So much happened last week that I don't quite know where to start. I guess I'll start with an improbable, the first of several! Last week I was shocked to see this butterfly flying around my kitchen! Good grief, where did it come from? I have to confess that I bring in things from the world of nature - to watch, study or draw. Sometime it is a chrysalis and once I find out what it is and when it is likely to emerge, I return it to the great outdoors. All I can say about this butterfly is that I'm not even sure what its chrysalis looks like. I may have brought it inside unknowingly on some plant. Meanwhile, I developed guilt feelings and bought some flowering Primrose to give it food potentially. Butterflies come into this world to fly, feed, mate, and probably die if they don't migrate. I certainly couldn't let it outside. Poor thing. A real shocker.

Moving on from butterflies to the sea life I love, this past week was highlighted by a full moon and resultant extremely low tides. Most of you know, that means I am out scrounging around on beaches and rocks looking for whatever I can find. Mind you, this is the "dead of winter"! It has been below freezing most days, and the wind picked up to add to the chill factor. I previously wrote about finding the live Sanddollars in Totman Cove, and the next day, I went over to Head Beach at the lowest tide....just before sunset. I climbed the exposed shoreline on Joe's Head, turning over rocks as I went. I think the tide was as low as I had ever seen it, in any season, and I began to find all kinds of animals.....Sea Urchins, Sea Stars (including Brittle and Blood Stars!), Green and Red Rock Crabs, and of course the hardy Periwinkles. No lobsters or Hermit Crabs were discovered, however. The big find for me was a Toad Crab. These are small crabs that distinguish themselves by the growth of plants on their carapace. They are well disguised, and I only find them occasionally. In the picture above, you see the Toad Crab on the left and a Green Crab on the right as contrast. I was pretty excited about all these findings.

The following day, I was equally entranced to walk this same beach and find over a dozen huge Surf Clams lying on the wet sand with their siphons hanging out in distress! Ironically, there were no gulls to feast on these exposed clams, but I proceeded to throw them back into the water. I puzzled over what wave action would have pulled them out of their sandy homes and left them high and dry? A rogue wave maybe? We have had these extreme tides, but usually these clams are left submerged having dug into the sand for safety (with a hole as evidence). So these were the interesting observations that only an extreme tide can provide. I went back to my tide calendar and circled all the full and new moons in the months to come. I learned that the week of July 4th will have these extreme tides so there will be something other than fireworks to light up the shoreline! Mark your calendars!

How do you keep these animals alive in the winter if you want to share these findings? Most of the wharfs have pulled out their ramps and floats, so I sought out a site at a friend's dock. Some of the animals I had found were placed in a perforated bucket lowered into the water with a rope secured. The wind was fierce that day, and I wondered how successful I would be. I went back to feed the animals and check them out, only to discover the rope had caught under the dock and the bucket could not be raised. I will try again, but I had guilt pangs as I did with the butterfly about allowing my curiosity to interfere with the animals' safety. Live and learn.

1/27/08 Ronnie with a sense of guilt.