After what seems like an interminable winter and lots of waiting, it appears spring is beginning to work its magic on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. It has been an unusual winter in an area that often scoffs at the ice, snow and cold.
The warmer temperatures and beautiful spring blue skies are welcome. Many of us who live here chose this area because blue skies and warm temperatures can be counted on most years.
It is not that we don’t get a little cold or nasty weather and some snow every three to five years, we just are not accustomed to weather like we have endured in January and February of 2014. After the third siege of nasty weather, most of our birds and fish disappeared.
As the weather has improved with the strengthening sun, the killifish, a favorite forage food of the great egrets has come back and in the first ten days of March I have even seen some mullet in our inlet which is called Raymond’s Gut.
When the food for the egrets and herons shows up, the big birds are not far behind. Most winters they stay all winter with us especially when it is stormy and cold out on the big marshes of Bogue Sound. Raymond’s Gut has enough pine forest in and around it that most days, a smart bird can find a spot that is sheltered from the wind. Great blue herons are especially tough birds and sometimes they just do not seem to care and will find a perch in a strong wind. Since we have our bait back, we have enjoyed recent visits by a great blue heron and a great egret as the first week in March draws to a close.
There are other signs of spring like daffodils in bloom and water that looks so blue and enticing that it is almost magical. The picture of the water in Bogue Sound at the top of the post is similar in its allure. We have a lot of beautiful water down here in the spring. Often we will have fog or mists hanging over the sounds and forests early in the morning this time of year.
As you can see from the post picture of Bogue Sound taken from the Emerald Isle Bridge, there is also not much traffic in the Intracoastal Waterway in early March. What more could you ask for? The air temperature has warmed and sometimes is well into the seventies. The blue sky and blue waters look hard to beat, but it is deceiving. Bogue Sound had a water temperature of 49F on the morning of March 9 when I snapped that picture. This time of year the fog usually is a good sign that the water is much cooler than the air.
Very cool water is a hazard for those of use who are desperate to get back in our skiffs and kayaks. Water that is below 50F is actually very dangerous if you fall into it. Reading some cold water facts can be very sobering. 60% of people drown in water that is 50F or less. Even scarier 66% of people drown less than 50 feet from shore. So while the water looks beautiful and the air feels warm, do not forget that the water is actually cold and dangerous for a few weeks in the spring.
Our early spring waters are very different than what we find around here in late spring or summer. Most of us with skiffs or kayaks hop in and out of the water all the time and think nothing of it. Sometimes well before late June or early July the water can be in the upper seventies or low eighties and the air temperature approaches or even exceeds ninety. When it is like that, a dip in the cool water is refreshing. When the water is 50F or lower, the water is not your friend. 50F water will put you in shock, not refresh you.
Many people think that because the air temperature is warm near their home that it will be warm out on the water. One of the things you learn quickly is that humans experience something pretty close to the water temperature when they are out on the water. That cool spring air that is close to the water has nothing to moderate it like some warm ground can do to the air near your home.
One of the quickest ways to prove this to yourself is go for a walk over on the beach in the spring time. I am always ever hopeful that I can wear shorts while hiking on the beach. I stay in them as long as I can in the fall and get in them as quickly as possible in the spring. However, it usually only takes one early spring trip over in shorts to remind me that it almost has to be hot in the spring for it to be comfortable in shorts on our beaches in spring. Actually you do not even have to go to the beach, walk near the marshes on an early spring day and you can feel the coolness of the water when you are close to it. It will be warm in the woods and much cooler by the water.
As the air temperatures warm inland, the cooler waters help greatly to moderate our temperatures as we head into early summer, but there are few weeks during early spring when you can be quite comfortable in shorts on the mainland and freeze in shorts over on the beach or on the water. It is the opposite of the seasonal reversal that we see in the fall when the beaches are warmer than the mainland.
Usually it sometime in April before I venture out in spring waters in my kayak but the date of that trip requires almost as much speculation as when we will see our first strawberries. We are used the weather being fickle on the coast. As the water warms and the winds subside, it is only a matter of time before we get out on the water. Not long after that we will look forward to beach walk weather when those of us who switch to shorts by April will be consistently rewarded with great beach walking weather.
You can read more posts about why we live on the Crystal Coast at this selection of older posts.
If you would like to see some pictures of the spectacular scenery in our area during warmer times, check out our just published $2.99 Kindle reader book, 100 Pictures, 1000 Words, A Crystal Coast Year. It is worth clicking on the link just to see the free sample of seven pictures. Kindle reader software works on just about every platform including iPads and iPhones.
We recently sent out our first newsletter of the season. We will be sending the next edition about the upcoming season on the Crystal Coast just after the middle after we have enjoyed the first outside festival of the season, Emerald Isle’s Saint Patrick’s Festival.
You can also get our comprehensive travel guide to the area. We will be publishing a free electronic update for people who buy the 2013 edition. There is no greater place to vacation with a family than North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks.
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