . . .
I like birds well enough, but nature paints too broad a brush not to look elsewhere. Witness:
How great would it be if reptiles were as viewable as birds? We are lucky, in NJ, by the way, to have a great state guide to reptiles and amphibians: Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of New Jersey, by Vicki Schwartz and David M. Golden. Highly recommended, as is the companion CD to frog vocalizations.
Posted by Don Freiday at 12:28 PM