Beach Dwellers

 

 

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Who sells sea shells on the sea shore?

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  Hundreds of turret shells washed upon the shore could either be a seasonal, temporary phenomenon or an alarming and disturbing sign of aquatic pollution; I don’t have the slightest clue. The crowded Vung Tau beach, in Vietnam had turned to a beach of shells when we visited a year ago. Scattered shells were glistening in the sun all around. I have read an article in The Guardian on shells on the shore. It is better to leave these empty houses that the tides bring to the shores, says the article. We love to pocket them as keepsakes. Researches show that removal of the shells damage the ecosystem and threaten the organisms that rely on the shells for their survival.  These pretty beach tokens play an important role they say; they are home for algae,  sponges or  microorganisms, birds use them to build nests, hermit crabs find temporary shelter in them. All activities such as collecting shells or beach combing or beach grooming  endanger the organisms that depend on the shells. I always thought shells are to be collected and treasured! That was an enlightening article.

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Then on another beach of a radiant and lonely isle, far far from men, the story was different. The beach and the sea was tranquil, not so polluted and the beach dwellers were of a different kind. I found the busy body Sand Bubbler Crab and his adorable sand art. When the sea recedes during low tides in the morn, the silver gleaming shore turns into a designer beach with intricate art work of tiny sand pellets strewn all over. That was an amazing  sight.

How can one tread on them!

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Sand art

 Artist Mr. Sand Bubbler Crab 🙂

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The gifted sculptor

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These tiny artists come out of their burrows during low tide in search of food and feed on the organic matter in the sand. They roll the leftover sand into small balls and toss them away. Their burrow mouth is so small that it reminded me of Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam; entry restricted to the little hard working fighter lot only! During high tide they hide in the burrows, their hard physical toil gets washed away by the heartless waves. But determined they are, they start all over again.

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And bowing – with a Mighty look –
At me – The Sea withdrew –  (Dickinson comes uninvited, always)

When the sea went back further on another morning, I found these puzzling and not so appealing sandy mounds too.

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Then I saw these smooth, shiny cuttlebones on the wet sand and recalled my childhood days when we used to collect and keep these for our pet lovebirds as a calcium supply. I don’t remember whether the birds used to eat them, but the cuttlebones were their pumice stone or emery board as they used to sharpen and polish their beaks on them. We used to call them ‘kadal nakku’ in Malayalam, the tongue of the sea.

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Other interesting characters I met on the beach were the intimidating black bird, and the self engaged little sandpiper

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The bird who is learning to use a straw.

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So much for the fragments from the beach; the beach dwellers and the green-blue waters, wind in the hair and sand in the toes.

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