Sepia Scenes: Salt Pruning and Shell-smashing Seagulls

Today’s post will be a potpourri of seaside related scenes with a tinge of sepia to give it that rustic look. :)

Salt Pruning

First off is the sodium-filled topic of salt pruning. 

Salt pruning occurs when ocean spray is blown onto the vegetation at the ocean side of the backbeach area.  The constant inundation of saline mist stungs the growth of the plants and makes them look like they’ve been pruned into wedge shapes, with the shorter side towards the ocean.  The photo above was taken from behind the wedges and the ocean isbehind the vegetation row. 

The above picture, and the one below, were taken at Fort Moultrie.

Shell-smashing Gulls

On to the gulls.  Although this behaviour is well-documented and nothing new to those who live on the coast, if you haven’t frequented beaches, you might find this behavior new and maybe a little surprising. 

Generally called shell cracking, many species of gulls engage in this behavoir, on both coasts and probably elsewhere around the world. 

The article, The Developement of Shell-cracking Behavior in Herring Gulls, [PDF] observes that first year gulls don’t have the hang of shell cracking and the technique, such as height the shell is dropped from and the surface on which it’s dropped are eventually learned and perfected so that the birds don’t have to make as many drops.

While watching the birds yesterday on the south end of Folly Beach, we saw some that just sat on the ground and dropped the shell from that height a couple times, and others that flew several dozens of feet into the air to drop their snacks.  The only problem with going so high and dropping seemed to be that other gulls had a better chance at getting a free meal.  Maybe that explains the reluctance at times to let the food fall? A couple of gulls were seen grabbing their food midair and re-releasing, sometimes repeating the process a couple times in one flight.  One herring gull, perhaps angry at a ‘flock-member’ dropped a shell right on the other gull’s back!

Trying to keep up with the falling morsel

Coming down to get the hard earned tidbit

Sometimes, it’s really hard to let your food get too far ahead of you

Falling with lunch

The gull’s food hit the water.  Wonder if that’s a harder surface than sand?

If you don’t stay with your food, it won’t stay with you

Thanks for visiting!

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4 thoughts on “Sepia Scenes: Salt Pruning and Shell-smashing Seagulls

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