Thursday, December 22, 2011

Empty beach

Yesterday morning dawned clear and cold; there was ice on the birdbath again, but by noon the sun had banished it and the breeze was warm. A perfect day to go to the beach.

We hadn't been to White Rock since the day after the storm, back in November, the day I had collected the water that I believed had poisoned my aquarium. It was time to put unhappy memories behind us. We went to our usual spot on the White Rock beach.

A calm, sunny day. Setting sun warms the brown goldenrod heads.

We watched the train go by, I fed another bag of dry bread to shrieking gulls, we watched a kayaker or two. Then I went to the spot where I'd collected the last bottle of water, and started flipping rocks just below the high tide line. I wanted to either discard or confirm my conclusion about the water. Had the animals here suffered the same fate as mine at home?

There were no crabs under any of the rocks I flipped. No hermit crabs. No snails. No limpets. No worms. A few of the higher intertidal amphipods that always swarm on the bottom of these rocks. Just a few.

I walked west, flipping a few more rocks after every couple of steps. Nothing was alive but the amphipods.

I had covered about 150 metres when I found one tiny limpet and an anemone. A bit farther on, there were two limpets, one mussel, and a very small snail, small enough to have washed in after the tides had cleaned the area.

After this, the population of amphipods was denser. Then I found three more limpets, and one miniature hermit. No crabs, though.

Just before the 300 metre mark (measured on Google, at home), one of the stones sheltered a handful of baby crabs, about 1/4 inch across the back. That was reassuring. And a couple of dozen steps further on, I up-ended a large rock, and startled a crowd; too many crabs to count before they scuttled off, a half-dozen small hermits, a mediium periwinkle snail, and a number of black "pinhead" snails, like crawling grains of coarse sand, and under, over and around them all, a mass of slithering amphipods. Yay!

From here on west, just off-shore, a flock of goldeneyes were diving for supper. There had been no birds near the dead zone, except the gulls that mobbed me for my bread, and left as soon as the bag was empty.

So it seems that I was correct: something in the water was probably the culprit. Next time, I'll search in the opposite direction, to see if I can estimate the size of the affected area.

Rocks at the shore, and Common goldeneye.


  1. That's so sad, but at least you know where the problem came from. - Margy

  2. It really is sad ... but I am filled with admiration for you - how hard it must have been to return to the scene of the crime. And hunt for answers.

  3. Margy, that's a relief, and a worry. I'll keep monitoring that stretch of beach. I hope the damage was temporary.


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