Looking at the tide charts I saw that the lowest tides of the year would be happening around the middle of February, so I made sure to get out on the shore. Unfortunately for beachcombing, low tide coincided with sunset, so I didn’t have time to pick up much, but that’s ok, because I was so busy shooting the amazing colors that I hardly noticed. Hope you like pink!
It got pretty dark as the sun sank below the headlands behind me, and, figuring I was done for the day, I clambered back up to the car. Turned around to open the door, and saw this:
On January 29, 2019 I drove across the island to the Asticou Landing in Northeast Harbor. If you follow my Coast Walk project, you might remember visiting the Landing back in the fall of 2017. It looks a little different in the winter. It was 18ºF (-8ºC) but there was no wind, so it didn’t feel too cold.
Just left of center, at the edge of the stone terrace, you can just make out a pale grey, leafless tree. It’s a beautiful European Beech (Fagus sylvatica). Check out the gorgeous bark:
I think it was one of the plants that Charles Savage brought over from Beatrix Farrand’s estate when Savage was designing the Azalea Garden and the Asticou Terraces.
Somehow I never seen beech nuts before! The seeds are sort of winged, and they fit into these bristly pods:
Looking across the water to the town marina:
Every time I go exploring I get fascinated by something and take a lot of photos of it. I mentioned that it was 18º out, right? You’re going to see a lot of ice in this post. This is freshwater ice – meltwater and seepage coming under the road through a culvert:
See how clear and crystalline it is?
These lumpy, bubbly shapes formed where water dripped slowly off the icicles in the photos above, like stalagmites in a cave:
Now this is saltwater ice, formed where the high tide lapped at the boulder:
The high tide marks are always really clear in the winter! But see how different the ice is:
Where the freshwater ice was crystal clear, this sea ice is kind of hazy and makes the stone look blurry:
There was a flock of Bufflehead ducks (Bucephala albeola) floating around out in the harbor. I kept waiting for them to come within camera range, but they were taking no chances and stayed well offshore:
More sea ice, but this kind is as clear as the freshwater ice:
I try not to get wet while I’m beachcombing when it’s below freezing, but sometimes I spot something in the water and have to take my gloves off and go for it:
The shore was covered in mussel shells:
Seriously, piles and piles of mussels:
And a ton of periwinkles, too.
If you’re curious, here is everything in the still life photo, top to bottom, left to right:
Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis), driftwood, sardine tin cover, soft shell clam (Mya arenaria), White Pine cone (Pinus strobus), beech seeds (Fagussylvatica), beech seed capsules, Rockweed (Ascophyllumnodosum), sea glass, Blue Mussel, periwinkles, Soft Shell Clam, periwinkles, clam shell hinge, Dog Whelk (Nucellalapillus), Blue Mussel, plastic bottle cap with Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanusbalanoides), Blue Mussel, nacre of Blue Mussel, barnacle, Limpet (Testudinaliatestudinalis), Slipper Shell (Crepidulafornicata), clam, beech seed capsules, lobster claw (Homarusamericanus), periwinkles stained by iron chains in the water, broken glass, plastic wrapper, beech branch, beech seeds, periwinkles, bottle neck.
From left to right, top to bottom: Rockweed (Fucus distichus), Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis), Common Periwinkles (Littorina littorea), American Lobster claw (Homarus americanus), plastic ring from bottle cap, broken glass, lobster claw, periwinkles, Blue Mussel, Rock Crab (Cancer irroratus), rope, crab claw, Slipper Shell (Crepidula fornicata), periwinkles, Dog Whelks (Nucella lapillus), lobster-claw bands, Sea Potato (Colpomenia peregrina) (but possibly Leathesia marina), Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus), Paper Birch bark (Betula papyrifera), Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus), periwinkle, plastic scrap, rope, lobster-claw band, Blue Mussel, Pitch Pine cone (Pinus rigida), broken earthenware (prob. part of an old sewage pipe), Blue Mussel, periwinkles.
Last July the Friends of Acadia Youth Technology Team did a series of video interviews with Acadia National Park Artists-in-Residence. Emma Forthover and Ashley Conti trailed me with cameras as I poked around the Otter Cove shore, and then interviewed me in my studio as I began composing a still life from the day’s finds.
It was much less traumatic than I feared (although I’m still a bit ‘Geez, is that what I look like when I laugh!?’) and since I went in for surgery a week after finishing the still life I pretty much forgot about the whole thing until the video went up on the Artist-in-Residence page. Then I went, ‘Hey, didn’t I do a still life?’ and went back and dug it up for you. I never posted it anywhere! Man, that anesthesia is powerful stuff.
Anyway, here is the still life, here is the video, and here are the photos I took while self-consciously trying to take photos and not look like I was posing for the camera.
On January 15 I walked down to the Bar – the thermometer at the house said 21ºF (-6ºC) but with the strong wind it felt much colder. There are always a lot of seagulls there, and they usually follow me around because in the bird world, anyone stooping and picking things up is gathering food. The wind today was so strong the birds just stayed huddled up in their feathers.
