Field Journal: A New Nudibranch

This time of the year, I check my tide app almost as much as my weather app. Low tide in Seattle means the chance to find marine life that is harder to spot when the waves are higher up on our beaches. My standard go-to beach to explore during these low tides is Alki Beach, but yesterday I went somewhere different to look for nudibranchs and whatever else I might find.

In a little known park, under the dock where a ferry arrives and departs many times a day, live bright colored Orange Sea Pens. These large animals consist of a colony of small polyps and resemble, as the name implies, a feather quill. They wave back and forth in the tide, which becomes rough during the arrival and departure of the large…

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Field Journal: Slime Mold Diversity + Dragonflies

There is one constant about being a naturalist, it is always surprising. A couple of weeks ago I went to the beach for low tide and was surprised when I found no sign of the shaggy mouse nudibranch, or their eggs, which I commonly find this time of the year under rocks. On the other hand, I went looking for slime molds this weekend, not expecting to find many because of the long, dry spring, and yet I found them everywhere.

I have not had good luck taking photos of slime molds before because they are usually found in the forest, which are quite dark here. Compounding the challenge of photographing something small, in a dark landscape, my lens is long and filters out even more precious light. But I prefer to travel light and so I don’t carry a flash system, tripod…

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Field Journal: Caddisfly Swarms

There are downsides and upsides to walking the same route with great frequency. Sometimes it can become tedious and feel repetitive, but then there are the times when I get to see things that only happen for a brief time. Yesterday I got to witness something I’d never seen along my walk before, a mass of caddisflies.

I noticed them almost immediately, swarms of small, black insects dancing right on the shoreline over the water. At first I didn’t know what they were, so I went down to the beach and watched them flying around. They were close enough I could reach out and grab them. When I did I found an insect with very long antennae and slender black wings that extended past the abdomen. The eyes were set on the sides of the head, similar to damselflies and they had a…

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Field Journal: Spring Slime Molds at Seward Park

When it rains, it pours. It’s been pretty dry recently, which gave me little hope at finding any slime mold at Seward Park. But it had been a while since I’d walked through the inner forest at the park so I decided to see what I could find, and if nothing else, it’s still a soothing, beautiful walk through one of the last remnants of ancient forest in the city. I have usual logs I check when I walk and at my very first stop I found not one, but four different patches of slime mold on it.

One was nearly divided in half, the top part was a mass of shiny, black spheres while the bottom half of the mass had exploded into tan colored fluff. My best guess for this one was a Metatrichia species, but I can’t be sure. A…

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Field Journal: Alderflies Galore

Yesterday turned out to be sunny and warm and I visited Magnuson Park for the first time this year. I quickly took off my jacket because it was so unexpectedly warm and my thoughts immediately drifted to garter snakes basking in the sun. I see them at the park every year and weather like this was sure to bring them out. Almost as soon as I had that though I encountered my first snakes. Sometimes they are silently basking in the sun and I only see them once I get too close and they quickly slide away. But this time I heard them before I saw them. There were at least two garter snakes moving in the reeds, as though chasing one another and then twining together. I suspect they were in the act of mating….

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Field Journal: Low Tide Nudibranchs

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I visit Alki Beach at low tide, I always discover something new. This weekend the spring low tides were just on the minus side, the weather was dry and I headed to the beach to explore. I hadn’t been since the low night tides during the winter and I was happy to get back out there again. There were few people on the beach and I had plenty of room to search by myself.

Lacuna sp. snail eggs

The first thing I noticed were tiny yellow donuts scattered around on the kelp. They felt soft to my fingers and I took photos of them to look at later. Once on the computer I could enlarge them enough to see they were rings of eggs and some where…

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