Intertidal Monitoring - 2004 Summary
The Ala Spit team was out July 17th and was accompanied by several Skagit Valley Community College students. This team found a hermit crab (Pagurus sp.) that had lost its shell, a big tangled wad of purple ribbon worms (Paranemertes), barnacle eating nudibranchs (Onchidoris bilamellata), and a ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis). The team captain says that she thinks that being in the company of the other Beach Watchers and the student guest helpers was the most important highlight of the day. She adds, "It is so wonderful that we can share our efforts and interests in caring for our beaches."
A fired -up contingent of 27 Beach Watchers showed up to survey Cama Beach on June 3rd . The profile swath had to be expanded to a width of 20 feet to accommodate that many curious eyes. The team captain says everyone seemed to have a great time. Amongst the eelgrass, they found the sunflower star (Pycnapodia helianthoides) and lots of tiny caprellid amphipods (skeleton shrimp). Although the sunflower stars they found were relatively small, this species may grow to 3 feet in diameter, making it the largest sea star in the North Pacific. Pycnapodia has up to 24 rays and a fearsome reputation as a predator, feeding on a variety of invertebrates including bivalves, sea cucumbers, urchins, and other species of sea stars. Smaller individuals are known to prey on mussels, snails, and barnacles. While most sea star species are slow moving, Pycnapodia can cover a distance of 300 feet in less than an hour. Wow! Some days I don't move that fast!
Another group of monitors were busy over on Camano Island on June 30th . Those folks looked over Cavalero Beach, which is a brand new site this year. The team captain describes this location as a well-used public beach with picnic tables and a boat ramp. It's in a cove with a sandbar and apparently it's also a popular site for raking smelt. Ten monitors showed up including 6 folks from last fall's Camano class. They found beach hoppers (Traskorchestia traskiana), Nucella snails (Nucella lamellosa), bay mussels (Mytilus trossulus), a few small shore crabs (Hemigrapsus oregonensis), and a sprig of the invasive weed Spartina.
A 4-member team got together to monitor Old Clinton Beach on July 29th. The team did not find as much as usual this year. One veteran participant told us they used to find a lot of small Dungeness crabs on this beach but did not see them this time. They did find Oregon shore crabs (Hemigrapsus oregonensis) and hermit crabs (Pagurus sp.) Also noted was that it was "hotter than heck" that day!
The 5-member Columbia Beach team was out on July 2nd . Their team captain said that they had been noticing an increased amount of clamshell litter at the waterline all spring and after finding lots and lots of moon snail egg collars on monitoring day, they now know why. They even saw one moonsnail in the process of making a collar. Other than that, she reported fewer clams and other animals. The team noted increased fresh water inflow and the water temperature warmer than they expected on an overcast 67-degree day.
The Cornet Bay team had great weather on July 30th. This team had a student from the Skagit Valley marine biology class along for the day. They spotted a gorgeous little green brooding anemone (Epiactis sp.) and a large decorator crab (Oregonia gracilis). They also dug up several small pea crabs that seemed to be free living in the sand. They were believed to be Scleroplax granulata and a species of Pinnixa, both of which are known to live in ghost shrimp burrows. One team member found a gaper clam siphon sticking up out of the sand. She poked it with her finger a couple of times before the clam ran out of patience and gave her a good squirt! When the team was finished on the beach, they checked out a nearby pier. Lying on their stomachs so they could see over the side, they discovered a plethora of tubeworms and anemones, and also two opalescent nudibranchs. One further highlight was seeing the Victoria Clipper cruise by the monitoring site as it steamed through the narrow waterway toward the Deception Pass Bridge.
Weather forecasters had predicted rainy weather for July 17th but were they ever wrong! The Coupeville Town Park Beach team was relieved to have gorgeous sunny blue skies for their day of monitoring. Two marine biology students from Skagit Valley Community College accompanied the veteran team as they examined the beach down to the -1.6 foot level. One very unusual finding was a ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis) with a large bulge in its carapace. A veteran team member identified the cause as the parasitic isopod, Ione cornuta . The team also found sand dollars (Dendraster excentricus), a green sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis), and the pea crabs (Pinnixa sp.) that live within the mantle cavity of gaper clams (Tresus capax). In addition to the intertidal species seen that day, the crew also saw a bald eagle, a kingfisher, and two harbor seals.
