Archive for June, 2012

Driftwood Diary

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Greetings, Earth Connection visitors.

I have spent many frustrating hours attempting to post my friend Ira Shorr’s lovely Driftwood Diary, his series of photos and commentary from a British Columbia beach.  But alas.  I lack the computer smarts to figure out how to post Driftwood Diary in a manner that will allow the reader to enjoy the photos and commentary simply by scrolling down the page.

After much gnashing of teeth, the best I could do  was to post links to each short segment of Ira’s work.  I hope you will click on each link, starting with the first one, and enjoy Ira’s creative presentation.  It will take a little while, but I think it will be worth it.

And let me put out a call.  If anyone reading these words has experience using Word Press and can advise me as to how I can post text and photos from a Word document, without having to resort to links, I would be grateful if you would contact me.–April Moore

driftwood-diary-part-1

driftwood-diary-part-2

driftwood-diary-3a

driftwood-diary-3b

driftwood-diary-part-4

The Fascinating Ghost Crab

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

ghost-crab-50904-ocracoke

One of the many wonderful things about a family reunion at the beach last week was watching ghost crabs on the sand.

These pale, sand-colored crustaceans, common along the U.S. east coast, blend in perfectly with their beach home.  They even appear translucent, which may explain their spooky-sounding name.

It was a delight to walk along the beach and spot these little fellows, scuttling sideways, this way and that, along the sand.  Often I would watch a crab perched motionless at the edge of the opening to its burrow.  And before I could make a move for my camera, the crab had disappeared down the hole, out of sight.

Sometimes I noticed sand flying out from a burrow entrance.  Below, an unseen ghost crab was industriously making improvements to the shaft or chamber that made up its home.  Now, some burrows sported a neat little pyramid of sand beside the entrance, while other burrow entrances were surrounded by messy-looking little collections of sand.

Well, I had to learn more about these ghost crabs, so I did a little research.

Apparently, the orderly pyramids of sand denote a reproductively mature male’s burrow.  The carelessly tossed sand indicates the home of a female or a young individual.  Scientists speculate that females use the neat pyramids to find potential mates.

The burrow is an important part of a ghost crab’s life.  In summer the burrow is a cool retreat from the hot sun, and during the winter it serves as shelter from the cold.  In fact, a ghost crab may hibernate in its burrow for up to six weeks during the coldest part of the winter.

The ocean is also important to the ghost crab.  The crab makes nocturnal trips down to the water line to wet its gills, which must be kept moist for breathing.  And the female ghost crab releases her eggs into the ocean, where they develop into marine larvae.

A true sea creature, the ghost crab won’t drown if submerged.  It is protected by its air-tight exoskeleton, which also prevents water loss from internal tissues.

While ghost crabs are sea creatures, they spend much more of their time on the shore, where they scavenge for food.  And they are not picky eaters.  They’ll eat just about any plant or animal material that washes up onto the shore.  Mature ghost crabs do most of their scavenging at night, while the younger ones can be seen scurrying along the sand’s surface during the day as well.

And do these crabs scurry!  The fastest crustacean on the planet, the ghost crab can reach a speed of 10 mph!  Of its 10 legs, two (the largest) are used for feeding and digging a burrow.  The other eight legs–slender and pointed at the end–are for movement.  For a walking pace, the crab uses all four pairs of legs.  To speed up, the crab lifts one pair of legs off the ground.  And to speed up even more, the crab shifts into ‘high’ gear by pulling up all but two legs.   Then it runs across the sand!

Ghost crabs live as long as three years.  And like other arthropods, they molt.  Inside the hard, external skeleton, the crab’s body grows, encased in a new, soft skeleton within the rigid outer skeleton.  After awhile, the tight, outer skeleton cracks, and the crab squeezes out.  While the new skeleton is still soft, the crab enlarges it to gain some growing room  (like buying shoes a size too large in order to grow into them).  Once the new skeleton has hardened, the crab resumes foraging on the beach.

At maturity, a ghost crab is about two inches wide.–April Moore



Living

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

red-salamander

Below is a lovely, poetic tribute to summer by Denise Levertov.  For me it captures the glory of summer.–April Moore

LIVING
by Denise Levertov

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail.  I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.


People are ‘Getting’ Climate Change

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Two recent polls show that Americans are increasingly concerned about global warming.  And they want action.

It appears that people are linking this past winter’s unusually warm temperatures, last year’s blistering summer, and recent floods, droughts, and tornadoes with a warming world.

More than 70% of the adults questioned in a poll commissioned by Yale University and George Mason University either  strongly or somewhat agreed that global warming contributed to the warm winter just past.

Majorities almost as large cited global warming as a likely factor in 2011′s record summer heat waves and drought in Texas and Oklahoma.  And smaller but still substantial majorities cited global warming as a factor in record snowfalls in both 2010 and 2011 and in Mississippi River floods in 2011.  These views are consistent with scientific evidence which suggests global warming is causing higher precipitation in all seasons.

The data suggest that most Americans no longer see global warming as something distant in space and time, affecting polar bears or people in Bangladesh, not themselves or their own friends and family here in the U.S.  But that perception seems to be changing.  Now, 35% report having been affected by extreme weather themselves in the past year.  Indeed, in 2011 the U.S. was hit by a remarkable string of disasters–droughts, floods, tornadoes, and heat waves, affecting every region.

According to Gallup, which has conducted polling on global warming for years, public opinion on climate change has waxed and waned over time.  Since 1989 Gallup has asked people how much they personally worry about global warming.  The proportion of people who expressed concern peaked at 66% just before the recession.  But concern fell to a low of 51% in 2011 as the economy overwhelmed other concerns.  And Gallup’s most recent survey, conducted in March, showed that concern was back up to 55%.

I take heart from the rise in concern over global warming.  Let’s hope concern continues to rise and results in decisive action at the highest levels.–April Moore


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