Intertidal Monitoring - 2006
Ala Spit Old Clinton Beach Columbia Beach Cornet Bay Coupeville Town Park Crescent Harbor Double Bluff Cirque Point Double Bluff Wahl Farm Footprint Rock Freeland Town Park Beach Harrington Lagoon Honeymoon Bay Lagoon Point Langley Seawall Ledgewood Beach Maxwelton Tidepools North Hastie Lake Partridge Point Possession Point Pratt's Bluff Rolling Hills Rosario South Whidbey State Park West Sunset
The 2006 monitoring season kicked off on April 28th at Lagoon Point. Nine Beach Watchers and one spouse enjoyed sunny weather and a beautiful view of the Olympics as they worked. Six members of the team were first time monitors and they seemed to be discovering a whole new world. Lenore Minstrell and Debbie Bitts reported that their favorite find of the day was a shaggy mouse nudibranch (Aeolidia papillosa). Pam Winstanley got a big kick out of a northern clingfish (Gobiesox meandricus). Veteran Pete Berg found some great worms. His first find was a Hemipodis polychaete almost a foot long. A few minutes later, he turned over a rock and spotted a Nereid worm that was even larger than the Hemipodis, and his third find of the day was Cerebratulus, the rose ribbon worm.
Mother Nature’s amazing show actually started for this team before they even got away from the parking area. They had apparently parked near a killdeer nest and the adult bird repeatedly feigned injury as it tried to lure them away from its nest site. That protective little bird put on quite a show!
Weather-wise, the Ala Spit team did not have the same luck the following day. A low pressure front moved in bringing cold temperatures, wind, and rain. The team forged on despite the adversity, but after the rain picked up, they decided to forgo some of the quadrats. There were still some bright spots. The team observed a river otter and Pattie Hutchins spotted a Nereid polychaete at least 18 inches long (!). In addition, the notes team captain Sammye Kempbell made on a soaking-wet field data sheet were still legible when the paper dried out. The large worm the Pattie Hutchins found was probably Nereis brandti, commonly called the giant pile worm. Although the team was impressed by the size of this individual worm, this species has been found up to 5 feet long!
The Crescent Harbor team was glad to see the sun back on April 30th and in fact, there was a ring around it, a sign perhaps that the rain was just taking a day off. The team of seven turned over rocks to the -2.3 foot level finding pygmy rock crabs (Cancer oregonensis), a large ribbon worm of the genus Cerebratulus, and a plainfin midshipman fish (Porichthys notatus). The day’s highlight for Mike Eddy was seeing a shaggy mouse nudibranch (Aeolidia papillosa) (although Charlie Seablom remarked that he thought the nudibranch was having a bad hair day!). Bethany Ingram also liked the nudibranch and enjoyed seeing mottled sea stars (Evasterias troschellii).
Plainfin midshipmen are normally found in deeper water but in spring and summer months, males hollow out nest areas under intertidal rocks. Females come in and lay eggs then swim away, leaving the male to guard the eggs and then after they hatch, the larvae. Midshipmen fish have rows of photophores along their sides that in some locales will emit light. Those in Puget Sound however lack a chemical necessary for the biolumenesence. This is because a particular crustacean in their diet from which that chemical is derived is not found in this area.
Doris Northcutt led the Pratt’s Bluff team on May 14th, a day of ideal weather and a -2.1 foot tide. Several team members were new BWs from this spring’s class and they were amazed by all the small organisms that they would have missed had they not had veteran monitors there to point them out. Kristen Cooley was delighted by the flatworms. The group also discovered a ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis) that had carved its burrow out underneath a rock instead of down into the sand, allowing them to get a good view of its nooks and crannies. Another highlight was finding two small opalescent nudibranchs.
Freeland Town Park Beach had its turn on Monday May 15 with a glorious sunshiny day. Two eagles watched from above as Fletcher Davis and his team checked things out. The group found a ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis), a plainfish midshipman (Porichthys notatus), and the invasive purple varnish clam (Nuttalia obscurata). Jill Hein said the highlight of the day for her was seeing the chitons (Mopalia lignosa). Fletcher noted that to him, the best part of the day was just getting out with a team of enthusiastic people. The day had a bit of excitement when Jan Holmes picked up a big polychaete to examine it for identifying features. The features she will remember most are the pincer-like jaws that it used when it bit her!
