News

Low-tide beach walk offers rare opportunity

By RAYNA HOLTZ

For The Beachcomber

Vashon beach naturalists Bob Fuerstenberg, Kathy Sider, Sandi Noel and Barbara Gustafson will lead a full-moon low tide beach walk from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9, at the north end.

Participants are invited to park at the ferry lot and circle up for hot chocolate and tea by the espresso stand. There, naturalists will orient the group and explain best beach behavior guidelines.

If weather permits, the full moon will shine its silvery light on the wet stones and sand as the tide withdraws to a low of -3.1 feet at 9:25 p.m. In spite of cold and darkness, the winter low-tide beach is full of life. Though they are now periodically scraped, the dock pilings often host large sea stars, crabs and, in the depressions around the cement footings, barnacles, limpets, anemones and sometimes nudibranch.

Flashlight beams sometimes attract squid to the shallow water.

As the tide recedes and beach naturalists hunt northeastward along the water’s edge, it is common to find the circular sand collars that hold moon snail eggs and to even see moon snails themselves as well as red rock, hermit and kelp crabs.

Tide pools hold the bumpy red Turkish towel seaweed and the iridescent purple laver. Sometimes when a naturalist tilts a rock back, we see a slick smooth clingfish or a tiny green shrimp. At this lower level of the beach we may discover crabs less often seen, such as the flat porcelain crab or the stout black-clawed crab, often bluish purple. People who appreciate worms will be delighted by the feather duster worms’ lovely maroon and green plumes, emerging from their gray tubes.

Each beach also has its own community of mussels and shellfish. At the north end there is an area of dense clay in which the strange-looking piddock drills down into the protective substrate.

How many other species of clam, cockle and mussel will the group find? Who are their enemies? How do they manage to fasten themselves so securely to rocks? The beach has many stories. Come and hear a few.

This free event is co-sponsored by Vashon Audubon and People For Puget Sound. For further information contact Rayna Holtz at 463-3153 or Michelle Ramsden at 406-3723.

— Rayna Holtz is an Island naturalist.

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