Apparently there's a nature center about an hour away from us that highlights, among other things, the spawning of the largest horseshoe crab population in the world, which is usually at the full moon in May (or something like that). This was the first year we were aware of it, so we didn't manage to see the live masses of horseshoe crabs that we were secretly hoping for, but there was plenty of evidence that they had been there.
Another piece of that ecosystem is migratory shorebirds that eat the crab eggs, and though we didn't see the little Red Knot bird that the video was all about at the nature center, we did have a lot of fun looking for them among the egrets, blackbirds, terns, gulls, vultures, and cormorants at a nature preserve -- though the pictures don't show much of the action, because our little point and shoot is sadly inadequate for nature photography.
And, being so close to the Atlantic and it being a decently seasonable May day, we went ahead and drove a little further, got the kids into their suits, and let them play in the sand and waves. Every time we visit the Atlantic I see dolphin pods swimming out there, and though I know they're farther than they look, they always look as if some brave swimmer could go touch one. It's amazing.
We actually ended up driving around a lot, to five different spots on the coast, trying to see a live horseshoe crab. (We ended up seeing ONE at the end of the day, which was vindicating.) Being in the car was a little boring for the kids, but it was nice to see them get excited about the creatures that live by the sea. Plus, I was able to talk to them about how all the water from the creeks and rivers near our house end up here, at this particular estuary, and see it click as their eyes got wide. ("The stream RIGHT by our house mommy?") I reminded them about how we try to compost, and use less water and soap, and recycle, and that THIS (all the marshes and beaches and birds and crabs) was one big reason why we did all that, to take care of it, even though at our house we usually can't see where it all will end up. I think they'll remember that.
S. and I always hope that our kids will be glad for our bent towards nature rather than video games, but often it seems like just video games would really be fine with them. So, this trip was a good idea. (Thanks, S., who was the one to push for it!) It was wonderful to nurture the kids with good experiences, and at the same time to feel that bond with the natural world.