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Eternal vernal confusion

Susan and Biff Andrews

The family went to OBX last weekend. Temperatures were in the 70s. Tulip trees were in bloom as well as forsythia, daffodils, cherry trees and Bradford pears. We were looking for asparagus for sale, and maybe even shrimp.

The beach was deliciously empty. We saw two beach vehicles and one human one day and two people and four dogs the next. This made for wonderful shelling and beach walking. We found some unusual “finds:” something that looked like a small giant squid head. The hard cartilaginous head was 8 inches to 10 inches long, attached to the gelatinous body which had been worn or chewed down to about 5 inches of clear tissue. We thought it might be a cuttle fish, but the USA has none. Anyone with an idea of what this might be should e-mail Biff as he is in charge of all gross “finds”on the beach.

Other “interesting” finds: a dead pelican; a live but dying cormorant, which was missing a 3×4-inch chunk of flesh out of his back (perhaps a blue fish strike) in addition to a broken leg; six partial Scotch Bonnets (it’s that time of year); 10 spiral tops of moon eye snails; and a bazillion feathers, either due to early molting or lack of tourists to collect them. A perfectly formed, but slightly whiffy puffer fish completed the collection. Other sightings were two pods of dolphin and huge flocks of cormorants. So, we said to ourselves, the tourists aren’t here, but spring is springing!

But, there was not a fish to be had. And worse, on the return trip through Columbia, North Carolina and a stop at the Full Circle Seafood Co., they confirmed that there were no fresh shrimp and probably wouldn’t be any until late April. Mind you, two years ago they caught shrimp all winter long in the Pamlico Sound. This year, they quit in December and won’t be back until late April. On the way home via the Rockyhock area, spinach and kale crops were nearly ready for harvesting. Other fields lay unturned, untilled, un-springy.

So what is it? Early spring with everything blooming in February or a standard winter with no shrimp till May? Will azaleas be past blooming when Easter comes? The ocean, which looked so alluring on a 75-degree day, disappointed the grandchildren with 50-degree temperatures. So we are waiting for spring. The official date of the vernal equinox is on Tuesday, March 20, but the signs of spring keep us confused, but grateful.

SUSAN and BRADFORD “BIFF” ANDREWS are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.