February 17 – 21, 2012
Exploring the Tide Flats
Of course the gray whales are the main attraction for most visitors to Campo Cortez, but guests quickly discover that the entire lagoon ecosystem is fascinating, and it is this and the local people that make the San Ignacio Lagoon experience something so special. We had extreme tides during this group’s February full moon visit, which meant that the rich intertidal world was very exposed at low tides.
One of our boat drivers or “lancheros” is Paco, who is one of Maldo’s two sons here at Campo Cortez. Most of the year they are a fishing family, which makes their knowledge of the ecosystem so interesting. Paco often takes us out for low tide walks through the tidal flats, where we can identify all the strange invertebrate creatures with their fascinating life cycles. On this outing, Paco found a two-spot octopus living in an abandoned pen shell. The octopus had a brood of eggs, and we could even see the tiny octopus embryos in each of the eggs!
We found numerous bivalves and gastropods, sponges and tube anemones, bryozoans and algaes, and finally a gooey and strange creature called a California sea hare. It is a member of the sea slug class Opistobranchia, which includes the small but colorful nudibranchs. The sea hare is not as cute, and looks like a big, gooey, formless blob except that it has antenna-like rhinophores that look like rabbit ears, which gives it the name sea hare. We got to hold, touch and photograph it before returning it to the water, and it was a long walk back before we could wash off all the gooey slime!
Text by Tom O’Brien
Photos by Karen Capp