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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The fish and the anchor

While I was in Massachusetts last week, during a period of very strong northwest winds, Eric found some interesting fishing floats washed up on Salmon Creek Beach (on 26 April 2016).

Here's a close-up of one of them:

Eric had a hunch that the characters were Chinese.  And luckily, Evelyne was able to provide a translation. (Thanks, Evelyne!)

The four large characters above the fish are:

海 丰 渔 塑 

Evelyne says the first two characters (from left to right) are the name of a coastal county "Haifeng" in southern China.

The third character means "fishery."

And the fourth character means "plastic."

Here's the second float.  Both floats were ~13 cm long.

We need to take a better picture of the characters below the anchor.  Then, if possible, I'll provide an update about the translation on this float.

There were also lots of other floats, buoys, and glass bottles.  Could this have been debris from an offshore fishing boat?

Friday, April 29, 2016

The mouth of the river


The mouth of the North River, with Fourth Cliff (in Humarock, MA) out of view to the right.  Photographed 29 April 2016.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I first introduced Violet Sea Snails (Janthina janthina) on 16 March 2016.  So far, this is the rarer of the two Janthina species to appear in this area in 2016.  We've seen more than a thousand Purple Sea Snails (Janthina umbilicata) this year, but only three Violet Sea Snails.  

These pictures show a Violet Sea Snail that I found on 22 April 2016.  The first picture is a view from the side.  Next, a view from above, highlighting the amazing bubble raft of this snail.  Both pictures were taken in a small aquarium.  The shell is ~12 mm across.

We don't know how many more sea snails will appear this year, but if there are southerly winds, keep your eyes open for these pelagic beauties!  (I'd love to hear about any sightings.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

As far as you could see

View looking south along Salmon Creek Beach on 22 April 2016:

And here's a view looking north (below).  The entire beach looked like this.  Do you have any guesses about what's creating those white strand lines?

The next picture will give away the answer:

There were uncountable numbers of By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella) washed ashore today...most were no longer alive, hence the white color.

This followed at least a day and half of southerly winds.  Seawater temperatures rose to ~14.5°C (58°F).

Hope you had a nice Earth Day!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Purple rain

Purple Sea Snail and rain clouds (20 April 2016)

With a recent change in weather, a few more Purple Sea Snails (Janthina umbilicata) washed ashore during the past two days.  South winds seem to be important for their appearance on beaches in this area. 

(If you were wondering, in the first picture there's also a By-the-wind Sailor (Velella velella) float/sail to the left of the sea snail.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Headed north

This morning we were treated to very nice views of several Gray Whale cow-calf pairs swimming north past Bodega Head:

Here's a close-up of one of the adults:

I always feel lucky to see whales, especially close to shore!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Little fighter

We were doing a beach survey...I passed an old, eroded kelp holdfast...but Eric picked it up and looked more carefully.  His sharp eyes noticed something with spots, and when viewed up-close, he recognized it as a tiny crab, only ~4-5 mm across:

There were thin white rings surrounding each dark spot and smaller orange speckles scattered across the carapace:

Eventually I noticed the dark tips on the claws an important clue to the identification of this crab!

Seeing the dark claws made us realize this was probably a juvenile black-clawed crab (Lophopanopeus sp.).

And then we learned about another important feature to look for when identifying this group of crabs: hairs on the different segments of the walking legs:

Unfortunately, I don't have experience evaluating this character, and I might need better pictures, so we'll have to request help from crab experts to see if we can figure out which species of black-clawed crab this is.

P.S.  The scientific name was intriguing to me.  I tried to interpret the meaning behind it.  "Lopho" means tufted or crested, and "panopeus" could refer to a character in Greek mythology known to be a fighter. This is guesswork, but perhaps "Lopho" refers to the hairs mentioned above, and perhaps "panopeus" refers to the strength and behavior of these crabs?  For crabs of the same weight, the crushing force of the claw of a black-clawed crab is known to be more than 5x greater than a shore crab (Hemigrapsus nudus) and 2x greater than a rock crab (Cancer productus)!  Watch your fingers!