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On the first day of the Seattle City Nature Challenge, and the last day of spring break, I took my daughter to Alki Beach in Seattle. I hoped to contribute some seashore life to iNaturalist for the challenge and I knew Alki Beach had much to offer. It wasn’t the most promising weather, but at least it was dry to begin with, if cool. We arrived an hour before low tide and I quickly observed Brant geese, Sanderlings, Crows and gulls. Then we dug in to the shoreline and watched Feather-duster Worms, which my daughter called rainbow worms because of their striped coloring. We found quite a few still open under the water and watched them float around like paint brushes. While some were striped, others were different. Several were solid colors, mostly reds but one was a striking black with white tips.

I documented limpets and barnacles for the CNC and found some strange marine worms which looked more like centipedes than worms. Then we started flipping rocks and I was delighted to find shaggy mouse nudibranchs, which I first encountered on Alki Beach last year during my 365 Nature Project. Under one particularly bountiful rock I found a shaggy mouse, a large red rock crab which tried to hide under my boot, hermit crabs and a sculpin fish. As I studied the nudibranch I noticed white patches next to it and was excited to realize they were eggs. They were ribbon-like thread laid down in a maze pattern. Looking closely, I could see they were broken into small segments, each filled with tiny eggs.

During the time spent looking under rocks I ended up finding several shaggy mouse nudibranchs. We also discovered a few ochre sea stars, many hermit crabs, what I think were bryozoan and mossy chiton. I turned my attention to the birds on the shore and was surprised to find a flock of a dozen or more Black Turnstones working along the rocks. I also watched a flock of shorebirds regularly taking flight up and down the beach before settling. Once we got close I saw there were Sanderlings with quite a few Dunlin mixed in. The Dunlin were starting to get their breeding colors with the black bellies.

It was a good first day of the City Nature Challenge and I was able to add quite a few observations to iNaturalist for Seattle.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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