Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lovell's Island

Although I am very sad that I was not able to make the trip to Lovell's when the class went, I feel that I would not have had the same experience as I did today.

My day started out with some negative beginnings. Firstly, while I was packing for my trip I could not find any sunscreen. At that point I figured, "I might not be out in the sun long enough for this to matter. I can survive." Now as I write this blog with my face the color of a tomato and my lovely new burned in farmers tan, I think I might have been wrong about that. I continue getting ready and head down to the water. I thought that since it was a weekday, it may not be as crowded. (Smartly enough, I forgot the key word "Summer" which I did not factor into my plans.) I looked up the ferry schedule and the low tide tables and factored that I needed to get on the 10am ferry to be able to make the 11:20 ferry from Georges Island to Lovell's. As I am waiting in line for a ticket, the 10am ferry gets sold out. Well, this is very bad. How am I going to manage to get to Lovell's Island on the 11:20 ferry when the 11am ferry gets to Georges at 11:30? My immediate thoughts were that I am going to need to get snorkel gear because I am not going to get there for low tide. I talked to the lady at the ticket booth about these issues and she kindly told me that if I speak with the Captain on the ferry boat, they can call ahead and hold the ferry at Georges to go to Lovell's. This is when things just turned around for me. Today was going to be a good day.

As I am sitting around waiting for the ferry, I notice this boat in the harbor. There is a lady driving the boat and a man standing on the front of the boat. There are also three to four bins on the vessel: one blue recycling bin and two or three trash bins. The man is holding one of those pool skimming nets and sifting up garbage and other things floating on the harbors surface that should not be there. I thought this was awesome and I thought it was even cooler that they had a recycling bin as well as the trash bins on board.

I arrive at Lovell's Island around 11:40 just in time for low tide. Upon arrival we are greeted by the park rangers who keep the island in good order. They go over safety issues and some basic rules of the island. After our introduction, we are free to wonder around and explore to our hearts content. The main park ranger that introduced himself to us was named Tim. Tim is awesome and he is by far the coolest park ranger on the island, in my opinion of course. I explained that I was from Boston University and that I had missed our day at Lovell's Island. I told him that I needed to find some periwinkles and land snails and a couple other things. He pointed me in the right direction and off I went. I was given the advice to "keep my eyes peeled" for the land snails because there would be some on my way to the water.

As I am walking along to the water I come across the blackberries that everyone is talking about. Now don't get me wrong, I thought there would be some blackberries but "oh wow" is all I can come up with. There have to be hundreds of blackberry bushes everywhere.

After eating a ridiculous amount of blackberries, I continue on my walk only to find a grove snail just before I get to the water. I find this snail just hanging out on a large leaf.

So, I decide to pick said grove snail up and see what it does... It slimed on me.

After observing its lovely shell and slimy body, I decided to put it back on its leaf to go about its snail business.
The reasons why I believe this is a grove snail are that the grove snail is common on Lovell's Island, I found the snail in a wooded area on a leaf, the grove snail can have both light and dark colored lips. I felt that examining the snails love darts in the presence of small children might send the wrong message of "what to do when encountering a snail in the wild".

After all of this I make it to the beach with the tide pools and before I came here I thought it may be hard to find these periwinkles everyone was talking about. Two steps onto the beach, I realise that this is definitely not the case. There are periwinkles everywhere. I feel bad that I cant avoid not stepping on them as I explore the beach. It is a little after low tide so the tide is coming in and it is a sunny afternoon in the summer at Lovell's Island. The water is very clear and it is easy to observe the wildlife. Right as I am about to start investigating I encounter a lovely visitor: Tim. The park ranger decided to come visit and see if I needed any help finding things in the tide pools. This was awesome. We explored the small tie pools. Found all sorts of animals and plants. We waded out into about shin- high water around the rocks to see if there may be a lobster we could catch. It was very nice to wonder around the beach with Tim, I hope there are park rangers at every national park like him.

So some of the things that I found:

The first animal I encountered was the common periwinkle. It is an invasive species from Europe and it is becoming more and more common on the New England shoreline. They are found on rocky shores in the intertidal area. It sometimes lives in small tide pools and it attaches itself to hard surfaces. I was able to coax a periwinkle a little bit out of its shell and I could see that its skin was a different color than that of the grove snail. Another thing that was different was that the periwinkle had this kind of protective door it was able to slide back behind when it did not feel safe. I did not see this same door-like thing on the grove snail. The periwinkle is a water animal and It needs to preserve its moisture and water while the tide is out. This is why they are all stuck to all of the rocks. The snails suction themselves to these rocks and make an air-tight seal until they are able to be submerged in water again.

