Category Archives: Beachcombing

Beach Walk, July 30, 2018, aka, The New Critter Walk

My last beach walk until this fall makes me sad, but it was a great one nonetheless, including some critters I had not seen before, and for me, that is always exciting ūüôā This walk was on the north end of the island, from around the heel to about a mile west.

Big and deep enough for small children to swim in.

But first, a pet peeve. This hole was only the first of four I found and filled on this day. We must do more to educate the public about the dangers posed to sea turtles by sand castles and holes left on the beach. Building and digging while you are at the beach is a lot of fun. However, when sea turtles hatch from their nests, they can become stuck in holes or blocked by tall walls of sand. This can create a number of problems for sea turtle hatchlings. If they are unable to get out of the holes, they could be eaten by another animal or die from exposure to the elements. One of the things you can do to help sea turtles is to fill in holes you make and knock down the sand castles you build.

On my beach walk on July 21¬†I was very happy to find a bunch of critters living on and in a Knobbed Whelk shell, but I think my find this day beats all other critter communities I have found before. I happened upon this big sea sponge, admirable in it’s own right, but on closer inspection I discovered it full of inhabitants, including three I had not found before!! The sponge is likely a species of Branching Tube sponge, but with over 5000 sponge species, specific identification is difficult.

I’m looking over my find when I noticed that part of it was moving. Now sea sponges don’t “move”, even in life, so I looked closer and found this little crab, the Spineback Hairy crab. Well disguised, wouldn’t you say? I first thought was a Hairy Stone crab, but South Carolina is a bit far for it to have traveled from it’s home turf of Australia.¬† Mark this as New Critter #1 for me.¬† Here are a few more views of this uncommon little crab that (click on any image to make it larger)…

Next I found a Sandy Skinned Tunicate attached to it’s relative, a Sea Pork, and shall we just say that the tunicate had been deceased for a while (yuck).¬†I also found a couple Pleated Sea Squirts, but I have found all these critters before.

I very gleefully discovered five Brittle Stars, a close relative to sea stars, and a few small Hitchhiker Sea Anemones. For some reason I did not take an individual  photo of the anemones (very unlike me!!)b but if you look at the large closeup photo of the crab on the sponge, you can see one in the lower right corner. Make those brittle stars New Critter #2, yay!!

And the finds kept coming…

If you look in the center of the sponge you can see a wee red claw. Red? What sort of critter has a red claw (unless it’s been cooked)?

¬†I looked inside and uncovered not one, but two shrimp, shrimp like none I’ve ever seen before. My first thought was that they must be a species of Ghost shrimp, but after much research and a helpful lead from a biologist, I was able to place these in the genus¬†Zuzalpheus, sponge dwelling snapping shrimp of the western Atlantic. Snapping shrimp, an uncommon find on our beaches, are known for the snapping sound they make with that large claw; Google a video sometime. Call these snappers New Critter #3.

As soon as I was done with the sponge I came across New Critter #4, the remains of a dead Purse crab. Not as uncommon as the snapping shrimp, this was still the first one that I have found.

And speaking of Sandbuilder worms, check out the hole colony of them on the Horseshoe Crab shell on the left, while the shell on the right has a colony of Turtle barnacles.

This lovely lady Horseshoe crab was stranded on her back, but still very much alive, so I carried her down to the water and released her.

And just a few final things until we walk again this fall…

 

Beach Walk, July 26, 2018

Mitchelville Beach (Fish Haul Beach Park), looking left to the west.

Yesterday I waled west from Mitchelville Beach for a mile and a half, until I reached the sea wall in Hilton Head Plantation. As you may or may not know, all beaches on the island are “public”, whereas the property that lies behind them is likely private, so when I do this walk (a regular for me) it ends at the wall. If you would also like to make this trip you will need to plan it to start and end within a couple hours of low tide as there are a few tidal creeks to cross and make sure you wear shoes.

Although I always have my eyes open for interesting critters and treasures to collect, I take this route more for the beauty of the walk itself, and the small boneyard beach found at this eastern end of the sea wall.  Continue reading

Beach Walk, July 21, 2018

 

On Port Royal Sound, just west of the heel of the island.

My wanderings are guided by whatever catches my eye.

What you see on a beach walk on this beautiful island can vary so greatly, depending on which beach you start from, the season, the tides, and whether there has been a recent storm to churn things up. I love taking folks out to see what we can discover on the beach, but formal programs cover so little of my time exploring this island so I thought I’d add a virtual beach walk and share what I find. Let me know what you think of this feature in the comments.

It has been raining for days and I was getting stir crazy, even this reader can only read so much. Finally we got a break in the weather today and I headed out this morning just after low tide. I had not actually been to the heel of the island in a few months (terrible!!), so I knew that was where I was going.  What follows are photos of some of the things I saw today and some information that I might have shared if we were exploring together.

Continue reading

A Wee Bit Dangerous, a Whole Lotta Funny…

I recently spent the afternoon on a beach adventure with a friend, her daughter (also a friend), and her three girls. These girls have gone on a number of beach adventures with me and are growing up to be fine beach nerds, my protégés making Miss Mary so very proud.

We were walking alongside a series of deep tidal pools with the girls trailing behind when, hearing a bit of commotion, we turned around to see only the head of Prot√©g√© K sticking out of one of the pools. The first frightening thought for the three adults was that K had dropped into an exceptionally deep pool, but it was quickly obvious, with a huge sigh of relief, that she was just “swimming” in the pool.

We watched as her sisters, Protégés C and L were dancing around, cheering her on. But then the cheers and laughter became screams for her to get out. K  (and we) were momentarily confused, but then K was also screaming and running from the pool. We rushed forward, and peering into the water could see that the pool K had been swimming in, in fact, all of the tidal pools, were teeming with Blue Crabs, some of them VERY LARGE. K could have easily been the victim of the fierce claws of crabs just acting to defend themselves.

Once the hearts stopped racing, the laughter set in and we busied ourselves counting crabs and trying to scoop some up in our buckets for closer inspection. We even found what appeared to be a mating pair (the male was cradling the female). As the water settled and cleared in the pool K had been in, we saw that not only had she been swimming with Blue Crabs, but there was also unbeknownst to her, a fairly large Horseshoe Crab.

With the excitement done, when continued our adventures, and even catalogued a few new critters like Sea Pansies and a Sea Anemone different than what I have seen here before.

Now I have to share the VERY disappointing aspect of our day’s adventure- the TRASH. I always make it a habit to pick up trash while walking the beach, a habit the girls have also picked up (YaY!), and although some days I come back with more beach garbage than beach treasure, this day set a record for the amount collected, not a record we were happy to set.

New critter adventure…

I spent hours roaming the beach yesterday before a storm rolled in during the afternoon, and loved every minute of it. “But there is nothing unusual about that,”you say, “you always enjoy the beach.” What made yesterday extra special was that I met not one, but four different critters that I had not yet had the pleasure of making acquaintance. All of these will be added to the appropriate critter pages.

018Almost as soon as I started walking I ran into this fella, that looks to me like an exceptionally large Kirby cucumber. Yes, I’ve seen many boomerang shaped Lined (Green) Sea Cumbers, but this is a Hairy (Brown) Sea Cucumber, which can be elongated or almost spherical. I have never found an elongated one, and the round ones I have found have all been surf worn and smooth. This one still retains bumps from the tube feet that cover the entire body in life. Sea cucumbers live in shallow burrows an shallow water and are often washed up after rough weather, which makes sense with stormy weather we have had of late. Continue reading