Intertidal Monitoring - 2007
Whidbey Beaches: in chronological order, or by beach: Ala Spit Columbia Beach Cornet Bay Coupeville Town Park Crescent Harbor Double Bluff/Cirque Point Double Bluff-Wahl Farm Footprint Rock Freeland Park Beach Harrington Lagoon Honeymoon Bay Langley Seawall Ledgewood Beach Maxwelton Tidepools North Hastie Lake Old Clinton Beach Partridge Point Possession Point Pratt's Bluff Rolling Hills Rosario South Lagoon Point South Whidbey State Park Sunlight Beach West Sunset Beach
Camano Beaches: in chronological order, or by beach:
The 2007 monitoring season got off the ground on April 20th at Crescent Harbor and was a great lead up to Earth Day which followed two days later. The team of eleven was delighted by the sunny skies that beamed down from the heavens and the diverse collection of organisms waiting to be discovered. Oz Allen was fascinated by a rockweed isopod (Idotea wosnesenskii) with a brood pouch. Monem Mahmoud Abdel got a kick out of finding a clutch of dog whelk (Nucella lamellosa) egg cases that covered the top of a large cobble and also by the anemones that dotted the beach. Two species of anemones were identified, the moonglow (Anthopleura artemesia) and white plumed (Metridium sp.). Jim Somers reports that the highlight of the day for him was finding lined chitons (Tonicella lineata) and Charlie Eddy also liked the chitons as she had never seen one before. The entire team was awed by a Nephtys polychaete worm that put on a show by repeatedly everting its pharynx to reveal a set of black pincher jaws.
It’s easy to understand why people are smitten by the lined chiton. With its oftentimes vibrant colors and zigzag pattern, Tonicella lineta can be gorgeous. This species is usually small as chitons go, 2 inches in length or less. While there was none on the boulder that the Crescent Harbor lined chitons were on, red coralline algae frequently makes up a major part of their diet. They also use their radula to scrape up diatoms and other algae as they graze along the surface of rocks.
May 16th found the Ala Spit team taking to the beach to see what a -3.1 foot tide would reveal. Sammye Kempell is team captain for Ala Spit and her team was split down the middle with 5 veteran monitors and 5 folks from the new BW class. The group had great fun finding lots of red velvet mites (Neomolgus littoralis), a tiny striped anemone (Haliplanella lineata), and a purple ribbon worm (Paranemertes peregrina) that repeatedly shot its proboscis out. Barry Dunn spotted a single sprig of invasive Spartina and Charlie Seablom’s sharp eyes picked out an eelgrass limpet (Lottia parallela). Steve Young reported that the day’s highlight for him was the discovery of a gunnel eel found tucked away underneath a cockle shell. One unusual finding was that of numerous jackknife clam (Solen sicarius) shells. This species has not been documented by our monitoring teams previously.
Another team was at work the next day at Pratt's Bluff beach near Greenbank. Finn Gatewood is team captain for that beach and had a good turnout with a team numbering 13. Pam Winstanly brought her son along and he proved to be a champion critter spotter. Among the findings at this beach were red rock crabs (Cancer productus , two species of shore crabs (Hemigrapsus nudis and H. oregonensis), broken back shrimp (Heptacarpus sp.), and hermit crabs (Pagurus sp.). They also found eelgrass (Zostera marina) with the red epiphytic seaweed Smithora on it, eelgrass limpets (Lottia parallela), a moonsnail (Euspira lewisii), and a sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides).
The Double Bluff-Wahl Farm team had an incredible -3.8 foot tide on May 18th and with that much beach exposed, it took the team 5 hours to get it all done! It is a wonderfully diverse beach with a rocky upper section giving way to sand and then a big erratic in the very low intertidal. Among the findings was Swan’s Mopalia (Mopalia swani), a species not often seen by Whidbey Island beach monitors. The relatively wide girdle of this chiton has such very short, fine hairs that it may appear hairless. Another unusual find was that of a small yellow snailfish (genus Liparis or Polypera). Like the more commonly seen clingfish, soft-skinned little snailfish have a sucker disk on their underside that allows them to adhere to rocks and seaweed. Libby Hayward liked the anemones and the team documented four species: white plumed (Metridium sp.), red beaded (Urticina coriacea), Christmas (U. crassicornis), and aggregating (Anthopleura elegantissima). They also spotted a gumboot chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri) and rough piddocks (Zirfaea pilsbryi). Bob Buck commented that he had “never seen so many fish, gunnels, bryozoans, nudibranchs, and worms in such concentrations.” Julie Buktenica is team captain for Wahl Farm.
May 19th marked the 27th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, an event that reminds us of the incredible forces that can be unleashed by our planet. It was also the date chosen to monitor the beach at Partridge Point. This beach has an incredibly rich diversity, and first time beach monitor Rex Porter was awed by the variety of flora and fauna; the species list for the day spanned 5 pages! Team captain Brian Giles enjoyed seeing the variety of chitons. Black katy (Katharina tunicata), lined (Tonicella lineata), mossy (Mopalia muscosa), and gumboot (Cryptochiton stelleri) chitons were found. Jan Holmes noted the presence of a large patch of white glove leather ascidian (Didemnum/Trididemnum) as a high point of her day as were seeing six rayed (Leptasterias sp.) and sunflower (Pycnopodia) sea stars. Monem Mahmoud Abdel found the crabs interesting, particularly a red rock crab that he tried to hold still so its photo could be taken. Lisa Harkins was fascinated by the worms. She saw feather duster worms (Eudistylia vancouveri), a group of tiny, apparently newly hatched flatworms, and the many-tentacled tubeworm Thelepus crispus. As the tide dropped to the -3 foot level, masses of kelp and other seaweeds were revealed. The team documented two of the so called “tarspots”: black tarspot (Petrocelis) and rusty rock (Hildenbrandia).