Another animal I came across was what I believe to be the Northern Rock Barnacle, Balanus balanoids. There were two pairs of plates at the top with a gap in between them. The barnacles are said to be within this range, from the Arctic to Delaware. It is rough to the touch and can be the cause of many scrapes by inattentive beach-goers.

There were a couple different types of crabs that I found, this one being one in particular that I got a good look at. At first look in the guide book, I thought as though it could be a wharf crab. The wharf crab is said to be squarish and about 7/8" wide and 3/4" long. This is just about the size that I saw. The eyes are at the front corners and the third pair of walking legs is very long. The only problem with this is that the wharf crab is only found as high north as the Chesapeake Bay. I tried looking at the Hitchhikers Guide but this only helped me to identify the dead Asian shore crab that I saw floating around in the water around the tide pools as the tide was coming in. So, I am still a little baffled at what type of crab this is because I cannot find any other crab with this kind of physical description in this general area.

The next animal, which happened to be the next most common animal aside from the periwinkle was the hermit crab. I do not find this to be very surprising because the hermit crab uses the shells of other animals to live in. In this case, the old periwinkle shells are just perfect for a hermit crab to make its home in. The hermit crabs I saw were a lighter color and they did not appear to be fuzzy like most of the hermit crabs I see in a lot of the pictures in the guide book. These hermit crabs were living in the shells of old periwinkles. Looking in the guidebook, I saw a picture of the long-clawed hermit crab and thought that it looked the most like the one I was holding. After reading more about it I believe this to be the case. The long-clawed hermit crab are known for living in snail shells. They can be found from Nova Scotia to Florida and they are the most common hermit crab in the Atlantic Ocean.

As I was wading in about shin-deep water I found this really interesting part of a shell. I had absolutely no idea what kind of animal this may have been. Upon further investigation and some helpful hints, I believe that this was the shell of a green sea urchin. Green sea urchin can be found on rocky shores and in kelp beds within this range. Considering this was a rocky shore and I also found kelp on the beach, this seems to be a very good prediction. Now if only to find a live one...
As I was observing a small tide pool, I came across some familiar species. As you can kind of see from the picture to the right, i found some red and orange tunicate. I also found two club tunicate attached to a rock in the next tide pool over. These invasive species seem to have gotten all the way out to Lovell's too!
Another lovely species that we already came across was Rockweed. I decided to photograph Rockweed at its finest, attached to a large rock.
I found this brown stuff. It felt like slimy thick paper and I was told that it was called kelp. It is a large brown seaweed. Sea urchins like to feed on this. The interesting thing I found about this seaweed was something that I found on the kelp. There was this white filmy stuff on top of some of the kelp we found. Tim said that this was the doing of an invasive species and I tried to look it up but have not been able to identify what it is. It has a web-like look to it almost the same image that you would see when you see the layers of an old tree that has been cut down.
After exploring the beach some more I decide to go off on an island walk with Tim because he offered to show me some other cool things about the island.
One thing we did was we had some beach plums because they just became ripe. (He has been waiting for them to ripen and was really really excited.) We found these beach plums at Burbec Morris on the island. I have never had beach plums before and they were pretty tasty.
After our plum adventure he was walking with me back to the main part of the island and we got to talking about the outer harbor islands. I was saying how I was kind of intrigued to know what was on the furthest out island, The Graves. I said that I had heard that there was not much there except a lighthouse. He said that maybe we should have a closer look to see. I was kind of confused at this statement until we stopped by his ranger quarters and grabbed his bright red telescope. We took it out to the beach that faces the outer harbor islands and had a look. Unfortunately it was a pretty foggy day out today so we were not able to see all the way out to the Graves but I was able to see the Boston Light up close through the lens.
All sunburns aside, this was one of the greatest adventures. Lovell's Island is the least trafficed island that we visited. The island policies are taken pretty seriously and every person who comes on the island has to listen to the rangers little lecture about the rules and conduct of the island before they can explore or camp. Much of the island is forest and the rest is mostly beach. There are no snack-bars or commercial things on the island and the park is maintained to preserve the wildlife that is currently inhabiting it.

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