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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
1 foot tide, not quite dead low, but still daylight
February 5, 2013

Spring means daffydowndillies, or crocuses, or singing blackbirds, and it is all those things, but for intertidal beach explorers in the Northwest, it also means the return of the daylight lower low tides (the other daily low tide, the higher of the two, isn't low enough to see much). In winter, there are some wonderfully extreme low tides, but they are always in the middle of the night. It is possible to walk around with a flashlight,'s just not the same.

This afternoon there was a low enough tide before sunset to see some old friends, down at MacKaye harbor, in the San Juan Islands, on a fairly protected sandy beach, starting with some shy horse clams (Tresus capax).

horse clam siphons
As filter feeders, they reveal just the ends of their siphons. When disturbed, the clam squirts out water out as it burrows into the sand for protection, becoming more streamlined. In moments this fellow will be 2-3 feet deep, foiling predators like gulls.

OK, I poked one. But it got me back. Squirted salt water straight into my camera. Ooops. Shook the water off the camera, and took the next photo from the side. There were lots of them right down by the water line (a caveat: if it's hours before the return of the tide, or a hot day, I don't play with them this way - their water contains dissolved oxygen).

shoots 3 feet up, when it's in a hurry
nothing left but a hole, in seconds
If dug up (which takes a shovel and furious digging), you can see how Tresus can't pull its siphons all the way in, so it has an open space between the closed shells. For this reason, Tresus is also known as the gaper clam. That's a lot of meat there.
shells closed tight
empty horse clam
Lots of empties washed up on the beach, but it takes a low tide to see live clams. This is springtime for me!

What's happening in your early February neighborhood?

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