Low tide exploration

Low tide exploration
by John Edwards
30 July 2023

A fantastic low tide exploration day was enjoyed by members of the Malaspina Naturalists (Bengul, Dale, Dan, Madelon, Sharron, Fran, Colleen, Lynn, John and Kelly) on Sunday, July 30.  We powered out of Lund Harbor aboard the Misty Isles with captain Jonas steering us past Keefer Rock to the intertidal zone of Hernando Island.  The enthusiastic and knowledgeable naturalist George Sirk provided us with captivating information about the local bio-diversity, geology, ecology of our beloved Salish Sea.  He described how the ancient glaciers brought the gulf islands here all the way from the Fiji, depositing glacial moraine, large erratics and the makings of coral reefs. George and Jonas explained how the gravitational pull of the moon ebbs and flows the tidal waters from both sides of Vancouver Island, meeting up at Mitlenatch.  Bringing with it the warm waters and sandy beaches that we know as the Riviera of the North.
Before arriving at the southern tip of Hernando Island, the secretive harbor porpoises were putting on a show, as were sea lions and even a pair of sea otters.  Captain Jonas dropped anchor off the southern tip of Hernando and onto the skiff to deliver us to the warm beach, reef and subtidal shore line.
We counted twenty plus species of bird life; from eagle, turkey vulture, heron and barn swallows to harlequin ducks, common and red breasted mergansers, oystercatchers, nesting cormorants, numerous gull species, a Caspian Tern, sand piper….and from its artic nesting grounds a short-billed dowitcher!
As we explored the crystal -clear waters at this 1.3ft. low tide, George was teaching us all the various sea life of such abundance if the Pacific Northwest waters.  Finding such treasures like eelgrass limpet, and other limpets, top snails, turbans, Horse clams, cockles, mussels, oysters and moon snails and many more shellfish.  Several species of sea stars were found as well as a rare orange sun star.  We were unable to find the elusive sea anemones, sea cucumber, octopus, squid or sea urchins closer to shore, however Sharron may have spotted some while she snorkeled in deeper waters.  We saw a healthy crab population, various kelp species, like the turkish towel, sea grasses, sponge’s and hooded nudibranch.
With the tide changing, Jonas ‘skiffed’ us back aboard the Misty Isles, where he set the sails and we enjoyed our lunch and delicious homemade cookies listening to the peaceful sounds of luffing sails.  On our journey towards the Copeland Islands, we watched three foraging Humpback Whales for half an hour.  This was definitely the icing on an already delicious cake! A fabulous Low Tide Expedition had by all!