The North Hastie Lake team found big changes in the substrate on May 17. Much of this normally rocky beach was found to be covered by a layer of sand. Susan Nunn is team captain at this beach and she reported that the most fascinating find of the day for her was an aggregating anemone with the ray of an unlucky sea star protruding from its oral cavity. Another aggregating anemone was noted to be all stretched out, presumably in preparation for splitting into two parts as a form of asexual reproduction. Jean Congden enjoyed seeing the big purple Pisaster ocraceous sea stars. Lynn Murphy said she just liked the day, the company, and the activity. The wonderful weather and -2.3 foot tide made this an ideal day for monitoring.
A thick blanket of fog enveloped Partridge Point the morning of June 11th but that didn’t stop a determined team of three as they set out to collect data on that beach. Because the horizon was not visible, the group used a small handheld device called a sight level to take the profile readings. This rocky beach on the west side of Whidbey Island is well known for its biodiversity and the team was not disappointed, finding 8 species of crabs, 3 species of sponge, and a plethora of seaweeds that included three species of tarspot. Petrocelis (black tar spot) and Hildenbrandia (red tar spot) are commonly seen and are on the EZ ID list. Ralfsia looks somewhat like the black tarspot but is more of a dark olive brown rather than black and also has lobes and concentric growth lines that give it the appearance of a lichen or fungus. In addition, they found the seagrass Phyllospadix (surfgrass) and in examining it, discovered tiny Lacuna snails, several isopods, and the encrusting red coralline algae Melobesia. Brian Giles reported that the highlight of the day for him was a sea lemon (Archidoris montereyensis) surrounded by breadcrumb sponge. Jan Holmes enjoyed the seaweeds and was particularly pleased to find Cymathere triplicata. Accustomed to seeing lots of shorebirds on beaches, the team was surprised to be buzzed by a hummingbird as they finished their lowest level of quadrats at the -1 foot level. Where the heck did that little guy come from?
The Langley Seawall team had light rain to contend with the next day. The team of five, led by Phyllis Kind, found some very interesting organisms. This sandy beach is loaded with ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis) and a close look at one revealed that it was carrying a passenger, a tiny red copepod (Clausidium vancouverense) that lives under the carapace and intermittently bounces around like a pinball within its confined space. Eagle eyed Joani Boose found an eelgrass sea slug (Phylloplysia taylori ) and the group also saw another nudibranch relative, Melanochlymus. An eelgrass limpet (Lottia parallela) and caprellid amphipods were also uncovered in the eelgrass.
Charlie Seablom had the Rolling Hills team out on June 13th when the tide retreated to the -3.1 foot level. A pair of kingfishers stayed busy flying back and forth as the team worked. This was the first beach Clyde Johnson had monitored and he was impressed by a polychaete from the family Glyceridae which put on a quite a show as it everted its pharynx. Worms from this family are carnivores and have 4 hook-like jaws at the end of that pharynx that they grab their prey with. Joyce Peterson spotted two hermit crabs that were carrying around other smaller hermit crabs, holding onto the shells of the smaller crustaceans with their claws. (Brian Giles had noted this same unusual behavior at Partridge Point two days earlier.) Sue Howard was impressed by the prehistoric appearance of the chitons. Surprisingly, the team found no sea stars and no moon snails or their egg collars, species usually commonplace at this beach.
The Harrington Lagoon team was out the same day with Donna Keeler at the helm. Donna notes that the beach appeared substantially altered and was higher due to the winter storms. Ingri Johnson of the BW class of 2006 spotted and identified 5 invertebrates, a flatworm, a chiton, an anemone, an isopod, and a moonsnail eggcase. Compared to last year, the team found more crabs and fewer sea stars this time.
Rudy and Barbara Deck took a look at Footprint Rock on June 14th. Rudy reports, “The Footprint Rock beach monitoring site was quite different this year. In past years, the survey area was quite sandy, probably 7/9 quadrats were nothing but sand. This year, except for a dry beach area and an exposed sand bar about 250 ft out, it was a broad width of slippery cobble that was a few inches deep in sea water.” He also noted that they spotted red paintbrush growing on the bluff above the beach.
