May 26 2024

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Intertidal Fecundity

Posted at 1:49 pm under Blog Post

Once again Judy and I rented a cottage on the Maine Coast for a week, and once again I couldn’t resist the urge to walk to a small, rocky island just off Goose Rocks Beach. For days I watched a spit of the sandy beach reach towards the island at low tide, but it didn’t seem to connect. Then it did, although very briefly. So the next morning early, I timed my walk so that I’d reach the narrowing channel between beach and island right when the tide was lowest. It worked. I stepped onto the island without getting my feet wet.

The sun, just above the northeastern horizon, shined brilliantly through the cloudless sky. No breeze stirred the still waters, and temps rose quickly through the 50s and into the 60s. The beginning yet another beautiful day. I felt lucky to be alive and kicking. I ventured onto the island’s rock-strewn, uneven ground, careful as to where I stepped… all the time looking downward…

That’s when I realized that I could hardly step anywhere without stepping on some kind of life-form: periwinkles, barnacles, clams and more. These rocks, underwater during most of any given day, are covered with marine animals. I have witnessed this many times before, but can’t get used to this intertidal fecundity. I knelt down and turned over one rock after another. Beneath every rock, tiny hard-shelled aquatic animals moved about, along with translucent creatures barely visible to the naked eye. Had I remembered to bring my hand lens, I would have seen much more, I’m sure.

When I went to pick up and look under one rock, it started moving. That took me by surprise. It was a crab doing its best to look like a rock, now that it was exposed. Fortunately, I came upon it before any of the nearby shorebirds did.

Gulls, godwits, and other shorebirds were busy feeding in the shallow waters nearby, just off the island. No doubt they were finding plenty to eat. I was pretty hungry myself, so I hiked back to the cottage to consume a bowl of granola cereal. Yeah, we all have to eat. Gotta keep those inner fires stoked. Life forms come into being, eat as they mature, reproduce and die. It’s the eternal cycle of life. And nowhere is this more obvious than on a shoreline at low tide.

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