Posts Tagged ‘Sea urchin’

Although winter isn’t over yet, today’s calm and sunny weather looks ideal for beachcombing.  Winter storms often seaweed-and-shellswash natural treasure in the form of seashells onto the beaches.  Some common finds at local beaches are shown at left:  a Green Sea Urchin, Blue Mussels, Sea Biscuits (a type of Sand Dollar), a small Surf Clam,  Irish Moss seaweed and a small starfish. 

There’s a large bed of Blue Mussels at nearby Rainbow Haven Beach that’s revealed only at low tide.  The tidepools are ideal places for finding some of the creatures that prey on the mussels, such as   Dogwhelks and Northern Moon Shells.  Sometimes, a Rock Crab that’s managed to hide from the hungry seagulls can also be found. 

 Many of the rocks in the mussel bed are covered with algae, making them very slippery to walk on.  Periwinkles feed on the algae and are also numerous in some spots.

moonandmermaidspurseThe carnivorous Northern Moon Shell is shown at left along with a Mermaid’s Purse, which is an egg case for a skate, a type of ray.  The hooked ends of these egg cases cling to seaweed but are sometimes loosened by the currents and washed ashore.  The moon shells are very beautiful but have become less common finds in recent years. 

Whenever I find shells with live animals still inside them, I’ll throw them back into the water.   It’s such a shame to find a pile of live molluscs dying in the parking lot, picked off the beach by children but discarded by parents prior to getting into their vehicles at the end of the day.  It might seem like a small thing, but in the summer, when so many people frequent the beaches, this thoughtless act is repeated enough times to have an effect on the fragile ecosystem.  Though live molluscs are a wonder to find, in this instance I think it would be less cruel to just love them and leave them.

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urchinPeople often marvel when I tell them about all the wildlife I see.  Whether I’m walking in the woods or along the seashore, my eyes always manage to capture what others would usually miss: mammals, birds, seashells…  How do I do this?

1. I believe that wildlife is all around me when I go outdoors.  Every time I step outside, I believe I will see wild animals or evidence of their presence.  It’s not that I think I’m entitled to see these wild creatures, but rather that I trust they’re out there.  I didn’t always believe this.  I spent a lot of time in the woods in Northern Ontario when I was young, longing to see a creature in the wild.  All I saw were chipmunks and insects.  As I started reading books about real people’s encounters with animals in the wild, I started to believe that if others could see wild animals, I could too.  My mind became open to the possibilities.

2. I know what animals share my environment.  While living in British Columbia, I began reading field guides in order to draw animals better.  The variety of wildlife amazed me.  When I moved to Nova Scotia a few years later, I set aside the Western guides for ones that covered Eastern Canada.  Birds, sea life and woodland creatures were all a bit different here.  Some animals made their homes on the seashore, some in the salt marshes and some farther inland. 

3. Experience has taught me to expect the unexpected.  Sea Urchin shells are always a nice find on Nova Scotia’s shores, but I’ve also found them in the woods.  Once a seagull has grasped a live urchin, it will often fly up and drop the urchin onto the rocks below in order to crack it open.  Live urchins are covered with spines and this is a less painful way for gulls to get to the edible flesh.  Seagulls probably make no distinction between seashore and forest rocks as good hard surfaces on which to smash shells, so finding a Sea Urchin in the woods shouldn’t have been such an extraordinary find.  But somehow, the discovery opened my mind to the possibility of the unexpected.

Following these three tips is sure to help you see more wildlife too:

  • Believe that wildlife is all around you when you go outdoors.
  • Know what animals share your environment. 
  • Expect the unexpected. 

After awhile, finding wildlife may become a bit like ‘red truck syndrome’ which happens when you start noticing something everywhere that you’ve never seen before – you notice one red truck and then start noticing them all over the place.  In this instance, you’ll notice one Sea Urchin and then start noticing Sea Urchins all over the place.  Watch where you’re walking and try not to crack them under your feet as you walk in the woods.

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