Spring Fling for Fiddlers

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Closeup of a Male Fiddler Crab in Full Display 

Despite a temporary slump in temperatures, spring remains in the air of Outer Cape Cod. With a little midday sunshine, minds, hearts and antics of all Nature’s critters soon turn to love; that is, once they shake off the yawns of winter slumber.  Waking first along beaches and salt marshes of Wellfleet Bay are the comical, ever-ready cleanup crew: fiddler crabs.  They’re most amusing when coping with temperatures in the low- to mid-forties.  They stumble along with an uneasy balance as though a bit tipsy and, sure enough, they trip over on their backs, stagger to their feet again and struggle onward.

Spring Fling for Fiddlers

As we walked the shoreline of Paine Hollow this afternoon searching for a stranded dolphin that Sue Wieber Nourse had spotted from across the creek in Indian Neck, we saw fiddler crabs digging out with the receding tide.  While not yet in full mating display with males waving their enormous fiddles to entice passing females, male fiddler crabs poked their large claws out of their burrows, seemingly hoping to attract someone special.  After shooting a “my fiddle’s bigger than your fiddle” contest, Don Lewis caught a more pleasing encounter of a nubile female crab responding to the hopeful wave of a large male fiddle.

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Right Clawed Male Fiddler Crab

While a more amourous engagement may be expected later in the season as things both literally and figuratively warm up, this time the twosome strolled into the afternoon sun together as the female seemingly dosey doed (do-si-do’ed) under his large fiddle, and the two of them danced off into the marsh.

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Female Fiddler Crab

With a few more degrees of temperature and a little more sunlight, fiddler armies will soon be on the march at each low tide, gleening whatever organic residue they can acquire from the inter-tidal beach.  And before you know it, we’ll be watching the “Big Wave” sweep across the salt marsh as fiddles large and white sway in the rhythmic cadence of summer love.

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