The Seasonal Reversal

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A Winter View of Bogue Sound from the Emerald Isle Bridge

A Winter View of Bogue Sound from the Emerald Isle Bridge

There are many changes that we see as the seasons slide from one to another here on the coast in eastern North Carolina. The most noticeable going from fall to winter for residents near the the south facing beaches of Bogue Banks is that things get busier on the mainland and quieter over in Emerald Isle and the other beach towns.

While a trip to the grocery store in Emerald Isle the week of July 4, can try the patience of any resident, we often choose to buy our groceries in Emerald Isle during the winter because the grocery store there is about as peaceful as a modern supermarket can get.

The waters of the Intracoastal Waterway shown above also lose their summer traffic and get pretty quiet during the winter with only the odd boat headed south for the winter. You might find a handful of boats plying the marshes and inlets of the mainland in search of trout but not very many fishing in Bogue Inlet.

Even the weather takes part in the reversal. During most of the summer the beach is often cooler than the mainland. In the winter the beach is usually warmer than the mainland. That changes in the spring as the ocean water is slower to warm than the shallow marshes and rivers.

Each year as winter comes, we know that the egrets and herons that often spend much of the summer in the Bogue Sound marshes will seek refuge during the winter in our calmer inlets surrounded by trees which shelter them from the wind.

Area beaches become mostly deserted once the fisherman are gone for the winter season. There are usually a few hardy souls walking the edge of the surf but the number of people on the beach is nothing like it is even in November when the water is still warm. A lot walkers switch to the more sheltered trails at the Croatan National forest access on the mainland in Cedar Point.

In spite of the cooler weather, this is a nice time of year for residents. There is no traffic, no crowds, and there is plenty of room to wander without bumping into anyone. Even the area grocery store parking lots are safer. Most people would guess the absence of people is normal because winter weather is bound to be cold even on the coast.

While our coastal weather can be a riddle and deliver a few chilly nights, cold weather is actually not the rule here on the coast even in winter. Winter can still give us some warm days that lure us over to the beaches. It is not unusual even in January.

With some warm weather and not very many people, the Southern Outer Banks is a good place to escape holiday madness. Christmas of 2013 might be the perfect time considering the forecast which has the beach in the mid sixties and the mainland enjoying the mid seventies the last weekend before the holiday week. That is a much better forecast than the weather we got for Thanksgiving.

It does get very peaceful as the year draws to a close along the beautiful waters that surround our area. While people here do get into the holiday spirit, we are surrounded by so much wildness and natural beauty that it is hard to excited about a trip to the mall. Skipping the mall is made even easier because we actually have only a limited number of mall stores.

That is okay with me, I have spent many years trying to avoid malls. I would much rather be paddling my kayak than walking the sidewalks of a mall.

In the next few weeks I will be sending out our first Crystal Coast Newsletter, if you would enjoy reading a brief post about our area, please sign up below.  Your information will only be used for this monthly newsletter and will never be shared with anyone or used for any other purpose.

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Winter Visitors In The Marsh

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Great Egret fishing in their winter pond

One of our visiting great egrets fishing in their winter pond

We have enjoyed some almost summer days in December of 2013.  The temperatures have managed to be between 70F and 80F more than once.  However, the seasons move relentlessly even here on North Carolina’s stunningly beautiful Southern Outer Banks.  Winter even here, not far from the south facing beaches of Emerald Isle, cannot be put off forever.

On December 10, 2013, we awoke to a low temperature of 64F and watched the temperature rise once again to nearly 70F before noon.  By 2PM a front had passed through the area and a third of an inch of rain fell on the area in just a few minutes.  The skies cleared to a beautiful blue, but the temperature starting falling rapidly.  By 6PM we were down to 44F.

Cooling temperatures and winter winds bring back our marsh friends.   Many have been visiting since early December including our most famous great egret of all, Frank 29x.  While great egrets and great blue herons seem to be happy in the summer to drop by for a quick visit or low tide wading snack, when winter approaches I am never surprised when I get squawked at late at night by one of the egrets or herons who have decided to spend the night near our dock.  It is an unusual winter morning when we have no large shore birds behind our home.

Anyone who has been around the big birds will quickly tell you that great blue herons are not exactly the friendliest of neighbors.  They often see you before you see them and that almost always results in a harsh squawk as they get in the air to escape whatever evil we had planned for them.

Great egrets are much friendlier birds and often will almost ignore you once they have seen you several times. You rarely get a loud noise out of them and they are not nearly as territorial as great blue herons.  However, Frank 29x is little bit of an exception.  He is pretty territorial for a Canadian and has been know to rout great blue herons from his patch.

We can often watch the large marsh birds while we are sitting at our kitchen table.  Sometimes later in the winter our marsh becomes so busy that we need air traffic control.  We have had dozens of cormorants come to visit at one time.  The cormorants are often followed by a handful of pelicans and it is not unusual for a couple of kingfishers to add to the excitement by having a few dogfights over the gut.

If we are lucky we also get a few ducks to add into the mix.  We often have the tiny grebes but sometimes we get lucky and have some beautiful hooded mergansers.

While feathered friends are often the most visible, some of our most entertaining visitors are otters.  Last year a pair of otters graced our inlet for several weeks.  This year we have seen one otter so far.

Of course we have other birds from pileated and red-headed woodpeckers to bluebirds and cardinals with us most of the winter.  During our summer in December the birds have really been enjoying themselves and with their chatter it often sounds more like spring than winter.

We are fortunate that the marsh rarely freezes over.  Even when it does, the ice usually melts before noon.  The one time we had ice that lasted more than a day, I dropped my skiff in the water and turned it into an ice breaker.  After watching a great blue heron try to learn how to skate,  I thought it was the least that I could do.

With luck, the winter of 2013 will not last long, and we can get back to enjoying the water whenever we please instead of waiting for a really nice day.  In the meantime, we will enjoy the company of the big and little birds and hope the otters find their way back here to entertain us.  Life on the edges of the marsh is pretty neat as you can see from all the photos that you can reach from the linked post.

In the next few weeks I will be sending out our first Crystal Coast Newsletter, if you would enjoy reading a brief post about our area, please sign up below.  Your information will only be used for this monthly newsletter and will never be shared with anyone or used for any other purpose.

Sign-Up for monthly Crystal Coast Life Newsletter