Baby Spider Eyes Aglow!
Over a thirty year career of night hikes through the jungles of Tropical America, I have seen some really strange and fascinating creatures. I was first introduced to tropical ecology while working as a naturalist with an incredible outdoor school and crew at Wilderness Southeast based in Savannah, Georgia.
On our last evening at Glover’s Atoll, I noticed the eyes of a wolf spider glowing back at me, something we had already shared with our 22 students from Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Baltimore.
Wolf spider eyes contain a tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer that increases the available light aiding them in their stealthy hunting practices. Years ago, I learned the “naturalist trick” of instructing students to place their flashlight on their foreheads, find an emerald green glow in the grass and follow it to the source…indeed spider eyes! This night activity was often a crowd pleaser though would send others quickly to their tents!
That last evening I happened to glance at a wolf spider but noticed that it’s entire back was sparkling with tiny little emeralds. At first glance I thought I had discovered a new species. A closer examination revealed that the tiny sparkles were the eyes of baby spiders clinging to their mother’s abdomen. Creepy and cool….100’s of eyes shimmering back at us!
An unforgettable moment during our naturalist- led adventure to Belize with http://www.bluewaterventures.org
Teachers, friends and team builders… Blue Water Ventures offers Extreme Tidepooling along the Central California Coast. The most interesting find yesterday was a pseudoconch, an internal structure of a sea butterfly, Corolla spectabillis. As the name implies this gelatinous pelagic snail can swim rapidly through water to escape predators. Know your tides and never turn your back on the big blue. Come explore, discover and learn with http://www.bluewaterventures.org
Strange Otter Behavior
Over the last 20 years of kayaking in Elkhorn Slough, I’ve witnessed an amazing array of species and behaviors. The theme of our tours could be “weird otter behaviors”. They are a constant source of entertainment and intrigue. On Saturday, I observed a female sea otter holding a young harbor seal on her chest. Apparently, she had been “holding” or “holding captive” this young seal for several days.
Perhaps this female lost her otter pup and she chose to adopt another pup, just happened to be a pup of another species. No one will ever know but they are amazing animals to share the Slough with!
While yesterday’s whale encounters were awesome, there’s so much more to the story right now as species are gorging on the abundant food in Monterey Bay National Marine Sancturay. The young Common Murre chick survived the great plunge perhaps from the cliffs of Devil’s Slide towering 1000 feet over the Pacific. As it glided down and “hit” the water, the father Murre waited patiently for the chick’s first encounter with a salty world. For the next several months, “Dad” and off spring will be an insperable pair as the young chick learns how to dive, forage and avoid predators. Diving over 100 meters in depth using its wings to ‘fly” underwater, they search for prey items such as krill, squid and fish. 10,000 or more Common Murres drowned in gill nets during the 1970’s-1980’s. Thousands more were loss in Northern California during a tragic oil spill event in 1986. Successful Adaptaions include a uniquely shaped pointy egg which helps prevent it from rolling off the bear cliffs where these fascinating birds nest. (photos were taken using a telephoto sony lens then cropped with http://www.bluewaterventures.org).
Monterey Bay is making national if not international news once again. An array of wildlife from seabirds to humpback whales are feasting on anchovies which are densely packed into our near shore waters. Try a day trip out to Moss Landing State Beach and watch this incredible show from the jetties. Better yet, join Sanctuary Cruises Whale Watching based in Moss Landing where the “action” currently is. Its impossible to predict where an 80,000 pound marine mammal may choose to feed on a given day, but the crew aboard Sanctuary WILL find the whales.
Last night after reviewing the current marine conditions, I kayaked out and tucked up alongside Sanctuary Cruises to observe an incredible display of behavior. I would not recommend this for inexperienced paddlers. The whales may change direction and approach your vessel. Sometimes they are curious and gain a better perspective of their surroundings by “spyhopping” or raising their head out of the water for a better look. When kayaking, be prepared to deal with surf launching/landing, tides, currents, wind and swell. Moss Landing is notorious for fog banks to roll in abruptly. The best show is from land or aboard Sanctuary Cruises.
On Nov. 1st and 2nd, Blue Water Ventures is offering a bioluminescence paddle into Elkhorn Slough, the calm wetlands adjacent to the Monterey Bay whale hot spot.Hopefully, the whales will still be around and we will observe from land before paddling into the glowing water. For details go to: http://www.bluewaterventures.org.
Each day we have new discoveries during our yearly Baja Adventure to the Sea of Cortez and Magdalena Bay. Our Baja programs are offered each year late January through February.
Today we snorkeled among 100’s of Golden Cow Nose Rays…..simply magnificent!
Capable of detecting the weak bioelectric fields of their prey such as benthic clams, these incredible cartilaginous fish are amazing to observe at such close range. Related to the majestic spotted eagle rays, the golden cownose rays have a defensive spine at the base of their tale.
The Creature Featured today is the Monterey Stalked Tunicate (Styela montereyensis). Also known as sea squirts, the tunicates are more linked to humans than those octopus with clever thoughts, crabs with their fancy jointed appendages or sea hares with their joy of sex (mass orgies). In fact, they belong to a group of animals known as the Urochordates, a subphylum of phylum Chordata, animals with backbones. In their larval form tunicates have a primitive spinal cord, stomach and heart . As free swimming youngsters, they sport an appearance resembling a tiny tadpole or human embryo. As adults, Styela montereyensis claim a sedentary life attached to a surge channel or the ocean floor filtering plankton through their dual siphons. Check out http://www.bluewaterventures.org for our next naturalist-led adventure.
Here’s an unusual find, the internal shell structure of a sea butterfly, Corolla spectabilis. As the name implies this pelagic gelatinous snail can swim rapidly through the water as it escapes its predators. To feed, it oozes a muscus snare to capture its planktonic prey. We found this while exploring Greyhound Rock. Winter offers excellent tides that may reveal unusual sea creatures.
To learn more about this interesting species found in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary check out: http://jellieszone.com/corolla.htm
Join Blue Water Ventures every summer as we explore the sea caves, rock gardens and rivers of the Mendocino Coast. Our next program is designed especially for families, summer 2014.
Using Sit-On-Top kayaks, we’ll paddle into caves, rock archways and over kelp beds as we look for local residents such as harbor seals and river otters.
First time kayakers with a sense of adventure welcomed!
Join us! You will not regret it!
While surf fishing today, we were distracted by the tide pools. Leptaasterias hexactis, known also as the Six Rayed or Brooding Sea Star only reaches a size of slightly more than 3 inches. This particular star pictured has lost a leg to an intertidal predator. While many sea stars reproduce by broadcasting their egg and sperm into the water column, these little stars are attentive mothers. Females will stand guard over a mass of yellow eggs and then guard her young stars until they are foraging on their own.Tasty mollusks such as the Lined Chiton are considered a delicacy by these tiny echinoderms. The brooding process may take several months all while the female is fasting.
Learn more on our next extreme tidepooling adventure for families on October 19th, 2013 at http://www.bluewaterventures.org