Saturday, September 3, 2016

Off to the beach we go...Fort Popham Beach that is...

We went to the beach, via Fort Popham, because you can bring dogs there. Little did we know that dogs are no longer allowed at this state historic site beach park from April 1 - Sept. 30th. Well, we got through almost our entire walk before we heard a dog owner (there were lots of dogs on this beach) being alerted to the fact that what he was doing was illegal. We got a bit nervous because we hadn't looked at the bulletin board near the bathrooms. After returning to the parking area, we checked it out, and low and behold there was a little laminated paper sign saying "No dogs on the beach." Uh oh...we are rule followers, and we had broken the rules. Oh well, it is only 4 more weeks until we can legally go to the beach again;-(
The beach has changed significantly since we last visited it a year ago (in the winter we go to Popham Beach State Park instead.) 
Now, just a short way down the beach, there is a berm that acts as a wall down to the water. We had to climb up and over it to continue our walk. Here you can see how the water sculpts the beach over time, and gradually brings in, and pulls sand away, with each tide and each storm.
Drew pointed out the layers of sand (higher up on the beach), and indeed it is like an archaeological dig, looking into the past where the tides have brought in layer upon layer of sediment over time. This is how sedimentary rock is formed. 
Eventually, over thousands to millions of years, the bottom layer of sediment will get compacted and cemented together to form rock called sandstone. If you were able to look closely enough, you would see bits and pieces of organic material (like seaweed, crabs, etc.) mixed in with the minerals like feldspar, quartz, and mica.
As we walked along the beach, we saw lots of quahog clams which prefer to live in sandy and muddy bottoms in cold waters, which we sure have in Maine;-) By the way, they are great in chowders, soups, and stews!
This quahog has a smaller shell lodged in the sand, between its valves, that I think might be a waved whelk, but I am not sure. Check out the snail trail leading off from the shell off to the right. I wish I had picked it up to see the underside of the shell so I could try to identify it.
Then, we came across an Atlantic Dog Whelk (Nucella lapillus), also called an Atlantic Dogwinkle. Awww.. what a cute name for this predatory sea snail that feeds on barnacles, mussels, and assorted bivalves!
I was happy to find a Moon Snail on the sand and seaweeds. It's beautiful blue coloration caught my eye. They are often found in mudflats, and are truly disliked by clam diggers as they bore holes into clams and digest them. They sure are pretty, though!
Here is a pretty frond of knotted wrack. We found clumps of this seaweed along the beach where it washes up with the tides. There are literally tons of it attached to rocks along the shore and underwater. Want to know more about it? Check out a blog page by one of Bowdoin College's marine biology professors. Awesome stuff!
Jackknife clams (Ensis directus) were scattered here and there along the beach as well. On the left you see the sky blue coloration of the inside of the shell, and on the right you see the yellowish/creamy white of the outside of the shell. These clams burrow deep within the sand and mud of intertidal zones. Their shell resembles a straight razor, and the edges of the shell are so sharp that they can cut your foot if you step on them. I don't think I've ever had any to eat, but they are supposed to be delicious!
Pond Island Lighthouse is in the background
As we rounded the point (where the Kennebec River runs out into the ocean), the waves come in at two angles creating a crisscross (X) pattern.
Check out Drew's video of the wave motion.
What's a walk on the beach without seeing a few sanderlings! I finally had to remind myself to scan the shoreline for these swift little birds.
They are a type of sandpiper, and they are found almost worldwide along the ocean shorelines. 
We love watching them scurry just in front of the breaking waves. They probe the sand for tiny crabs, worms, and mollusks (to name a few burrowing animals), and eat insects as well.
Run, be free, little sanderlings! Enjoy;-)
And, then they fly low over the waves showing off their wing pattern.
I will leave you with a wide angle view of the beach...So pretty and relaxing...and one of my favorite places in Maine.

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