Know your beach-this week from the beach

#3 in a series of guest blog posts by Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists Bobby Arispe and Jen Strongin.

Moon Snail, Lincoln Park Beach

Moon Snail, Lincoln Park Beach

We celebrated the summer solstice with some pretty special low-tide guests at Lincoln Park last week. This moon snail gave us quite the celebratory show, with its grand foot extended and in full view. Moon snails use their giant foot to get around and to help themselves burrow into the sand to hide from predators.

To the delight of a number of schoolchildren (we had about 180 visit us that day!) and all of us naturalists, we also got to spend some quality time with an octopus. It eventually hitched a ride on a moon snail egg collar as the incoming tide brought it back out to sea!

Crab #1

Many of the school kids were picking up crabs and showing me all the “dead” crabs they found. We played a little game of “beach detective” and used our senses to determine if these crabs were really dead. A gentle touch to see if they moved; if not, we picked them up and felt how heavy they were. Then, we gave them a good smell. If the crab didn’t smell really stinky, we tried opening the carapace. If it opened easily and looked like the crab below, we knew we had “crab clothes” or, more technically, a molt! This crab had just grown a little bigger and left its old exoskeleton behind.

Crab #2

Lincoln Park and Constellation Beach are my home bases as a beach naturalist, but this week I headed up north to visit the beach at Carkeek Park. I love Carkeek with its amazing beds of eelgrass (important habitat for young salmon and many invertebrates) and the famous “whispering rock” at the north end.

Whispering Rock

Whispering Rock at the North end of Carkeek Beach

Every nook and cranny of the whispering rock is covered with life—from tiny barnacles to huge sea stars. If you visit and Beach Captain Daoud is there, he will show you around. He knows this rock like the back of his hand! If you’re lucky, he might show you where the amazing and strange-looking tunicates hide out.

Daoud

Daoud, illuminating one of the many crevices filled with animals at Whispering Rock. Carkeek Beach.

Shiny Orange Tunicate

Shiny Orange Tunicate at Whispering Rock. This strange looking animal is more closely related to us than any other invertebrate on our beaches!

Some Carkeek beachgoers were convinced that this mass of orange sea cucumbers at the whispering rock was a giant octopus! You can see why—their bright orange, tube-feet-studded, elongated bodies piled one on top of the other looks just like a tangle of octopus arms.

Sea Cucumbers

Sea Cucumbers at Whispering Rock, Carkeek Beach

We will be on your local beaches July 2–6 to help you celebrate the 4th of July holiday weekend with some low-tide exploring. Come on out and visit us!

Sea star

Beach Etiquette Tip of the Week- Touch gently with one wet finger

Other photos from the beach:

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About Jen:

Jen writes:

“I ventured westward from Albany, NY and fell madly in love with our city from the moment I arrived. It was 21 years ago this August when Seattle first charmed me with its lush, forested parks, beautiful beaches, and water and mountain views (when the skies are clear enough) all around.

I spent the first half of my 21 years here immersed in Seattle’s wonderful coffee culture. My husband and I owned and operated Victrola Coffee on Capitol Hill until 2008. We sold our business that year to spend more time with our newborn son and I have been a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama and budding photographer and naturalist ever since! It started with me taking my young son to the beach, gazing into tide pools and wanting to know more about what we were looking at. Soon, I was going to the beach by myself, every low tide I could, and following the Seattle Aquarium beach naturalists around asking questions. 🙂

I signed up to be an interpretive volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium in 2013, became a beach naturalist volunteer in 2014, and this will be my first year as an official member of the Seattle Aquarium staff as a beach captain. My favorite place to be is on the beach, with my camera, sharing my love and knowledge of our intertidal dwellers with the hope that I will inspire others to love and protect the Salish Sea and the ocean beyond.”

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2 Responses to Know your beach-this week from the beach

  1. Arthea says:

    Thank you Jen for , once again, enriching my knowledge of beach life at low tide. Amazing pictures as well as a significant amount of information regarding low tide sea life. Thanks again for teaching me about these amazing animals.

  2. Carol Ann says:

    So very interesting what Mother Nature has gifted us with. Thanks for sharing Jen. I hope the children who visit the beach become environmental enthusiasts for life.

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