Seattle Aquarium nighttime low-tide beach walks

The regular beach naturalist season begins this weekend! As we begin to get excited for the season, guest blogger and beach naturalist Bobby Arispe recaps his winter nighttime low-tide  beach walk. 

Nighttime low-tide walk at Constellation Park (South Alki) in West Seattle. Hosted by the Seattle Aquarium's Beach Naturalists.

The Seattle Aquarium’s nighttime low-tide beach walk holds a very special place in my heart. It was this very walk last year that got me hooked on discovering the world that lives just below our waters. That’s when I had my first interaction with the wonderful and knowledgeable beach naturalists. They were so passionate and excited about even the smallest of creatures. I was hooked and signed up the next day for beach naturalist training that would come in the spring.

What’s so special about going out to the beach, at night, in the cold? You get all bundled up, put on your wellies and, with a flashlight in hand, your exploring is focused. You begin to really look and study what’s in your narrow beam of light. The smallest changes in color can really stand out—like the bright yellow of a tiny Monterey sea lemon, the rich purple of an ochre star, or the glass-like tones of a painted anemone.

I had the opportunity this winter to go out and photograph during a couple late-night minus tides. Photographing at night, in the water and cold, can get a little tricky. I tend to go a little all out, bringing a tripod and an off-camera flash. I am glad to make it back without any camera gear going for a swim! During a low-tide at Constellation Park in West Seattle I got to really focus my attention on a few creatures. I tried different lighting and angles until I was happy with my shot. That’s what is special about the dark—you stay tuned to what is in your beam of light.

Just below the surface of the water, a small shrimp photobombs this painted anemone.

This sunflower star was on the move.

This rose anemone looked like a glass sculpture

My next late-night outing was underneath the Fauntleroy ferry dock. This time I was with a group of really experienced beach naturalists (the kind that know all the Latin names for things). I got to learn so much from their experiences and knowledge. It was below freezing, I was standing in almost knee-deep water, and I had the biggest grin on my face. I got to tickle an orange feathery sea pen, in the pitch black, to see its bioluminescence! It was magical. We found so many interesting creatures that night.

Under the Fauntleroy ferry dock.

Sea pen—it glows in the dark!

Monterey sea lemon, a type of sea slug.

Monterey sea lemon, a type of sea slug.

Leopard dorid, another type of sea slug.

Leopard dorid, another type of sea slug.

Leather star

Leather star

My latest photos were from the Seattle Aquarium’s official nighttime walk at Constellation Park last month. Since I was not scheduled to be leading a group, I turned my camera to all the people who came out (and a few creatures). It was so exciting to see almost so many people show up to explore the minus tide with the beach naturalist guides.

Dog whelk snails and their eggs.

A great turnout on the beach.

This anemone sways in the receding tide.

We found a young giant Pacific octopus!

I hope you will join me and my fellow beach naturalists in exploring the low tide during the daytime this spring and summer! The first low tide beach walk of the season is tomorrow, Thursday May 25. For a full list of locations and dates, visit SeattleAquarium.org/beach-naturalist.

About Bobby:

This is Bobby’s second year as a beach naturalist.

His passion for the Salish Sea started when he and his wife moved to Seattle four years ago from San Antonio, Texas.

Bobby is an avid photographer and enjoys capturing his adventures of the Pacific Northwest. During the week you will find him biking to work where he leads a creative team at a local marketing agency.

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