Tuesday, March 29, 2011

First-Day-of-Spring Nature Walk 2011

We try to go for a nature walk on the first day of every new season. The first day of spring was on March 20, 2011. Here are some pictures from our walk at Fort Steilacoom Park.

Walking through a field at Fort Steilacoom Park!
Running towards the Garry Oak Grove

Common Daisy, aka, Lawn Daisy or English Daisy

Osoberry or Indian Plum
I'm not sure--could this be chickweed?
American Pussy Willow

Pretty little mushroom
A log my kids like to play on because
it rocks back and forth.

The mallard ducks swimming in circles.

Waughop Lake--the water is high!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


We saw what I think is a chiton (the "ch" is pronounced with a "k" sound) yesterday at Sunnyside Beach in Steilacoom, WA, and it was alive! Though we had seen an empty chiton shell before, we had never seen one that was alive. On the bottom side there was a foot.  Here is an except from Wikipedia's page on chitons:
Chitons have a dorsal shell which is composed of eight separate shell plates or valves. These plates overlap somewhat at the front and back edges, and yet the plates articulate well with one another. Because of this, although the plates provide good protection for impacts from above, they nonetheless permit the chiton to flex upward when needed for locomotion over uneven surfaces, and also the animal can slowly curl up into a ball when it is dislodged from the underlying surface. The shell plates are surrounded by a structure known as a girdle.
Here is the shell of one we saw back on September 22, 2010:

According to Wikipedia, chitons have "a dorsal shell
which is composed of eight separate shell plates or valves."

Below is the live one seen yesterday, on March 22, 2011:

See it's foot?  Wikipedia says, "A chiton creeps
 along slowly on a muscular foot. They have considerable
power of adhesion and can cling to rocks very powerfully,
like a limpet."

Sunflower Starfish at Sunnyside Beach in Steilacoom, WA

On Tuesday we went to Sunnyside Beach in Steilacoom, WA to enjoy the low -1.4 tide.  The mercurial weather brought both showers and sunshine!  I stayed warm except my fingers got very cold.   And when the sun was out, it felt so nice!  My friend and her sons met us there, and my children and I had such a good time.

One amazing thing was how many starfish we saw.  We saw more types than we've ever seen before.  For the first time we saw what I believe is a sunflower starfish.  They have a lot of arms, and their bodies are soft and rather slimy, and they can crawl pretty fast.

The first sunflower starfish I saw looked like it was bent in half, with half of it's underside folded up so that I could see the tube feet on it's underside moving wildly (I wish I would have gotten a picture of it like that!). It looked like it was in trouble so I reached out to try and help it, but was surprised to feel how slimy it was because usually the star fish we find here are more hard and rough.  I called out for my friend, and she picked it up and put it in the water, and it flattened and spread it's arms out like normal.   Here it is in the water.

After that we found quite a few more sunflower starfish.  Here is a picture and a couple short videos of one of them.


My older son took the one below. He got a nice close-up view of its tube feet moving.

Here are some more we saw...

In this one you can see a couple smaller
sunflower starfish in the water, and a
(I think?) Ochre Sea Star on the rock.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saltar's Point Beach on March 12th

We haven't visited beaches much lately due to the weather, plus we especially enjoy going when the tide is out, the lower the better, and whenever I checked the tides, they weren't very low at the right times for us to be able to enjoy the them. Last Saturday, though, I decided to take a peak at http://www.saltwatertides.com and was happy to see that the tide was going to be pretty low—a 0.7—at Saltar's Point Beach in Steilacoom, WA in the late afternoon.

Our family got in our van and traveled there, and it was wonderful being on the beach again. I hadn't realized I missed visiting a beach so much!! Even though it was cloudy, it was beautiful and so fun walking on the beach, and we left in time to miss the rain! We had actually never been at that particular beach at such a low tide before, so that made it extra special.  Another thing that made it extra special was all the starfish we saw there.  By the way, to find starfish, check on the sides of large rocks.  Here are some pictures my 12-year-old son and I took that day.

(taken by my 12-year-old son)

Yayh, the tide is out! Walking along the
shore where we hadn't been before.

The first starfish we saw that day.

Another view of the starfish.

(taken by my 12-year-old son)
Closeup photo of the above starfish

(taken by my 12-year-old son)
There are 3 orange starfish in this picture!

Another purple starfish--the color was very
intense on this one!

Another view of the same starfish, plus
barnacles and a limpet

Large and small barnacles and small mussels

Limpets and barnacles! Limpets look
like little hats. :-)

(taken by my 12-year-old son)
Narrows Bridge is in the background.
The ferry is from McNeil Island.

The view while walking back.

My family walking back. ♥

(taken by my 12-year-old son)

(taken by my 12-year-old son)