Birds and Bioluminescence
Late Friday night I stood at the window that faced the ocean and saw something more than the incoming tide claiming the beach.
I grabbed my binoculars and then my bird book.
In the moonlight and the lights from the motel, I could clearly see over 100 little Sanderlings running in the surf. They were doing exactly what my National Audubon Field Guide described. "As a wave comes roaring in, the birds run up on the beach just ahead of the breaker, then sprint after the retreating water to feed on the tiny crustaceans and mollusks left exposed."
We turned off the lights in our room and we sat our chairs by the window to watch the little shorebirds antics. For well over an hour past our bedtime. They looked like ice-skaters because we couldn't see their legs moving. Back and forth they glided, always right below our window in the foamy breakers that at high tide were within five feet of the retaining wall. We walked down the outside stairs for a few minutes and could hear the"babies", as Sandra nicknamed them, chattering as though in conversation while they feasted.
"Here's some gooey stuff. Mmmmm, a crab. Quick, over hear. Run this way. No, that way. Glad the Seagulls are asleep. Here's a chewy one, yum? I got it first; get out of my way. Run Quick! Oh dear, that wave got my toes wet. Move fatty. Stop being a glutton and save one for me, will ya? "Oh don't you have pretty eyes. Let's get together when we head north, whaddaya say?"
When we were awakened at from the discomfort of our self-inflicted sauna, the opened windows revealed the little guys huddled in a perfect circle as though they were resting and sharing each other’s warmth.
Another performance that we know was provided special just for us involved a life form much smaller than the naked eye could see individually. Possibly phytoplankton.
Something was sparkling in the curl of the wave just before it broke. It distracted us from the birds and we were mesmerized. Streaks of electric blue lights flashed and highlighted the breaking waves as they roared towards shore.
Each of us was seeing for the first time little lightening bolts created by a growth of plant-like phosphorescent organisms flashing horizontally through the waves. The lights move rapidly as if agitated by the sudden rise and then disappear as the wave curled. An occasional spark would flash when the water swooshed over some of the rocks and shells as it flattened out on the sand. Apparently, stimulation of the cells creates the flashes to scare away predators.
Yes, we ooooohed and aaaaahed, just like we would have in the thrill of an afternoon thunderstorm.
What an amazing creation.
“Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
as it burst from the womb,
and as I clothed it with clouds
and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates,
limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
Here your proud waves must stop!’