Beachkeeper’s Diary #2

Lines In The Sand

It is just before 7AM as I park my Subaru at Kite Beach.  Once again, a yellow warbler greets me as I turn off the engine, but this time the bird lands on the passenger side mirror.  It certainly looks like the same warbler I saw last week.  I reach for the button to lower the window, but the yellow beauty flies away in a heartbeat, landing in the safety of a nearby bush.  That is my cue to start looking for lines in the sand.

It is the tracks of turtles and their subsequent digging marks that I am searching for.  But the beach is full of signs of other living things.  Lizard tracks are probably the easiest to identify.  A long centerline made by the dragging tail and footprints on each side of it makes this an easy call.

Three-lined prints are also common.  I am guessing that these are made by herons or egrets that do their continual fly-bys.

My favorites though are the tracks from laughing gulls.  These looks like tiny butterflies made by the webbed feet of the gulls.

And, of course, there are people tracks, kids & adults, sometimes accompanied by dogs.  Down by Fisherman’s Hut I notice a long, deep mark starting in the soft sand and heading to the sea.  I look out into the blue.  A fishing boat bobs in the water 100 yards out.  The man has his back to the coast intently looking at his line in the water.  Occasionally he wraps the line around his hand just to keep the bait lively.  No rod and reel used here.

I am getting street-wise to many of the nuances of the beach now that I have been doing this for over a month.  Many times I can read  what has happened in the sand.  This photo on the left, for instance has subtle markings, disturbed sand in the lower left corner.  The marks were probably formed by an incoming wave crashing upon the rocks to the right.  The tide is out this morning, but hours ago at its ebb, splash from waves made these signs in the sand.

Again, I see the mystery tracks.  Other beachkeepers have reported these lately with some reporting them tongue-in-cheek as raccoon tracks.  We have no raccoons on the island, and while the shape is similar, the size is much too small.  I googled mice footprints and that is what these appear to be.

And there are other impressions that I just don’t have a clue as to what made them.  These are amoeba-shaped, about the size of a silver dollar and frequent.   Ah, the mystery continues…

But this is part of the fun of being a beachkeeper.  The process of walking this mile or so of shore gets me really in tune with the water’s edge.  The foremost mission is, of course, to find and monitor turtle nests over time.  And that is cool too.  But the beach gives back so much more.  No new turtle nests for me today.  No problem.

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One thought on “Beachkeeper’s Diary #2

  1. Patrick: really nice piece. The sandprint photographs are really beautiful. Makes me want to go out at dawn…

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