Liz and Pete Berg headed up the Harrington Lagoon team of six volunteers on May 20th. In spite of threatening skies, the rain held off until the team finished for the day and just 15 minutes later came a pummeling downpour. Liz reports that everyone seemed to have a great time. She says the best part was having two brand new beach monitors (John and Wendy Moon) on the team. The team found quite a number of barnacle eating nudibranchs (Onchidoris bilamellata) and their egg ribbons. They also saw lots of egg cases from predatory Nucella snails. In addition there were 6-rayed sea stars (Leptasterias sp.), mottled sea stars (Evasterias troschelii), an ice cream cone worm (Pectinaria) in its inch long sand tube, and a multitude of purple shore crabs (Hemigrapsus nudus).
The Ledgewood Beach team lucked out with great weather on June 1st. Jan Holmes headed up this eleven member team. Sandy Dubpernell has been a Beach Watcher since 1993 but this was her first monitoring experience and she looked like she was having a great time as she examined a colorful carapace from an immature red rock crab (Cancer productus). Pete Berg turned over a small boulder and found it covered with tiny amphipods and Jean Congdon spotted a small chiton. Another find was that of moonglow anemones (Anthopleura artemesia). The species diversity along the profile area at this beach is not as extensive as on some beaches so when monitoring was done, the team headed to a nearby rocky area to do some additional tidepooling. Liz Berg was amazed by the many forms of life that blanketed an erratic. Stewart Congden spotted a purple seastar (Pisaster ochraceus). Cheryl Bradkin got a close-up look at a sunflower star (Pycnapodia) and was fascinated by the movement of the orange tube feet against the purple body of the sea star. Jan Holmes found a lavender and white ribbon worm (Micrura verrilli). This colorful Nemertean has a bright orange head. Turning over another boulder revealed another ribbon worm (Tubulanus polymorphus) that was red-orange over its entire body. One other unusual finding was that of a tiny cumacean. These minute crustaceans nourish themselves by feeding on the organic material that coats sand grains. Jill Hein, who came armed with binoculars, identified surf scoters and an osprey.
The following day started with chilly temperatures as a thick fog shrouded West Sunset Beach. Bob Laws and Charlie Seablom have monitored that beach yearly since 1993, the year they both completed Beach Watcher training, and you can bet that they didn’t let a little fog stop them this year! Bob commented on how much the beach had changed since last year. There is a massive erratic in the mid intertidal and Charlie pointed out that some years it sits on a hard surface of peat and other years, the base is partially buried in sand. This year a thick layer of sand had settled around the erratic. The fog lifted enough for them to find their landmark, the south end of Smith Island, and they quickly got their profile line laid out and went to work. Aside from those on the erratic, there are not a lot of species to be seen at this site. The erratic, however, supports a rich population of seaweeds and animal life. Taking a close look, Bob and Charlie found three species of barnacles (little brown: Chthamalus dalli, acorn: Balanus glandula, and thatched: Semibalanus cariosus), four species of limpets (finger: Lottia digitalis, shield: Lottia pelta, mask: Tectura persona, and plate: Tectura scutum), two species of anemones (aggregating: Anthopleura elegantissima and white plumed: Metridium sp.), two species of ribbon worms (purple: Paranemertes peregrina and white: Amphiporus sp.), feather duster worms (Eudistylia vancouveri), and black katy chitons (Katharina tunicata).
June 3rd was warm and sunny for the Coupeville Town Park Beach team. Charlie Seablom noted a ring around the sun that day, a sign that often heralds changing weather, and recommends the website http://www.atoptics.co.uk/ as a good source of information about atmospheric phenomena. A team of eight turned out for this beach. Roxallanne Medley did a great job recording findings on the field data sheet. For Paul Whelen, the highlight of the day was seeing a gunnel eel and Lee Chavez found the chitons fascinating. Brian Giles found a white plumed anemone (Metridium sp.) adhered to an empty clam shell and Charlie Seablom saw sand dollars (Dendraster excentricus). Jan Holmes found an ice cream cone worm (Pectinaria sp.) in its precisely built little sand tube. Other findings at Coupeville Town Park included six species of clams, a kingfisher, an oystercatcher, and a pigeon guillemot.
As was foretold by the ring around the sun on the 3rd, the weather on June 4th took a definite downturn. Cooler temperatures, cloudy skies, and sprinkles greeted the Langley Seawall Team. Team captain Yvonne Palka was relieved that heavier precipitation stayed away. This beach has such a wide expanse of muddy sand that it is done in 50 foot sections rather than the 10 foot intervals typical of most Whidbey Island beaches. The “quicksand factor” makes this beach somewhat treacherous and team members found that standing in one place for too long frequently resulted in literally having a sinking feeling. Arlene Stebbins ended up mired in the muck up to her knees while trying to take profile readings. In spite of the challenges, the team found a fascinating community of organisms. Fucus spiralis was seen on the seawall. This brown seaweed is similar to the more familiar Fucus distichus but is recognized by minute white hairy tufts on the blades and the tendancy of the thalli to twist as they dry. The cockroach like isopod, Ligia pallasii can also be seen on the seawall if you peer into the cracks and crevices. Lower in the intertidal, Joani Boose had fun finding ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis). Taking a close look at the semitransparent carapace, she found the tiny copepod Clausidium vancouverense. Lee Chavez enjoyed getting out into the eelgrass where she saw the eelgrass isopod (Idotea resecata) and tiny caprellid amphipods, and Charlie Seablom found eelgrass limpets (Lottia parallela). The highlight for Jill Johnson was spotting a great blue heron in the process of eating a fish. One other finding was that of digging up live purple varnish clams (Nuttallia obscurata). This recent invader, native to Asia, is thought to have arrived in Washington in 1998 although it had been found in Canada prior to that.
Eugene Thrasher headed up a team of four at Double Bluff /Cirque Point on June 13th. Eugene reports that the huge tidepool usually surrounding the erratic along the profile line has filled in with sand to the point of almost disappearing altogether. In addition, he says the bluff has washed away “big time”. The team saw many more Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) compared to previous years and lots of barnacle eating nudibranchs (Onchidoris bilamellata) and their egg ribbons. June Davis was interested in the variability of the substrate as they worked their way down the profile line and seeing how different communities of organisms occupied each niche. She was also delighted with the many purple sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) that sidled up under the boulders in the low intertidal zone. Charlie Seablom tells of a hermit crab discovered living in a Nucella snail shell that had been drilled by a moon snail. (No one knows if the hermit crab got a break on the rent because of the hole in his wall!) The team did not see any live moon snails but did encounter several of their egg collars.
