Friday, November 16, 2007

Wind and Water and small stuff

It's not just the people and their property that are affected by weather in its more active moods. One example: in Bangladesh this week, the mangrove forests, home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, were in the direct path of Sidr. They and their prey species and the trees that shelter them hunkered down, ran, bent and broke, burrowed under, climbed higher, held on tight, as their instincts and abilities permitted. Some died, maybe even some of the tigers. We can hope not.

We saw this rehearsed on a much smaller scale a few days ago. One of our winter windstorms blew over BC last week; not as violent as last year's storm, when thousands of our trees in Stanley Park and elsewhere were destroyed, but strong enough to do damage.

The first sunny day after the storm, we went down to the WhiteRock beach to see the surf.

The tide was high when we arrived, almost at its upper limit. (The low tides come at very inconvenient times, like after dark and before dawn, this fall.) We parked at the western end of the manicured areas, and walked further west, along a narrow, rocky strip between the high water and the railroad track.

Looking back east.

The water was still rough, but a flock of surf scoters were happily riding the waves and diving for food, eel-grass dwellers like sea slugs, maybe. Or clams and crabs, which are plentiful here.

It was hard to get photos; they were never in the same place twice, and as soon as we pointed the camera their direction, either the waves would hide them, or they would dive.

A relatively calm moment.

Along the beach great mounds of freshly-uprooted eelgrass, still wet and green, covered the rocks and logs, over a foot deep in many places.

A new handful just tossed in.

And a whole forest of bull kelp, the long, whip-like, snake-ish, 30-foot pipes that so delight kids who find the occasional one, -- the whole forest had been ripped up, rolled in masses and blasted high onto the beach.

A small sample. Bull kelp is a strong plant; the stems, or stipes, are thick-walled tubes, tough and springy. At the top is the floating bulb, the size of a large onion and filled with gases, including carbon monoxide; the clump of long floating leaves is attached to the top of this bulb.

And at the bottom is a holdfast. I was able to examine a few. They are tough clumps of wiry roots that grab onto the rocks and -- as implied by the name -- hold fast. Laurie says they feel like wires. I yanked at this one, trying to get it out into a more visible position; it wouldn't break off, nor even bend where I held it.

I picked up a few pieces of smaller seaweed; a red, knobbly, flat-leaved species, a bladder seaweed, another large greenish-black variety covered with the remains of tiny tube worms, some of that fine mossy growth.

Something about the strength of that wind and water: on top of those mounds of eel-grass were sprinkled handfuls of stones. Not fine sand, but regular pebbles, up to an inch or more across. Lifted by the water and dropped on top, well above the high tide line.

On a bit of eelgrass at the water's edge, I noticed a bit of transparent jelly, and picked it up. (Not with a bare hand; some of those things can sting, even dead.) Melibe leonina, a hooded nudibranch, my particular favourite sea creature. (See my previous post, A hungry blob of jelly.) Dead and limp; no casting out that glorious net any more!

At home, on a plate. The green is the digestive system, the big circle is a net to catch prey, the tentacles sting. The "ears" are cerata, a fin-like structure. The whole animal smells like a lemon.

As she was, in life. From here.

These sea slugs live among the eel-grass, just off-shore, but well below the low-tide line. They do not come out onto the beach. This one has been thrown up with the torn grasses.

We turned and walked east, to the car for a snack, and then on to the lawns above the most used part of the beach, where the water is shallow and warm and the sand goes out and out and out into the bay. And where the waves get a good run at the beach.

And they had picked up debris and logs and washed them well up onto the grass. And washed away great chunks of soil in the process.

On the lawn, I saw a seagull with a broken leg. I fed it bread until the other seagulls crashed the party and it hobbled away, then took to the air. At least it could fly, and gulls are more in their element in the air than on land; it will survive.

I don't know about this one, though:

It tried, when I came near, to lift that dragging wing; this was the best it could manage. So sorry. At least, it is in a well-traveled area; it will be fed, maybe even rescued. I hope.

Other birds were doing famously. Down at the water's edge, among the seagulls, a few Canada geese were grazing. Unusual behaviour for them; they are normally found on the lawns and parks eating grass. We walked down to see what was going on.

They were feasting on that freshly harvested eelgrass, roots and all.


  1. We love your ocean pictures! Hate seeing injured wildlife of any kind.Do gulls attack injured birds?

  2. I don't know. The two I saw were being ignored by the other gulls, except when there was food in the picture. Then they were ready to mug them for it, the way they do any other rival.


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!