Large schools of Cow Nose Ray’s typically arrive in the Pamlico during mid-late April to spawn and forage. When the female ray displays her pectoral fins, or “wings”, above the surface it indicates she is ready to mate. In this video, taken just outside Belhaven, there is a faintly visible second ray behind and below her, likely a male. By early summer the males begin leaving for the open ocean, and by November the females have followed. After an 11 month gestation period the female gives live birth to a single “pup”.
Early in the morning a bald eagle was trying to nab this little ruddy duck for breakfast out on the Pungo. He made multiple attempts, but each time the ruddy duck dove under water in the nick of time. The Eagle eventually tired and flew away.
Atlantic menhaden, also known as “bunker”, “fatback”, and “pogey” occupy special ecologic, socioeconomic, and cultural niches along their range from Nova Scotia to Florida. Compact schools of hundreds or thousands may be seen rippling on the surface throughout the Pamlico, often feeding with their snouts and backs above the water.
Adult menhaden average 12-15 inches in length.They spawn in the open ocean throughout the year, where eggs hatch at sea, and are transported to estuaries by ocean currents over one to three months. Menhaden tolerate a wide range of salinity, but are generally associated with higher salinity environments as they grow into adulthood.
Primarily filter feeders on plankton and decaying plant matter, menhaden are thought to be 2nd only to oysters in their capacity to help maintain overall estuarine health. In mid to late summer they are an important food source and provide much needed energy for spawning giant Red Drum and other large fish in the Pamlico system.
A Caspian Tern lights atop a Royal Tern
Last weekend Sharon, Dorothy, Richard, Debbie, Mark, and Adele from East Tennessee stopped in Belhaven for a couple days on their way to Ocracoke. While on the estuarine overview they were able to learn about the bluecrab sex differences, nick names, shedding and reproductive cycle. Still helpless and immoble, this giant jimmy (male) with the pink/red claws was probably about 18-24 hours out from shedding and was beginning to harden up. A few hours earlier he would have been a prime jumbo softie. Note the difference in coloration prior to shedding.
Tammy, Carrie Parks Anderson, Ron, and John did an overview tour of the upper Pungo last Sunday. They were among the first folks to see a brand new oyster mariculture (farm) operation, the 1st of its kind on the Pungo. 2017 marked the 1st year in NC that farmed oysters topped wild stock oysters in commercial harvest, and again in 2018, but both fisheries were severely hurt by hurricane Florence. Oyster farming in is only beginning to florish, and still lags far behind Virginia (see chart).
Gene, Phyllis, Langdon, and Brayden went on a chilly, early March birdwatching cruisea couple weeks ago.. Along with seeing thousands of migratory waterfowl, we discovered a new eagle’s nest on Pantego Creek. Gene took this pic from several hundred yards away. Bald Eagles mate for life and add to their nests each year. The world record nest was found in Florida and estimated to weigh about 2000 pounds. I’m guessing this one was started in the last year or two.