Going Coastal


Last week we took the rare discretionary trip that had both a purpose and an excuse. The purpose, to see some favorite Floyd Occasionals who otherwise live near the SC coast near Myrtle Beach. The excuse, to present my little Dog and Pony show to a local Audubon chapter to which a friend of theirs (and now ours) belongs.

As our timing would have it, the weather was mostly not compatible with beach walking or bird watching or botanizing–which broke my heart. We (and especially Ann) had a refresher course on the meteorological term “chill factor” but ended the tutorial just short of hypothermia–on a moving pontoon boat in the rain from which this photo of a drying cormorant was taken. We learned a lot about the 18th century rice plantations that in the early 1930s became a part of the Huntington estate that now includes Huntington Beach and Brookgreen Gardens, more about which another time.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Nice photo.

    Sorry you had such bad weather, but it sounds like you got some benefit from the trip anyway.

  2. That is a great picture of the cormorant. I live on the Inter-Coastal Waterway in NC. Last month we had dozens of cormorants all over our piers. They were fishing and then drying as in your picture. The will stand for a long time “posing” to dry their wings. A sight to see. Carole

  3. … love the cormorant, Fred. We only see them here in mid-April and late autumn when they are migrating, and the great Double Crested Cormorant is one of my favorite birds ever. It’s always a treat to watch cormorants sitting on an exposed rock in the water with their wings spread, although I’ve yet to figure out whether they are drying said wings or engaging in a bit of thermoregulation.

  4. The way I understand it, their feathers are necessarily “wettable” so that they don’t trap air bubbles. This makes them better able to “swim” underwater to catch fish, but then it takes longer for them to lose the extra water/weight than if their feathers were unwettable.