Saturday, December 10, 2005
Saltmarsh Solo Conversation
I am a wetlands lover. I spent so much time in them as a kid that I never learned all the usual boy things, like how to do a layup shot, or the rules of football...running back, halfback, quarterback?
Okay, I know what a quarterback does, but those other two?
Luckily, my wife is around to explain those things...as if I ever ask.
Though all wetlands grab my attention, it's the saltmarsh that is my favorite place on the planet.
"Is this going to be a science lesson...'cause it's Saturday and I am not in the mood..."
This is not a lesson on the incredible biomass production of a healthy saltmarsh, but every square inch is teeming with life. In the photo above, there are oysters and mudflats exposed by an ebbing tide. The oysters are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the life in the mudflats is subterranean...clams, clamworms, fiddlers, mudshrimp, etc. Cruising along the top slurping detritusy ooze are the marsh periwinkles and mudsnails.
"Sounds great...mud and worms."
Local and migratory shore birds hit these mudflats hard while the tide is out. High tide means poor foraging or resting along the shoreline. Low tide means the "buffet is open" . Their time to feed is controlled by the moon... think about that for a second. Is it just me, or is it not amazing that a life form on one planet, depends on another "planet" a quarter million miles away?
(Well, FC...what about the sun...you could say the same thing about a star affecting us...duh!)
True, but the sun is such an obvious life support system. I took it as a given.
Many of these birds are specialized with unique beaks like the curve of an ibis or the hammer/scissors of the oystercatcher. Herons and egrets wade the puddles and rivulets formed by the moving tide. They are after the more active prey like fish and shrimp and the waters of a saltmarsh are loaded with these. It just takes a falling tide to concentrate them for the hunters.
"The grass looks like my yard in the winter...dead and brown."
You don't have a yard, you are a voice in my head.
" Well, I meant it looks like your yard"
The brown spartina marsh grass in the photo will break off during winter storms and add to the incredible detrital nutrients of the marsh. Oysters, appreciate this as they continuously pump water through their system to filter out plankton and other nutritious goodies.
"Let me get this straight...lunar gravity + mud+ dead grass = beautiful shore birds and steamed oysters on the half-shell?"
Well, yeah...something like that.
"You were right...this wasn't a science lesson."
Posted by R.Powers at 9:02 AM