Flying Fish

Species of the Week
by Nicole Carlozo -- June 17th, 2011

The Outer Banks has offered up numerous coastal species this summer, some more huggable than others…

1. Ghost Crab Adventure: When the sun sets each night, the sandy beaches empty. But as the people leave, other creatures make an appearance. Lucky for me, the smoke from Dare County’s wildfire receded enough to scour the beach for shells and critters.

Two ghost crabs facing off. Can you see them? My money’s on the big guy.

Two ghost crabs facing off. Can you see them? My money’s on the big guy.

Ocypode quadrata, commonly known as ghost crabs, blend easily into the sandy beaches they inhabit. These nocturnal creatures are the only species of ghost crab found on the US East Coast. They scurry along the beach at night, but hide in burrows throughout the day. As a kid, my siblings and I use to dig in the sand for them along the high tide mark. Little did we know, some of these little crabs live in burrows up to 4 feet deep!

2. Snakes on a Lake: Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you. That’s what I’m told at least, but I still wouldn’t want to take my chances. This week, a not-so-friendly snake species made itself known off the new handicap-accessible trail. Photo courtesy of a fisherman using the new observation deck above a once-remote lake. I guess the species living there aren’t use to human observers yet.

Agkistrodon piscivorus, commonly known as cottonmouths or water moccasins, are strong swimmers found within North Carolina’s coastal plain. These venomous snakes are aggressive when instigated, opening their jaws wide before attacking. Average size: 20-48 inches. Not something I’d want to come across alone…

3. Egg Laying Time: It’s egg-laying season here at Nags Head. This week, I pulled over on our backwoods road to see a mother turtle laying eggs. She peered at me for a moment before going about her business. I can only imagine that she made her way from one of the numerous algae-covered ponds in the area. Unfortunately, with her nest so close to the road, I fear raccoons got to the eggs before the night was out.

Trachemys scripta scripta, commonly known as yellow-bellied sliders, are abundant throughout the preserve, laying eggs in spring and early summer. They are often seen basking on logs or rocks within ponds, rivers, or lakes.

Although her eggs weren’t protected, I did come across a marked loggerhead turtle nesting site along the beach last week. Some lucky people counted all 117 eggs and reported the sighting to NEST, the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles.

 

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