Nine Beach Watchers showed up on June 14th to monitor the beach at South Whidbey State Park. The trail to the beach had washed out but luckily team leader Libby Hayward had scouted ahead to find an alternate route. The beach itself showed a lot of change from last year, apparently from the effects of winter storms. To determine how much the bluff has receded, monitors measure from an immense intertidal erratic back up to the base of the bluff. The distance this year was 70 feet, revealing that two full feet of the bluff had washed away over the past 12 months. Biodiversity at this beach was relatively low but team members saw a live jackknife clam (Solen sicarius) and Bob Buck found juvenile red rock crab (Cancer productus). Searching through a patch of eelgrass (Zostera marina), they saw Lacuna snails and their tiny Cheerio shaped egg cases. One other finding was that of moon snail egg collars.
The Rolling Hills team was also at work on June 14th. Team captain Charlie Seablom reports that the team of three found a bald eagle perched on a nearby pier when they arrived. Charlie and Joyce Peterson set to work taking profile readings and looking for organisms while Jean Wisniewski recorded data. The group documented lots of periwinkles (Littorina scutulata and L. sitkana), barnacle eating nudibranchs (Onchidoris bilamellata) and their egg ribbons, and Japanese littleneck clams (Venerupis philippinarum). A young fellow came along and asked them to identify something for him. It turned out to be a ghost shrimp that had been left in a hole by a clam digger.
Ask any of the dozen beach monitors who showed up at Rosario on June 15th how the day went and chances are their description will contain one of the following adjectives: soggy, soaked, drenched, or dripping. It was a rainy day! The group divided into three teams that worked quickly and efficiently to collect data in 18 quadrats. Monem Mahmoud Abdel admired the perseverance of the monitors who stuck with their work in spite of the adverse weather. This was the first time Sue Howard had helped monitor at Rosario and she was impressed by the diversity. One of the quadrats contained an aggregating anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima) literally pulling itself apart as it divided. Kathy Pigott and Charlie Seablom later checked out a much larger aggregating anemone that stretched out more than 4 inches across as it prepared to divide. June Davis was fascinated by the way black Katy chitons (Katharina tunicata) flexed to conform to rocky surfaces. Jean Allen reported that the highlight for her was doing quadrats with Ranger Rick! Team captain Jan Holmes commented that numbers of Nucella snails, rockweed isopods (Idotea sp.), dire whelks (Lirabuccinum dirum), and periwinkles (Littorina scutulata and L. sitkana.) seemed to be down from previous years. There was some speculation that the rain may have been a factor in the low numbers.
June 16th found a group of eight monitors hard at work documenting data at North Hastie Lake. This is another richly diverse west Whidbey beach with a rocky upper intertidal transitioning to a stretch of sand and then back to boulders. A huge erratic rears up out of the beach at the -3 foot level and is blanketed by a multitude of organisms. Missy Sommers discovered a northern clingfish (Gobiesox maeandricus) under a boulder. These small (to ~ 4 inches) fish have a large suction disk on their underside that allows them to adhere to smooth rocks. As the tide recedes, they take shelter in crevices under boulders to keep them from drying out and to protect them from predators. With the return of the tide, the little clingfish come out to search for small prey among the kelp. In addition to living in the intertidal, they are known to inhabit subtidal waters to a depth of 26 feet. Their species name, “maeandricus” is Latin for “streaks” and is descriptive of the chainlike pattern seen on their skin. Another great find was that of a cluster of threadlike filaments seen emerging from the sand in a tidepool surrounding a mid-intertidal erratic. Because the body of the polychaete worm that they originated from was concealed back up under the rock, an absolute identification could not be made but they were believed to be from either the Cirratulidae or Terrebellidae family. The small brown seaweed commonly called “sea cauliflower” (Leathesia difformis) was found growing epiphytically on the red seaweed Neorhodomela larix in the mid-intertidal. Another brown seaweed commonly known as bottlebrush (Analipus japonicus) grew in the very low intertidal zone. Bryozoans, colonial ascidians, and three species of sponge also made the species list. Most of the team agreed though that what captivated them most were the charismatic sea stars. At least a dozen large thick bodied purple sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) clung to the base of the massive erratic that was near the water’s edge when the tide reached its maximum low. In addition, Charlie Seablom spotted a 10 inch sunflower star making its way through a thick layer of Alaria marginata. The day was enriched by the presence of a magnificent adult bald eagle that kept a watchful eye on the team from a nearby fir tree.
The Freeland Park Beach team was out under overcast skies on June 17th. This area of shoreline has a rocky substrate higher up but the team ran into a quagmire of mud at the -1 foot level. Due to the danger of sinking, profiling was halted where the mud began and the team was unable to reach the water’s edge. In spite of the mud, a large part of the beach was accessible and they made some exciting finds. A variety of worms were uncovered and they seemed to be the stars of the day. Jan Holmes’ discovery of a writhing 10-inch Nereid polychaete created quite a stir and a bivalve dig brought up a glycerid polychaete that showed off a talent for everting its large club shaped proboscis. Team captain Bob Buck turned over a rock to reveal a scaleworm and flatworms were also seen. Sharon Dunn declared that she had no idea that worms could be so interesting! Other finds were those of several kelp crabs (Pugettia producta) that Charlie Seablom spotted tucked up underneath the overhang of a boulder, ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis), and a blue mud shrimp (Upogebia pugettensis) with a pair of parasitic isopods (Phylloduras abdominalis) attached to its abdomen, and seven species of bivalves.
