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Monthly Archives: May 2011
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I’ve really been enjoying a blog by Jackie Hildering, “The
Marine Detective” from Port McNeill, BC. In her most recent post to
themarinedetective.com, she share a story of a
relationships between species that literally build upon each
In Humpback Whale Gooseneck Barnacles?!
She shares the wonder of diversity and discovery that never ceases
to surprise. In her research on humpback whales she and her
colleagues noticed a species specific whale barnacle on a
particular humpback. As time went on, the barnacle changed like a
gnarly wart growing hair. Finally, they got a close look at the
“hair” to find it was a barnacle specific barnacle – the humpback
whale barnacle barnacle. Share the marine detective’s wonder and
enjoy her amazing photos.
Humpback whales sometimes find their way into Salish Sea waters
(as you may note in my Loch Ness blurr style humpback pic). So
bring the binoculars next time you hear of one (join the Orca Network list for
near daily whale sightings info). Wonder not only at the
magnificence of the whale, but see if you can spot a humpback whale
barnacle, or even a barnacle with a medusa doo. Cheers! JEff
If you’re looking for a spur-of-the-moment staycation you might
give this some thought. Our Salish Sea clams generally stay in one
place while you rake/dig them near the surface or chase their neck
down deep. Razor clams take a different approach on their beaches
of deep sand. They have a specialized foot that can rapidly extend,
long and pointed, straight down into the sand. Once extended, the
end of the foot expands to act as an anchor. Muscles then contract
and pull the entire clam deeper into the sand. You shovel, they
plunge, you shovel, they plunge… the chase is on!
You might imagine, such an approach wouldn’t work well in many
Salish Sea beaches because of the mix of sand gravel and cobble
that are often dominant. Hence, we fjord-folk have to travel to the
open coast and bravely face the Pacific expanse to forage for these
On the other hand, we do have a very similar-looking species,
called the jackknife clam or blunt razor clam (Solen
sicarius, meaning something like Pipe dagger-man,
ouch!). Its shiny, oblong, beige to brown shell is similar to the
razor clam, but certainly unique among Salish Sea clams. The shell
of a jackknife, however, is relatively narrow and more squared off
on the ends. Also, the hinge, where the two shells connect, is at
one end of the shell instead of near the middle. That’s pretty
unusual to see among our clams.
The jackknife clam is not often seen alive since it prefers sand
and mud from the very lowest tides down to about 180′. Jackknife
clams (up to 5″ long) also dig a more permanent burrow than a razor
clam, whose burrow fills and empties of sand more regularly. The
jackknife burrow may be 15″ deep or more and can be relatively
smooth lined, particularly in substrate that’s more of a hard mud.
The clam can zip quickly to the bottom when threatened. It can then
dig deeper if necessary… but it’s no longer so zippy.
Summer clamming is a great time with nutritious benefits. Just
keep your eyes on your regulations and limits, refill your holes
and don’t forget to check the Department of Health’s marine
biotoxin pages and alerts. If you head out to the Coast this
week/weekend… enjoy, feel great about supporting the local economy…
and may your skills be sharper than a razor. JEff
Along with the amazing sea life you might encounter around the
Kitsap Peninsula, the Salish Sea and beyond, I also want to
periodically highlight some beaches that host our saltwater
The area of South Kitsap from the Harper pier, south into a
pocket estuary is a great place to watch birds, dive, reflect on
history and our shoreline fingerprint, launch a boat, and explore
the beach. The area uncovered by a low tide is a real hodgepodge of
public and private ownership, but the boat launch and fishing pier
are readily identifiable public access points.
Harper has a history well worth noting. The fishing pier stands
were the ferry system linked Kitsap to Vashon and West Seattle
until the early 1960’s. Until their 2009 removal, a remnant of the ferry dock
(a cluster of deteriorating creosote pilings called a dolphin)
could be seen at the end of the pier.
The Harper pier is frequented by divers and anglers alike.
For divers, there are even a couple wrecked
boats to explore beyond the pier. The sport plumose anemones, kelp
crabs, barnacles and other piling fare to enjoy. Divers also find
abundant lures, lines, bottles and mobile phones lost by the piers
other regular users. It’s also a great place to see birds and get a
great view of the Central Puget Sound.
A fascinating history lies on the beach near the boat launch,
and just under the surface. The Harper Clay Products Company
started making bricks from nearby clay in the late
1800’s (click here for some great old photos and maps). The
good bricks can still be seen in Pioneer Square buildings in
Seattle and in the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia. The discarded
bricks, however, are abundant near the boat launch as one of the
“brick dump” areas used by the factory. The bricks wind up
supporting barnacles, rockweed and some other animals that live on
hard surfaces, though in the areas where they’re piled deeply, they
don’t do any favors for the mudflat organisms that would have been
there in their absence.
A rich pocket estuary and salt marsh lies to the south of the
boat launch and road. The culvert that feeds this area is the
subject of restoration interest, with the intent of broadening the
salt marsh habitat to its historic extent.
As for this week’s great low tides…
Our first -3 tides of the season are today and tomorrow. Excellent
mid-day minus tides continue through Sunday. As a bonus, it looks
like we’re even in for a few sunny days.
Head out to Harper or your favorite walking, birding,
shellfishing, trash cleaning, beachcombing, all around breathtaking
beach to enjoy the low tides and maybe a bit of sunny and sixty for
a change. Time to trade knee boots for sandals? Cheers! JEff