TIMES THEY ARE
I wonder what you can see in this lead off picture. It was taken down on the rocks below Starfish Cave. I was with a group of high school students from Waldorf Schools. They were having their first encounter with the animals we see on a regular basis during the summer. These students were studying marine biology and learning about Maine's special shoreline characteristics. All summer I looked in vain for an Asian Shore Crab, and already this week, two have been found. One you see here. It is not alive, but a molt. These crabs, as well as our native crustaceans grow by shedding their shells. Somewhere, the animal that escaped this exoskeleton is hiding while its shell hardens. We found a lot of Dog Whelks in this area, edging up to the mussels they feed upon. Some are striped, others are pure white, depending upon the food they eat. The strands of rockweed overlay the animals, and there is a fibrous matting of green algae under the crab. These crabs have arrived on our shores in recent years, and we need to be aware of the impact they may have on the diversity of our native sea life.
Remember when the sun set at 8:30PM earlier in the season? I couldn't help but notice the change as I drove over to the island at 6:30PM while admiring a large red ball of sun dropping down into the western shoreline. Times they are changing. I used to get up at 5AM to witness the sunrise. Now, it is more like 6:30AM to catch a glimpse of that morning splendor. This weekend we will have extreme tides that accompany the full moon. I will have to arise early or take a flashlight to catch the animals left high and dry by the unusually low tides.
The Waldorf students must have a gentle heart. Two students actually bought lobsters that had been used in their lab exercises and chose to release them back into their habitat. I walked with one student and watched her remove the rubber bands and let the animal walk free off the rocks of Joe's Head. How many of you would feel moved to do the same? These were students from the Toronto Waldorf School. Earlier, I joined a Geology outing where we examined the rocks of Joe's Head, you see behind these students. I stopped to photograph this purple Aster growing in a crack. Notice the many twisted patterns in the surroundings - microfolding of metamorphic rocks.
I walked along the Cattail marsh today and was surprised to hear a Spring Peeper frog calling. This is not the season for them to get romantic, but there it was giving a spring time awakening call. I couldn't help but wonder if there was a nearby female to respond?
One final note...I always rejoice in finding something new, never seen before, except perhaps in books. I hiked the trails of the Ridgewell Preserve in anticipation of leading a walk there next week. I found this beautiful lichen growing on a tree, with some remnants torn loose. It was so green on the top side that it suggested a leaf. Underneath, it was white or cream colored. This is Lung Lichen, an unusual form of the lichen group that represents a symbiotic relationship between an alga and fungus. The algal component provides the food through photosynthesis, and the fungus provides moisture, protection and minerals. Whenever I consider the role of these pioneering organisms, growing where other living species can not thrive I recall the words of John Ruskin:
"..in one sense the humblest, in another they are the most honored of the earth children. Unfading as motionless, the worm frets them not, and the autumn wastes not. Strong in loveliness, they neither blanch in heat nor pine in frost. To them, slow fingered, constant-hearted, is entrusted the weaving of the dark, eternal tapestries of the hills. Sharing the stillness of unimpassioned rock, they also share its endurance; and while the winds of departing spring scatter the white hawthorn blossoms like drifted snow, and summer dims on the parched meadows, the drooping of its cowslip gold - far above among the mountains, the silver lichen spots rest, star-like, on the stone; and the gathering orange stain upon the edge of yonder peak reflects the sunset of a thousand years."
Though not star-like, silver or orange, these beautiful lichen gave me pause as I wondered how I have missed them on previous walks. 9/17/05 Ronnie