Wednesday, December 10, 2008

White Day

I'm on Edisto Island on the third day of a fossil-hunting expedition with a friend. We've had heavy, pea-soup fog all day long. We traveled to the beach by kayak from our dock - an otherworldly experience today. Once there we were the only people on the narrow spit of a barrier island - not unusual since you can only get there by boat. There were birds, of course, and signs of wildlife, but not much was happening out there. It is a most peaceful place. The weather this fall has been hard on the inlet. There were a couple of hurricanes that skirted the SE coast, and in doing so ate up the sand and left a wide expanse of thick brown pluff mud spiked with nubs of grass. The point has been completely rearranged and the mounds of dunes and wildflowers completely washed over. It felt like we'd landed in a new place, an unknown land.

We slid with a crunch of broken shells onto the island just before high tide and hauled our kayaks up a steep, cutaway bank onto level beach, then pulled them up past the high tide line. They were tucked up next to a cliff of sand, where a storm tide had cut into the only small patch of dunes left on this end of the island. We would be gone before the water came up that far, but we pulled them up for mental comfort. We tucked the paddles and jackets's safely away and headed down the beach. Susan immediately found a wonderful, palm-sized vertebra (possibly dolphin) that had swashed out of the inlet onto the point. Other goodies followed - turtle shell fragments, bones, horse teeth, and ancient pottery, some with the pattern still visible. Colorful sea whip dotted the wide, shelly beach, shockingly bright in the dense fog. Brown Pelicans and Great Black-backed Gulls along with Semi-palmated Plovers, Ring-Billed Gulls, and several Common Terns gathered on the edge of the water, blurred through the binoculars by fog. Sanderlings skittered about, pausing to peck some juicy morsel from the sand.

Fog became even thicker as we headed back late in the white day. We caught a ride with the in-coming tide and sped up the creek toward the house. We sidetracked into a small creek off to the right and were rewarded by our first sighting of a Seaside Sparrow, chirruping while clinging to marsh grass. He acted as if he were glad to see us, flying away then back several times, and turning this way and that so we could get a good look. We hoped for but didn't see the dolphin from yesterday, rolling and feeding in the creek around our boats.

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