Whidbey volunteers monitored 10 beaches during the 2018 summer season.
Eight beaches—Old Clinton, Cornet Bay, Rosario, Trail’s End, Double Bluff Wahl, Ledgewood, Ala Spit, and Possession Beach—are monitored each year. Coupeville and Langley Beach are monitored every third year in rotation with four other beaches.
On monitoring days, the first to arrive is the core Recalibration Team composed of Toshi Wanatabe, Paul McElwain and John Miller. This team insures the accuracy of our data by laying out the profile line and quadrats and taking important measurements, such as barometric pressure, water salinity and temperature and by establishing vertical datum at the starting points. With these technicalities tended to, the monitoring teams can get right to measuring elevations, identifying substrate, and discovering the fauna and sea algae of the beach. This year’s process has been helped by the extensive behind-the-scenes work of Whidbey team lead, Kelly Keith, who has worked assiduously to clarify and update our monitoring processes.
Here are some of beautiful, surprising, and otherwise notable finds.
Animals making more animals:
At Trail’s End, team lead Finn Gatewood reports finding a male Midshipman (fish) guarding several sets of golden eggs. You can see him in the photo just below the lower set of eggs, partly buried in the sand. A pair of Leopard Nudibranchs laying the white curtain of eggs under a rock was a favored find at Rosario, as were other intriguing egg masses.
Young Sea Stars were abundant at several beaches, including Langley Beach and Old Clinton where young Mottled Stars were found in great numbers, including some who had placed themselves like a necklace around an empty Heart Cockle. At Langley Beach, two young Sunflower Stars flowed across the eelgrass as they moved to the safety of nearby waters.
At Rosario and Double Bluff Wahl were pairs of mating Red Rock Crabs. At Langley Beach two Graceful Crabs entranced volunteers with their mating rituals in a sandy tide pool.
Discoveries of species:
Many volunteers took pleasure in the discovery of small things. At Ala Spit Kelly Keith reports as “amazing and beautiful” the Brokeback Shrimp that flexes to move, the Feather Hydroids, and the small, translucent flounders. At Cornet Bay were ribbon and segmented worms and a pair of piggybacking isopods. Ledgewood hosted barnacle Shaggy Mouse Nudibranchs. And at Old Clinton a Western Lean Nassa (snail) created tracks in the sand as volunteers watched.
Species were varied and abundant at Double Bluff Wahl where Stewards observed five kinds of anemones, including Christmas, Stubby Rose, Moonglow, and Plumose. At Langley Beach Toshi Wanatabe gently dug Ghost Shrimp and both ribbon and segmented worms in a variety of colors. At Rosario’s famous rocky tide pools volunteers found a plethora of species, including Red Sea Cucumbers, and multiple species of chitons, anemones, nudibranchs, crabs, and bivalves sheltering among the rock and under the many layers of colorful seaweeds.
Community makes it happen:
At least 34 volunteers showed up from one to ten times. At least 14 volunteers helped calibrate or monitor at least three beaches and often more. Stewards from past classes worked with volunteers of our current class. And our magnificent ID leads stepped forth to not only identify the species found, but to teach onsite lessons not only on specific species, but on how to see them systematically and accurately. From Charlie Seablom’s lessons on small barnacles and seeing the tiny hairs on the legs of Hairy Shore Crabs, to Susan Mador’s description on the why’s and how’s of the pre-copulatory dance of mating Graceful Crabs, they graciously shared their experiences and skills with us.
Some locations were supported by the generosity of nearby homeowners who help make the monitoring of some of our beaches possible or easier. Team leader Sue Salverson, credits the “very supportive local residents” as one of the best things about monitoring Possession Beach.