Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Good news!

Two years ago, in November of 2011, polluted water from the White Rock beach killed my aquarium. A month later, we found a zone of the beach that was basically dead, too.
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.
We've been back, off and on. The view is always beautiful, but so often, I flip stones and find nothing. With time, even the barnacles were all dead. The rocky west end stunk of a cannery in summer; a long-dead fishy odour. I was beginning to dread walking that direction.

Last week, we headed that way again. It had been a while. And the beach is back! It smells fresh and salty, as it should. I flipped rocks and disturbed whole communities of hermit crabs, hairies, grainy hands, and those little orange ones I can't identify. Shore crabs scuttled away to hide, or stood their ground, menacing me with their mighty half-inch pincers, according to their various personalities. Big eelgrass isopods slept on the bottoms of stones; polychaete worms burrowed into the sand away from the light. The stones were dotted with pinhead snails, probably periwinkles.

I collected a bit of eelgrass for my critters in the tank. Washing them off at home, I found tiny limpets. One blade held at least 10, plus a raft of spiral tubeworms.

And the barnacles and mussels are growing back.

Detail of a stone top.

And flatworms! I'd never seen so many at one time before. Every stone held a few; on some stones, every barnacle seemed to have a flatworm oozing around it.

I count 7 flatworms on this corner of a rock. I don't know if they're the same species or not. Since their bodies are semi-transparent, whatever they've been eating changes their colour and pattern.

Not all the ooze on that stone is flatworm. The more shapeless and patternless blobs seem to be some sort of sponge.

And I've never seen these anemones anywhere but near the American border on the Tsawwassen beach. I didn't see them when I took the photos, but at home, counting flatworms, I noticed quite a few. And two came home on three barnacly stones I brought to feed my one predatory snail.

Orange-striped anemones. Five here, plus one flatworm that I can see. This corner of the photo was blurry, and I've sharpened the anemones to make them stand out.

We walked quite a distance west from the end of the park. I flipped stones at intervals all the way. Every stone harboured a thriving community.

I am so relieved! Life on the edge is tougher than it looks.


  1. I love seeing nature bounce back like that.

    If only people would take better care of their planet!

  2. In just a few second, damage can be done. It takes so much longer for recovery. But this is an amazing rate. I missed Rock Flip Day this year. I'll get it on my calendar for next year. - Margy


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