Moody Closeups from the Intertidal

On my home beaches the best of the fall and winter low tides take place in darkness. Good low tides and daylight start to line up in March, and morning tidepooling, which we first see in April, lasts through summer. Cloudy, rainy, or fog-shrouded conditions impart a moody impression to intertidal scenes. I’ve chosen a sequence of five closeups to illustrate this. The sequence begins on the high rocks, above most tidepools. I like to start high, idling, picking my way along with the fall of the tide. Next in the sequence, the middle reach, and then the intertidal depths. My sequence concludes when it emerges, just like I do, onto higher ground with the make of the tide.


Shy Nucella ostrina comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It’s not unusual to see bold stripes and even bright orange versions. This one’s faint stripes and the interplay of pale and dark magenta fits my moody theme.


Endocladia is a high intertidal red that goes by nail brush and other aliases. This tuft appeared on my Instagram feed on May 31, 2019.


A curious favorite, Halosaccion won’t show up until you make your way down to the middle reaches, if it shows at all. The young sea sacs seen here are turgid with sea water. Try sometime giving one of the sacs a squeeze. Large late season sacs grow limp and discolored suggesting the common name dead man’s fingers, a moody eponym.

Prionitis and Constantinea

The lowest reaches are marked by an abundance of pinks and reds. I’ll let Prionitis, bleach weed, and ever-lovely Constantinea, cup and saucer (just the saucer here), both accompanied here by crustose reds, do the talking.

Finally, urged out of the lowest intertidal by the push of the tide, meet a mystery of mine. The radiating ridges and subtle rings on the shell of a well camouflaged limpet are captivating. I include this one among my favorites because I can’t name it.

It’s an important tidepool practice, once in a while, to let the mystery be.

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