Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sort of a bird

Beachcombing at the wrong time of day, with the tide barely starting down, limits your choices. Wave-tossed eelgrass, tied in complicated knots; kelp stipes, with the holdfasts and floats torn off; bits of clamshell, leftovers from gulls' lunches; bits of driftwood; plastic bottle caps and shreds of styrofoam. And, for some reason this last visit, dozens of walnut shells strewn from one end of the beach to the other.

Driftwood, with grub tunnels.

I was looking for barnacles for my leafy hornmouth snails, but my schedule and the tide's were not in sync. The only barnacles I saw were on huge rocks; they don't settle on small stones this high in the intertidal zone. My snails would have to go hungry.

And then I saw it; a broken branch that had been underwater long enough to have collected a small barnacle colony, but that still floated enough to have been tossed into the eelgrass knots. I broke off a piece with some good barnacles and shoved it in my bag with the plastic bottle caps.

My hermit crabs love old wood. I anchored the stick in the tank with a couple of rocks. A few minutes later, a half-dozen hermits were on it, picking away at the rotting bark. Underneath, another group was collecting their crumbs. Tiny crabs grabbed slivers and hauled them under the rocks. And a leafy hornmouth snail was making his way over.

Young green shore crab on the branch. He moved into my tank as a tiny, side-walking speck. Now he's just under 1 cm. across the carapace.

This little one is half the size of the one above, about 4 mm. across the carapace. I think he'll turn out to be a black-clawed crab. He was all white to start off.

By morning, the wood was stripped of goodies, the snail had been, had eaten, and gone. And then I saw the bird.

Well, almost a bird. Part of the broken branch, with the remains of barnacles.

I was planning to remove the stick this morning, since the hermits are done with it, but an anemone that was living in the red algae has moved over and settled down. Sometimes they are surprisingly fast!


  1. Does have a bird look. You take such good care of your critters. - Margy


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