As I start undertaking the Field Guide to Fifty project this week I realized that so much of the process is lost as soon as the print is done, and everything I learned spending six hours reading about the biogeography of seaweed on the East Coast is forgotten. I've learned so many incredible things about regional wildlife through my research to create the guides, and I'm going to start sharing my favorite little tidbits in a blog after each print is completed.
So a little background on the project - I had created field guides of native species for Maryland, Virginia, and the three long trails a couple of years ago, and decided this year I'd like to try to complete all 50 states, because I always like a good numbers based goal. Before I set into the states I wanted to finish up the guide to the Outer Banks of North Carolina that I had started on vacation last October, so that's the guide I'll be covering today.
Facts of Note
Seaweeds of North Carolina - This was a real sticking point for the print. I try to stick to native species (which I only recently realized I was confusing with endemic), and as it turns out the southeastern portion of the US has only a small number (31 according to the paper I read) of endemic species, a number that's shaped by the lack of rocky terrain on the coast, the number of capes, and how the capes interplay with the Florida current. Seaweed seems remarkably hardy and so even though there's very few endemic species, there's over 300 species which are now supported in the waters. The seaweed I drew while I was down there (I believe it was knotted wrack), turned out to probably be a drifter from northern waters, so I finally landed on Codium carolinianum - a fingered green algae.
Marsh Rabbit - It took me a while to hunt down marsh rabbit tracks, and I'm glad I didn't give up and just draw regular rabbit tracks, since they have a walking gait rather than hopping, which makes sense given the terrain. It's also a strong swimmer.
Gray fox - When European settlers came to America they brought along fox hunting, but were disappointed to find that the native gray fox was not about to get involved in their shenanigans and quickly climbed trees to safety, which the European red fox was unable to do. Not eager to add sporting elements to their sport, the red fox was then introduced to the east coast. I found a lot of joy from this little fact about the wildness of North America, and I'll be doing a separate gray fox print to celebrate this little wildling's resistance to playing part of dominion.
Eastern hognose - I'll be the first to admit that while I appreciate all the good snakes do and I'm increasingly interested in their transformative ways, they are not my favorite animals. Eastern hognose - extremely dangerous looking, but not poisonous and very unlikely to bite you.
Dune prickly pear cactus - I saw these all over OBX and assumed they were planted, but as it turns out North Carolina does have three native cacti species.
Piping Plover - The threatened species people who want to drive on the beach love to hate. The birds often nest directly on the beach, and offroad vehicles destroy their nests.
These were my favorite little tidbits I picked up along the way for this print, and despite losing a day of work to find a seaweed species, the research was incredibly rewarding, and gives me so much more appreciation for the balance of regional ecosystems and biogeography. And as I'm writing this, I feel like I should note that I'm *DEFINITELY NOT A SCIENTIST*, so there may be some mistakes or misunderstandings on my end, but I'm always eager to get it right - just let me know!