A nine-member team checked out Crescent Harbor beach on May 8th . Other than a few footprints in the quadrat photos, everything went well. Highlights for the day were spotting a massive ribbonworm that is as yet still unidentified but we suspect it may have been Cerebratulus. This amazing critter started out about 4 inches long and an inch wide looking like a fat leech and then it stretched out to more than a foot in length with incredible undulating peristaltic waves running down its body. The team also discovered a large (at least 8" long) sculpin, several barnacle eating nudibranchs (Onchidoris bilamellata) and their egg ribbon, the frilled dogwinkle (Nucella lamellosa) in a variety of colors, and Evasterias sea stars ranging in size from tiny to 10 inches in diameter.
Double Bluff /Cirque Point was the third beach monitored on June 8th. That beach's team captain says that the team "had fun as always"! This team found 4 species of barnacles, the little brown barnacle (Chthamalus dalli), the acorn barnacle (Balanus glandula), the smooth white barnacle (B. crenatus), and the thatched barnacle (Semibalanus cariosus). There were also quite a variety of seaweeds. The tide was low enough that they were getting into the kelp beds where they recorded sugar wrack (Laminaria saccharina) and bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). Several people were digging clams near the profile area and team members took the opportunity to chat with them about the importance of refilling the holes they had dug.
A 4-member team explored the beach at Double Bluff/Wahl Farm on June 20th. As the team hiked through a hayfield to reach the monitoring site, they enjoyed a splendid view of Mt. Rainier and also spotted 7 deer including a fawn that had been browsing in the field. Amongst the rocks and boulders of the beach, they identified the red sea cucumber, Cucumaria miniata, a large sea lemon (Archidoris montereyensis) that must have been almost 4 inches long, and the gorgeous ribbon worm Micrura verrilli that was brown with white horizontal stripes. The team also had a lively discussion as they tried to decide whether siphons sticking up out of the sand belonged to rough piddocks (Zirfaea pilsbryi) or geoducks (Panopea generosa). When they tried to dig one up to find out, they discovered a cement like layer of clay that was underlying the sand. That pretty much resolved the question of what the bivalves were in favor of the piddocks!
June 5th a group of highly capable and enthusiastic BW ladies accompanied by two spouses monitored at Camano Island's Elger Bay . The husbands helped lay out the profile line and place the quadrats. This team's captain reports that there was a good turnout of new BWs from Camano's 2003 fall class. In addition, there were enough participants to split up into two teams; one worked on the profile line while the other looked at quadrats. A number of folks from the community came down to the beach so the biosurvey team could fill them in about the monitoring process, organisms on the beach, and the Beach Watcher organization. Monitors found a blob of yellow "stuff" that was tentatively identified as an egg mass. The team also found quite a number of small sea stars (probably Evasterias troschelii, commonly called the mottled sea star) although very few large ones. Like the Sunset Beach team, this group carried on in spite of a couple rain showers.
Eleven Beach Watchers surveyed Camano Island's English Boom beach on June 2nd. As in past years, monitors wore bucket lids strapped to their feet in order to navigate the muddy substrate without sinking. They refer to these fashionable accessories as "muck-o-lids"! On the beach the team spotted the tiny anemone Haliplanella lineata and a lugworm (Abarenicola pacifica). Lugworms are the polychaetes that leave spirals of fecal castings with the appearance of having been squeezed out of a cake decorator on muddy beaches. Dr. Kozloff tells us in Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast that they are very important in the turnover of organic material on mudflats.
English Boom is always a wonderful place to see a variety of fascinating wildlife in addition to the intertidal species and monitoring day was no exception. There is an eagles' nest in a tall Douglas fir just above the monitoring site and mom & pop eagle stayed busy carrying fish to their two rapidly growing offspring all morning. There's also a seal haul out visible through binoculars from the profile area and monitors estimated at least one hundred harbor seals were basking in the warm June sunshine.
