To be revised with the addition of fiddler crabs. Part one is below, here.
The ten-year old has declared this The Summer of Lighthouse Beach, because we spent more time there this year than he remembers having done on other vacations.
I think of it as the summer of seals and invisible foxes.
The teenager is trying not to think of it as the summer of the pink jellyfish.
Something in my description in my post Tricksters in the night of the animal cry outside the window the other night struck a chord in fightingdem, who's a regular visitor to the Mannion Zoo and Wildlife Sanctuary and he wrote in wondering if what Uncle Merlin and I thought was a coyote might have been a fox instead.
I had been asleep about an hour one night when I heard this screaming sound outside my bedroom window. Thinking Cheney had been shooting someone in the face again and I had slept through the shotgun blast I looked out the window only to see my cat streaking up the steps of the deck. I went downstairs to let the cat in, but in the morning did a little search on google because I had been seeing foxes in the neighborhood for awhile. The links to the "cry" sound of the fox was dead on.
He sent along a link to a page of fox calls and cries.
Son of a gun.
Now I really wish I'd caught up with it or at least gotten close enough to see. I've been on the lookout for foxes on the Cape for years, since I read any essay by my favorite Cape Cod writer, Robert Finch, just before the blonde and I came here for our honeymoon.
The essay's called "Foxes on the March." It's included in Finch's collection, Common Ground. In the essay he describes the doings of a family of foxes he met on a salt marsh up in Orleans in behind the dunes at Nauset Beach. It happened that our bed and breakfast was right by Nauset so I spent a lot of time---well, as much time as a guy on his honeymoon wants or dares to spend away from his bride---wandering that marsh, on the lookout for those foxes and scenes like this one Finch saw:
Spread out on the new green of the marsh hay was an entire fox family, two adults and four pups, in full view. The vixen and her pups were together on one side of the little tidal creek near the edge of hte marsh, while the father sat alone on the other side, watching them. The female was colored like the male, reddish in front, shading to dark gray, nearly black, on her rear parts, with a long , thick, white-tipped tail. The pups were all reddish-blond, like the one I had seen the morning before sitting by its den. The mother lay on her side licking one of the pups all over, while a second stood nearby waiting its turn. A few yards away, closer to us, the other pair wer play-fighting and rough-tumbling in the wet, glistening grass.
In all the years since I've met up with only one other fox besides the invisible one I tracked into the grumpy neighbor's driveway last week. This one was in the parking lot behind a restaurant on a Sunday morning, and it wasn't doing anything cute or wild or particularly foxy. It was eyeing a garbage can, just like any stray canine would. A car pulling out of the lot chased it away.
One of the reasons we spent more time at Lighthouse Beach and avoided our other regular swimming hole at Oyster Pond this year is that on our first visit to the beach there the teenager was stung by a jellyfish.
It was a pink jellyfish, not to be confused with the Portuguese Man-of-War, which will drift up this way in warm weather and whose lazy intrusions have closed beaches along Nantucket Sound this year. A Portuguese Man-of-War isn't a true jellyfish. It isn't even an it. It's a they. They're a they.
According to Dorothy Sterling in The Outer Lands, an indispensible guide to the natural history of the Cape, the islands, and the Cape's geologic cousin, Long Island, a Portuguese Man-of-War is:
actually a complex colony of animals made up of sevaral different kinds of individuals. Although it is often hard to tell where one individual ends and the other begins, some are responsible for capturing food, others for eating, and still others for defense and reproduction.
The Portuguese Man of War's "stinging cells contain the most powerful poison known in marine animals" but the sting of a pink jellyfish is not anything to sneeze at.
Oyster Pond has always been home to moon jellies. Pink jellyfish, however, seem to come and go. This is one of those years when they've come and brought their friends.
In cold northern waters, where they can stretch out and be themselves, pink jellyfish---which are also known as red jellyfish and Lion's Mane---can grow to be eight feet in diameter, their tentacles two hundred feet long. Along the Cape, though, they don't get much bigger than a foot across, and in Oyster Pond they're small enough to fit in a Mason jar.
Still, you don't want even one of the tiny pond-dwelling ones to sting you, and the teenager warned us about them when he spotted a couple while we were swimming off the raft out in the pond.
The jellyfish got him as we were swimming back in towards the beach.
He said it felt like a half dozen bees had stung him up and down his forearm. Fortunately, the lifeguards had some meat tenderizer in their first aid kit and that did the trick. Within half an hour, the teenager was wading out into the shallows with his net and specimen jar, determined to exact some revenge.
I try not to let my imagination get ahead of things and start planning the boys' future careers for them. I hope that their talents and inclinations and good sense will take them down paths to jobs that will make them happy and secure and encourage whatever interest or enthusiasm has captured them at the moment, figuring that one day one of these will be the one that marks them for its own.
But if he decides that's what he wants to do, the teenager will make a fine field biologist. He has excellent vision and is a keen observer. He remembers everything. And he likes animals, all kinds, even the many-legged, creepier kind. He is cautious but not afraid. A couple summers ago we went up to the Audubon Sanctuary in Wellfleet for a presentation on lizards and reptiles featuring...lizards and reptiles, the latter being mostly snakes and turtles, including a snapping turtle of uncertain temper.
In addition to the snakes, turtles, iguanas, and company, the zoologist running the show had brought along a special, extra-species guest star. He asked for a volunteer to come up and pet it and hold it. Only one kid put up his hand.
No more fiddler crabs this year. No more jellyfish, no more seals or coyotes, foxes, or ospreys. We leave the Cape in the morning.
Regular, mostly animal-free blogging will resume Monday.
Time for one last night time coffee run.