Hello everyone..sorry to have been remiss in my updates of the Strand Line. We got up to Maine later this year, and then I had some problems with my provider. First thing I knew, I was well into my schedule of walks with no time to sort things out. Anyway, here I am again, and I'll try to bring you up to date on some of our activities out in the world of nature.

I'll start with these Brittle Stars which were found on one of our first snorkels. The way to find these small sea stars is to pull a Kelp free of its holdfast, and then look in the fingers of that attachment for these fragile animals. Their five legs are very mobile, but fragile.

We had a fascinating flashlight hunt this week at the Yankee dock. Under the cover of darkness, many animals come out at night, including marine creatures. The lobsters can be seen scavenging along the shoreline using flashlights. Most of these are small, but it is interesting to see their maneuvers in the water. Crabs also can be captured with ease using a net for a closer look. We also found sea stars and an eel slithering in among the seaweeds. Several flashlight hunters came up with small Pipefish that are seldom seen by the light of day. Here is a sketch of one we caught. It is only about 6 inches in length and very narrow, only 1/8-1/4 inch in diameter. It has several transparent fins that were only visible in daylight. What wasn't easy to determine was the fact, I learned upon reading, that the animal is hexagonal in circumference before the anus and four sided behind that "waste hole". They don't have teeth, but somehow ingest small animals through that tube-like mouth end.

Also on our flashlight search, we found a "first" for this observer....a toad! Mind you, this was swimming on the surface of the harbor's salt water! How it got there is a mystery, and I couldn't help but wonder how the salt water might affect its livelihood. Needless to say, we netted the animal and returned it to its woodland habitat. This was a small toad, maybe 2-3 inches in length. This is the time when toads start to leave the waters where they have matured equipped for land dwelling. I have the distinct impression that most toads shun salt water. How do they tell the difference from fresh water if they are seeking a place to mate and lay their eggs? I will pay a tribute to these wonderful amphibians by sharing poem I recently came across. If you find a toad, look closely at its distinctive features, as did this author...I think it is a gem. It's called "Look Again".

What you have never noticed about the toad, probably,
is that his tongue is attached not to the back of his mouth but
the front - how far it extends
when the fly hesitates on a near-enough leaf! Or that

its front feet, which are sometimes padded, hold three nimble
digits - had anyone
a piano small enough I think the toad could learn
to play something, a little Mozart maybe, inside
the cool cellar of the sandy hill - and if

The eyes bulge they have gold rims,
and if the smile is wide it never fails,
and the warts, the delicate uplifts of dust-covered skin, are
neither random nor suggestive of dolor, but rather are
little streams of jewelry, in patterns of espousal and pleasure,
running up and down their crooked backs, sweet and alive in the sun.

Here's to the toads of the world..

7/14/05 Ronnie, back in the business of nature. Amen.