Sunday, August 14, 2022

Palomarin Beach '22

Nanaimo Dorid (Acanthodoris nanaimoensis)

It's been four years since I last visited Palomarin Beach -- six since I last posted pix on the blog (I made no posts in 2018). The parking area seemed slightly different than I remembered it, and it took a second to find the trailhead. A "You Are Here" map listed only three hikes from there -- to Bass Lake, Wildcat Beach, and Alamere Falls. The map showed no trail going down to the beach. 

I drove back about a quarter-mile to a smaller parking area and found a steep, narrow trail that I suspect is maintained only by locals and other visitors, and certainly not by the National Park Service. As I descended I saw some tracks in the dirt and figured I must be in the right place, and about one second later I realized the tracks had been made by a coyote. As the trail deteriorated, I knew I'd gotten myself into a real-life coyote story. 

I kept going down despite the sketchy trail. The last fifty feet or so was completely gone, with the trail replaced by a narrow chute of rubble. To get down to the beach required lowering myself down the scree, not quite rappelling, via climbing rope and a rope ladder that had been left for the purpose. 

Google Maps still shows the Coast Trail going down to the beach, but folks on started saying the trail was closed as far back as November 2020.

Anyway, I made it down to the beach without incident. No surprise, I was the only person on the beach and had the whole reef to myself. Just as I was leaving, a guy with a surfboard and a woman with a camera tripod appeared out of nowhere. I think they must have walked up from Bolinas, and they continued north a ways before the guy paddled out into fairly poor surf, although he did have the break all to himself.

The reef did not disappoint. In addition to the usual suspects, I found a new-to-me species of sea anemone that I can't identify, and a couple of critters that I have no idea what they are. It was interesting to visit tidepools south of the Golden Gate one day and north of it the next.

Lined Shore Crab Skeleton

Lined Shore Crab Ready to Rumble

Kelp Crab

Red Crab

Hermit Crab

The First Bat Star I've Seen In A While

Cute Little Feller

Ochre Sea Star Strikes a Pose at Mussel Beach

Aggregating Anemones Doing Their Thing

Tidepool Garden

Preparing to See What the New Tide Will Bring

Anemone Indigestion

A Sea Anemone Species I've Never Seen Before

Surf Grass & Friends #1

Surf Grass & Friends #2

Red Feather Sea Weed
(Erythrophyllum delesserioides)

Neighborhood of Sea Sacs

Bladderwrack (Green) and Turkish Washcloth (Reddish Brown)

Fashion Slug

Leopard Dorid

Also Known As San Diego Dorid (Diaulula sandiegensis)

Orange-Peel Dorid (Acanthodoris lutea)

Mystery Meat (Seriously, What Is This Thing?!)

Close Crop of Whatever That Is At The Top

Little Red Mystery Tube-Nuggets

Going Back Up Was As Interesting As Coming Down

Definitely Not A Park Service Trail

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Saturday, August 13, 2022


Spotted Dorid Nudibranch
(click images to view larger)

Stepping out onto the reef at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve early this morning I quickly spotted a tiny bright orange critter that I assumed was another of the tiny sea cucumbers I photographed at the bottom of this recent post. It was only when I viewed the magnified image in Photoshop that I was able to get a better look at the tentacles coming out of its head. But wait, what is that among the tentacles? Isn't that a rhinophore? D'oh!

Apparently this was a juvenile spotted dorid, Triopha maculata, and at no time on that reef did I ever realize it was a nudibranch. Yes, there is more than one kind of tiny orange slug-like critter with weird appendages.

For a couple of days before heading out to Fitzgerald I whet my appetite with a perusal of the hefty Intertidal Invertebrates of California by Morris, Abbott, and Haderlie, published in 1980. Morris was the sole photographer for the color plates in the back of the book, and he has a nice shot of a 40mm-long Triopha maculata (much larger than the ones in this post) from Pacific Grove. Morris shot all the pictures using Kodacolor film in a second-hand Exakta 35mm camera with 50mm and 100mm lenses fitted with bellows, extension tubes, and/or close-up lenses. He used trays, flood lights, and fresh bottled sea water to make many of the images, sometimes from the confines of a motel room. I can imagine the struggle of trying to do it all himself, and I appreciated his quip that, "The equipment seemed to function more effectively when it was supplemented by ample amounts of sweating and cursing."

It seems like it's getting increasingly difficult to find non-commercial search results with Google, and I couldn't figure out if Morris is still around. But if he is, I'll bet he'd appreciate how easy it is nowadays to photograph tidepools. I saw people getting amazingly good results with their smartphones, as well as compact cameras that can go underwater. Anyway, I thank Morris for his efforts and for showing me the incredible variety of intertidal animals it's possible to see in California, including some that look more like slime molds than anything we'd normally associate with the word "animal."

Spotted Dorid Preparing To Be Left High & Dry

Spotted Dorid Showing Its Foot

Another Orange Animal (A Sponge, I Believe)

A Turban Snail Encrusted With Coralline Algae

San Diego Dorid Nudibranch

Close Crop of One of Its Rhinophores

The Setting Moon With Remnants of Fog

A Tube Worm in Its Case

A Not-Very-Yellow Sea Lemon Nudibranch

A Beautiful Lined Chiton

A Smaller Lined Chiton In A Delicious Bowl of Coralline Algae

A Six-Rayed Sea Star
(About the Size of a Quarter)

An Even Smaller Sea Star On Iridescent Kelp

A Green-Tinged Limpet Surrounded By Barnacles

The Always Irresistible Sunburst Anemone

Reef Rug

An Even Tinier Six-Rayed Sea Star

A Keyhole Limpet on the Move

A Young Red Crab (Deceased)

Another of the Morning's Several Juvenile Spotted Dorids
Scoots Past a Periwinkle Shell

Camouflaged Sculpin

Sun Rays on the Bluffs

A Raven Snags A Morsel In The Wrack

First at the Tidepools,
Last at the Tidepools:
A Flock of Gulls

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