Exploring Clayton Beach

On Sunday, October 27th Reconnect Earth took a trip to one of the best sites to access the amazing shoreline ecosystems along the coast of Northwest Washington: Clayton Beach in Larrabee State Park. For countless millennia, Indigenous peoples like the Lummi have harvested the rich bounty of marine life along this area’s coast, relying on fish and shellfish as a major food source. We discussed this human history, looked for life among the rocks and pools along the beach, and talked about issues facing marine ecosystems and how to take positive action.

The tidepools along Clayton Beach support an amazing diversity of marine invertebrates–from thousands of acorn barnacles coating the rocks, to strawberry and aggregate green sea anemones extending their delicate tentacles, to predatory marine snails known as whelks that prowl the barnacle and mussel beds. In the waters off shore marine birds including grebes, loons, and cormorants rode the waves and dove to pursue fish. We spent plenty of time admiring these various creatures and observing their behavior.

Among the most active animals we came across were the crabs that scuttle among the rocks at low tide. They included the one pictured here, which we identified here as a black-clawed shore crab. Much tinier hermit crabs scurried along the bottoms of tide pools, lugging the snail shells they commandeer to use as mobile shelters. Then there were the shell-producing animals themselves, like the hundreds of tiny periwinkle snails scattered all over the tide pools and barnacle beds. Among the more active creates, the occasional limpet clung to a rock beneath its dome-shaped shell, waiting for high tide to come in.

Toward the end of our time at the beach we gathered together for a discussion about threats to marine environments including destructive fishing practices, fossil fuel export projects, and epidemics like seastar wasting disease that have been tied to climate change. We then talked about people and movements who are taking positive action to combat climate change, including young activists like Greta Thunberg and leaders of the Sunrise Movement. We discussed how to get involved in organizing efforts right here in Bellingham, including work to launch a local Sunrise Movement hub.

Overall it was a fun, inspiring time exploring one of the most vibrant ecosystems in our bioregion. Want to join Reconnect Earth on our next trip? Find out where we’re going next and sign up here!

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