Cast & Blast

Doughtie: Nature's beauty is all around us, if we care to look

There is no feeling in the world better than those brief moments when you experience something truly new in your life.

Just think back to the very moment you saw your son or daughter born. Was that something, or what?

That first breath they took, the first look they gave you -- these are moments that stand out in your memory with such clarity that it could have been yesterday.

But the beauty of these eye-opening experiences is right in front of your nose every single day -- that is, if you choose to see it.

I realize not everyone is that observant. With all the distractions life brings along, such as cellphones, car radios and such, I guess it's easy to let a lot of the little things slide right on by.

A couple of recent examples happened in just the past week. The first one occurred when I was on the Cross Island Expressway on Hilton Head Island0.

I was just about at the bridge that goes over Broad Creek when an osprey with a fish in its talons came screaming across the road just ahead of me, and right on his tail was a fully grown bald eagle that had every intention of taking that fish away from the osprey.

Twisting and turning, the two of them showed aerobatic skills any jet pilot would envy. Though it only lasted seconds, I don't think I will ever forget that blink in time, yet when I looked at the driver in the car next to me, he gave no indication that he had seen the incredibly beautiful drama that had just unfolded.

Then, just yesterday, I was up in Bull Creek catching bait shrimp with my nephew Johnny Bringas and friend Will Thompson, and no sooner had I told Johnny about strand-feeding porpoises -- something he had never seen -- when two porpoises began strand feeding 50 yards from us.

They would herd mullet up onto a large, gently sloping mud flat and then shoot themselves completely out of the water and right up onto the bank, where they would eat the flopping mullet before they wiggled their way back into the water.

That was on the right bank, and at that very same instant Will noticed two large pink birds picking their way along the water's edge and in his usual, humorous manner said, "Is it me, or are those birds pink?"

They were pink all right, and immediately I recognized them as roseate spoonbills, usually only seen down around southern Florida.

Neither Johnny nor Will had ever seen one, so those few minutes with strand-feeding porpoises on one side of us and roseate spoonbills on the other bank was another one of those moments that will forever stick in their memories.

The kicker to this last story was there was a boat full of people anchored nearby and it appeared that not a one of them saw either phenomenon, even though they were less than one 60 yards from both scenes. Amazing.

Maybe I'm biased because I am an avid watcher, but it just seems like so many people go through life in a daze, and in the process, miss out on some pretty amazing stuff. "Daze" is probably a bit snooty a description for these people because the cause is probably the simple fact that these people were never encouraged to watch.

My dad and mom raised us to look around, to see and to question. Then when I really was drawn to fishing and hunting, that just seemed to tune my senses to always be looking for those subtle dramas in nature that often occur in just the blink of an eye.

It has been a good week for me, even with the threat of 2 feet of water. Did we luck out or what?

All the storm had to do was nudge 1 or 2 degrees to the south, and we would be chin deep in water right now.

Though I can't remember exactly what year it was, but in the 1980s we had a rain event where it dropped nearly 18 inches in less than two days. It was so bad, I was able to canoe down South Beach Drive on Hilton Head.

Since we were blessed with nothing more than a few sprinkles this time, I was able to keep on keeping on organizing the Collin Stokes Memorial Inshore Fishing Tournament.

Next week, I plan on thanking so many of you who have gone above and beyond to make this event a success. In case you missed it, donations for the new gate (one of Al Stokes' dreams) at the Waddell Mariculture Center can still be made, and any amount is fine.

Please make checks out to Waddell Fund-Collin's Gate and send them to Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, P.O. Box 23019, Hilton Head, SC 29925.

I did make it out fishing with a friend from up North. The tides were perfect for reds, so I took him to one of my best low-water spots.

As we waited on the tides and hopefully some reds, he told me that up in his neck of the woods the shrimp and redfish were scarce. In a nutshell, overpopulation and lack of vision had ruined their fishery.

No sooner had we finished that conversation than he latched into a big red in mere inches of water, and I could just tell he was awed by their power as that fish screamed across the shallow water flats.

In the next couple of hours we managed to catch some reds, all too big to keep, plus some fine roe trout.

If I had to describe the look on his face, it was like a mule eating briars. It was an eye-opening experience for him and for me. His tales of the ruined waters up the coast made me appreciate our piece of heaven here just that much more.

Even if it is for just a day, try looking around as you go through life. Look up in the air, at the water, and basically try to learn the art of seeing.

Once you get the hang of it, you'll never again see this planet the same way. Whether the event you see lasts seconds or minutes, it will always be in your mind to relive, and from experience, it will be as clear as the day you saw it.

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