Libby Hayward’s South Lagoon Point team hit the beach on June 18th encountering a little mist but good weather otherwise. The start point really stood out this year because someone had carved a peace sign into the glacial till bluff above it. The tide dropped to the -2.1 foot level exposing a huge variety of green, brown, and red seaweeds along the entire 158 feet of the profile line. Libby reports that they found two kinds of chitons, Mopalia and lined (Tonicella lineata) and two species of sea stars, mottled (Evasterias troschelii) and purple (Pisaster ochraceus). Jan Holmes added that one of the highlights for her was seeing lots of tiny leather limpets (Onchidella borealis). In spite of their common name, leather limpets are not limpets at all but are small sea slug like animals belonging to a group called marine pulmonates. Unlike nudibranchs, they have a lung and breathe air. Leather limpets feed on diatoms and tend to be most active on overcast days when the tide is out. Also seen were an immature bald eagle, an osprey, a kingfisher, a plover, crows and a robin.
The Maxwelton Tidepools team surveyed their beach on June 29th. Jan Holmes pointed out big changes that have taken place in the beach contour since the site was monitored in 2006. A deep layer of sand now cloaks areas usually covered by cobble and small boulders. The base of a large erratic was similarly buried under sand. The 4 feet of erratic that still extends above the sand was coated with living organisms however. Kathy Fritts took note of the abundance of red sea cucumbers (Cucumaria miniata) on the erratic and the huge boulder was also home to tubeworms, dogwinkle snails (Nucella ostrina and N. lamellosa), acorn (Balanus glandula) and thatched (Semibalanus cariosus) barnacles, and jingle shells (Pododesmus macrochisma). Further down the profile line, Neal Clark got a close-up look at a lion’s mane jellyfish that had stranded on the sand. While only one live moon snail (Euspira lewisii) was seen, team captain Jeanie McElwain noted numerous moon snail egg cases and also found quite a number of invasive purple varnish clam (Nuttallia obscurata) shells that showed evidence of being drilled by moon snails. Churning dark clouds and gusty winds rolled in as the monitoring crew wrapped up their work. Team members made it back to their cars just in time before the squall line hit.
A team of five made the mile-long hike to Footprint Rock on July 2nd for a -2.5 foot tide. Charlie Seablom headed up the team and says the highlight of the day for him was seeing a Columbian blacktail deer on the beach as they walked to the site. Also along the way, Wendy Moon pointed out Indian paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) growing and blooming on the bluff. Paintbrush is a hemiparasitic plant; it can survive on its own but by tapping into the resources of a host plant it gains a real boost. Specialized tissues called haustoria worm their way into the roots of the host plant to siphon away nutrients.
Located on west Whidbey, Footprint Rock gets its name from a distinctive erratic with a footprint like impression on it. The erratic is fairly high in the intertidal zone and Charlie reports that it had green seaweed growing on it but little else. The substrate further down the profile line is composed of boulders and cobbles with sand filling in around them and that is where most of the species for this beach were observed. John Moon found a small and elongated silver fish, thought to be a sand lance (Ammodytes hexapterus) along the profile area. Libby Hayward was fascinated by the iridescence of the polychaetes they found when they tipped up rocks to check for organisms tucked away underneath.
Monem Mahmoud Abdel was intrigued by the mossy chitons (Mopalia muscosa). Like other chitons, the Mopalias use a tongue-like radula to scrape food from the rocks they live on. The radula has to be very durable to rasp away at the rocks and its covering of cusps containing magnetite, a form of iron oxide, makes it so. Geologists use a scale called the Mohs scale to rate the hardness of rocks. Very soft talc is #1 on the scale and diamond tops the scale at #10. Magnetite is ranked #6, meaning that it takes something with the hardness of a steel file to scratch it, and additionally, it is magnetic which means that the chiton’s radula is not only literally harder than nails (#5.5 on the Mohs scale), it is also magnetic!
Bill and Evelyn Blair led the Columbia Beach team on July 12th. This site is near the Clinton ferry dock and the Blairs have monitored it annually since 1994. With a -2.8 foot tide, the profile line stretched 251 feet to the water’s edge. This sandy beach often has a heavy growth of eelgrass (Zostera marina) but Bill reports that this year the eelgrass was patchy. In addition, the team found a build-up of sand against the bulkhead where they take a measurement of vertical height. The bulkhead extended 24 inches above the sandy substrate last year but this year that distance had decreased to 18 inches indicating the accumulation of a 6 inch layer of sand. Team members also found a small opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis), quite a number of moon snail egg cases, and lots of remnants of fireworks that had been set off on the 4th of July. During a bivalve dig, they brought up a gaper clam (Tresus capax) and because its shell was cracked open, they could see a pair of pea crabs living commensally inside the shell. They also claimed the distinction of being the team with this year’s youngest beach monitor. Nine-month-old Amanda Kehl came along with her mom, Mary and seemed to have great fun enjoying a sunny day at the beach.
July 13th was a big day for monitoring as three teams worked on Whidbey and one on Camano.
Heather Leahy-Mack had a team of six at Cornet Bay. She found the changes to the shape and substrate of that beach to be quite interesting. The state park finished installing a new boat ramp near the monitoring site this past year and it appears to have changed the water flow pattern and also impacted sediment deposition. Heather says that in previous years quadrats at the -1 foot level have always been full of eelgrass (Zostera marina). This year a sandy berm has built up and two of the quadrats were completely devoid of anything except sand. In addition, the substrate which has previously been muddy sand is now pretty much all sand. The star species of the day was a brittle star that was came up with a shovel full of sand during a bivalve dig. They also found a bent nose clam (Macoma nasuta), a small pink Macoma balthica, and a heart cockle (Clinocardium nutallii). The Cornet Bay team also captured Columbia Beach’s short lived title for having the year’s youngest beach monitor with 8-month-old Joseph Mack who came along with his mom and conducted a sand taste test.
Finn Gatewood’s Honeymoon Bay team was also out on July 13th. The team found a number of mesh bags containing oyster culture along this mixed substrate beach. The most exciting find of the day was that of several plainfin midshipmen (Porichthys notatus) and their eggs. These fish reach a maximum length of ~ 1 foot. They spend most of the year in water 150-450 feet deep but move into the shallows in the spring to spawn. After the eggs have been laid, the male remains with them for the 15 days it takes for them to hatch and then continues to guard the larvae until they mature enough to become free swimming and leave their rocky nest. The team also found three moonsnails (Euspira lewisii), a gunnel eel, ribbon worms, shore crabs, and a very large polychaete that Lenore Minstrell extracted from beneath a rock.
