Advent, Day 18: Ship Harbor, May 25, 2012 (Beachcombing series No.64)

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Join
 The Maine for an adventure a day, each day of this advent season — big or small, by land or sea, with friends or solo, in image or word, exuberant or contemplative, real or conceptual. We live in a state of wonder, its wide open spaces anticipating our
hope and joy.

Given the unseasonably warm temperatures and rain outside today, today’s ADVENTure might feel oddly appropriate. We have Christmas in July; why not a late spring fieldtrip in December? Enjoy this intimate portrait of a time and place with Jennifer Steen Booher of Quercus Design.

Last Friday I chaperoned the 5th grade field trip to the Ship Harbor Nature Trail over in Bass Harbor.

One of the many wonderful things about living in a national park is that honest-to-goodness Park Rangers lead your class field trips.

It was a drizzly day, somewhere between light rain and wet fog, so everything in the woods was spangled with droplets.

hermit thrush perched near us for a little while, maybe listening to the ranger, maybe trying to decide if we had food.

Larches are my favorite trees in the spring. They are deciduous conifers and the fresh growth is so soft to pat, more like grass than needles.

The ferns seem to be a bit later here than elsewhere on the island. I’m not good at identifying fiddleheads, so can only guess that this might be Cinnamon Fern, but then again it could be Royal…

The Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense) was coming into full bloom. This is a great place to see it, with beautiful thickets right next to the path.

Eventually we came out of the woods onto a classic stretch of Maine coastline.

The kids headed straight for the tidepools,

and within minutes everyone looked like this,

tidepool peering into this.

And what did we see there?

Periwinkles,

lots of teeny tiny baby crabs,

hermit crabs,

sea urchins,

whelks,

limpets,

sponges,

and this impressive beastie. I’ve called these rockworms for years (where on earth did I pick that up?), but when I set out to find more information on it for this post, I ran into a world of taxonomic complications. Apparently nobody else on the internet calls it a rockworm – but that is why we have Latin names for things, isn’t it? I spent a ridiculously long time tracking this guy through various Google searches (starting with “rockworm,” which was obviously a dead end, then “marine centipede,” which led to “brushworm,” which was totally the wrong species but eventually led to the right family, the Nereididae) and finally decided it must be Nereis virens (which also seems to be called Alitta virens or Neanthes virens – apparently there have been a lot of recent changes in marine worm taxonomy. Who knew?) Then I emailed my-friend-the science-teacher who said she calls them ‘clamworms.’ She also sent me this link to the work of Sara Lindsay, who photographs the worms on various electron microscopes. Some of the photos are creepy, others are amazingly gorgeous. Check it out!