Washed Up

DISCLAIMER:  Graphic pictures are included below.  View accordingly!

I’m going to admit something awful and shameful here……I occasionally touch dead things!

Disgusting and dirty, I know!  But sometimes, it’s the best way.  If you’re a naturalist-type, then I’m sure you’ve at least had an inkling to do the same.  Unless you work hands-on with wild animals, dead critters are all you’ve got to work with. 

Now, don’t get too freaked out and let your imagination get the better of you!  I’m not talking about gory dissection and mutilation, just observance of an animal that usually wouldn’t hold still for such close inspection.

I’ll admit that this started at an early age.  The first animal I remember handling was a cardinal.  It crashed into my great grandparents’ window with an always-surprisingly-loud-for-such-a-small-creature thud.  He was a beautiful male, still breathing, but his head rolled around limply.  I remember sticking him in a box filled with pine needles from the ‘magic forest’, thinking he would somehow magically mend.  He didn’t, of course, and probably spent his last minutes either in shock or freaking out that this 8-year-old was going to eat him.  Poor fellow.

Despite his sad demise, I remember the feel of his feathers, the sharp point his little beak, and most of all, his odd, reptilian-looking feel with his long, curled claws. 

Just holding that bird for a few minutes and observing helped reinforce that connection with nature that so many fear is missing in today’s new generations. 

Even working as a park ranger, I observe the same cardinal-in-the-hands type of experience with visitors, young and old, when they touch bison and pronghorn horn sheaths, the fur of a prairie dog, or a 30 million year old fossil.  Observation is one thing, but hands-on experience is another. 

In keeping with this theme, though a little morbid, I’m posting a couple of pictures of what washed up on the beach the other morning after a little storm system blew threw.  It doesn’t take long for anyone visiting a beach to realize that some odd things wash up after storms, and to me, it’s much preferable to jumping in and chasing after all those sea creatures [did I mention I have a slight fear of large fish?!]. 

Mind you, I didn’t touch ALL of these, just a couple.  Wouldn’t want to gross out the husband enough to receive divorce papers!

This is an odd fellow, perhaps a variagated urchin, perhaps not.  Rather tiny either way, probably not all that old, and I thought he might still be alive in there, so I put him back in…but not before taking a picture!

I think this might have been a jellyfish, but I’m not 100% sure it isn’t man-made.  Either way, it caught the evening light in such an odd way.  It if is a jellyfish, my guess is it’s only a part of one, perhaps the some inner, harder core.  Truthfully, I have no idea, but it’s fun to ponder!

This one tells a story.  The little crab leg in proximity to a bunch of scuffle marks in the sand with a nice large hole probably indicate that there was a crab hiding there, some predatory, oportunistic bird or other creature spotted the crab and yanked him from the hole and gobbled him up. 

I’ve spoken with people who just shrug their shoulders at such small things.  I always ask them to imagine themselves as crabs, walking along on a nice beach and you come across your neighbor’s leg and if  they can’t do that, then imagine that was a human leg instead of a crab leg.  A little extreme, but it changes perspectives.

Speaking of extreme, I apologize for the extreme gore of this picture.  Didn’t think I’d find something like this, but there he was.  A male wood duck, in beautiful breeding colors, that became something’s dinner.  Not sure if that was before of after he fell in the ocean, but the reason I found him was because one of his distant relatives was picking at him.  After taking the picture I let the seagull have his dinner back.  Hey, there are tribes in the world that consume monkeys. 

This one hits a heart string.  Poor little juvenile pelican didn’t make it through his first season.  Last time I went to the beach he was still there…anyhoo, getting all teared up.  The hook on the end of his beak is pretty amazing.  It is as hard as granite [probably not literally] and I’m guessing it’s made of the same thing our fingernails are. 

Alright, that’s enough for now.  Apparently life isn’t a guarantee for anyone or anything.

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5 thoughts on “Washed Up

  1. That top image (you think is a varigated urchin) in definitely in the sea star family. See how there is a pattern of five ribs radiating out from the center? This is classic in that family (that contains sea stars, urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers). I live away from the ocean now, in North Texas, but I am on a creek through limestone fossil terrain, and we find fossil urchinson that beach, with stippling from spines and the 5 radiating lines.

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