Today’s Post

Sand Dunes

Sand Dunes

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Sand dunes fun facts:

  • Dunes are formed from wind and the tides. They are constantly changing and moving.
  • They protect the inland from storms and high winds.
  • Dunes are home to many animals including, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates.
  • They provide good protection for animal nurseries. Babies are well camouflaged and hidden away from the open beach.
  • Just at the edge of the dunes is where female sea turtles lay their eggs.
  • Grasses that grow in the dunes, protect them from erosion. They have very shallow root systems though and walking on the dunes for even a few feet can destroy an entire grass colony.

You can find birds, insects, invertebrates, mammals and birds throughout the dunes. You can also usually spot wildflowers and other plants along with the grass. These are some of the animals you can see on the dunes:

Marsh Rabbit!

Marsh Rabbit!

Eastern Diamondback Rattle Snake (found on the south eastern coast of the U.S.)

Eastern Diamondback Rattle Snake (found on the south eastern coast of the U.S.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piping plovers are shore birds. They lay their nests near or in the dunes.

Piping plovers are shore birds. They lay their nests near or in the dunes.

 

You can often spot ghost crabs and the holes that lead to their burrows in the dunes!

You can often spot ghost crabs and the holes that lead to their burrows in the dunes!

Purple sandpipers are another bird you'll find!

Purple sandpipers are another bird you’ll find!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding Tiny Crabs

Finding Tiny Crabs

We’re spending this week down on the beach looking for animals that are not easy to spot. Today we’re looking for a tiny crab called the sand or mole crab. Let’s get to exploring!

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MOLE CRAB FUN FACTS:

  • These little crabs are found in the sand where the tide rolls in. They bury themselves just below the surface.
  • They can bury themselves in under 2 seconds! Good luck finding these speed demons.
  • Mole crabs have feathery antenna that filter plankton from the water.
  • Birds and fish like to dine on these little crustaceans.
  • They molt when they grow and must wait for their new shell to harden.
  • Mole crabs can swim or tread water – an unusual adaptation for crabs.
  • Females can produce up to 45,000 eggs!

 

Have you ever spotted these crazy crabs on the beach? They aren’t easy to see, but they are an important part of the food web of the beach!

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Pipe Up for Sandpipers

Pipe Up for Sandpipers

Another popular bird that we love to watch run up and down the beach is the sandpiper. They are so funny with their little legs and high speed running! Let’s learn more about them.

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SPOTTED SANDPIPER FUN FACTS:

  • These funny little birds have an usual mating style. The females actually establish territory for nests.
  • The males incubate the eggs and raise the young. Sometimes females will help.
  • Females can actually lay several clutches of eggs in a season- often from different males. Each male that fathered the clutch will rear those chicks.
  • Sandpipers are known for their teetering motion. It is not known why they do this.
  • These little carnivores eat insects – including flying ones and crustaceans buried in the sand.
  • They are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.

 

Who knew these little birds have such neat role reversals? Lady sandpipers are pretty cool as are the busy males!

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Knot Birdy

Knot Birdy

It’s another day of watching birds and we’re meeting the Red Knot. Anyone have a guess how they got that name? Let’s find out!

 

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RED KNOT FUN FACTS:

  • These red birds are actually more grey most of the year. They develop that color during mating season.
  • They are found on every continent except Antartica.
  • It is thought that they get their name from the grunting noise they make.
  • Their numbers have fallen in North America due to population declines of one of their favorite prey- horseshoe crabs eggs.
  • These carnivores have special receptors in their beaks that help them detect pressure. These receptors help them find crustaceans buried in the sand.
  • Egrets eat their crustacean prey whole- shell and all. They crush the shells in their gizzard (a muscular part of their stomach), In fact, they have the largest gizzard of any shore bird.
  • They are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

 

These adorable birds remind us of plovers a bit. It’s important that scientists are following population numbers as we are seeing a decline.  Remember to keep our shores clean of any trash, as plastics and other trash can harm our shore bird friends.

 

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You Won’t Egret It

You Won’t Egret It

We’re meeting a wonderful shore bird today. These bright white beauties are hard to miss and one of our favorites.

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GREAT EGRET FUN FACTS:

  • These wading birds are found on coasts, lakes and rivers. Like their cousins the heron, they can be found in fresh, brackish and salt water.
  • Great egrets are carnivores. They use their big pointy beaks to grab fish, crustaceans and amphibians.
  • During mating season, egrets grow extra plums on their backs to attract mates.
  • These majestic birds have a wingspan of up to 57 inches. They are large, but slow fliers.
  • Almost hunted to extinction for their feathers, the birds have made a strong comeback due to protection efforts.
  • They are also the symbol of the National Audubon Society.

We love these birds as much as we love the Great Blue Heron. Luckily they are easy to spot with their bright white feathers.

