The trail is within walking distance of the campground and winds through the salt marsh and adjoining woods on gravel paths and boardwalks. Lucky for me I ran into a gentleman with his two small boys who were happy to show me where to find the little Fiddler Crabs.
When they would hear me coming they would hide, but if I just stayed still for a few minutes out they would come again from their little holes and behind the grass. I had brought along a 100-400mm zoom lens so I was able to get good shots of the little guys though it was a bit awkward using such a large lens hand held.
Male crabs have one greatly enlarged pincer, either right or left, for combat and mating rituals. The claws of females are roughly equal in size, so I'm guessing the crab below is a male.
The territorial males will readily fight over burrows, which may reach up to 2 feet in length and take several days to build. (credit https://sites.google.com/site/uncwislandecologyspring2011/summary-3/week-3-2)
The burrow serves several purposes for the crab. It protects them from predators, is used during mating, and protects the fiddler crab from the incoming tide. The crab digs a burrow by pushing the legs on one side of its body into the ground, then pulls up a lump of soil and carries it away from the entrance of the hole.
If you see them fighting over territory or females the two male crabs approach each other with a stiff-legged walk and take turns hitting each other with their large claws in an attempt to push away or overturn the other crab. These fights are actually a fixed behavior and do not cause either crab serious injury. If one crab dances around with more of an implied threat, it “wins” and the other crab will usually flee into its burrow.
The crabs are an important food source for marsh birds, and in the morning I was lucky enough to catch sight of a few of them.
It looked like some kind of heron? Someone help me!
And I even saw one catching breakfast! Judy will have to help me out with identification. Is it a Rail?
Whether early morning or early evening the marsh was magical. And I only got bitten by one mosquito so not too bad a deal for all I got in return!