Wednesday, February 27, 2008

36 Photos of Worm Poop

No, I'm not going to subject you to all 36. But I could. Easily.

Sunday afternoon, we went to Boundary Bay, as usual, but this time turned north, away from the park and the populated areas.

The tide was very low; it seemed, almost, as if we could have walked across the bay to the Surrey side. And all that expanse was dedicated to lugworm (Abarenicola pacifica) poop.

As far as the eye could see.

The invasive sea snails that pollute the park area to the south are scattered sparsely, here, between the lugworm casts; apart from this, we saw a few clam shells, and occasional "pimples"; the outlets of clam burrows.

There are millions of lugworms, though. Or billions.

Worm city.

Something was strange about this area; the only birds we saw were a few seagulls, far in the distance. I wonder why: do they not find the food they like here?

Lugworm. Looks yummy. To a bird, that is.

The worms live in burrows about 20-25 cm. (8 to 10 inches) deep. They eat the sand at the bottom, scrub out the goodies, and excrete the cleaned sand through the opening at the top of the burrow; the tail end is close to the surface. They would not be available to the birds, however; how fast do they dig down when they are disturbed? Something to experiment with, next time I'm at the beach. I'm carrying some digging instrument from now on.

There's not much else for a bird to eat; not even enough eelgrass to harbour other organisms. We saw no sandfleas, no crabs, no hermit crabs, even, in the snail shells.

lugworm casts
An "empty" area; twice as many lugworms as snails.

lugworm cast
Lugworms poop upwards.

From False Bay Species Descriptions, I found another way to pester these critters:
Try the following trick: poke a finger into a burrow hole, and see if water springs up out of another hole, showing that the two holes are connected by a common burrow.

Final shot; only the larger piles visible. The small ones are underwater.

Lugworm photo from here.


  1. Eew..those are some icky looking worms - although I'm sure they do look appealing to the birds. Found my way to your blog through Cicero Sings. I happen to love birds. I try to get out and take photos...although not so much in the winter. Have a good day.

  2. Totally poopy. That's the most lugwormy I've ever seen. (Great shots!)

    I wonder what eats them. They are pretty far down in the muck, not easy to yank out with a shorebird bill.

    Depressing shifting baseline thought: as we continue depleting the oceans' sources of protein, working our way down the food chain, some day we will be mining the mudflats for lugworms.

    Pass the hot sauce.

  3. Hi, Dottie, Welcome to my blog!


    Maybe if they're ground up, smoked and well spiced, they would make good sausages. Have to lose the name, "lugworms", though.

  4. Anonymous5:20 am

    How about "sand sausages", or maybe "beach weiners"?


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