Look closely in the photo with boats in the background: see all those red dots? People used to deciduous trees whose leaves turn red and fall to the ground each autumn many instinctively think: fallen leaves! But no: these are sand crabs, bright red and with protruberant eyes which I’ve never yet succeeded in photographing. I’d need a far better telescopic lens than comes with the pocket digi-cam I carry with me on these beach walks. They evade large moving objects rapidly, by disappearing down holes which dot the beach, like the one you see above to, right. Top left, and below: we think this guy was sick and lost: he was still able to scuttle, but slower than usual, and seemed to have become separated from his burrow. I suspect he ended up like one of these other ex-crabs I’m showing you above. As the Lion King’s song says: Circle of Life, eh?
Mostly when I walk the beach, I’m taken by the beauty of shells glistening in the sun after a wave’s retreat. Or the feel of the sand in my toes, the sound of the surf in my ears, the salt smell in the air. At times I’m reminded that all life requires nourishment. And that, as the old saying goes, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. The first new sight to greet me was I wandered the tidal river that makes a good path northward in one part of the beach, this morning, was the quite sad deceased turtle you see below. For those of us who love marine wildlife, especially sea turtles which are everywhere so threatened, it’s another sad loss. It also caused me to wonder what story the sand could tell: my photo didn’t capture all the claw marks, next to the turtle — but drag marks from many claws suggested that a battle led to the death of the turtle and its subsequent decapitation. I suspect a dog but can’t prove it. (I do not possess the skill of Legolas in the first chapters of The Two Towers, sorry to say…)
This initial, sad introduction to the harsher realities of life in the tidal zone here caused me to view later observations through a new lens: does the spiral shell with a smudge next to it represent a place where a mollusk lost its fight for survival to the teeth of a larger predator? What story is told by the crab claws scattered here and there along one stretch of the sand, with nearly the full shell of the now-ex crab just a bit further along? And then there are the humans, gathering their mollusks or collecting their fish. Or the deceased jellyfish which I at first took, from a distance, for a blanket or sheet that had been blown into the waves. All life requires food, and most life tries to avoid becoming food unless, like apples and berries, that’s how it creates future generations.