Seaside Stroll

A stroll down the beach on a warm fall day.

Though most of the tourists are gone, there are a few fishing and crabbing along with the locals. Every time we’ve been to Breach Inlet lately, there has been a juvenile Brown Pelican begging at the feet of the fishermen and families crabbing.

While it seems harmless, even helpful, to toss this beggar a few scraps of bait, or even a bait ball [which he steals now], this fellow is wasting his invaluable learning year on being hand fed.  Pelicans have a specialized method of feeding that isn’t inborn, they have to learn it over time. Adults have a higher feeding success rate than juveniles, suggesting not only that juveniles need time to perfect their technique, but that it’s also harder for juveniles to get the required caloric intake. So are you REALLY helping wildlife when you give handouts?

Anyway. Moving on…beaches are the best for looking at invertebrates. A neat pair we found on our stroll was a Grey Sea Star and a Long-wristed Hermit Crab in a tide pool.

The Sea Star seems to have had a rough time holding on to his arms. The Grey Sea Stars don’t have suction cups on their tube feet like other sea stars do, but instead they use their tube feet to dig in the sand for clams.

Here is a good view of the underside and the tube feet. I’m not sure what is protruding out of his belly, but sea stars only have a mouth, so anything that goes in and can’t be digested is regurgitated back out…lovely thought, eh?

Though not whole nor alive, this was still a neat find: a Calico Box Crab!

Much more lively was this Speckled Crab. His camouflage is pretty good, but he’s much better at burying himself until only his eye stalks are showing! Works well to hide from gulls and fish, but doesn’t do much good in avoiding being stepped on.

By far the best find while on the stroll was this fellow:

A Ghost Shrimp! They are responsible for the plethora of holes you find on the beaches here in the Lowcountry, though they almost never come out of them. In fact, a researcher working with these guys said they would die within three hours of being excavated out of their burrows, though they were adequately accommodated. This individual is probably Callianassa major since it was so large! It seemed really disoriented, but eagerly went down the burrow once I put his head in it.

Every now and then you’ll see a curious person try to dig out and discover what makes all the little holes. Unfortunately for them, the burrows of ghost shrimp can go down 6 feet, and they are fast, so finding one is pretty tough. A really awesome and rare find for us, I am sure it was terrifying for the shrimp.  Though called a shrimp, this fellow cannot swim and is more closely related to another non-swimmer, the hermit crab, instead of its namesake cousin the swimming shrimp. The exoskeleton isn’t hard by any standards and though most ghost shrimp have one large claw, it won’t provide much defense.

That find topped off our Seaside Stroll. Hope you enjoyed!


A couple sets of sequential shots.

The first set I messed up by zooming in for the last two shots, so it’s a short sequence.

This second set is of a Laughing Gull repositioning and swallowing a newly molted, soft-shelled Speckled Crab. Makes me appreciate chewing my food. Gulp!