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 3:00 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.

So, there we sat in the dark, in our pajama's, mesmerized by the life in and above the ocean.
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!’
Job 38


mark said…
Nice. I want to go to the coast. Great story.
Karmyn said…
Wish I had been there.
Susie said…
I could sit and watch the ocean for hours, day or night!
Loved this post...
local girl said…
I love the commentary of the birds. It made the images in my mind that much clearer. I wonder if those two birds ever hooked up? LOL! Great post as usual!
swampwitch said…
I think I was there with you. Your use of metaphors is the best. I love the photos. Those coupled together should be on a desk with some NYC editor saying, "Yes, Pamela, we will go to print with this."
So glad you captured this for us and especially for you.
Peter said…
Well written, nice pics, well done Pamela.
Jeanette said…
Hi Pamela wish i had been with you nice story and pics
deslily said…
Here in New Jersey those birds are called Sandpipers. They are funny to watch running in and out with the waves lol.. you describe your time watching wonderfully!!!
Walker said…
LOVELY quote from Job to go with your beautiful description.
BarnGoddess said…
beautiful! the ocean and all the creatures that depend on it never fail to amaze me. Your post is extremely well written.

I snapped a picture of an owl the other day and thought of you immediately.
Masago said…
Lovely story. I feel a haiku in there somewhere (you should try your hand :-) ).

Beautiful shots, especially the first one!
Heather said…
Mmm, pretty pictures. Pretty. And I like how you connected them to the Job passage.
Deslily - you're in Jersey? I'm from Jersey, stuck now in what I'm learning is a foreign land (Texas - foreign only because Texans consider themselves to be their own country).
East of Oregon said…
That is a marvelous telling of amazing dramas of nature. And I especially love the Job reference. I just love the sea.

Thank you for writing this and sharing.
Mert said…
Move fatty made me giggle. I can imagine how wonderful it was by your description!

I have been lucky enough to see the bioluminescence , it really is beautiful. Thanks for sharing!
Claudia said…
mmm....beautifully written...I could imagine it as if I were there!
Matt said…
I want to get to the ocean more. This summer I'm going to buy a sea kayak and take it to Chesapeake Bay, which is only 45 minutes away from me in DC.

I couldn't imagine living in the Heartland.
momto3cubs said…
Sounds amazing and so beautiful! How fortunate you are to enjoy that. Makes up for the snowstorms ;)

Do you have a room to rent out? ;)
Tiggerlane said…
You speak Bird? Seriously, I could just hear that chatter - you are bilingual!

I once got in MAJOR trouble with a high school English teacher for writing a paper about phosphorescent marine life - he gave me an F, and said I had made the whole thing up. Of course, it was pre-internet days - my parents had an extensive library, and then had to bring our books from home to prove that I wasn't trying to pull a fast one.

Amazing phenomenon...thanks for sharing!
Susan in va said…
"What an amazing creation."

Yes, it is.

I was "oooooh"ing and "aahhhh"ing while reading this post - your words truly captured the moment.

Stephanie said…
Reading your blog is like reading great literature.

You are a beautiflul writer, Pamela.
Heather said…
Sounds enchanting! You describe it so well!
SongBird said…
Beautifully written. You are an artist with the pen as well as with the canvas. How wonderful that you included the quote from Job.
So beautiful!! And there are people who insist that there is no God!
kate said…
wow sounds like a delight! I wish you snapped a photo!!!!! How lucky you are to have a window view of the ocean! I live just off a lake here in FL and we have such wonderful wildlife here
as well. I am thankful for it each and every time I experience it! Great post!!
Pamela said…
Kate: only on our getaway to the ocean did we get the windowview. Home is 6 hours away.

Nice Man: YES!

SongBird: My sis read that chapter as we watched the setting sun and the surf pound

Heather: Now if I could ride along on your globe trotting and take notes

Stephanie, Susan: I feel that way when I read your posts, too.

Tiggerlane: And he was a teacher? You should have run down the hall to the biology teacher.

Kila: You should take the cubs to an ocean bay known for it's sparkling life. Find a dock to lie down on after dark and give the kids a stick to stir the water

Matt: one January I crossed the Ch. Bay Bridge and there were birds frozen in the ice along the edge. I cried.
The heartland has it's distinct beauty, too. Have you ever seen the ocean in the waves of grain?

Claudia: And you would have had pictures, too.

Mert: Fatty makes me jiggle.. ha ha ha ha

East of: Check it out next time you visit Newport. We weren't far from there.

Heather, Deslily: Jersey girls. Did you go down to the boardwalk?

Masgo: My Haiku just doesn't satisfy as yours does

BarnGoddess: Now that makes me hoot!

Walker: Hey - nice to see you stop by again!

Jeanette: I'd like to come to your backyard pool and write about it, too giggle

Swamptwitch: You were there in your Sister in Survival. I was majoring in Journalism in college because I wanted to be Lois Lane - and then I met superman.

Local Girl: Do you ever watch the sun come up and go down in the ocean the same day? and those two birds were comical, one started chasing the other, so maybe they weren't lovers after all.

Susie: lucky you - get to live so close

Karmyn: Next time it's ALL girls weekend.

Mark: You need to find a woman who lives closer to the ocean. I can introduce you
Mert said…
Pam, thanks for you kind words last night, I did receive them :O) Don't hurt yourself cleaning! You're just going to find crumbs in the exact same place after the party. ;O)

I will have to fire up my Instant Messengers, I haven't used them in a while. Which one do you use?
Anonymous said…
Pam, How lovely. You sure know how to write. Some people are just born to be storytellers and you're one of the best I know:)
loves, venus
Anonymous said…
kinda shivery ... especially when the lord says no farther will you go.

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