Team captain Jim Shelver also had the Possession Point team working on July 13th. Jim tells us the day started out looking like a thunderstorm might roll through but luckily the wind died and skies brightened. This beach is just up from Columbia Beach which had been monitored the day before and the 6 member team found many of the same species that were encountered there. Jim reports a thick stand of eelgrass (Zostera marina) with the many organisms associated with eelgrass habitats. This efficient and hard working team completed their observations in just 2 hours.
Bill and Evelyn Blair rounded up a team of five to monitor at Old Clinton Beach on August 11th. Bill and Evelyn have helped on this beach for about 5 years but this was their first year as to serve as team captains there. Sunny weather beamed down on the team and a pair of bald eagles screeched encouragement as the group collected data on this scenic beach just up from the Clinton ferry landing. Stewart Congdon discovered a Pectinaria tube, minus its inhabitant. This tubeworm remnant had the characteristic perfectly aligned grains of sand worked into a shape akin to that of an ice cream sugar cone. Mary Kehl overturned a small boulder to reveal a woody chiton (Mopalia lignosa). This species is particularly fond of sea lettuce (Ulva), and there was a goodly amount of that; Ulva was documented to cover more than 50% of the area in three of the nine quadrats. The profile area was also blanketed by a considerable amount of eelgrass. Other organisms included rockweed isopods (Idotea wosnesenskii), flatworms, hermit crabs (Pagurus sp.), eelgrass limpets (Lottia parallela), and moonglow anemones (Anthopleura artemisia).
Whidbey Island’s 2007 monitoring season wrapped up on August 26th at Sunlight Beach. This sandy beach has the longest profile line on Whidbey Island and in spite of a tide that dropped only to the -1.2 foot level, the line stretched 3100 feet to the water’s edge. The day got off to a shaky start when one monitor returned to Jan Holmes’ car to retrieve a forgotten camera, setting off the car alarm that blared through the otherwise peaceful Sunday morning quiet of the neighborhood. After silencing the alarm, the team got down to work.
Sunlight Beach has a variety of backshore plants just above the high tide line. Team members identified gumweed (Grindelia integrifolia), yellow sand verbena (Abronia latifolia), beach pea (Lathyrus japonicus), native dunegrass (Leymus mollis), large headed sedge (Carex macrocephala), and both American (Cakile edentula) and European sea rocket (C. maritima). Further down the profile line they found sand dollars (Dendraster excentricus), ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis), several marooned jelly fish, tidepools where sculpins and small flat fish zipped about, and quite a lot of Japanese eelgrass. Debbie Bitts picked up a moonsnail (Euspira lewisii) to examine its massive mantle. Nancy Bartlett spotted a small brooding anemone (Epiactis sp.) lying on the sand near the water’s edge, possibly dislodged from eelgrass. Don Steadman was delighted by a bald eagle that winged its way over the team, chased by an indignant osprey, and Libby Hayward reports that her favorite find was a moonglow anemone (Anthopleura artemisia) ingesting a jellyfish. To add to the day’s adventure, a friendly neighborhood dog named Ziggy accompanied the team most of the morning and after a bit of furious digging in the sand, uncovered a moon snail shell.
With the start of the Camano Island 2007 monitoring season, the Camano folks continue to have tremendous support from Mary Jo A. and Jan H., our Island County experts on marine life who continue to “grow” our knowledge of inter-tidal marine life at the beaches. After coming over once again to give us a refresher course on the major groups of critters and a new detailed session on seaweeds, we began our intertidal monitoring season under the guidance of Beth H. our excellent leader for this yearly project. Beth led us on this project last year and has kept us organized and ready to go.
Our first beach for this season was done at Elger Bay on June 13 on a very raw, windy and gray day with Alice B. as our team captain. Low tide was a -3.0 at 10:08 a.m. so we convened at Alice’s place at 8:00 a.m. to gather and go down to the beach and begin our tasks. There were 12 of us ready for our first monitoring of the year and we found ourselves quite “timid” at getting our sticks placed, our sheets begun, our eyes and heads adjusted to the process (How was it we could forget so much in just 10 months??); we were very fortunate to have Mary Jo from Whidbey there to get us re-acclimated. She brought along a supply of Salish Sea EZ-ID charts for seaweeds which were “hot off the press”. With the overcast sky, it often was difficult to see the horizon point across the water, but fortunately the light rain held off until the last 15 minutes of monitoring. As we worked our way down toward the water’s edge over very cobbled terrain, we found butter clams (Saxidomus gigantea), a tube worm (Thelepus crispus), barnacle eating nudibranches, mossy chitons, a large number of crabs called Hemigrapsus nudus, very tiny in the upper areas, and rather large as we worked our way to the water. One of our new Beach Watchers, John N., found the “prize” rock of the day which had some 5 different critters species on It and even Hildenbrandia rubra or rusty rock! Meanwhile the 9 quadrats were laid out closer to the water and about half the folks were huddled over them determining the quarter section contents. We went out 257 feet to the low tide mark this morning. While we worked the skies grew cloudier and the mists began; great for the eagles we spotted nearby but pretty miserable for us. As we walked back up the beach to the bluff edge, we were amazed by the physical changes to the bluff above. This bluff receives a lot of wind and weather exposure and last winter’s storms did a lot of erosion to its face. Elger Bay beach cliff 2004 and Elger Bay beach cliff 2007 show how much this cliff face has changed from weathering. Alice B. provided the notes for this beach monitoring. Thanks, Alice.
