Last Tuesday, I made my way to Head Beach at low tide, but not without difficulty. Recent rain and now ice are causing problems in getting across to the Kelp Shed. I was able to turn around and park behind the dunes and make my way over to the beach. It was a very low tide (I do read the tide charts!) and I proceeded to see what manner of sea life I could encounter. The only company I had in this effort were the gulls. We both looked for signs of clams in the wet sand. To the left you see a hole left by the siphon of a Surf Clam, and also the markings left by a squirt or two. The clams are about two inches beneath the surface. Sometimes, there are other indicators of the clam's presence......a crack in the sand or a mound. The gulls probably sniff also to find their dinner, but I couldn't help but wonder if they also read these patterns in the sand, as I did.
I dug several clams, and several immediately opened their shells and out came a muscular foot to dig back into the moist sand. Was it a response to the cold air or to the presence of the gulls and myself that caused them to become active? I watched as they dug a hole and retreated into the sand. To the right, you see a clam starting the dig. I scouted around for more clams, as a gull watched my activity, and of course those clams. These clams are used for chowder and right now are on a "do not eat" list probably due to some kind of contamination worry. I finally threw most of the clams, that hadn't dug for cover, into the ocean. Unfortunately, a gull was able to extract one clam and flew away at a high level. From there, it dropped the hard shelled clam and was able to break the shell and feast upon the meat. How many clams it had already eaten is an unanswered question, but it was fun to partake of his activity.
I also found a small tunnel and extracted this Snow Flea. These animals are usually found up by the strand line in warmer seasons, but here it was digging in the cold wet sand. It is quite a fast digger. My attention was also caught by this tiny Sea Star left clinging to a rock left by the tide. Note that it has lost two rays and the new growing ones look like horns! The animal seemed quite stiff and I wondered if it was frozen. I placed it in a tidal puddle with the hopes it will survive. I do find Sea Stars in the winter, but they are usually under moist rocks when the tide abandons their world.
I did make my way later in the week over to Popham where the access to the beach is less of a problem. The home page shows a view as you leave the parking area and head out to Fox Island. As I walked out over the broad expanse of beach, I found the gulls were at work here also, finding Surf Clams. I picked up several Sanddollars and enjoyed the outing in very brisk weather. The sun, the sand, the animals and the gorgeous view, made my day. I'm glad to be able to share it with you in this new month of March. 3/4/11 Ronnie, in clam heaven.