We have the first week of nature outings under our belts, and I have to thank the sun and the moon for drawing back the tidal waters so we could get a good look at sea life on our shores. It meant early risings, sometimes in drizzle and fog, but it didn't deter the excitement in finding the hiding animals. The Sea Stars and Hermit Crabs were found in abundance, including a Brittle Star! Then, it was on to Sanddollar Beach where we finally found those Moonsnails, even their Sand Collars where they had laid eggs. Several Hermit Crabs had grown of such size to move into empty Moon Snail shells. They are always a delight to find. We climbed around the point to the eastern side of Sanddollar Beach where we found a dead Skate and its unique egg case that you see in the photo. Notice how low the tide was, enabling campers to walk out to the channel. Some lobster boats had to await the rising of the tide so they could get through to the harbor.
Skates are bottom feeding fish with bones made of cartilage. Many people take one look at these creatures and holler - "Sting Ray!" These native fish are not the stinging variety, but do have spikes on their tails and "wings" that may make you feel as if you were stung if you step on one. These fish used to be considered trash. Fishermen didn't like them - when hooked they would curl around the line and were difficult to remove. Their egg cases are black and some call them Mermaid's Purses. I once found one with the developing skate inside, so know that this is not someone's dreamed up idea.
The third day of tidal explorations took us to Totman Cove over in West Point. We found more Moon Snails and live Sanddollars. Under the rocks along the shore of this extensive tidal cove, we found urchins and lobsters awaiting the incoming tide. We dug a few Razor Clams, but the Red Tide and recent flooding have closed all clam flats for digging and eating. One can't help but wonder how clam diggers are managing since they've been put out of business. It also makes you wonder where the clams in the markets are coming from! The rain in recent weeks has been relentless and causes flooding of septic systems. It is hard for me to look at a clam hole and not dig down to find the hiding creature. We also found several bones on the shore including this bird back.
We concluded our outing to Totman cove by hunting down Gold Bugs (I kid you not) and making Inuksuks to mark this special place. Gold Bugs are actually beetles that feed on a local plant called Bindweed. This plant has a flower resembling a Morning Glory, so that may help you locate these insects. They actually are a shining gold, but may change color.
Some of you remember the significance of building Inuksuks by piling rocks to create a tower or image resembling a person or animal. These are made in Canada by the Inuit Indians to signify a special place for fishing, hunting, or just to mark a trail. Constructing an Inuksuk takes patience and a feel for balance. It is unlikely that those we made at this outing will survive the incoming tide and frequent wind patterns. This fellow creating his tower came all the way from Virginia to try his skill at building. Those in the foggy distance, may last longer since they are above high tide. The rocky coast of Maine provides many opportunities for Inuksuk building!
We are still in a rainy pattern, but fortunately not pouring rain. Where is the sun, for goodness sake? 6/30/09 Goodbye June, Ronnie.