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: 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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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: The Day of the Dragon

All week long, as I worked outside, I watched teneral dragonflies, those that had just made the transformation from larvae to adult, fly away from my wildlife pond. But I had yet to catch any in the act of emerging. Earlier last week I had agreed to take dragonfly larvae into my daughter’s school to share with the kids. No big deal I thought, I’d go scoop some out of the pond in the afternoon before heading to the school. I had been catching larvae with nearly every scoop of the net as I removed algae over the last couple of weeks, so it should be easy. But when I went out that day, I scooped and scooped and was starting to worry I would have nothing to show the kids. After a good twenty minutes I finally found one. I then changed my scooping methods and…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Crane Fly Frenzy

When a crane fly is at rest, you can see how it resembles a crane, the long, elegant legs sit daintily on leaves holding the slender body aloft. But as soon as they take flight the illusion is shattered as their bumbling, clumsy flight is revealed. They don’t so much land on plants, but crash headlong into them.

Over the last few weeks, at the first sign of the awakening insects, I’ve regularly gone out into my wildlife garden with my camera to watch and document who visits. The usual mason bees showed up first followed by some large fuzzy digger bees. (More on the abundance of bees in another diary entry.) But I also began to see crane flies. They’re not new to the garden of course, I’ve seen them in the past, but recently I have seen a lot of them….

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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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Field Journal:: Low Tide at Alki Beach

Last week produced some of the lowest tides of the year and I spent two days exploring at Alki Beach in West Seattle. The first day I investigated the rocky area and some eelgrass beds on the south end of the beach and the second day I spent on the north end of the beach looking around under rocks and over sandy areas. One thing was common in both areas, Opalescent Nudibranchs. On the north end of the beach I found a couple dozen under various rocks, some of them with their stringy mass of eggs. Their eggs are very similar to the Shaggy Mouse Nudibranch, but sea slug eggs can be very different. Some are flattened against the rocks, laid out in white threads which make a complicated matrix. Others are like very wide yellow ribbons loosely piled against the rocks. The one thing they have in common,…

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