The Coast Walk Project

Coast Walk 10: Otter Point, part 2

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May 15, 2015: 2-4:45pm, forgot to note the temperature, probably low 60s. 2 cormorants, 6 eiders (3 male, 3 female), 2 herring gulls, 1 loon, 2 sea stars, 1 nudibranch (Dendronotus sp?), Northern Lacuna egg cases, a whole mess of sea urchins. And a little cave.

web-CW10mapAnother gorgeous spring day for the Coast Walk! This one was much calmer, with a light breeze rather than the strong winds we ran into last time. My husband, Brian, came with me again. At first the tide pools seemed to have the same creatures we’d been seeing all along – blue mussels, barnacles, periwinkles, and the colorful crustose corallines:

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As we got further down the rocks, though, we started seeing deeper-water seaweeds. Many of the pools were full of kelp and Alaria,

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and the mix of species got even more colorful:

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Then I noticed a tiny white blob on a kelp leaf, which turned out to be a nudibranch! I gather some people call them ‘sea slugs’ but I hang out with a bunch of scuba divers, who call them ‘nudibranchs.’ I’ve been jealous of my diver friends for ages because they get to see these guys.

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This one’s on the plain side – other species come in all kinds of vivid colors, with frills and stripes and furbelows all over. I tried to figure out what kind it is but it’s tiny and under water, so a little hard to see details – maybe Aeolidia papillosa? If you could see it from the side, those little white dots stick up, and are called ‘cerata.’ It was so small I couldn’t see them very well, but I think those are the animal’s gills, which in nudibranchs have developed outside the body. ‘Nudibranch’ is one of those scientific names that callously mixes languages: ‘nudi’ means ‘naked’ (in Latin) and ‘brankhia’  means ‘gills’ (in Greek.) Apparently there are 45 species in the Gulf of Maine, and more than 3,000 worldwide. With a name like ‘sea slug’ it sounds harmless, but they are fairly tough carnivores who eat sponges and anemones. Some of them even eat barnacles! Others eat animals with stinging cells, like sea anemones or hydroids, and then somehow re-use those cells in their own defense. All that in one itty-bitty little package.

We also saw a dozen or so sea urchins, all of whom had covered themselves with bits of seaweed or shells. In several cases, they had snagged a very confused live periwinkle. (Sea urchins have little tube feet between the spines that they use to move around or hold on to things.) More about them later…

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Then there was this peculiar formation of barnacles:

web_DSC8495-EditSomebody fastened something here not too long ago, but I haven’t been able to find out who or what.  Anybody know?

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Then we climbed over a really striking, geometric stone formation, and Brian showed me a small hole hidden under what looked like an ancient rockfall… _DSC8536-web

B: So when I was a kid, back when we first moved here [ed.note, he was about 6], we came to [Otter Point], … and I discovered this … cave, a secret hiding place, and I was so excited. … You can climb down in here and it comes out in the cave down there. I just remember being so absolutely excited at finding this thing, it was like the thing that I discovered that nobody knew about. Of course, I’m sure plenty of people knew about it, but at the time it was my special thing; I remember playing here and insisting that we have my birthday party down here. So we invited my friends down … I don’t even remember what we did  but we all … climbed on the rocks and climbed in the cave and played and imagined that there was buried treasure or imagined that there were pirates, or that this cave was a secret hiding spot. …If you look you can see that the rocks are sort of wedged in the [roof of the] cavern and I can even remember thinking to myself, ‘Wow if that rock fell, that would really be a bad thing!’ So it kind of freaked me out a little bit but in a good way, like rollercoasters … . So, let’s climb through it!

J: OK [kind of doubtfully, not being overly fond of rollercoasters or narrow holes under enormous boulders] Think we can fit?

We kind of slithered down into the hole, which was considerably larger at the bottom:

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B: if you look up, you’re just like wow, those rocks are just wedged in there, … But I’m sure they’ve been here for a long time. And then, this is the exit, right here.

J: I don’t know that that many people would have found this. I think you’d need to be a little kid to think of going in it, at least from up above. It’s kind of amazing that you were able to find it again.

B: Oh, I knew exactly where it was. I recognized this opening, I just know it. I was waiting for you to say, ‘Oh look, a cave!’

J: Nope, missed it completely. I guess I don’t have my noticing eyes on today.

Yes, that’s right. I was so busy peering into tide pools that I walked right past this:

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And then we rounded the point and were looking down into Otter Cove at last!

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