Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crowded beach

At low tide on a beach like the one at the Edgewater motel, most of the residents are in hiding.

The beach from the top of the steps, with the tide still going out.

The base is mostly flat sandstone; on top of this, rocks lie scattered, loose, as if tossed by a stone-throwing giant. From the middle intertidal zone down, sea lettuce carpets the sandstone, with sea stars for decoration; rockweed clings to most of the rocks. There's not much more to be seen, unless we're ready to get our knees wet.

Peering under a large rock, we find a large brown and beige anemone, reddish seaweed, and encrusting sponges, pink and red. And another purple star.

Rolled over, another rock exposes bryozoan colonies, and a host of tiny spiral tubeworms. The bryozoans may be Derby hats; the white circles are empty cases.

Dwarf tubeworms, Spirorbis sp. The worms themselves (about 2 to 5 mm long) are red, so the smaller, thinner tubes look pink.

Now to get our noses to the sandstone: with Laurie leaning down, camera ready, I would flip a rock or two, and then we'd snap away wildly, before everything scooted under fresh cover.

A sandy spot, with Northern kelp crab (Pugettia producta) and cling fish.

As we took a series of photos, I noticed a change in the cling fish. After the first startled thrashing about, he lay still, but he was developing new colours. In the first two photos (too blurry, because he was spinning, as they do; this one is the third we took) he was almost black. A minute and a half later, see the difference:

Click on this to see the spots; orange, green, brown. I love those yellow eyes, too!

Next rock; wet sandstone, with grungy icing. A lively, varied community, legless to multi-appendaged. 

Going left to right, top half: a bit of purple starfish, a green rockweed isopod (Idotea wosnesenskii), three whelk shells (maybe containing whelks), a green shore crab, a sea urchin gift-wrapped in sea lettuce, a grainy hand hermit crab in a black stained whelk shell, another shore crab, a snail (possibly Amphissa), and two more whelk shells, one at least used by a hermit and decorated with a limpet.

Bottom half, left to right: beside that brown stone, a tiny, smooth shell, probably holding a hermit crab. Next, a very small gunnel, five more whelk shells, at least one with an upturned grainy hand hermit. The second one is carrying two slipper snails.

All this under a small rock I could pick up with one hand!

Another view of the same scene. Everybody's shifted around, some heading for cover, some just wandering.

Next rock:

A velvety purple ribbon worm, Paranemertes peregrina. The white stripe is on his underside.

Purple ribbon worm and flatworm.

Flatworm heading for cover, watched by a pair of shore crabs.

There are areas on this beach where the animals are in the rocks, rather than under them.

These little anemones live in round holes in the sandstone. The holes were probably carved out by other animals, such as limpets or clams.

Zooming in.

And in. I've cleaned off the glittery sand grains, to show the anemones more clearly. When the tide comes in, they rise out of the holes and spread out their tentacles, covering the bottom with a green polka-dot pattern.

And one last anemone, on its own under the edge of a rock.

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