Onamac Beach was our second beach for this summer, on June 14, with a low tide of -3.6 at 10:54 a.m. This is a 2 profile beach, one to the north of the Point and one to the south. The findings at these 2 profiles are usually quite different. Led by our beach captains, John and Jan N., 13 Beach Watchers and 3 Onamac community residents came to help. It was a cold and blustery day when the group started, but by the time the 2 lines were completed, the sun had come out. This group even had a camp fire and all enjoyed roasting hot dogs, chicken dogs and other treats, thanks to the captains. One of the highlights at low tide was finding several giant pink sea stars, Pisaster brevispinus, and a leather star, Dermasterias imbricata. The group also were treated to watching seiners north of the beach. When they got closer they were flagged to join with the group to talk. They were from the Lumni tribe, and were part of the “off-shore seining research” being done in this area. The crew was excited that they had caught some nice salmon (too short to keep) including at least one Chinook. Jan N., Alice B., Duane H., and Barbara B. all enjoyed their visit. After departing, the crew continued their seining to the south of Onamac Point.
It was also fun watching a huge “herring ball” come close to shore and roiling the water. Seals approached, and a 15-20 pound salmon leaped high out of the middle of the herring ball. Thanks to Jan N. for providing us with her notes about this beach.
The Iverson Spit Beach monitoring team, that we formerly referred to as “Joey’s Beach team” (Joey passed away this last year), laid a new profile line at the north end of the paved road to the public access entrance for the beach. It is projected off the end of the first viewing area on the trail to the beach. With a low tide of -1.9 at 1:54 p.m. on June 18, we gathered at noon with our monitoring pails full of equipment and began the new sightings. This beach is now captained by Donna W-S., John C. and Beth H., our leader. It faces east to Port Susan and is significantly sandier than the beaches mentioned above. Those who go there often were surprised that on this day there were very few birds looking for lunch in the area around us. Commonly seen there are eagles, blue herons, many gulls and many other species of birds. North of us there were a cluster of shore birds but we were too far away to see their identities. As we worked our way to the water’s edge, we found soft-shell mud clams (Mya arenaria), mussels, tiny crabs in abundance, and several chitons lower down, but in general we were surprised by its lack of large abundance of sea life. One Polychaete (a segmented worm) amused us for some time as we compared him to the EZ-ID charts. He turned out to be a Polynoidae. A seal offshore watched us while feasting. This monitoring gave us a great chance to see the wealth of interesting plants in the higher, sandy shoreline and to investigate the walking trail that has been created there. Many of us decided that we would return another day and take the full trail around the area, with binoculars in hand. Judi M. and Donna W-S provided this beach’s story.
English Boom, a county park on Camano Is, was monitored on June 29 shortly after 8:00 am by nine Beach Watchers and two guest monitors captained by John C. brave enough to face the muddy shoreline extending far out to the North. The profile line was set out to 110 feet at the -1.8 foot tide. In previous years several folks were mired in the mud to their knees, forcing the use of Beach Watcher designed “muck-o-lids” for walking (garbage can lids), but this season all faired better, loosing none to the quagmire. This area is fairly unique visually with its extensive shallow terrain off shore, pierced by tall, worn wooden pilings with bird boxes attached to them – homes for Purple Martins, (Progne subis – the largest North American swallow about 20 cm in length, swift flyers that dive from the sky as they swoop into their box homes) although none were seen active this day.
As in previous years the eagles’ nest in a Douglas fir above the monitoring site was spotted and further off-shore there is a dry bar where a large number of harbor seals idle in the sunshine. They could be seen easily with binoculars.
Those who had done this beach for several years said there seemed to be fewer species at the intertidal. A Beach Watcher using muck-o-lids ventured out in the mud to reach the Quadrat set at the -1 foot tide level, but was disappointed for their efforts with zero species present. The Quadrat set at the 0 foot tide level though not devoid of species was very sparse with about 1% green seaweed, Ulva, 7% rockweed, Fucus, and very little coverage of the Acorn barnacle, Balanus glandula, and the Blue mussels, Mytilus trossulus. The Quadrat set at the +1 foot tide level was better populated than the 0 and -1 foot tide levels, but much reduced in diversity and quantity from previous years. Though the Lined anemone, Haliplanella lineata, found in 2005 and 2006 was missing this year, the Brooding anemone, Epiactis prolifera, not found since 2002 was found again this year. This is a small anemone, with the crown up to 2 inches in diameter. The color varies. It is often red or pink when on rocks and green or brown when on eelgrass. Other species found previously at English Boom missing this year included flatworms, polychaete, arachnida, and isopod. The Shore crabs, Hemigrapsus oregonensis and Hemigrapsus nudus, were present, but not the Hermit crab, Pagurus. H. nudis, commonly called the Purple shore crab has purple spots on its claws and its walking legs are hairless, while H. oregonensis the Green shore crab, is very similar in appearance to H. nudis, except it has no spots on its claws and has tiny bristly hairs on its walking legs. Thanks to Judi M. and Cathy M. for this data collection summary.
Cavalero Beach was the fifth beach on Camano Island’s list for Intertidal Monitoring this year. The group led by Beth, Cathy & Wayne started about 7:00 am on July 11th on a day which reached record high temperatures. There were a dozen Beach Watchers ready to watch the sun rise in the eastern sky and do the monitoring out to the -2.3 feet low tide. Although this was only a single profile beach, it included the full complement of nine quadrats, which are often quite time consuming.
The beach did appear to change somewhat from last year. The beach substrate was generally lacking in ground shell debris and clay/silt earthen materials. Although no new seaweeds were detected this year, a broken back shrimp (Heptacarpus sp) was found.This shrimp ranges from 2 to 3 cm in length and has a sharp bend at about its third segment back from the head. It moves itself backwards by flexing its tail forward and then backward again very quickly. It has a somewhat translucent color and may be clinging to seaweed. There were a few Invertebrates and seaweeds which were found last year (2006) but were not detected this time around. These included limpets (Tectura persona), snails (Littorina scutulata and Nucella lamellosa), brown seaweed (Fucus sp.), and seagrass (Zostera marina). But an anemone (Urticina coriacea) was spotted in its closed position along with a segmented worm or Polychaete which was determined to be a Nephtys because of its small head tentacles. This worm is a predaceous worm which has parapodia that it uses to cling to the substrate and for locomotion. It is capable of giving a bite if picked up!!