The thermometer hovered around the 70 degree mark as the Double Bluff Cirque Point team set out to document their beach on June 15th. Eugene Thrasher led a team of seven and one readily apparent presence was that of dozens of moon snail egg collars scattered about and looking very much like manmade gaskets. Eugene got a kick out of finding some small oysters adhered to the undersides of rocks. Dennis Gregoire found a red rock crab “almost big enough to eat”, and Lynn Peterson was excited by the discovery of gunnel eels as she had never seen any before. The group also saw mottled sea stars (Evasterias troscheli), flatworms, and lots of shore crabs (Hemigrapsus nudis & H. oregonensis).
Double Bluff’s Wahl Farm was monitored on June 23rd and it was another day of sunshine and warm temperatures. The team reports that their #1 highlight was just being at the farm on such a nice day. They did make some interesting finds on the beach, including a small opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis), a rich diversity of kelp species, red beaded anemones (Urticina coriacea), flatworms, and rough piddocks (Zirfaea pilsbryi). Team captain Julie Buktenica had a mindset geared toward identifying intertidal critters to the point that she was pointing out clouds that she thought resembled nudibranchs!
A team of nine spent a warm summery afternoon collecting data at Coupeville Town Park Beach on June 25. Although a Beach Watcher for three years, Roxallanne Medley had not monitored a beach before so was keenly interested in the monitoring process. Celia Bartram was fascinated by a ghost shrimp bearing a clutch of eggs and Paul Whelen got a kick out of another ghost shrimp that harbored the minute red copepod Clausidium vancouverense, visible through the carapace as a mobile red speck. Brian Giles checked out a nearby hole dug by clam diggers and found a gaper clam (Treses capax) that had been cracked open with the shovel. Investigating further, he spied a pair of commensal pea crabs belonging to the family Pinnixa. Mark Vanderboll is designing and creating a new BW monitoring database. He accompanied the team to learn more about the data that is collected so he can shape the database into a more effective tool. He brought along a Crackerjack box-sized pocket pc in an impact resistant and waterproof “otter box”. The computer is being programmed as a data collection tool so that information can be entered into it in the field, replacing paper field data forms now in use and eliminating the need for a data entry person to do that job later. Mark bravely dipped the device into Penn Cove to test the seals of the otter box and appeared quite pleased with the result. Penny Bowen and Mary Jo Adams are team captains for this beach.
Libby Hayward led a team of ten at South Whidbey State Park on June 26th. The day’s record breaking high temperatures and -2.4 foot tide made for a great day at the beach. This site has a large erratic that is loaded with life and that makes it a beach monitor’s delight. Charlie Seablom has become quite knowledgeable about our intertidal species and he was along to help attach names to and shed light on the natural history of the various organisms. The group found 3 species of ribbon worms, the little leather limpet (Onchidella borealis), and a juvenile red rock crab (Cancer productus) with a white carapace.
Finn Gatewood’s Honeymoon Bay team got July off to a good start on July 9th when the tide dropped to the -2.2 foot level. This beach is heavily bulkheaded and had no seagrass and very little seaweed. Highlights for the day included finding both ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis) and blue mud shrimp (Upogebia pugettensis). The group also found four plainfin midshipmen (Porichtheys notatus) guarding their eggs. The underside of one rock was covered with hundreds of eggs, some of which had larvae visible and apparently in the process of hatching.
Heather Leahy-Mack had special guests along to help out at Cornet Bay on July 9. Cheryl Lovato (Whatcom County BW coordinator), Marie Hitchman (Whatcom Co. BW), and Linda McGuiness (affiliated with the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group founded by surfers) drove down from Whatcom County to get some first hand experience with monitoring. The day had some interesting twists with a garter snake (Thamnophis sp.) at the start point and a flyover by 10 great blue herons. In addition, the team found numerous long rayed brittle stars ( Amphipodia occidentalis), a sea slater (Ligia pallasi), and a ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis).
