Most people have never heard of a piece of water being called a “gut”. I first saw the term used when I visited Newfoundland in the early seventies. There I found places on the map like Famish Gut, Grand River Gut, Star Gut, and Turks Gut.
When we moved to North Carolina’s Southern Outer Banks in 2006, I was pleased to find out that the body of water behind our home was called Raymond’s Gut. I’ve never been able to find the name on a map search, but an old gentleman who was working on a detailed map of the White Oak River assured me that was the local name for the water feature at my doorstep.
According to Wikipedia a gat or a gut is a narrow passage of tidal water between two land masses. That describes the water behind our home perfectly. For our area it is a relatively deep body of tidal water that flows from the pine woods adjacent to the Croatan National Forest on the western side of Carteret County into the White Oak River at the northern edge of Hampton Bay.
Though our gut is only three or four feet deep, it is much deeper than the cove into which it flows. The cove because it is much wider and shallower has to be regularly dredged so that we can have a navigable channel out to the river. So far the tide has taken care of keeping the gut navigable for my skiff.
Living along Raymond’s Gut is a treat during the whole year, but it gets really special during the coldest parts of winter. We normally see our coldest temperatures in mid to late January through early February. As the weather chills the water in the marshes down by Swansboro, a lot of the big birds that live there most of the year come and hang around our gut.
It is such a regular occurrence that we can almost predict the weather by the type of visitors that we have. While we have regular big bird visits during the whole year, you can tell when the weather is turning really cold by the arrival of the pelicans. When the pelicans hang around all day, you know things are not very nice out in Bogue Sound.
Great blue herons are almost permanent residents. At least we usually have one or two fishing here even in the summer. I sometimes think juvenile great blue herons come here to learn how to fish. When the really big great blues show up, you know things are getting nasty in the outside world.
We also have a number of great egrets who pass through the area. You will see them in their favored hiding place when we have biting cold winds. Their spot is mostly sheltered from the wind, and if there are two or three great egrets in there, it is a good bet we won’t see any nice weather for a while.
Recently we have gone from the wonderful warmth of early January 2013 to what most of us call downright cold. A day when the high temperature does not break forty degrees is seriously cold weather on the Crystal Coast. Once in a while the gut gets icy or even snowy, but winter never lasts long and rarely gets very severe. The result is that we are pretty spoiled. Several hours below freezing can get us to grumbling about the weather.
A spell of really cold weather also causes problems in the gut behind our house as everyone shows up at once. An air traffic controller would have welcome the last twenty hours. I saw a pelican and a great egret going at it for a while. After they finally reached a somewhat tenuous peace, a great blue heron showed up to clear out any challengers to his territory.
About the only ones who seem to be able to laugh about the territory squabbles are the otters who would rather be nosy and wrestle than fight. Of course they have to eat their fill of fish before they get in that playful mood. As far as I can tell there are not enough fish in the gut to make a great blue heron playful.
Fortunately for all of us here on the coast, we are only a couple of weeks away from that time of year when the North Carolina sun takes charge of the weather. With some luck things will start to warm up and the big birds can once again spread out across Bogue Sound. For now we will enjoy them, and hope the big blue herons behave themselves.
At least we have not seen any serious ice on the gut like we did a couple of years ago. In 2011 the ice forced the great egrets and great blue herons into fighting over some spring fed ponds. It was pretty spectacular squabbling but I got some great pictures.