Sunday, February 15, 2015

A month and a half in, and one quarter of the way there!

I haven't added many species at all lately, because I was very busy with work and school, and the weather was not great. I still haven't seen a mockingbird, but I did find one of the rare birds that were reported recently: the chipping sparrow.

Since it is still winter, Brooke and me are still snorkeling a lot

Brooke snorkeling in Sitka

Here is a nice sea anemone: Urticina lofotensis

Urticina lofotensis

Here is another anemone, very common but always pretty, from a Valentine's Day snorkeling trip in Leesofskaia Bay:

Metridium farcimen

For those of you who aren't familiar with the species, it's about the length and width of a person's arm.

I also found a giant nudibranch, Dendronotus iris. I do not see one of those every year.

Otherwise, most of the species I added since January were species that I will probably see again over the course of the year.

The biggest surprise last month was that I had already seen 11 species of echinoderms. Now it's an even bigger surprise to find out that I saw 18 species of echinoderms so far!!!!

One of my echinoderms showed up as a single arm on a fishing hook that had gotten hung up on the bottom. I immediately recognized it as the fish-eating starfish (also known as velcro star) Stylasterias forreri and tossed it into the bait bucket to take a picture later. When I retrieved it from the bait bucket it had attached itself to a couple of bait herring. If a fish is complacent enough to land on its back, this species of starfish is capable of catching it with its dorsal pedicellaria, and eating it. Way to go, echinoderms of Sitka Sound!

Fish-eating starfish, Stylasterias forreri
Here is the list of echinoderms seen so far this year, as of February 15:

Amphiodia occidentalis
Cucumaria miniata
Cucumaria pallida
Dendraster excentricus
Dermasterias imbricata
Evasterias troschelii
Henricia leviuscula
Leptasterias hexactis
Mediaster aequalis
Ophiopholis aculeata
Parastichopus californicus
Pisaster brevispinus
Pisaster ochraceus
Psolus chitonoides
Pycnopodia helianthoides
Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis
Strongylocentrotus franciscanus
Stylasterias forreri

Basically, I will probably end the year with 25 echinoderms, which is very, very good. I now have to look for Eupenctata spp., Cucumaria vegae, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, Strongylocentrotus pallidus, Solaster dawsoni, Solaster stimpsoni, Orthasterias koehleri, a Chiridota, and perhaps a subtidal surprise on the longline, like a crinoid, sand star, or unusual Solaster. I know people that have found slime stars, Crossasters, and black-spined sea stars here, but I have never found any of those. I will look!

And since we are on the theme of echinoderms, here are a couple more species seen in the past month:

Amphiodia occidentalis

Henricia leviuscula - the blood star - the other species of Henricia here is rare

Six armed star

Daisy brittle star - Ophiopholis aculeata

Giant pink star - Pisaster brevispinus

CUcumaria miniata and Cucumaria pallida - supposedly different species

Parastichopus californicus

Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, pale form