Monitors have long enjoyed watching the unusual colony of purple martins that inhabit birdhouses set high on pilings at English Boom but this year proved to be a terrific opportunity to learn more about these birds when the fellow who constructed and tends the birdhouses stopped by. He says he put up 13 purple martin houses there in 2000 and last year had 11 pair of martins nesting in them. Until last year, this was the northernmost colony of purple martins known in Washington. This year however, there are other purple martin colonies in Skagit and Whatcom counties. Purple martins, he told us, are the largest species of swallow in North America and are 50% bigger than tree swallows. He has banded some of the purple martins to learn more about them. Purple martins are preyed on by Cooper's and sharp shin hawks, (which he occasionally sees in the trees along the beach), also by great horned owls, and surprisingly, by great blue herons. The avid bird enthusiast says that he sees the great blue herons sitting on top of the nest boxes early in the morning waiting for the purple martins to emerge from the martin houses. When they do, the heron grabs them and gobbles them down. Needless to say, he is presently working on a plan to put mesh on top of his martin houses to keep the herons off!
The Footprint Rock team captain submits this report for his beach which was monitored on August 30th : During today's last decent daytime minus tide of the year 2004 for participating in the BW's Beach Monitoring marathon, we completed monitoring the Footprint Rock location on West Beach. This beach, while usually a mix of cobbles and sand, seemed more sandy this year than in the past, perhaps as a result of sand washing down the bluff from all the recent rains. In fact, 8/9 of our fixed quadrat locations were 100% sand. The 9th yielded a pretty 6-rayed sea star Leptasterias hexactis along with just a few barnacles and limpets.
We did "rescue" some beautiful Indian paintbrush plants from a large section of grassy high bluff area that had slumped down onto the beach and appeared to be rapidly eroding and washing out into the Sound.
The Freeland Park Beach team worked under glorious sunny skies on July 31st. On this beach, the profile line usually runs into an area of tenacious mud with the consistency of quicksand about 200 feet down from the start point. The team was delighted this year to find that the consistency of the substrate beyond that point was much more firm, allowing them to get out and explore an eelgrass bed. They speculated that a lot of sand might have washed in, changing the mud/sand ratio to firm it up. Out in the eelgrass, they spotted a moonsnail ( Euspira lewisii ) and several white plumed anemones ( Metridium senile). Higher on the beach, one participant turned over a rock to find a purple ribbon worm (Paranemertes peregrina). Another great species for the day was that of the moonglow anemone ( Anthopleura artemisia).
The Harrington Lagoon team took a look at that beach on June 30th . Harrington Lagoon is south of Coupeville on the east side of Whidbey Island and is another beach that seems to have more sand piled up on it than in past years. The team was amazed by the numbers of small shore crabs (Hemigrapsus oregonensis) they found. They also got a big kick out of the clam squirts that kept erupting all over the beach and one fellow was finding flatworms everywhere. Two adult bald eagles topped off the day with a flyover as the team proceeded down the profile line.
Sixteen Camano Island monitors showed up to give the team captain a hand at Iverson Beach on July 5th. They found quite a collection of bivalve species along the 1100-foot profile line of this sandy beach, including the softshell clam (Mya arenaria), Baltic Macoma (Maco ma balthica), bentnose clam (Macoma nasuta), bay mussel (Mytilus trossulus), and the invasive purple varnish clam (Nuttallia obscurata). The team also spotted ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis) and the little arrow goby (Clevelandia ios) that lives in the ghost shrimp burrows. The team captain reports that along with the intertidal critters, the team watched great blue herons, harbor seals, and believe it or not, 11 bald eagles!
Ghost shrimp are nifty little critters that we see on a number of Island County beaches. They like a mixed mud/sand substrate to dig their burrows in. In Dr. Kozloff's Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast, we learn that the burrows have at least two openings to allow the water to circulate through. The ghost shrimp uses leaf like "pleopods" on its abdomen to fan the water along. As the water circulates, small organic particles snag on the hair of the animal's legs. The tiny particles are then passed along by several appendages to the mouth so they can be consumed.
