Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Now that's a proper live beach!

The tide was high when we arrived at Crescent Beach on New Year's Day, so we walked along the shore watching the birds: gulls, an eagle, a flock of chattering yellowlegs, and further out, rafts of ducks, pintails, we think. The birds close to shore were feasting; we caught one yellowlegs on camera running along with something floppy and red dangling from his beak, and another bird in hot pursuit. And in our few photos (too far, too bright to take very many), I counted 10 gulls with a beak full of clam or snail.

By the shape of it, this looks like a snail.

We walked almost to the point. By then, the water had gone down enough to expose the upper intertidal zone, so I went down to the edge to flip rocks. Every stone and rock I turned exposed a mob scene, crabs and hermits, snails, isopods, amphipods, all piled higgledy-piggledy.

A pretty orange clam, burying himself as quickly as possible.

Crabs upon crabs. There are a half-dozen crabs visible in this photo. Can you see them?

At least half of the snail shells here are occupied by hermit crabs, mostly greenmarks, the tiny ones with orange marks on their legs and pincers. (I haven't seen any green marks on them yet.) But there is a larger hairy hermit near the centre, mostly hidden. The snails and snail shells are Asian mud snails (the long, striped one) and Sitka periwinkles (round, fat coils); these last always live close to the high water mark. A couple of snail shells are from Nassas. In the upper left, you can see a large rockweed isopod.

Hermits upon hermits

The large one in the center is a hairy hermit, identifiable by the black and white striped antennae. On the upper left is one of the Eastern mud snails so common lower down on this beach, and there's a pretty green Nassa at the bottom.

Isopods upon isopods

On the underside of the rocks, the animals weren't quite as crowded as on the ground underneath. These isopods are distinguishable from the eelgrass isopod, about the same size, up to 2 inches, by the rounded tail end. The eelgrass 'pod's has a concave bite cut out of it.

Splotchy isopod

The isopods come in various shades, including this mottled green, black and grey pattern. The brown, bubbly snail on its left is an oriental cecina. It likes the extreme high tide level.

Isopod, greenmark hermit, and several limpets.

The limpets belong to two different species; the larger, ridged, black and grey patterned ones, and a small orange speckled limpet, with two spiral tube worms attached. There were quite a few of these; this was the largest I saw.

The crab photo again, cropped to center on the hiding hairy hermit. The shell and eyes are well buried under other animals.

Greenmark hermit in a checkered periwinkle shell. I think the shell just above it is a wrinkled amphissa.

Not all the snail shells contain hermits; these still house the original owners.

A small starfish, about 2 inches across, has cleared an area on a stone, either by eating everything, or by scaring it away.


I don't know what this is. There is a shell similar to this in the hermit photo (scroll up three photos), but this doesn't look like a shell. It showed up in three photos from different angles; in each, it just looked like a blob. No snails in the Encyclopedia match it. Help wanted!

I made a list of the different animals found in a few minutes:
  • One whelk, one polychaete worm, one sand dollar, not shown,
  • small acorn barnacles, assorted amphipods, red encrusting sponge, shown but not mentioned,
  • orange limpets, black ridged limpets, green shore crabs, greenmark and hairy hermits, rockweed isopods, mud snails (Batillaria), Sitka and checkered periwinkles, amphissa snail, Nassa snails, Oriental cecinas, Eastern mud snails, clams, spiral tubeworms, a starfish, and the "Blob".
I was looking for flatworms, but didn't see any. I'm sure they were there, too.


  1. Such a treasure trove you found walking the shoreline at Crescent Beach, Susannah, and what a perfect way to start the New Year. As usual you discovered what so many others might have missed. Wishing you and Laurie all the best in 2012. :)

  2. I believe there's a seasonal nature to ocean life. Are you going to keep an aquarium this year?

  3. So much, this is a very healthy beach. No wonder the gulls hang around. - Margy


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