Done for the day, the group finished with an exquisite breakfast picnic, glad to be done before the day grew too hot. Thanks to Wayne P. and Cathy M. for this monitoring report.
Meeting at 8 am on Thursday, July 12, 2007, a strangling bundle of Beachwatchers followed Liz T., Sunny Shores Beach captain down to the beach. Behind the old red cabin, there is a narrow path bordered by salal that leads toward the 80' bluff. From there, wood and earthen steps lead down the shady side of the bluff to a narrow bridge that crosses the remnants of a winter stream at the base of the bluff. Through another 60' of bridgework over old driftwood, the group reached the beach. The starting point is the neighbor’s bulkhead and we sighted our landmark dock on the other side of Port Susan.
What did we find on the beach? In the first 60', where the beach is mostly cobbles, we found a healthy beach full of amphipods, anemones, barnacles, crabs, isopods, limpets, a gazillion mussels, and green and red seaweeds. Then for the next 336.4', the story was the same, a sand beach full of holes, with a small bit of green seaweed in each 10' section. In each section were crabs taking advantage of the holes, but these holes are the homes of ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis); thousands and thousands of holes housing ghost shrimp of 4-6'' in length.* We reached the minus 2.8' tide with a few minutes to spare. Great weather, eagles flying up above, a nice-sized jelly outside of the 20' monitoring swath, 13 Beachwatchers: what more could one ask for? Written by Liz T. this date.
*This Crustacean is a waxy pale pink and orange with an almost translucent look. It burrows in a muddy sand area that contains clay and organic matter. There will be several branches and turnarounds and several openings to the surface so that water can flow through. It’s food comes from the flowing waters and the tunnel detritus. Migrating whales feed on these shrimp. (Information from another Beach Watcher Wayne P.)
On July 13, fourteen Beach Watchers, including Mary Jo A. and several guests from N. Carolina (Jim & Pat M.), braved the unusually cold and windy weather to conduct Intertidal monitoring at Madrona Beach. Low tide was -3.1 feet at 10:42 a.m.; we started at the Camano Island Yacht Club seawall at 9:00 a.m. Led by beach captains Mike F. and Duane H., we set the line and nine quadrants. An eagle, perched on the Y.C. pier, watched the events unfold with great interest. John C.brought the Beach Watcher aquarium, which was filled with sea water, to preserve any unusual creatures we might find. As the morning passed and our collection grew, we had several groups of young folks stop to study our aquarium specimens, which we continuously added to and then returned to the low shore area.
Within the first 50' of the line, which is primarily sand, gravel, and some cobble, we found insects (ants), amphipods, shore crabs, a hermit crab, round worms, barnacles, and green and brown seaweed. In the next 50', primarily sand and cobble, we found all of the above except ants, and isopods, limpets, a few snails, and a couple of spiders. Madrona has a reputation as a great beach for finding critters, and that reputation was confirmed in the next 68' to the low tide line. As we lifted boulders, we found beautiful specimens of chitons, mussels, sea stars, urchin, flatworms, snails and snail eggs, anemones, clams, limpets, nudibranchs, green, brown, and red seaweed, and clumps of kelp. Perhaps the most unusual find, by Duane H.,was a Pholis laeta (Crescent Gunnel fish).The gunnels are an eel-like fish which have a very flexible dorsal fin; they hide under rocks at the low tide line, and can change color to match the vegetation of their habitat. After quite a struggle to nab the fish, Duane handed it over to John to show off in the aquarium. Within the quadrants, in addition to the above, we found ulva, ribbon worms, tube worms, algae, sugar kelp, and eelgrass. Just as the session ended, Mary Jo uncovered a significant and rare find: a Mopalia lignosa, of the hairy, mossy chiton group, which had beautiful green markings on its back. Then, to finish the morning we gathered at Mike’s home to warm up and chat with the out of town guests brought by Hi and Pat B. A great end to a great day! Written by Mike F., one captain of this beach.
Eleven Beach Watchers and two guests led by Vicki and Tom P. rode the tram down the bluff to monitor Perrywinkle Beach on July 16. It was a warm day reaching about 80 degrees F. at the -1.9’ low tide at 12:45 pm. The partly cloudy sky and nice breeze kept things pleasant, however. The profile line was run 140’ out from the starting point. The natural backshore included driftlogs, overhanging trees, shoreplants, tall grasses and shrubs. The substrate included ground shells, sand, gravel, cobbles, boulders and some erratics, but was dominated to 50’ into the profile by first gravel then cobble and the last 30’ was dominated by sand. About 20 species were found including crabs, anemone, limpets, mussels, snails, nudibranch, clams, amphipod, shrimp, barnacles (Balanus crenatus and glandula ), Polychaete, green, brown and red seaweeds. One species found which is especially enjoyable to observe is the Ghost shrimp, Neotrypaea californiensis. Its coloration, a waxy pale pink and orange, is quite striking, if you find it buried in the sand. Another gem is the Aggregating anemone, Anthopleura elegantissima: it is a carnivore that feeds primarily on small crustaceans and other animals and has a lovely coloration, greens and pinks. Unfortunately, the group didn’t find a single Sand dollar, Dendraster excentricus, which was abundant in 2006, but nowhere to be found this year. Cathy M. and Judi M. summarized this data for us.
Seven Beach Watchers and one guest monitor led by Barbara B. ventured out at 10:30 am on the sunny and breezy day of July 30 to monitor Mabana Beach. The profile line was run to a whopping 632 feet at a low tide of -2.4 feet at 11:50 am. The natural backshore included driftlogs, overhanging trees, shoreplants, tall grasses and shrubs. As in previous years this beach continues to be the location of many very beautiful to observe species including anemone, sea stars, Sand dollars (Dendraster excentricus, it reaches a diameter of about 8 cm. and its color ranges from gray to blackish red) and the Ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis with a striking coloration of waxy pale pink and orange), as well as clams, amphipods, crabs, isopods, barnacles (Balanus), polychaete, spiders, green seaweed, and seagrass. Of particular note this year was finding the Lined anemone, Haliplanella lineata; it is a small species with an olive-green column marked lengthwise with stripes of orange or white. It is a close relative of Metridium, another anemone previously found at Mabana. The sea stars found this year included the Morning Sunstar, Solaster dawsoni, that reaches a diameter of 16 inches and has 11 to 13 rays with a coloration varying from grey, cream, yellow to orange-brown (It is known to cannibalize its own species) and the Mottled sea star, Evasterias troschelli with its’ five rays. Its’ prey includes mussels, barnacles, limpets and snails. Thanks to Cathy M. and Judi M. for this data collection summary.