The Hastie Lake team checked out their beach on June 8th . This is a great west Whidbey beach with a clay/sandy/rocky substrate that includes a number of large boulders and erratics where an amazing variety of organisms flourish. Included in the discoveries were an opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis), two shaggy mouse nudibranchs (Aeolidia papillosa) with their egg ribbon, and three species of sponge (breadcrumb- Halichondria sp., purple encrusting- Haliclona sp., and red encrusting- Ophlitaspongia pennata). One eagle-eyed monitor made the discovery of the day when she spotted several stalked jellies. These are small funnel shaped relatives of moon jellies and lions mane jellyfish that behave more like anemones in that they are attached to seaweed or eelgrass by a stalk.
The Langley Seawall team was also out on June 8th . This is a wide sandy beach with eelgrass beds very low in the intertidal. Their team captain reports that monitoring went very well. The exposed eelgrass beds were brown and she wondered if that was due to very low tides on very warm days. The team did spot a couple of interesting sea slug type critters. As in past years, they found Melanochlamys diomedea, a dark colored inch long relative of bubble snails. They are such odd little things that we have yet to even find a common name listed for them. These little guys leave a distinctive clear, gelatinous egg mass that is a tip off that they're around. A new discovery for this beach was the eelgrass sea slug (Phyllaplysia taylori) . What a gorgeous little animal! Phyllaplysia doesn't get much more than a couple inches long but it's a beautiful shade of bright green with lengthwise stripes that help it blend perfectly with the eelgrass it lives on. It's one of those critters that is so well camouflaged that you almost have to be looking for it to see it. Be sure to watch for it if your beach has eelgrass.
The Lagoon Point team was out on May 8th as well. That team's captain tells us that everything went really well and they had a great time. The folks that make up this team are also bird watchers so they kept an eye on the sky as they explored the intertidal zone. One participant spotted a little critter commonly known as a leather limpet. It's scientific name is Onchidella borealis and rather than being a limpet, it's actually more closely related to land and sea slugs. This little invertebrate maxes out at about ½ inch in length and is somewhat scalloped along the edge like some of the Lottia limpets but instead of having a hard shell, it feels soft or leathery to the touch. A few days prior to monitoring, an unusual yellow nudibranch was spotted on the beach that was believed to be Anisodoris nobilis (another sea lemon-the sea lemon we see more commonly is Archidoris montereyensis.) at this same beach so they added it to their species list. Team members felt that they saw fewer species and fewer individual organisms this year in comparison to previous years.
The Ledgewood team was out on May 6th taking a close look at their beach. Their team captain reports finding large decorator crabs and also an unusual worm species from the family Onuphidae. These tubeworms construct a parchment like tube extending 2 feet down into the sand. The end that protrudes up out of the sand has seaweeds, fibers, and other materials attached to it for camouflage. Unlike most tubeworms, these can actually leave their tubes at times. Another observation was to note an absence of boulders that were previously documented there. Team members speculate they may have been collected for use in a new sea wall somewhere.
Here's team captain's report on Mabana Beach which was monitored on July 30th: This is a long (600+ feet), sandy beach, home to many ghost shrimp, Neotrypaea californiensis. Recommended monitoring attire is shorts and bare feet. In addition to ghost shrimp, there were numerous small clams, Cryptomya californica , which live in the burrows of the ghost shrimp. Also several different polychaetes, sand dollars, sunflower stars, and eelgrass with eelgrass isopod (Idotea resecta). None of the resident Dungeness crab were within the monitoring protocol.
Some of the most interesting finds were outside the official monitoring protocol. One team member attracted a juvenile LBB (Little Brown Bird), which sat on her hat, which was on her head! Just as the tide turned, Sand Lance, a long thin silvery forage fish which had been buried tail first in the sand suddenly emerged, much to the delight of the Bonaparte Gulls who were waiting to snatch up and easy meal. An immature Bald Eagle, which had recently fledged from its nearby nest was feeding and flopping on the tide flats. Much to everyone's relief, it finally flew and with much effort and many circles, gained enough height to just reach the top of the bluff.
