Tracking Tide Pool Wonders

Hood Canal, WA. – It’s late May and we are all restless to be outside exploring.  Here at the edge of the sea, the daily tides are ramping up to deliver the best daytime low tides of the year, so time outside is even more compelling. It is a glorious time when the sea rolls back her watery quilt farther than usual for a few hours and allows us to glimpse the world of rich marine life inhabiting the nooks and crannies of the intertidal zone.

This year, we are unable to gather in large groups, so in an effort to find a way to share a beach walk while keeping a safe distance, we met up with two families on a local beach.  We had a blast tracking wonder around and under the slippery rocks covering the shore. There were many gasps of surprise and delight at what we found. 

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Even a small puddle teems with life.  Photo credit – Roxanne Thoemke
Plainfin midshipman eggs attached to the underside of a rock.  Look closely to see the tiny fish growing inside each egg.  Photo credit – Roxanne Thoemke
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The Lewis moon snail is the largest living marine snail. Photo credit – Roxanne Thoemke


Moon Snail pulling foot into shell

Ocher Sea Star
Ocher sea stars can be purple, orange or tan.
Lewis moon snail egg collar sandwiches thousands of eggs in layers of sand.
Red rock crabs are large, brick red and have black tipped claws.
Mottled sea star
Hermit Crab 3
Hairy hermit crab – look for white band on walking legs.
Moon Snail Bore
Telltale hole with a beveled edge in a clam shell drilled over several days by moon snail.
Tiny shore crabs are very common and can be seen in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
So much life to observe under the rock homes. Wonder trackers were so careful to return each rock home to the exact place it was found. Photo Credit – Roxanne Thoemke
Spaghetti Worm
Spaghetti worm – the beige structure plumes out and looks like angel hair when under water
Dogwinkle snail eggs
Midshipman males make nests under rocks and after the female has laid her eggs, fiercely guards them.
Midshipman on the beach
Midshipmen teeth and gills
Look at the 8 plates that give this chiton structure. Look for them slowly grazing on rock surfaces.
Dogwinkle snails are common and are found in a wide variety of colors.
Bamboo tube worms can be seen sticking up all over the beach like hairs.  The worm scrunches down inside the tube during low tide.
Calcareous Tubeworm?
Calcareous tube worms have a hard meandering tube where they retreat for protection
Eel-like Fish
The saddleback gunnel is a common tide pool fish that resembles an eel. It can be found in very shallow water.
As the tide water began to creep back in, I don’t think any of us wanted the day to end.          Photo credit – Roxanne Thoemke

This summer, watch for good low tides and spend time exploring our amazing beaches.  Until we are able to be together in large groups, go to the beach in smaller family groups and watch videos from Seattle Aquarium’s Blog, like this one called Tide Pooling 101: Learn to Gently Explore the Beach.

When you track wonder at the edge of the sea, delight in the smallest of wonders.

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Images – SPegany©2000-2020, unless otherwise noted

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small. Psalm 104:24-25


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