 

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Hello Heron!

Hello Heron!

We are excited to meet some shore birds this week! There may be no better activity then to sit on the beach and watch the birds, especially the ones who run with the waves. Today we’re meeting a bird you’ll see in fresh, salt and brackish waters.

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MEET THE GREAT BLUE HERON:

  • Great blue herons call marshes, lakes, rivers and coast lines home.
  • These majestic birds are always fun to spot with their long necks and long legs.
  • They can stand 4 ft tall and have a 6 ft wing span.
  • They actually only weigh around 6 lbs! It sure helps to have hollow bones.
  • You can find herons hunting day or night. They have excellent night vision.
  • These carnivores wade in the water and wait for fish to grab, amphibians and crustaceans. They are surprisingly fast.
  • Their neck vertebrae are specially shaped to allow them to strike fast.

 

We love these amazing gorgeous birds. We never tire of seeing them whether on an hike or at the near by lake or here at Camp E&E by the Sea.

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This is Urchin!

This is Urchin!

Hehehe! We love a good pun! Ok, well maybe learning about our last echinoderm the sea urchin, isn’t so urgent, but it is cool!

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SEA FUN FACTS:

  • Like their other echinoderm relatives, sea urchins are divided in to equal parts- being 5.
  • They have 5 rows of tube feet with suckers on the end that they use to move and then attach to rocks or the ocean floor.
  • All urchins have spines, but not all of them are venomous.
  • These omnivores eat plankton and algae. In turn they are prey for other animals including otters and sun stars.
  • The sea urchin’s mouth is on the bottom of their body and their bum is on the top.
  • Urchin is an old word for hedgehog. Named after the spiny mammal, you could technically call them sea hedgehogs!
  • Sand dollars are actually a type of urchin!
  • Sea urchins also have tiny claws in between their spines. They use these to help protect them and to hold shells and other objects to help them camouflage.

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Sea urchins are really cool for an animal that looks just like a colorful pin cushion! These amazing creatures can live up to 30 years and the Red Sea urchin is known to live up to 200 years. Crazy!!!

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Stars of the Sea

Stars of the Sea

We have met sea stars before, but we wanted to learn more about these amazing echinoderms at camp today!

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SEA STAR FUN FACTS: 

  • There are around 2,000 species of sea stars.
  • Some species live up to 35 years.
  • They have no brains or blood. They use water throughout their vascular system. The water also helps them move their tube feet.
  • Sea stars do have simple eyes that see light and dark.
  • Sea stars have little plates of calcium carbonate to help protect them
  • These carnivores push their stomachs outside their mouths and digest their food before pulling the stomach back in the body.
  • Each arm of the sea star has around 15,000 tube feet. These feet secret a glue like substance to help them attach to rocks.
  • Some sea stars- like the sun star, can have up to 50 arms and weigh 11 lbs.
  • Like their relatives the brittle stars, they can regenerate arms.

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We love sea stars! They come in all sizes and colors- like pink, purple and blue! Do you have a favorite color sea star?

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Don’t Eat that Cucumber

Don’t Eat that Cucumber

Who’s excited to meet today’s echinoderm? It’s a pretty crazy looking one! Let’s meet the sea cucumber!

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SEA CUCUMBER FUN FACTS:

  • Sea cucumbers have tentacles around their mouths. They use those to grab small waste materials or tiny animals in the oceans.
  •  Sea cucumbers can discharge a sticky substance to ward off predators. They can also expel their internal organs to deter a predator. Don’t worry They regenerate those.
  • They have no faces or eyes.
  • Sea cucumbers take in water through their bum to extract oxygen using respiratory trees.
  • They also poop calcium carbonate, a building material for coral.
  • These not too exciting animals are important for breaking down too much organic material in the ocean floor. They are often called nature’s vacuum cleaners.

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While they don’t look like much and really they aren’t much more that a tubular eating & pooping machine, they are one of the oceans’ under appreciated animals.

 

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Brittle Star

Brittle Star

Welcome back campers! We hope everyone had a great holiday off! We’re back at Camp E&E by the Sea to meet some of our echinoderm friends. Today we are meeting Brittany the brittle star.

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BRITTLE STAR FUN FACTS: 

  • These echinoderms are related to sea stars, but are not sea stars.
  • They are carnivores, that eat plankton and small crustaceans.
  • Brittle stars are found in the oceans all around the world from tide pools to the deep oceans.
  • There are 2,000 species of brittle stars in the ocean.
  • Brittle stars have a central disk that contains their mouth, which has 5 jaws.
  • Brittle stars have small spines on their arms.
  • Like their relatives, the sea stars- they can lose a limb and regenerate it.
  • They use their spiny arms and not tube feet to move.

 

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We love brittle stars. They are so cool looking! Maybe we should make some out of clay? Anyone up for that?

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