This is the first year that Camano Island State Park was part of the Beach Watcher intertidal monitoring program. Three profile lines were run, Profile #1 was conducted on July 30 and Profiles #2 and #3 were run on July 31. Profile #1 was 150 feet north of the northern edge of the boat ramp and was 125.8 feet in length to the -2.0 feet low tide at 11:46 am. Profile #2 and #3 were both run out to 110 feet to the -1.7 feet low tide at 12:24 pm. Profile #2 was located 15 feet north of the northern edge while Profile #3 was 15 feet from the southern edge of the boat ramp. Duane H. and John C. jointly lead nine Beach Watchers to monitor Profile #1 and six assistants were available for Profiles #2 and #3. The first 50 feet of the substrate was ground shells, sand, and mostly gravel. From 50 feet to 110 feet the substrate included ground shells, sand, gravel, and cobbles. However, from 110 to 125.8 feet on Profile #1 the substrate was solely clay and silt.
Species common to all three Profile lines included clams, amphipod (Traskorchestia traskiana, the beach hoppers live high up in the intertidal among the piles of washed up seaweed, which they feed on and take refuge in), crabs (Hemigrapsus, the shore crabs have a rectangular shaped carapace up to 2 inches wide and with three "teeth" along the edge behind each eye), barnacles (Balanus crenatus and glandula ) and green seaweed (Ulva or Ulvaria sp.). Profile lines #1 and #2 also included the Moonglow anemone, Anthopleura artemisia. Normally only the oral disk and tentacles of this anemone are visible with the column buried beneath the substrate. Its’ column extends to a length of 8 inches in order to reach the surface. This species is found from the middle intertidal zone to a depth of 100 feet. Profile line #1 which was the farthest removed from the boat launches' potential impacts was considerably more diverse than the other profiles, also including jellyfish, chiton, snails, shrimp (the Broken back shrimp, Heptacarpus sp.), isopods, polychaete, sea stars, arachnid (Neomolgus littoralis), bryozoan, Brown seaweed (Desmarestia aculeate), Red seaweed (Hildenbrandia) and Seagrass (Zostera marina). The monitors particularly enjoyed discovering Tonicella lineate, the Lined chiton, as it is quite beautiful with zigzag lines on its plates. Its predators include the Purple sea star (Pisaster ochraceus), the Six-rayed sea star (Leptasterias sp.), and the Northern clingfish ( Gobiesox maeandricus). The monitors were also treated to the Mottled sea star, Evasterias troschelli, with its’ five rays. Its’ prey includes mussels, barnacles, limpets and snails. Thanks to all who came out to support 3 new profile lines and to Cathy M. and Judi M. for summarizing the data for us.
Utsalady Beach, located at the Northwest end of Camano Is., monitoring was done on August 9 beginning at 7:00 a.m. by 13 early rising Beach Watchers led by Pam C., the captain of this beach. It was a very pleasant morning for this task of setting up the line and laying quadrats, watching crabbers and clam diggers active on the adjacent public beach. No major beach critter changes were evident from 2006 but we all enjoyed the large number of cockles found here. We did however have problems with the beach surfaces at two of our quadrat locations; notably, T2Q2 and T3Q3 were located over large man-dug holes, making any survey data from these areas impossible to collect.
The previous day had been a -1.7 foot tide and clam diggers had been active and had not refilled their huge holes. This problem also occurred last year as well on this beach. In addition to the frustration of not being able to collect data, this practice poses a hazard to beach walkers and to continued growth of sea life in these spots. Requests to the public to please refill holes has been very negatively received. Bad habits are reducing shellfish harvests and more work needs to be done to educate the public about beach etiquette. Thanks to Pam C. for her report.
On a partly cloudy mild August 10th morning, a group of 11 Beach Watchers and three guest monitors arrived on Pebble Beach to perform the annual intertidal monitoring. The group was captained by Pam T. A profile line and nine quadrats were set. Monitoring ended at 10 a.m. on a -1.9 foot tide. Invertebrate species types found in abundance included; crabs, snails, chiton, barnacles, clams, mussels, limpets, worms, anemones, isopods, and sea stars. Although the crab Cancer oregonensis was seen in the 2006 effort, none were there this year. However, there was a greater diversity in crab population. Shore, hermit and black-clawed crabs were detected. The shore crab; Hemigrapsus nudus and Hemigrapus oregonensis. were both found. H. nudis, commonly called the purple shore crab has purple spots on its claws and its walking legs are hairless, while H. oregonensis the green shore crab, is very similar in appearance to H. nudis, except it has no spots on its claws and has tiny bristly hairs on its walking legs. The hermit crabs; Pagurus, climb through tidepools dragging their living quarters along with them, while the little black-clawed crabs, Lophopanopeus bellus, often make their homes burrowed into the sand under rocks. Its’ claw tips are black and its’ legs have a few fine hairs. Molluscs were also more diverse this year including Mopalia, Tectura persona, Tectura scutum, Mytillus trossulus, Littoriana sitkana, Littoriana scutulata, and Nucella lamellosa.
An extra treat for the monitors was the discovery of the beautiful Sunflower sea star Pycnopodia helianthoide. This species is a fast mover and a powerful predator with a preference for urchins and bivalves. Similar to last year, Ulva and the eelgrass Zostera marina were present. The beach monitors also spotted a Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias and a Harbor seal, Phoca vitulina. Thanks to Cathy M. and Judi M. for this data collection summary.
Camano - last updated by Judi McD. March 7, 2008
(dark area off left shoulder)
(Sand tunnels in background)
( in detail )
from EZ-ID data