They were mostly herring gulls, with a couple of black-backed gulls and two crows. A lot of the birds were juveniles, and I spent some time trying to figure out if some of them were juvenile black-backs. This one is clearly a juvenile herring gull (probably a third-year bird, very close to maturity):
But what about this baby? I don’t think it’s a herring gull – something about the eyes. Herring gulls just have a mean look to them (see above.) A friend suggested it might be a juvenile Ring-billed Gull, but I’m stumped:
Here’s the mystery bird with a Herring Gull in the background – it looks like the shape of the head is different, too.
The Herring Gulls in transitional feathers look SO awkward!
After stalking the birds for a while, I moved on across the Bar, beachcombing and watching the tide. I noticed black blobs sticking to the barnacles:
Further investigation revealed they were some kind of marine algae, and I wrote about the blobs in a separate post. Wandering further, I came across some of the old herring weir piers:
And then I noticed a change in the mud:
Looking closely, you can see the paler stuff is crushed shells, and since it’s physically lighter than sand (which is eroded stone) the waves have distributed it in ripples:
All along the shore the water must have been super-cooled, because the bubbles semi-froze:
And where the foam washed ashore it froze in place:
At which point I went home to warm up before I too froze in place.
I have this problem where I start writing a post about an outing and have to do research to answer questions about stuff I find, and sometimes I can’t find anything so the research ends up being me posting “what the heck is this” to Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, and it takes a week for responses to come in and the response is basically, “we don’t know, either” and I have to go back out in the field and look harder, and a month goes by and I haven’t written the damn post. All of which is a long-way-round way of explaining why I still haven’t written a post about poking around The Bar on January 11.
One of the things I found that day was mysterious black lumps on the barnacles.
Social media came up blank, except for an offer from a friend to check out the lumps under her microscope. Karen and I went back to the Bar, found a small (portable) rock with lump-covered barnacles, filled a jar with sea water, and headed back to her lair. We couldn’t get the rock under the microscope, so had to detach a barnacle. Still couldn’t see much, so we scraped off a lump and floated it in a drop of seawater, where it sort of unfolded into a green oblong about 3mm across:
Definitely plant life! Probably the infant form of some kind of marine algae.
I took the barnacle-covered rock back to the shore, and since we’d already sacrificed a barnacle, I brought a couple home with me. Since I was out of research time for the day, I stuck them in the fridge. As one does.
The next day I pulled out my macro lens and got some better photos of the lumps and also the little bugger inside the shell.
And that’s why I still haven’t written the original post.
P.S. I meant to take more photos of the animal inside but ran out of time, and after a week my mom kicked it out of the fridge, so there’s a jar of dead barnacles frozen to my front porch.
I’m still working with the floating-seaweed-in-a-baking-dish method, and getting some of the kinks worked out. It is still a very damp method, and there is always a trail of water between the studio and the kitchen when I work this way. As the title says, these were all gathered in Hulls Cove. The Ulva specimens were still attached to their rocks, which means they are still alive, so they were returned to the ocean after having their picture taken. (Thanks, mom!)
Ascophyllum nodosum (Rockweed)
Haven’t ID’d this one yet …
Fucus vesiculosus (Bladderwrack)
Ulva sp., probably U. intestinalis (formerly Enteromorpha intestinalis)
Last month I delivered my son to his summer job teaching sailing on Long Island, and we took the ferry from Connecticut, because why drive when you can float? Also, traffic is much nicer on the ocean than in New York City. On my way home, I got to the ferry early so I could check out the shoreline, which turned out to be made of these amazing, translucent beach pebbles:
I also found the shattered pieces of the biggest horseshoe crab I’ve ever seen:
and an impressive pile of slipper shells demonstrating where they got their Latin name (Crepidula fornicata.)
“Seal Harbor Beach, Maine; February 4, 2018. (Beachcombing series No.87)”
Top to bottom, left to right:
Row 1: Rock Crab (Cancer irroratus), vinyl glove with coralline encrustations and marine algae holdfasts
Row 2: Sand Dollar (Echinarachnius parma), lobster-claw band, Common Slipper Shell (Crepidula fornicata), unidentified bivalve – possibly a baby Razor Clam (Ensis directus), Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides), Slipper Shell, plastic lining from bottle cap, Toad Crab (Hyas araneus)
Row 3: unidentified bivalve – possibly a baby Razor Clam (Ensis directus). I think this is a Jonah Crab (Cancerborealis) but it has hairs on its back, which is weird. Common Periwinkle (Littorinalittorea), unidentified Sea Star (Asterias sp.), Paper Birch bark (Betulapapyrifera), lobster-claw band, acorn cap (Quercus sp.), juvenile Green Crab (Carcinus maenas), Common Periwinkle, lobster-claw band
Row 7: plastic bread bag tag, Soft-Shell Clam (Mya arenaria), aluminum soda can top, unidentified plastic fragment, Common Periwinkle, Horse Mussel (Modiolus modiolus)
Herring Gulls and Black-backed Gulls on Seal Harbor beach.
Visited Seal Harbor Beach on February 5: 40°F, 8:45 to 10 AM, overcast with light rain at first then the wind picked up and rain stopped. Lots of trash, including the first condom I’ve found on a beach. Eew.