The team captain for Madrona Beach submitted this report: It was a crystal clear morning as Beach Watchers gathered at 7:30 am July 29th at Madrona Beach on the North side of Camano Island directly opposite Penn Cove. It was the second monitoring of this delightful cobbled beach to be undertaken. One of the monitoring coordinators left Whidbey at 6:30 am to join us on the beach where last year she discovered the unusual lion nudibranch (Melibe leonina). Her enthusiastic response to each new discovery made all the Beach Watchers even more vigilant as they combed the gravel and cobble for new critter. We accomplished the measuring and set out the grids in record time. We were joined by several curious residents, one of whom was kind enough to point out that we had missed millions of surf smelt eggs deposited on the beach (oops) which glistened like little diamonds as our eyes became accustomed to them. It was a great day at the beach, and we were happy to report that Madrona is healthy and viable at this time. The toughest phase of monitoring was yet to come: Lunch. Smoked Salmon, pasta, fresh bread and pastries completed the morning at Madrona. Make sure you're there next year!
The Maxwelton team captain reports that at the weather cooperated on June th but the critters didn't! She said Maxwelton Creek seems to be changing its course and along with it, the contours of the beach. There was not as much eelgrass seen along the profile area and as a result, they did not find as many organisms. The team did find two species of eelgrass (Zostera marina and Z. japonica), a Dungeness crab (Cancer magister), an eelgrass limpet (Lottia parallela), and several small flatfish.
The Maxwelton Tidepool Team was out on July 28th and what a day they had! This team found an amazing 55 species! Among the real treasures of the day were a geoduck (Panopea generosa) that had its siphon extended about 3 inches above the sand, a bright green blenny eel, a lion nudibranch (Melibe leonina ), a striped nudibranch (Armina californica), and a large flatworm that was at least 2 inches long and nearly as wide. The flatworm is thought to be the large leaf worm (Kaburakia excelsa) as it's about the only one that gets to that size in this area.
The team found the lion nudibranch on the sand after the tide went out and initially thought it was a jellyfish. When they put it in the water, it was immediatly apparent that it was something very different. This animal's appearance can only be described as "weird" as it has a large hood rimmed by fringe at the anterior end and disk shaped flaps extending off its dorsum. As soon as it was back in the water, it inflated the hood, extended the flaps, and began slow motion bucking bronco type movements. In Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific , Dr. Kozloff tells us that this species uses its hood to trap crustaceans, especially amphipods.
The striped nudibranch has not previously been reported by monitors on Island County beaches or at Rosario. It's a nifty little brown and white fellow that feeds on sea pens.
July 2nd brought an incredible -4-foot tide and an opportunity for the Onamac (Camano spelled backwards) team to see some organisms that are rarely exposed. This beach has a sand point projecting out at the south end while the northern part is rockier. Because of the transition in substrate, two profile lines are laid out extending at right angles to each other. The team captain for Onamac says the most interesting thing about the beach to her is watching the sand point as it has shifted position over the years. She says it has moved further south since it was first monitored several years ago.
The northern team found lots of flatworms, a number of barnacle eating nudibranchs (Onchidoris bilamellata), and two small opalescent nudibranchs (Hermissenda crassicornis). The southern team saw ¼ inch sand dollars (Dendraster excentricus), eelgrass sea slugs (Phyllaplysia taylori), and about 30 basket whelks (Nassarius sp.). Several Beach Watchers from last fall's Camano class attended and said highlights for them were seeing the nudibranchs and rockweed isopods (Idotea wosnesenskii), and helping out with the quadrats. One Bermuda shorts clad participant got quite a thrill when a gaper clam shot a stream of cold water up the inside of his pants leg! (Whoo-ee!)
You have to be a hard-core beach monitor to spend the 4th of July monitoring a beach but Partridge Point had a great turnout of monitors and other Beach Watchers who just dropped by to see how it was going. Three Beach Watchers came all the way from Camano Island to take a look at the amazing diversity of this west Whidbey beach. Amongst the rocks, they found two species of sea cucumbers (Cucumaria miniata -red sea cucumber and Eupentacta quinquesemita -white sea cucumber), three species of anemones (brooding anemone- Epiactis sp ., aggregating anemone- Anthopleura elegantissima , and the Christmas anemone- Urticina crassicornis), a keyhole limpet (Diodora aspera), quite a number of clingfish (Gobiesox sp.), gumboot (Cryptochiton stelleri) & lined chitons (Tonicella lineata), and stalked jellies. Team members spotted quite a number of juvenile red rock crabs (Cancer productus) and each had a different color pattern on its carapace. In addition to animal species, they also found surfgrass (Phyllospadix sp), bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana), and red coralline algae.
