Saturday, September 22, 2012

Paddling Through the Marsh

Sometimes, if there aren't too many people around, you can see nice birds while walking down the beach near your hotel. Myrtle Beach definitely has too many people, and too few birds, except for the beach pigeons, of course. So we like to go to the marshes and walk down a boardwalk at low tide, watching the birds hunt in the mudflats.

This trip, we went kayaking on the marsh at Murrel's Inlet, with a  guide who was very knowledgable about both kayaking and the wildlife at the marsh. One other couple joined us, and the woman turned out to the the sister of one of Dick's high school classmates! We have always said that Louisville is the biggest little town in the world! The tide was low, but rising, as we paddled off. Before long, I began to develop blisters from fighting the incoming tide, but Paul said I could just put my thumbs on top of the paddle, and no more problems. The water was quite shallow, and in a few minutes Paul, the guide, stepped right out of his kayak into the water. Reaching down, he came up with a huge horseshoe crab female and a smaller one hanging on to her back! That long stinger looking thing on the back is actually used to right herself if she gets upturned. He put her back in the water upside down, and we saw her turn over with little effort.

Several kinds of terns came to check us out, but since we had no food for them, they soared over the inlet in search of their own lunch. This Caspian Tern is recognizable by the large bright red-orange bill. They make a peeping noise, rather than the rough calls of gulls.

I love the Black Skimmers and their truly peculiar looking bills. The bottom half is longer than the top half. Someday I'll get lucky and actually see them skimming the water's surface with these bills.

It's a pleasure just watching them fly in any case.

We paddled out to the jetty, and dragged our boats up onto the sandbar so they wouldn't float away as the tide came in. The jetty is made of large hunks of granite, and paved with asphalt, which makes it easy to walk on. It can only be reached by boat or by walking over a mile down the beach at Huntington Beach State Park. We saw dolphins there last week, and sure enough, a few were lazily swimming in the same place, ignoring the school of menhaden.

On the way back, Paul spotted a Black Bellied Plover that still had its black belly, the first I've ever seen with this plummage. They are much easier to identify in this state, because otherwise you have to look for their black armpits when they fly.

The trip back to our cars was pretty easy since we were going with the current this time, and the water was much higher. As we approached the parking lot, I thought it must be an optical illusion that made my car look like it was surrounded by water. The closer we got, though, the more I saw that my car really was surrounded by the high tide! Luckily, hard packed shells served as pavement, and with Paul's directions, I back out of the water and got back on the road. Those guys with pickup trucks wouldn't have thought twice about it, but my Prius rides pretty low to the ground, or the water in this instance!

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