Field Journal: Sea Squirts & More

Low tides have come and gone while I sat at home looking at the tide charts, wondering what I was missing during the pandemic. But with the easing of restrictions here in Washington, I finally ventured out to my regular haunt in West Seattle for the first two times this season. My first outing was not very exciting, I found only a single nudibranch and not a whole lot else. This week however, I had more success in not only finding a few nudibranchs, but also making some discoveries new to me.

Summer has officially begun in Seattle, and this week offered sunny weather and remarkably calm water for searching the tidal zone. It wasn’t long before I found the first nudibranchs, but at first I didn’t see them because the rock I had…

Continue reading →

5 Marine Biology Books

It’s no secret that I spend a lot of time at the beach looking for and photographing marine invertebrates. Many, if not most, of my encounters lead to countless questions about what I’ve found. What does that anemone eat? Why are the sand dollars on end and not flat? Why does that crab have seaweed attached to it? Why is that shaggy mouse nudibranch white and not brown?

To find the answers to these questions, and to identify what I’ve seen, I always return home and quickly consult my books. Over the decade I’ve lived in Seattle and began visiting the tidal zone frequently, I’ve accumulated a small collection of regional books as well as others about one of my favorite habitats.

Recently, Elizabeth Mills, who you may remember…

Continue reading →

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,…

Continue reading →

Field Journal: Alki Octopus

The very low tides I enjoyed at Scenic Beach State Park over the weekend continued and I didn’t want to miss out. So on the Monday after returning from Hood Canal, I took my daughter to Alki Beach in Seattle to explore. I had already had some great finds at Alki during the low tides at the end of May and it seems I always find something interesting there. The Seattle Aquarium’s Beach Naturalists were already searching and I was bitterly disappointed to hear from them that a Humpback Whale and swam by not more than a half an hour before we arrived. Fortunately, Alki Beach could never disappoint entirely, and there was much yet to be discovered. 

My daughter and I first searched the long stretch of rocks, but remembering the moon snail I’d found on the outgoing tide last time we turned towards…

Continue reading →

Field Journal: Scenic Beach State Park

Early this year I researched the lowest daytime tides of the spring and summer and made plans around those dates. One of those plans was a visit to Scenic Beach State Park, along Hood Canal in Washington, where we’d camped last year during my 365 Nature Project. I had seen some great intertidal life along the beach like tiny sunflower stars and kelp crabs and hoped to find more during the upcoming low tides.

We arrived just before low tide on a Friday morning in late June and immediately went down to the beach. I spent a couple of hours wandering into the water and up along the rocks exploring. There was a lot to see, but it wasn’t obvious at first glance. The more I scoured, bent and flipped, the more I found. There were a few sea stars scattered around, most of them…

Continue reading →

Field Journal: Low Tide at Alki Beach

Last weekend we had the first of our really low tides of the year and I took advantage of it by heading to Alki Beach two days in a row. On both days I was eager to explore and although the low tide didn’t reach the lowest until just after noon, I arrived before 11 am both days. Even though it wasn’t yet at the lowest point, a great amount of beach was exposed, much more than I’d seen all winter long. Both days I wandered up and down the beach. Alki Beach has a diverse habitat with some areas of sand with eelgrass beds, a few areas of large boulders and a lot of rock. I left the large boulder areas until the lowest of the tide because they were farther out in the water. Likewise, I left the sand and eelgrass for later.

The first areas I wandered…

Continue reading →