Hoot Owl Karma loves the North Carolina Museum of Art; although we never tire of the long-term exhibits, each visit is sure to hold a surprise or two as well.
After an enjoyable few hours exploring the treasures inside and picking up some bargains in the museum store, we strolled down the greenway for a quick nature fix before heading home.
While the boys took a few photos with their phones, Julie and I simply enjoyed the wildflowers alongside the path.
None of us suspected what lurked just around the bend in the muddy pond margin ...
We've seen some big crayfish, and we've seen some red crayfish.
We've even seen some big red crayfish...but none of us had seen anything quite like this before!
Tail-tucking, tunnel-digging, tower-building, reverse-windmill freestyle claw-swinging creatures from the NCMA lagoon.
These crawfish could really bust a move, and once we encountered the first, these lanky, long-armed crawlers seemed to emerge from everywhere at once. Sitting solo in their tunnel openings, wrestling with rivals in the mud, cruising slowly in the shallows, or simply lurking among the cattails, they had thoroughly occupied this little corner of the pond.
And they seemed determined to protect their turf from all comers, even ones a few hundred times their size. Quick to strike a defensive pose, and aggressively confronting the camera, they might have been comical were it not for those wicked red claws.
This individual emerged from a water-filled tunnel constructed in the edge of the pond itself and put on quite a show for Jay's phone, gyrating from left to right and back again as Jay positioned himself for a better angle.
As a couple more crayfish skirted the scene in the shallows nearby, this character held fast to the ground between Jay and his burrow.
Quickly flipping through our mental checklist of native Carolina crawdads, we were pretty certain these bizarre creatures weren't from around here!
A bit of field-guide flipping back home confirms that these scarlet pincer-pumping crustaceans are invaders from the swamps of Louisiana. Whether originally brought here to be raised as food or fish bait, a few made their way into the wild and the rest is history at this point. These transplants from the deep south really seem to like it here, and they don't look like they plan to leave any time soon.
Red Swamp Crayfish, Procambarus clarkii.
Not exactly a pretty picture.
Cajun crawfish camping out here behind the North Carolina Museum of Art, acting for all the world like they own the place.
Might just be time for some Jambalaya...