June tidepooling…

…and a bear story

A minus 4.5-foot tide drew us out to check the intertidal zone. As we strolled across a wide sandy stretch at the water’s edge, we were startled to see a frond of rockweed steadily disappearing into the sediments. A few steps later, another algal frond went quickly down and was gone from our view. Then it happened again. Very mysterious. Some buried critter was pulling in algae, but who could it be? The most likely perpetrators were horse clams, withdrawing their siphons as our steps shook the sands and thus pulling down algae that were attached to the siphons.

We found several Aristotle’s lanterns, the grazing apparatus of sea urchins, left behind by birds that had cleaned out the urchins’ soft innards. I was interested to see that every lantern had a ribbon worm wedged into the intricate structure.

The big whorl of Neptunea whelk egg cases that we found in May was still there, with the presumed parent still nearby. But now the egg cases were open. We had thought, in May, that the whelk was just-then laying the eggs, but a month is too short a time for them to have hatched, so some predator may have got them.

We often find sea stars that are missing one or two arms, and sometimes they are in the process of regenerating them. But on this day, we found a sea star that had lost four of its five arms, and the regenerating arms were still very small. With only one functional arm, this star would find it hard to pry open clams or mussels or pull big snails off the rocks. I’m guessing that it would have to rely on small prey that requires less manipulation, but regenerating four full arms would take a lot of energy. I wonder if any researcher has ever studied the energetics of regenerating missing arms or the possible changes of diet for sea stars with many missing arms.

I noticed two black oystercatchers, unusually quiet. Then I saw that those two were accompanied by another one—it was back-lit, so colors were not clear, but it was slightly smaller and had a shorter bill. Aha! Parents with a big chick. They moved off without fuss to another rocky point.

And now a bear story: Sometime in May, I came home and looked out my front window. There was something large and black in the spruce tree across the pond—right where the pulley line for the seed feeders is attached. The feeders hang over the pond, where the spill is relished by a bunch of mallards. The large black creature tugged repeatedly on the pulley line with her claws and then with her teeth, but to no avail. She gave up, came down the tree, and came around the pond into the yard to eat horsetails, then ambled all around the house, sniffed some primroses, and went back to the other side of the pond. There she climbed a small pond-side alder that bent low under her weight, so she was then balancing—and wobbling—over the water on a trunk that was much too narrow for her bulk. Soon she was upside-down under the alder, like a sloth. She let go with her hind feet, so then her butt was in the water, and used her front feet to inch her way sideways along the trunk to shore. She stood quietly on the bank.

Now the pair of mallards that had been watching her shenanigans from the safety of the middle of the pond began to take closer notice. Mr Mallard suddenly and loudly lunged at the peaceable bear on the bank—and she scampered quickly up a tree! After she came down, he did it again—and she scooted up another tree! And then she ambled off into the woods. A friend noted, later, that I have ‘watch ducks’.

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