Stranded

When I walk on the beach at low tide, I always wonder whether the inhabitants of the shallow water know when a tide is going to be especially low, and the smart ones avoid being trapped and picked off by birds in shallow tidal pools that heat up rapidly on warm, sunny days, or whether it just takes them all by surprise. This week we had a combination of extremely low daytime low tides following some fairly high low tides along with sudden unseasonably hot weather, resulting in a lot of exposed beach and tidal pools — rather large seawater puddles really — that heated up fairly rapidly. The eagles, gulls and beach crows were finding easy pickings often with some unexpectedly large catches, considering the depth of the pools. On days like that, if I see something living that I can get hold of, I’ll usually rescue whatever it is and release it back behind the tide line. It could be little flatfish, regular crabs, hermit crabs, shrimp, fist-sized clams. The waters near this beach are unfortunately less than pristine, so I am never tempted to throw them in the pot. Shortly after arriving at the beach this week and getting my feet wet, a particularly large crab caught my eye.

It could easily have scuttled sideways for the short distance from the pool where it was stranded to the safety of the open water with its grass beds nearby. But that would have meant exposing itself to all those watchful eyes suspended overhead or strutting along the beach. Chances were excellent that one pair of those eyes would have spotted the movement and reached the unfortunate creature before the safety of deeper water could be reached. This crab was certainly large enough to have learned a few things about safety along the way. But staying put wasn’t an option either, unless it chose to bury itself because the pool it was occupying had no rocks or seaweed under which to take refuge.

So of course I chose to rescue and release the crab. Its largest claw slashed at me when I reached down to pick it up. It flailed vigorously while I walked into the water and out to the seagrass. But when I released it into the water, instead of rushing off as expected, it sidled under the nearest grass and seemed to be eyeing me. I decided to photograph it, and as I did so the crab popped its face out of the water for a few seconds… Then it casually walked away into deeper water. I guess I haven’t really had an opportunity to photograph a crab face before, nor really felt curious enough about them to do so.  But when I got home and looked at my photos, I was quite surprised to see this crustacean face in such detail, lacking the usual distortion created by the normally present water. You can see it more easily in larger view by clicking in the image. Weird face!

Image

It was a good day for me for photos, with the flying eagle images, the crab face, the heron having a successful fishing session, and more gull images to add to my collection.

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