I continue to be on a "spring hunt". I look for the first blooms, listen for animal calls, and watch for changes in shoreline inhabitants. This was my first Dandelion, found blooming in a protected place out on Small Point. When there are few, they attract appreciative attention, but once they take over and their seed heads take shape, they aren't as popular. Here in Maine, I have neighbors who relish their greens to eat, something I've never made a habit. I prefer searching out the shoots of Poke Weed to eat, but they remain hidden at this early spring stage.
A shoreline walk turned up this colorful array. I often find ropes of different colors, and this orange one sets off the hues of more natural findings. Of course, there are a few lobster rubber bands thrown in, but they are often found on the shore. The reds and pinks are provided by crab shells of Red Rock Crabs or Green Crab shells bleached by the sun. There are also some samples of Irish Moss which turns red in the process of bleaching white. Of course, the beautiful blue of Mussel shells always catches my eye. There is even a bone in this mix.....can you find it?
On this same beach outing, I was surprised to find Beach Fleas hopping around on the sand, away from their holes. These are interesting marginal creatures that like living at the edge of the high tide marking, but aren't found in the water. They hop about, usually during the night, looking for remnants of food left by the tide. This was a cloudy day, so that may explain their daytime activity. These animals are semi-terrestrial crustaceans called Amphipods. Their genus is Orchestia, which comes from the Greek word for dancer! Their common name, Beach Flea, has nothing to do with insects except that they hop like fleas. They don't bite either. They do have gills which means they have to keep in a moist environment, usually down in holes or under displaced seaweed. They have numerous legs to dig holes, and hop considerable distances considering their small size. I managed to get several to hold still for this photo. Try walking on the beach at night to chronicle their activity, with a flashlight of course.
Another miniature nature happening is the blooming of Whitlow Grass. Nearly every campsite has a patch of these tiny flowers.....each with four split petals and a rosette of basal green leaves. Sometimes you find these plants growing in sand or mud; they don't seem to require much, but take the cake for early bloomers. Beach Peas are also making an appearance these days. Their leaves emerge from the sand in a reddish pink color. Later, the leaves turn green, and pretty soon will produce those beautiful pink pea blossoms. I can't wait! I also observed the first blooming Trailing Arbutus this week. It is usually recognized as one of the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom. Here in Maine, they are a plentiful and beautiful harbinger of spring. Get out in the woods where you are and take a peek! They can't be beat....even with a flagrance all their own.
4/11/10 Ronnie, on a high note!