Saturday, June 23, 2012
Ode to the Fiddler
Ecologists think a lot about how energy moves through ecosystems, and when it comes to salt marsh, Fiddler Crabs are key players. Sun shines, marsh grass grows, dies, decays to detritus - and then the fiddlers start eating. Watch them sometime, the male's small claw is constantly moving from mud to mouth (the female has two feeding claws, lucky her). From detritus to crab to a host of creatures - night-herons, Clapper Rails, Whimbrel, ibis, gulls.
On the incoming tide this morning, we became completely absorbed watching Fiddler Crabs from our kayaks. We - being me, daughter Becky, and fiance Beth - found a quiet side channel and watched for almost an hour as the tide rose, gradually forcing the Fiddlers into their burrows. Fiddler Crabs have gills, but don't fare well completely submersed. As the tide rises, they retreat into their burrows and plug the hole behind them, relying on a pocket of air to sustain them until the tide subsides and they can emerge to feed again.
I couldn't resist reaching down from the kayak to poke a finger into the Fiddler Crab burrows - figuring I've been bit before, what's one more bite from an annoyed invertebrate. But the reaching finger never touched a crab, they are much deeper than a finger's reach, which explains the bills of ibis and Whimbrel, and the stealth of night-herons.
Truly, I can't recall a more enjoyable hour watching nature work her wonders.
Posted by Don Freiday at 5:34 PM