Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spring At Last

Sleeping Laughing Gulls. Courtesy TMP.
Several hundred seagulls invaded the marina and surrounding creek water a couple days ago reminding me of the classic Hitchcock horror film, The Birds. Unusual for our part of this southern waterway was the homogeneity of the flocks and rafts of washing and preening gulls. All were Laughing Gulls with black heads and high-pitched nasal cackling derisive "laughter." 

We presume that the birds of a feather were migrating back north to the rich feeding grounds of New York's and New Jersey's municipal dumps and landfills. (Why do we call them "landfills" when we are building a mountain with garbage?)

Laughing Laughing Gulls.  Courtesy TMP. 

Naturally, they pay for their stay in guano, a valuable currency in the nineteenth century, but not so much today. On the other hand, they are not so obnoxious as the cormorant that chose LZ Sea Dogs' masthead as its nesting place from which it released massive wet white oysters of waste onto the deck and canvas. Bill threatened to fell the mast to get rid of that bird, or shoot it. I suppose Bill's verbal harangue was more than the bird could stand; seeing that it was unwelcome, it eventually departed.

The sun has last. With temperatures pushing into the eighties, the water has begun to warm, some fish swim back into the creek to feed the otters (that happily and savagely chomp their silver-sided catch when they surface from their invisible chase) and dolphins, and the crabs will soon emerge form their winter mud hungry for the bait in our traps. The ospreys are re-building their nest, coasting high above the water to haul branches in their talons from the mainland woods to the tall gray dead pine on the river shore. Pelicans have returned as well, but may just be passing through.

Spring is the best weather of an outside life. Fresh air rushes through the hatches, a soft breeze sweeps through the saloon. With open ports, we hear the waves whisper in the dark. Songbirds chirp lightly amid pollen, bright skies and a blue river. The mink scampered past the clubhouse a few days ago, and a family of three otters has been fishing and playing in the marina. White sails, elegant in contrast to the rich blue of the sky, float across the water like origami swans.

Blue sky, blue water.

Large pods of dolphins cluster off the end of the peninsula, swirling and smashing the water with their tails, stunning their prey, eating as they swim on, leaving a bright slick of fish oil to mark their passing. The bold southwest wind remains fresh and pleasant, almost chilly, as it blows over the cool river.

On shore at LouMac Park, which I can see from the boat, the colorful tent village of the Cycle NC bikers camping by the river. A thousand or so cyclists have gathered in Oriental to enjoy long leisurely rides on our flat and shady country roads. Most drivers try not to hit them.

A week ago, Glenda hosted her third oyster roast of the year. Having enjoyed the first two roasts, we returned eager to savor more oysters. Her home has a relaxed setting on Broad Creek and, last week, dozens of pelicans were clustered on two docks, bills in the winds of a passing front. Rich cooked a cauldron of Frogmore Stew under the big pine -- shrimp (of course), clams, kielbasa, corn and potatoes. Inside were meatballs, more shrimp, chowder, queso and chips along with Beth's first Bahamian Mac & cheese get the idea. More tasty food than all of us could eat in one sitting.

As much fun as we had, as many oysters as I shucked and slurped, I confess that slicing off three knuckles while trying to shuck a difficult oyster was not a highpoint. Lesson: wear gloves on both hands so that you do not drip dark red blood all over your hostess' kitchen floor, counter and sink.

Oyster knuckles a week later, healing nicely. Photo by Cam.

Freeloading Laughing Gulls on the still-free ferry.

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