Tuesday, September 28, 2010

kelp ~ 09/28/10 ~ Asilomar Beach

bull kelp with surf-grass
Nereocystis luetkeana with Phyllospadix sp.


Usually, this beach is totally clear of debris with the softest sand around (the kind that squeaks beneath your feet). Asilomar is located on the ocean side of the peninsula and is often very windy and chilly; this is why we rarely stop to get our toes sandy or wet. However, the surfers in their wetsuits don't seem to mind.

I had an epiphany about the seasonal nature of the ocean and beaches while figuring out how to write this blog post. I liken the wrack as an oceanic version of the fall of the leaves back east and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere (see my list o' links of autumn leaf colors). This past Thursday morning, I noticed the sound of the waves crashing, even though we've been experiencing very warm, non-stormy weather. Yep, I know, we live less than a block away from the Monterey Bay and you would think we always hear the ocean waves... but, we don't. In fact, for most of this summer it was very calm and quiet, hence why the constant crashing noise that started last week stands out. I had always assumed the sudden appearance of wrack had to do with storms, and yet there are no storms in sight. I've been trying to look into why we have bigger waves right now, but I haven't found much online information.

ps 10/07/10 - For added reference, Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 8:09pm PDT marked the autumnal equinox. Also, September's full moon hit its peak Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 2:17am PDT. Not only is this a harvest moon, it's a super harvest moon because of the timing all in the same night. For more information, see bigsurkate's blog post or National Geographic's daily news.

pss 10/22/10 - For a nice blog post in a similar vein as this one, read Bread on the Water.

pss 07/31/11 - While doing another post, I discovered there are actually 2 species of Phyllospadix found locally: P. torreyi and P. scouleri. There is no way I can tell the difference. I've made the changes in the embedded links. Also as a personal choice, I've decided to keep the seagrass family name of Zosteraceae, rather than list the surfgrass under the pondweed family name of Potamogetonaceae.
pss 09/22/11 - It's that time of year again. The sound of the waves woke me up. Again, no storm in sight. We've actually had very sunny days since 09/12/11. Before that it had been the usual summer coastal fog. I noticed the waves were louder sometime last week. I'm still wondering where to go to look up information about the seasonal changes of the ocean.

yellow sand verbena ~ 09/28/10 ~ Asilomar Beach

yellow sand verbena
Abronia latifolia

posted 11/04/10 - I've included different links in the common and scientific names than the October 30, 2010 Fort Ord Dunes State Park posting of the yellow sand verbena.

ps 01/23/11 - For more dune plants and information at Asilomar, check out Town Mouse and Country Mouse posts 1 & 2.

hop, hop

See my beach hopper post for more information.

beach hopper ~ 09/28/10 ~ Asilomar

beach hopper / sand flea
Megalorchestia sp. (formerly Orchestoidea sp.)

Oy! This was a very difficult animal for me to nail down to a specific ID for several reasons. I didn't grow up here on the coast, so most marine life is still foreign to me. Hey, when you don't know, you simply don't know. If you had asked me before I started this blog, I would have shrugged off this cute, jumping critter as an immature sand crab (in the order Decapoda), which btw are also sometimes known as beach hoppers even though they don't hop. Haha, this is how little I know!

Thanks to one of Wanderin' Weeta's posts, I was reminded of the order of amphipods and figured out it's in the family Talitridae. I've linked to SIMoN in the scientific name above (jump to the Kelp and Seaweed section for the best information); while it's the best marine ID site I've found, it has its share of typos. The genus Megalorchestia (not Megla... as SIMoN states) was formerly known as Orchestoidea, not to mention the common names have a variety of spellings online.

My best guess for ID is Megalorchestia californiana or M. corniculata. I even pulled out the lovely book Light's Manual sent to me by a fellow blogger Steve at Blue Jay Barrens and went through the keys. While the antenna 2 do not reach the middle of the body, nor are rosy colored, the dorsal pigmentation (see in pic 1 above) doesn't match any of the plates. There were no discrete spots on the sides of the body, so these are my two best guesses out of only a handful of Megalorchestia species.

In all my searching, I did find this great sandy beach life site. Based on its information, the hole in the sand shown in my last pic should be an exit hole. The one in my hand is about the largest one I spotted, as most were various sizes. They seemed to have an uncanny knack for hopping directly to the kelp piles. Oh, and despite online information saying these beach hoppers are best found at night or in the early morning, I found massive numbers around the kelp a little after 5:00pm. Ha!

great blue heron
Ardea herodias

Finally! I had the camera on me while driving by Crespi Pond in the Pacific Grove Golf Links near Point Pinos Lighthouse. We regularly spot great blue herons and black-crowned night herons here (not to mention American coots and a plethora of various gulls), but we rarely have the motivation or camera to stop and watch. In fact, there are two night herons hiding in the reeds in the second pic (for lack of a better ID of this pond plant), barely evidenced by their white faces. It's our standard route home from the grocery store; I know, what a terrible commute (psht!). As for the location, this is right across the street where Oceanview Blvd. changes into Sunset Dr., so I am including it in the Pacific Grove Shoreline Park location label.

I don't have much commentary on the great blue heron. I know there have been massive annual nests that have been killing the tops of the pines near a friend's house in Monterey and where they hunt for gophers in her yard. Usually, when I see great blues, nights, or great egrets, I'm out for my morning walk near the Coast Guard Pier... without a camera.

ps 03/15/11 - For great pictures of a great blue heron catching a gopher, check out John Wall's Natural California here and here.