The crea­tures of the Low­coun­try are get­ting the urge to move on

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Sports - BY COLLINS DOUGHTIE Spe­cial to The Is­land Packet/ The Beau­fort Gazette

How do they know and we hu­mans don’t have a clue?

I’m talk­ing about any one of the many species that mi­grates.

And what got me think­ing about this amaz­ing abil­ity? It was a fluke. I planted a few Mex­i­can sun­flower seeds in early June. Think­ing that those seeds would pro­duce a reg­u­lar sun­flower, I was floored when they grew a plant that ri­valed Jack and the Bean Stalk pro­por­tions. When it reached about nine feet tall, it fi­nally be­gan flow­er­ing and out popped dozens upon dozens of these smaller orangish-red flow­ers with a yel­low cen­ter.

But the big­gest sur­prise of all was still to come — but­ter­flies of every size, color and type. It has proved to be the most amaz­ing but­ter­fly at­trac­tor I have ever seen. At any given time of day, there are so many but­ter­flies on those flow­ers that it looks like the plant is squirm­ing.

So for all you who ap­pre­ci­ate gar­den­ing as much as I do, or­der some Mex­i­can sun­flower seeds for next year. Not only is it a beau­ti­ful plant, it flow­ers like there is no to­mor­row. And if that isn’t enough, it draws but­ter­flies like no plant I have ever seen.

But but­ter­flies aren’t the only things that have be- gun their mi­gra­tion.

Just a short while back, as I was head­ing off­shore, I no­ticed that mas­sive pods of bait­fish were ev­ery­where.

If you have never seen this phe­nom­e­non, it is truly amaz­ing. Pic­ture an ex­panse of crys­tal clear, green wa­ter that is only bro­ken up by large black spots. Those spots are in re­al­ity tightly packed schools of bait­fish. Then, with­out warn­ing, one of the spots turns white as equally large schools of bonito — mem­bers of the tuna fam­ily — drives the bait­fish balls to the sur­face in a foam­ing mass.

Talk about a free-for-all. Its pure bed­lam. Bonito slash through the bait­fish, send­ing sheets of them fly­ing through the air. Even larger preda­tors bust through it all, go­ing af­ter the bonito. It re­ally is a re­mark­able sight.

Don’t ask me where all these fish are head­ing, but ob­vi­ously some force within is driv­ing them to new grounds that be could hun­dreds, even thou­sands of miles away.

There’s also the mi­gra­tion of other fish species that you don’t see be­cause they never come to the sur­face. It’s like a rush­hour traf­fic jam down there.

Fish that have gone off­shore to hang in the cool depths to avoid the heat of sum­mer are now head­ing back to­ward land while fish that rel­ish the hot wa­ter closer to shore are be­gin­ning to sense that is time to head back south be­fore the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture drops to un­com­fort­able lev­els.

The ques­tion again is how do they know?

Try­ing to put my­self in their place, I haven’t re­ally no­ticed much of a change in the weather. To me its still as hot as it was three weeks ago.

So what is it that trig­gers these mass mi­gra­tions?

These sorts of things have cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion for as long as I can re­mem­ber. I am most def­i­nitely a “watcher” in­stead of one of those who just ac­cepts things at face value.

I can only imag­ine that I must have been one of those kids who drove their par­ents crazy by ask­ing too many ques­tions. You know the type:

“Mom, where do ba­bies come from?”

“The stork, honey.” “Which kind of stork mom?” “

The baby stork, Collins!” “Where does it roost mom?”

Collins, for pity’s sake, please shut up!”

In­shore there’s even a big­ger traf­fic snarl up go­ing on.

All those lit­tle shrimp, fish and crabs that have been hid­ing way back in the marshes for the last few months are now get­ting that sen­sa­tion that is telling them its time to go. Think of them like your teenager who just grad­u­ated from high school and is get­ting ready to fly the coup and head to col­lege. These fish are all grown up now and its time to meet the real world, ex­cept the real world they are fac­ing has a lot more teeth than our hu­man world. For them it is safety through num­bers.

Now if you’ll ex­cuse me, I’m go­ing to watch the but­ter­flies on my Mex­i­can sun­flower plant be­fore they head to Mex­ico.

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