Nine volunteers showed up to check out Rosario Beach on July 11th. The group split into two teams, one group working the front section and the other heading back to the trough area. The group in the front section saw three species of anemones: aggregating (Anthopleura elegantissima), white plumed (Metridium sp.), and striped (Haliplanela). They also counted hundreds of tiny periwinkles and limpets tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the quadrats. Back by the trough, the other team found numerous black Katy chitons (Katharina tunicata), small sea slugs commonly called “leather limpets” (Onchidella borealis), dire whelks (Lirabuccinum dirum), and several species of red coralline algae.
July 11th also saw the Columbia Beach team having a look at their beach. Bill and Evelyn Blair are team captains for this site and Evelyn reports that they had a good crew and were happy that the rain held off. She notes that the beach is changing with a lot less eelgrass seen this year, possibly as a result of the big storm last February. The team also observed a lot of sand intrusion and that when you dig down, the sediment is black and smells like sulfur. There was a huge bloom of the epiphyte Smithora on what eelgrass there was. There were not as many clams as usual and moonsnail numbers also appeared to be down. The team found no limpets and only one anemone.
The Possession Point team had cloudy skies and cool temperatures on July 12. This beach has a considerable amount of eelgrass (Zostera marina) and taking a close look at it, they found the eelgrass sea slug Phylloplysia taylori. The group also noted a lot of hydroids colonizing the eelgrass blades. The real highlight of the day however was the homemade soup and fresh berry pie served up by team captain Jim Shelver’s wife!
It was a bit chilly for Jeanie McElwain’s Maxwelton Tidepools team on July 13th. This beach has a massive erratic that is covered with life situated at about the +1 foot level then a long expanse of sand beyond that. That gives this beach an interesting mix of species. On the erratic, the team found checkered periwinkles (Littorina scutulata), red sea cucumbers (Cucumaria miniata), and frilled dogwinkles (Nucella lamellosa). A small patch of clay near the erratic yielded several rough piddocks (Zirfaea pilsbryi), and the sandy stretch had areas of eelgrass inhabited by hydroids, caprellid amphipods, and the epiphytic red seaweed Smithora,
Jan Holmes headed up the Ledgewood Beach team on July 24. The profile area for this beach is near a fresh water outfall and that seems to limit the number of species able to tolerate the low salinity. There is a rocky area just down the beach with a much more diverse community of organisms so after finishing profile and quadrat work, the team headed down there to go exploring. They found a sea lemon (Archidoris montereyensis), adult and juvenile red rock crabs (Cancer productus), and the ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus). This was the 7th beach monitored this summer by Finn Gatewood (BW Class of 2006). Thanks Finn!
Bob Lawes and Charlie Seablom noted big changes in the substrate at West Sunset Beach on July 13th. In contrast to previous years, this year there was virtually no sand high on the beach. Instead they found mostly cobble and gravel. In addition, terrain around the large erratic had washed away creating a large tidepool that extended 30-40 feet on either side of the erratic and was 6-8 inches deep. The beach beyond the erratic was a wide expanse of sand. Charlie identified two sea lemons “parked” side by side head to tail next to a patch of the breadcrumb sponge (Halichondria) that they feed on. The two-man team also saw four species of barnacles along the profile area: little brown (Chthamalus dalli), acorn (Balanus glandula), smooth white (Balanus crenatus), and thatched (Semibalanus cariosus), and they found a fifth species (giant barnacle-Balanus nubalis) about a quarter of a mile up the beach as they hiked back to their cars. Charlie Seablom monitored 7 beaches this season and in addition, he recorded a species list for another beach on a non-monitoring day. Thank you Charlie!
Whidbey Island beach monitors closed out the season at Clinton Old Town Beach on August 9th. While rain showers peppered much of Whidbey Island with rain that day, the skies over this beach remained dry. Winnie Wheeler and Bill Blair worked the profile poles while Evelyn Blair and Mary Kehl checked out the biota. Evelyn reports the presence of lots of tubeworms sticking up out of the sand and also large numbers of moon jellies washed up on the beach.
And here’s a great big thank you to everyone who participated in the monitoring program this year! We couldn’t do it without you. Congratulations on a job well done!