sandy beaches may appear to be deserted of life forms but this not
so. If one visits at low tide the large expanse of sand below the
high tide mark looks barren. All the creatures below this point
bury down into sand to prevent drying out and to avoid the probing
beaks of predatory birds.
the high tide mark you may not immediately seen any life, but look
closer there are indications of the dwellers below. Lug worm casts
are very common, the first uncovered by the tide will be younger worms, smaller
casts but many of them. The further the tides retreat the larger
the casts but are fewer in number, while the furthest out will
be perched on their own small mole hill like mound.
to the low tide mark one will notice protruding from the sand an
inch or so, tubes comprised of sand grains. These are the top of,
up to a foot long tube of the Sand Mason Lanice conchilega.
the high and low tide marks there will be bivalves, however one will
be lucky to see them. Even if they are on the surface they will
quickly retreat into their burrows if disturbed, and they will sense
your approach way before you see them. However you may see a small
squirt of water caused by a rapidly burrowing razor shell; or a figure of
eight in the sand formed by a razor shell that had laid on the surface
and up righted itself before burrowing. These shellfish and worms
will bring in waders such as plovers and Oystercatcher
ostralegus, which can
be seen probing in the sand with their beaks, feeling out their
second area of life is the strand line, here seaweed and other detritus
are stranded providing nutrients in an otherwise barren environment. These materials break down and form a medium that plants
can grow in. The break down of the rotting seaweed can attract hoards of
flies. The flies in turn attract flocks of starlings in late autumn.
Another animal which benefits from this decaying mass is the Common Sand Hopper Talitrus
saltator whose burrows will be seen in the sand close by. Sand hoppers
leave their burrows at night to feed on the decaying vegetable matter.