During my walks along the beach, I noticed as late summer turns toward fall the change of sea tides every six hours frequently bring new marine debris of sorts onto the shoreline with the incoming tide. Then, as the tide slowly lowers again some of the discarded marine animal particles get left high and dry upon the sand by protruding rocks, swirling sand and water, different levels of the beach and other obstructions. Several of the objects are marine animal homes that their bodies have outgrown, then realize a need to move into new dwellings either by molting; find a safe empty home; or, continue to grow the outer shell surrounding the animal.
Each walk I notice new treasures getting my attention for interesting objects to sketch and paint plus lots of great views of the surrounding landscape; but, the small beach objects can be picked up and sketched at a later time when I can observe them better in my tiny studio. If the animal had died in its shell and left any body particle inside it will have a strong rotten odor that will not be welcomed in my house.
So this is what I gathered last fall from a nearby beach on Whidbey Island: A Dungeness female crab identified by the small pinchers plus a wider flap on the underside; it’s illegal to catch for consumption; males are legal. Normally the crabs are more of a gray/blue color when alive. After leaving its shell during molting, which is mating season from May to August, the shell dries then turns red.
The moon snail is a beauty with the soft pastel colors inside its shell and the perfect round shape it forms. These can grow very large. The animal will extend itself way beyond the edges of its shell to cover a large sand clam to devour by penetrating a hole through the clam shell so to suck out the meat. The moon snail creates a circular sand collar on the beach surface to lay its eggs that will hatch in to larva and imbed themselves into the sand to grow.
The brown kelp is like a forest and is a very important marine life for the health of animals, plants, sea and human life. It photosynthesis from the light it receives through a bulb extends to the surface of the water to capture the exposure. There are no roots on the kelp but they keep stable by attaching to rocks on the sea floor. It is illegal to pick kelp but the ribbon extending from the bulb can be harvested. Healthy kelp grow in large forest on several beaches throughout the Salish Sea in Washington state.
The animal that lived in the empty barnacle shells attached to a heavy flat rock still remain attached with the rust colored dried sea life surrounding the old shells. Live barnacles filter the sea water creating a healthy environment along the sea shores on the west coast. They attach to all objects that are stationary and stable within a salty habitat.
The varnish clam catches my eye when the shell is open and lying on the beach. It is small, has a brown stripped outer shell and a beautiful shiny warm blue/violet color on the inside. They are deceiving being high in biotoxins and possibly unsafe to consume.