Sunday, June 19, 2016

Beach Sights at the Water's Edge

On Friday morning, I visited the beach near our house and wandered along the edge of the high-tide water. It was a lovely, sunny morning, and the waves had brought out all sorts of interesting creatures, including several creatures that were deceased, washed up from their ocean homes and onto the sand.

Several strange, thick, jellyfish-like things were scattered along the beach, and they turned out to be a totally bizarre animal called a salp (it's worth looking these guys up to read about their life cycle and to see pictures of them underwater):

More specifically, the salps on this beach were the largest species of salp in the world, the strangely named Thetys vagina. (Some online sources suggest that this species' name doesn't actually come from an anatomical reference, but I don't know for sure.) In any case, I am once again struck by the strangeness of things that come from the ocean. I had no idea such a creature even existed:

Several large and beautiful Dungeness Crabs were also washed up on the beach, dead:

The beach was also teeming with Pacific Mole Crabs (Emerita analoga), and they were very much alive. At one point, I saw a spot behind a receding wave where the sand was practically roiling, and I (perhaps foolhardily) stuck my hand into the spot and felt more crabs than sand! These little crabs are such impressive diggers, but I managed to flip one out of the sand for closer viewing. I believe this is a female, with her orange eggs just visible behind her tucked-up legs (she's head-down in this picture):

Several birds were foraging along the water's edge, including this flock of Whimbrels:

A very handsome Black-crowned Night-Heron was patrolling the area as well:

It's always nice to meet one of these fancy herons, and the beach backdrop is a cool bonus:

It occurs to me now that this will probably be one of the last times I visit the Pacific Ocean for quite a while. We now have a week left before the move (ah!), so I'll be wrapping up my Northern California experience as best as I can during that time. Here we go!

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