Monday, March 02, 2009

Three handy books

When I come home from the beach with photos or samples of unfamiliar animals or plants, I head, first of all, to my old trusty "Kozloff". (This is a solid paperback with the unwieldy title of "Seashore Life of Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, and the San Juan Archipelago", by Eugene N. Kozloff. "Kozloff" is easier to remember.) I have linked to its page on Amazon from here, many times.

My copy is from 1973, and the book has since been updated, with new photos and text. My older version doesn't include newer invasives, such as the Asian mud snails, but otherwise, it is, so far, the best hard-copy guide I have found.

Yellowlegs on Crescent Beach. Greater or lesser? I can never tell.

Some time ago, in a second-hand bookstore, Laurie picked up a copy of "Pacific Seashores - A Guide to Intertidal Ecology", by Thomas Carefoot. (I'm sort of glad he didn't list the place names in the title.) It's another oldie, from 1978, 200+ pages, 8 1/2" by 11". At the time, I glanced through it, but didn't see anything really relevant to the questions I was asking at the time; the book got shuffled to the bottom of a stack.

This past week, while I read and re-read Kozloff, Googled and bookmarked, trying to ID the latest batch of photos, Laurie dug out "Seashores" for me. And this time, it was just what I needed.

Carefoot looks at the "pattern of distribution of plants and animals on the shore, ... the ways they got there, and ... the(ir) myriad interactions ...", focussing mainly on rocky shores. Whereas Kozloff divided his subject matter by type of location (muddy, rocky, docks, etc.), Carefoot looks at it in the context of activity; water movement, predation, grazing, cultivation, and so on. (He refers to an even older version of Kozloff, by the way.)

Leafing through the pages on grazing and predation, intriguing phrases jump out at me:
  1. "Tooth wear in the sea urchin,"
  2. "Thais (that's Nucella, in modern nomenclature), the schemer,"
  3. "... worst of all is a prey that bites back."
  4. "... the cockle quite literally erupts from the sand and makes away with great leaping movements."
I kept getting side-tracked by these grabbers. But I found what I was looking for, a detailed description, with good, clear diagrams, of the whelks' method of eating mussels and barnacles.

I will be using the book consistently from now on.

Curlew and the regulars, Crescent Beach.

And then, yesterday afternoon, in Chapters, Laurie found me another book. This one is "Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest - A Photographic Encyclopedia of Invertebrates, Seaweeds and Selected Fishes", by Andy Lamb and Bernard P. Hanby, published in 2005. (Another mouthful, but it was all essential information.)

  • 1400 species, with 1700 beautiful, clear photographs, 25 years' worth. Hanby is a talented photographer; some species can be ID'd on the basis of the photos alone.
  • Three separate, sensible ways to find what you're looking for.
  • Clear descriptions, located beside the photos. (If you've ever leafed back and forth through a book looking for "Illustration # 11 on Plate V", keeping your finger in the page where the relevant text is, dropping your bookmarks on the floor half the time, you'll appreciate this.)
  • Precise locations of photos, also with the photo. Habitat, depth, alternate names ... it's all there, and accessible at a glance.
Again, Wow!

Crows, White Rock beach.

And there are egg cases and egg masses pictured, sometimes, with their parents. Very helpful. On the lugworm, referring to those transparent sacs we found at Boundary Bay, and finally ID'd as Arenicola and, I thought, A. pacifica, Lamb writes,
"... the discovery of suspicious-looking, tongue-shaped, gelatinous, stalked egg masses ... in Boundary Bay ... may also prove to be those of the Pacific green lugworm, Arenicola crustata."
Wonderful! In my first browsing, I discovered several other organisms that I recognized but hadn't been able to identify before. And I think I can find here the egg cases that I found on eelgrass.

One thing I really liked about this encyclopedia; the authors are not afraid to say, "We don't know." For example, a worm:
"NE18. The identity of this subtidal white ribbon worm may never be known ..."
And a listing of 24 unidentified sponges, included in "appreciation and enjoyment of the wide variety of species ...", along with encouragement to "keep your eyes open." Because there is still so much to be learned.

I could go on. But I won't; I've got to get back to my browsing.

Yellowlegs, Crescent Beach.

The encyclopedia ends with a section on selected vertebrates, mostly fish active in the intertidal zone. But the last three entries are the Wandering Garter Snake, because it "routinely visits the beach to prey on intertidal creatures ...", then Homo sapiens "intertidalus" and Homo sapiens "subaqueous". The Beachcomber and the Scuba diver, respectively.

(There's a good review in Diver Magazine.)



  1. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest is great book. Enjoy--great photos and good coverage.

  2. Thanks for that post! I have a couple of seashore guides but they are uninspiring. I shall check these out.

  3. I LOVE that photo of the crows, the beach and the mountain. Is that Mt. Baker? Lucky you to live in such a beautiful place!

  4. Huckleberry; I am even more impressed after a couple of evenings with the book.

    Spinyurchin; The encyclopedia is worth every penny it costs.

    Alyss; Yes, that's Mount Baker. We are ringed by snow-capped mountains, but Baker is the best!


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