Two Beach Watchers from the fall 2003 class are team captains for a new Camano Island beach called Perrywinkle Beach and it was monitored for the very first time on June 7th. This beach is mostly cobble higher up in the intertidal with the substrate changing to sand further down. Geology buffs on the team say that the cobbles make it a rockhound's paradise and in the sandy areas, you can see divots made by the gray whales when they came to feed this spring. The 15 monitors recorded 38 species including a river otter that was coming ashore as the team arrived. Also found were moonglow anemones (Anthopleura artemisia), a boulder covered with frilled dogwinkles (Nucella lamellosa) and their egg cases, ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis) , green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis), and clams that kept squirting water at them! They also IDed an opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis) by the orange stripe running down its back. Although the team was able to measure out more than 600 feet to the water line, they could survey only out to 150 feet because the sand got too deep and at least one team member got stuck!
The Possession Point team headed out on July 1st. The team captain says it was supposed to be hot "but was colder than heck!" In spite of that, he says they had a really good time. He notes that on this beach there is a tremendous influx of fresh water and silting which is affecting the clams badly. Numbers of littleneck clams have dwindled at this beach for a number of years and this year the team did not find any. The team did find 21 species of animals including cockles (Clinocardium nuttallii), a red rock crab (Cancer productus), caprellid amphipods , and flatworms.
The Pratt's Bluff team enjoyed sunny skies and 80-degree weather on June 19th . This beach is on the east side of Whidbey Island near Greenbank and it hosts some pretty interesting species. The team was absolutely amazed when a big rock was rolled over to reveal two 8-inch fish and their eggs, which had been deposited on the bottom of the rock. No one on the regular team knew what kind of fish they were. The team had a special guest from the Seattle Aquarium that day and he identified them as midshipmen (Porichthys notatus) , a deep-water species that comes into the shallows to lay eggs. He pointed out the rows of photopores, which are bioluminescent. It is from these that the fish gets its common name because the photopores look like the brass buttons on a midshipman's uniform. Upon researching these fish a little further, we found out that the photopores on these fish do not light up in Puget Sound or the Strait of Georgia because they are lacking a species of shrimp in their diet from which they get the chemical compound necessary for bioluminescence.
Midshipmen fish are also noteworthy because they sing! In spring, the males dig down under rocks to create nests then begin singing or humming to attract a mate. It is said that in some areas where there are great congregations of them, people in houseboats can hear them through the water. The females arrive and the eggs are fertilized and deposited on the bottom of the rock that overlies the nest. There are some smaller males that resemble females and they don't build nests or sing. Instead, they sneak into the nest when a female is there and deposit their sperm in hopes that it will fertilize the eggs. These are called "sneakers". If you're interested in learning more about this fascinating species, check out the website by the Vancouver Natural History Society: http://www.naturalhistory.bc.ca/VNHS/Discovery/OldIssues/Discovery%2031-1%20Article.htm .
June 4th with an amazing -4.1 foot tide brought the Rolling Hills team to the beach for their annual day of monitoring. It turned out to be a pretty spectacular day! The team worked under a solar halo, a phenomenon that occurs when 5-mile high cirrus clouds containing microscopic ice crystals cause refraction of the sun's rays. And if the low tide and solar halo weren't enough, Mother Nature also dazzled them with a dramatic tomato soup colored red tide right there in Penn Cove!
The team also made some interesting discoveries on the beach. Their finds included shaggy mouse nudibranchs (Aeolidia papillosa), lots of green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis), and a ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis). They also spotted a moon snail (Euspira lewisii) that was almost completely buried in the sand. When they dug it out to have a look at it, it had a hold on a partially drilled bent nose clam (Macoma nasuta) that was probably its intended lunch! Upon turning the moonsnail loose, it took only about 15 minutes to rebury itself out of sight in the sand.
Rosario had a small turnout on July 31 but they were still able to divide up into 3 teams. Because of its unique bedrock substrate, the protocol is a bit different from our other beaches. Monitoring at Rosario consists of three transects, the first has 15 quadrats spaced 10 feet apart at the mid intertidal level, the second transect (with 4 quadrats) is located on a rock wall at the ~0 tide level, the third transect located at the low intertidal level, is composed of 4 quadrats.
