Monday, July 16, 2012

Peddocks by Day

When the only church on the island has fallen into disuse, shrubs reach across the path with their thorny arms to draw blood, and unseen creatures wail from beyond the bushes, it is best you visit the island by day.  I'm glad we did.  Two ferries away from Boston, Peddocks Island has only recently been opened to the public.

On our way over, we spotted a flock of terns hovering over open ocean.  Prof. Berman told us that striped bass had pushed up bait fish and the terns were attacking from above.  I also saw a cormorant stationed on one of the buoys, and a number of seagulls and Canada geese on the island.
Terns hunting
We started off walking one of the island's paths, flanked mostly by Norway maples.  When he heard the wailing, Prof. Berman told us we should get down to water because he cannot protect us on land.  Noted.

We crawled the beaches looking for life and its remains.  The beach started off with pebbles, graduated to cobbles, and returned to pebbles again.
Beach on Peddocks Island
We spotted shells from a number of creatures: blue mussels, hard-shelled clams (both quahogs and cherry stones), slipper shells, soft-shelled clams, and razor clams.  Since none of these creatures were spotted alive, it is unclear exactly where they came from.
Blue mussel shells
Soft-shelled clams (left) and hard-shelled clams (right)

Slipper shells (left) and razor clams (right)
We also saw the carcasses of red crabs, horseshoe crabs, and skates.  The horseshoe crab is noted by our Peterson Field Guide as "unmistakable."  Most everything else is confusing.
Probably the deep-sea red crab

Atlantic Horseshoe Crab

Front and back of skate
While much of the life we had seen at the docks was beyond reach, our tiny friends, the amphopods, scurried from under flipped stones, continuing to frustrate my attempts at identification.
At least three different kinds here

Black and white amphopods

While rock weed remained an easy ID, the other plant life was more difficult to identify.
Rock weed, blown in from off-shore

Reddish algae which looks a little like the broken tentacles of lion's mane jellyfish

Sour weed or tangle weed?

No idea!

Fossilization in action
In addition to living things, we discovered a number of artifacts.  The pink glass was particularly interesting, as it probably comes from glass manufactured in the Boston area around World War II, when the Nazi-affiliated sources of green dye disappeared.  The dye that was used locally turns pink over time.
Two kinds of sea glass and stoneware, all found on the beach

My favorite rock from the beach:
Multi-colored beach rock
Life in the mud flat, receding due to a lack of rain, was very different.  The land went from dry to squishy and tadpoles (or small fish, who knows?) scurried to the sound of water settling as crabs gave chase.
Baby crab (image blown up several times) in mud flat

Crab in mud flat

Plant life in the mud flat.  May be dead, who knows?

Our final assignment was to find and pick up a live Asian shore crab and a periwinkle, both invasive species.  The periwinkle has especially changed New England beaches by leaching the sand attached to the algae on the rocks, changing the beaches from sandy to rocky.
Back of Asian shore crab -- it's a girl!

Asian shore crabs hidden among the cobbles


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