The Shark Eye Moon Snail (Neverita duplicata) is a predatory mollusk found along the Gulf Coast. The empty shells are highly coveted by Hermit Crabs. This one was still alive so I carefully tucked it back into the small hollow in the shallows.
Archive for ‘Observations’
Oysters & Oaks
I chanced upon this duo while wandering the nature trail at Goose Island State Park. I can’t think of better representatives of this area than live oaks and oysters. Both of them dominate their individual landscapes. In fact, they even sculpt their environments.
I went out to the beach the other day for a bit of peace and quiet. I ended up spending time with a flock of Laughing Gulls instead. Their incessant, raucous calls make me wonder, don’t they ever tire of hearing themselves?
Fiddler Crab Lives Here
Denizens of saltmarsh edges, Mudflat Fiddler Crabs (Uca rapax) are excavators extraordinaire. Much of their lifestory is evident in the landscaping outside their burrows. Scritches in the sandy mud form when they claw up and ingest the soil. After siphoning out any organic matter, they roll up the leftover sediment and spit it out in little balls. The larger balls in the photo are the byproduct of burrow expansion.
Sadly, I didn’t see the crab so I couldn’t tell you the sex of the burrow owner (while female claws are both the same size, males have one enlarged claw called a chela). A male attracts a mate by waving his big appendage around. No correlation to the human male. Nope, none at all.
Rather appropriately named, Column Stinkhorn (Clathrus columnatus), uses a foul-smelling slime to attract flies. The flies then help the fungus spread by carrying away spores. Though this advanced stage of the fungus is considered too putrid to eat, the underground “egg” is considered edible. Um, yeah, I’ll take your word for it.
Oysters are one of the seafood crops harvested in the nearby bays. In efforts to protect the long-term health of the oyster fishery, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has closed six of the minor bays along the coast and is actively rebuilding oyster reefs. That time-consuming and expensive process will get a boost from the recently enacted law that requires seafood distributors to either return oyster shells equal to 30% of the amount purchased or pay $1.36 per sack (a sack can weigh no more than 110 pounds). So far, many of the distributors are opting to pay the fee, since oyster shells command a good price for use in the vitamin supplement market.
Plump and Stout
I know bird guides use those words to describe Sanderlings (their body and bill respectively) but I happen to find them adorable. If you haven’t watched it yet, check out Piper, the Pixar video about peeps that won an Oscar in 2017 for Best Animation.
I spent an hour at Rockport Beach mesmerized by Black Skimmers bathing. Their name derives from their unique feeding method. They hunt by feel; flying low, skimming their mandibles in the water. When they touch a fish their bills snap closed. As a strategy, the percentage of success is low but hunting by feel means they can hunt at night while most other birds can’t. Read more about their distinctive qualities in this lighthearted article by Nicholas Lund.
I found the first of what I am assured will be many Hermit Crabs here at Rockport Beach. Most likely this is one of the several Pagurus species that move into shallow water during their winter breeding season. It was the only one I saw, hopefully a mate is out there somewhere. Good luck little crustacean!
A lonely palapa at Rockport Beach this morning. Two blocks from my cottage, the park is slowly rebuilding infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Harvey in late 2017. The birds didn’t seem to mind. Next time I’ll take my big camera. Without a lot of effort I spotted these cool species today: Black Skimmer, American and Brown Pelicans, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Great Blue Heron, Ruddy Turnstone, Long-billed Curlew, Black Vulture, and even a few Bottlenose Dolphins. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!