Transect #1, just off the beach from the picnic area gets a lot of foot traffic. The other two transects are not as accessible. Transect 2 along the wall is the most difficult to reach, and receives relatively little traffic. This year we found 18 species of seaweed and 28 species of invertebrates in our quadrats.
Each year we find hundreds of tiny limpets (L. digitalis, T persona, L pelta) in transect #1, indicating that there is good recruitment (new larvae settlement), but few make it to maturity, perhaps because of the heavy foot traffic. In contrast, Transects 2 and 3 have numerous small and mature Tectura scutum, (a limpet that prefers a lower tide level), indicating that there is good recruitment as well as numerous limpets surviving to maturity.
Other organisms found this year include stalked jellies, the little slug like Onchidella borealis, and Lirabuccinum dirum, the dire whelk. The team captain expresses amazement that stalked jellies were documented not only at Rosario but also at two other beaches this year. It has been years since Beach Watchers have found these little one inch tall Cnidarians while monitoring. Onchidella borealis was found in abundance with 29 in one quadrat! These little guys are only about half an inch long and resemble, somewhat, a limpet with a scalloped edge. From this, they get their common name, "leather limpet". They're not limpets at all though. They're actually related to both land and sea slugs but not fitting completely into either category. They have a lung rather than gills. Searlesia dirum is a carnivorous snail that seems able to target prey that is already injured. It also scavenges on dead fish. The dire whelk can live for 15 years.
South Whidbey State Park's team captain reports that in spite of rather cool weather, the team had a great time on May 6th. They saw half-inch caprellid amphipods ("skeleton shrimp"), a tiny opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis, numerous shrimp, and some flatfish. She was a bit surprised that they spotted very few crabs and only tiny barnacles. Opalescent nudibranchs are so gorgeous that a written description won't do them justice so check out the picture. They are of the fringy type of nudibranchs and feed primarily on hydroids. Opalescent nudibranchs grow to about 2 inches long but as in the case of the one spotted by the South Whidbey team, they are often quite tiny. This species reportedly sometimes get carried away with their mating rituals and become cannibalistic (Yikes!).
Reports from the team captain indicate that the Sunny Shores team also had a good time on July 1. Sixteen monitors showed up to participate. They spotted green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) for the first time at that beach and also found quite a number of white plumed anemones (Metridium senile). The resident bald eagles supervised the entire monitoring from their perch tree. It was apparently one team member's lucky day because she found a $10 bill on the beach!
Folk wisdom tells us that a solar halo is a precursor to precipitation and that proved to be an accurate adage. June 5th dawned cool with frequent rain showers but that didn't stop the Sunset Beach team. In spite of the rain, the 3-person made some interesting finds. The first thing they noted about this west Whidbey beach was that a lot of sand had washed in and blanketed the usually cobble covered substrate. In fact, as they were exploring around a large boulder, a sand lance suddenly popped up out of the sand! You may remember that shaggy mouse nudibranchs (Aeolidia papillosa) feed on anemones. The team was amazed to discover an aggregating anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima) that had turned the tables and was ingesting a shaggy mouse nudibranch ! The rough piddock (Zirfaea pilsbryi) also made their species list. This is the bivalve with the raspy textured shell that allows it to burrow into peat, clay, and even soft stone. This year the piddocks had to extend their siphons up through an added layer of sand as well as the peat.
Utsalady Beach had a good turnout on July 30 th with 10 monitors. In spite of it being the end of July, the day was cool and cloudy. The team captain tells us that the day was pretty much a repeat of what they'd seen before on previous monitoring days and they didn't find anything wild and crazy. She says the profile hasn't changed much over the years. One participant waded out beyond the low tide line to bring in some sea stars for viewing.
- Mary Jo Adams
The 2004 Finds!
Crescent Harbor ribbon worm stretched out
Team looks at red tide
Penn Cove red tide
feeding on nudibranch
with egg cases
Eggs of Porichthys notatus
Egg collar of
Lone cornuta on ghost shrimp
Surf smelt eggs