On Saturday afternoon, November 19th, the UCF Nature Walkers enjoyed their last outing of 2022 at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center on Harkers Island. After several cold and blustery days, the weather turned fall-perfect for our hike. There were 14 of us in all, ranging in age from a few months to the better part of a century. Two sociable four-legged friends rounded out the party. We began by walking around the Willow Pond Loop Trail behind the museum. Although there were just a few Common Mergansers on the pond, we were rewarded with colorful foliage and fall fruits in the woodland along the trail. The scarlet foliage of Winged Sumac and Swamp Tupelo was especially striking.
From Willow Pond, we followed the trail to the edge of Core Sound, pausing to discuss the different kinds of “bay” trees and shrubs, none of which are closely related. We also paused to discuss the subtle differences between Pond and Loblolly Pines. On the edge of Core Sound, we were rewarded with sweeping views of Core Banks, and we saw numerous dolphins leaping in the distance. A disturbing sight was the “ghost forest” along the water’s edge. Rising sea level and extreme storm events drive salt water inland, killing pines and other woody species in coastal wetlands. Here, at Shell Point on Core Sound, coastal erosion exposes the skeletal remains of the trees and the peat that once supported them.
Many of us toured the museum after finishing our walk, invited by Mary Anna Newman and Sally Davis to visit the Heritage Center on the museum’s second floor. Sally Davis’s stories of people and places of the Down East communities brought the many exhibits to life in a unique way. This was a perfect end to a perfect afternoon, and we parted company looking forward to more nature walks in 2023. The first of these will be on the afternoon of New Year’s Day 2023, so please read about this outing in the December issue of Our Coastline!