Detail from "Rain Dance," an original quilt by Sherrie Spangler

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sea stars, barnacles, slugs, oh my!

The shaggy mouse nudibranch, a sea slug found on our Kopachuck beach walk.

Since January, I've been writing a monthly column for the local paper about my observations of Gig Harbor, WA, through the curious eyes of a newcomer. My April 21, 2010 column is about the wonders of our intertidal life here in the south Puget Sound, and these photos go with that column. (The intertidal zone is between the lowest low tide and highest high tide.)

I moved here recently from Illinois and had never lived near the ocean before, so I had a lot to learn. I enlisted the expertise of Dave Behrens, local resident and internationally known marine biologist, and my friend Joyce Murray, of the local
Harbor WildWatch.

Armed with my notebook and camera (and daughter Julia to help take pictures), and Dave with his boots, net and bucket, we hit the beach last month during low tide.

You can read about our discoveries in my column
in the Gig Harbor Peninsula Gateway by clicking here.

Marine biologist Dave Behrens wades into the water at Kopachuck State Park in search of interesting critters. He has written eight books on nudibranchs (sea slugs).

Dave holds a pink sea star. Always wet your hands before touching sea stars (dry hands are more of a shock) and be gentle.

A closeup of the pink sea star, surrounded by tube worms poking out of the muck. Note the suctioning tube feet underneath the star's arms.

Joyce Murray, of Harbor WildWatch, checks out an ochre sea star held by Dave.

My daughter holds a female red rock crab -- carefully.

"This is history!" Dave said of a big boulder pushed down millions of years ago by glaciers. Now, it hosts a barnacle village, anemones, a juvenile sea star, seaweed and more.

My column barely scratched the surface of what you can find at low tide, but I hope it may have interested some of you in learning more. After all, as the Shawnee proverb goes:

"We are all one child, spinning through Mother Sky."

Related Events:

* This Friday, April 23, at 8 p.m. head down to Jerisich Dock in downtown Gig Harbor for "Pier Into the Night." Hosted by Harbor WildWatch, this event will use night lights to reveal ocean critters that live in our waters. Naturalists will be on hand. Check for more events throughout the year.

* June 1, 2010, at 6 p.m. Dave Behrens will present "The Marine Creatures of Puget Sound" at the Gig Harbor Yacht Club, 8209 Stinson Ave., Gig Harbor, WA. This is open to the public and the $5 cost includes pizza and soft drinks.

* Check out Dave's monthly column, "What's Under Your Boat?" in the Gig Harbor Yacht Club newsletter. Go to, then click on Coxswain to get to the newsletter.

Related art quilt:

"Starfish Rising," by Sherrie Spangler, 2010

Materials: Hand-painted and commercial fabric, embroidery thread, beads
Techniques: Painting, hand embroidery, machine quilting, beading
Size: 28 x 32 inches

Enjoy the day!

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