I absolutely love nature, I always have. It’s always been anything outdoors for me my entire life. I love to explore, to make my own paths and to accept things that challenge me especially when it comes to hiking, kayaking, and biking. I don’t much scuba dive or skydive anymore, but adventure to me is exhilarating! And wrapped up into that exhilarating experience of coexisting with nature is, of course, the animals.
Animals are so incredibly fascinating to me. I love watching and learning about them. I think most of you know I only live a few minutes from Assateague Island, but I grew up in north central Pennsylvania. Unlike most kids I grew up in a situation where I had the opportunity to have deer, turkeys and a black bear as pets. I watched deer being born and walked the fawns like puppies on a leash and fed them with bottles. I took my black bear when he was a cub to my elementary school during a show and tell session. I simply find animals fascinating and intriguing, and I get very excited for spring when babies of all species are born.
This spring became extra special when my friends helped me find a great horned owl’s nest on the island. I had been searching for weeks all over the island when out of the blue they texted me and told me to my butt down there. Sure enough, two baby great horned owls sat in the smallest of nests at the very top of a pine tree. What a thrill it was to document their last stages before they fledged. I promise to get that post out shortly.
Of course, most folks associate the island with its population of resident wild horses. Now granted they can birth babies at any time of the year, spring is certainly the most significant time births happen. And so far this year we have had five!! I think right now if you visit Assateague Island you might have to try not to find one of the baby horses that seem to be everywhere… from Shasta (in my last post) to Autumn Glory (a couple of posts down in my feed), Susi Solẽ, Mieke’s Noe’lani and, the star of this post, Moonshadow and her little one. All the babies so far can be found in the developed area of the island except for Shasta who is way north and Noe’lani who is still in the OSV.
My wife and I have been very fortunate to have come across several of the new moms along with their babies on their birth days. Moonshadow’s little girl was born sometime on Friday, April 2nd most likely in the marsh off of the Life of the Marsh Trail. She spent most of the day in the marsh, but in the evening Moonshadow took her little girl and ventured into the bayside camping area. Although there were quite a few folks around, most kept their distance and were just anxious, thrilled and excited to see the new baby.
I could sit for hours and watch these babies. They are so curious, rambunctious and innocent. Everything is new to them as they watch and try to figure out what the heck is going on. And once they figure out they can run on those legs, watch out! I also love their attraction to mom and mom’s defense of her baby. I’ve watched babies grow up for years here on the island and it never, ever gets old. This little one is so adorable with her white blaze on her face that has just a hint of a crescent on her forehead.
We were all a little concerned for this babe, though. I didn’t even notice, but my friends pointed out to me that her back legs and hooves were a little out of whack when she was born. The concern was she was walking on the end of her fetlock or the top of her hoof instead of the flat part of her hoof, and her legs appeared to be a little wonky when she walked. Apparently, her ligaments were tight and her feet were a bit folded up. This was all new to me as I know very little in the horse department about stuff like that. I saw her Friday, and she seems to be a bit better. I think she is improving… I guess the ligaments are stretching a bit as she grows. She has been growing and gaining weight and seems to be getting around just fine. Amen!
The mere fact is all foals that are born on the island do not survive. Nature is both beautiful and cruel and the animals must be able to survive. There is no medical intervention on the island for the horses. That is how it has always been, and I am okay with that.
Anyway, Moonshadow’s little one seems to be doing okay now and we are all really hoping this little babe grows up to be healthy and strong. So far, so good!
I hope you enjoy the images and had an awesome weekend!
So you thought the story ended, right?
It does not...
During the night of June 27th, Moonshadow and her baby were both struck by a vehicle that did not stop to report the strike. Unfortunately, Moonshadow died on July 6th leaving the little one an orphan. She was quickly adopted by her band and looked after by mare Ms. Macky (next to last image - notice the cut on her front leg). The baby was injured and was having a hard time keeping up with the band, so a decision was finally made on July 12th to relocate the baby to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge where the herd is actually looked after by professionals and volunteers. She has received medicine and the care she needed to survive. She struggled on Assateague Island where everything is left up for nature to take its course. But, in this case an exception was made, and I feel it was the right decision. Fortunately, little Moonbeam, as she has been named, is doing well and adapting to her new home.
The last image in the series is the last image I took of her. She looked so exhausted and out of place... It was wonderful news when she was relocated to Chincoteague where she continues to excel to this day. 
See you next time…
~MP Mike

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