I want to share some unique experiences over the past three weeks. In some of these cases my camera captured the moments and the images tell the story way better than I can.
I have been encountering many species of fish and birds that I have never, ever seen around these parts. Most that I have encountered are found way, way south of here, but my guess is higher temperatures both in the air and in the water have them heading way north of their normal range.
Of course, over the years every so often I catch a renegade like a snook or some other fish that no doubt got pushed this way by the strong Gulf Stream current, but this year in particular it seems a week doesn’t go by that I don’t run into a fish or bird that I have never encountered before, in more than 60 years living here.
A prime example happened recently when we had a three-day opening where anglers could catch and keep one red snapper per person. That fishery was closed a few years back when data indicated that red snapper were being over-fished. Much of the data was based on Florida waters while our offshore waters were stacked up with these snappers.
In the period that the fishery was closed, the red snapper here flourished to the point that if you target grouper, it is hard to get a bait past the hordes of red snapper.
While fishing aboard Bud Mingledorff’s 68-foot boat “Line Set,” we easily limited out on reds, even with less-than-perfect sea conditions. It was pretty darn bumpy out there and, if my memory serves me correctly, we saw only one other boat all day long.
Another wayward snapper species is the monster mangrove snapper that appears only offshore in the heat of the summer. Having caught hundreds in the Keys and other tropic locations, I’m betting mangroves this size would surely draw a crowd if one that size was landed in their normal far-south haunts.
On that day and one other trip offshore, I had a flurry of firsts. The first “first” was a large mutton snapper, which rarely makes it farther north than Palm Beach.
Then, aboard the “Line Set,” we brought up a sand tilefish, another first for me here. Honestly I didn’t know what kind of fish it was until I got near land and found it on Google. Long with a tapered tail, they burrow three quarters of their bodies in the sand bottom with only their heads showing. From what I read, they snatch smaller fish that happen to get too close.
Then, on that same trip, a beautiful white bird with an extremely long tail hovered over us for 15 minutes. It was a white-tailed tropicbird. In all my years here, I have never encountered this beauty before.
The white-tailed tropicbird was about 45 miles offshore and, though I have seen them down in the Caribbean, this was a first here. Graceful as heck, they are seabirds that feed on flying fish, snatching them while they are airborne, skittering from wave to wave.
All I can say is while northerners are flocking south, when it comes to nature’s creations, they seem to be moving north.
Another southern visitor that I am seeing more and more of are black-bellied whistling ducks. Thus far this summer I have seen at least a dozen, with two pairs nesting in the Eagles Point development.
Out of room for more photos, I should mention Roseate Spoonbills, the color of a flamingo, are becoming almost a common sight near my home. Whether it is global warming or something else, these strangers in a strange land are telling me to keep my eyes peeled because there are surely more oddities to come.
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. email@example.com