As I have written before my usual walk is on a spit of land about a mile long [Long Beach -- surprising name?] with the ocean on the south side and an inlet of a small creek on the other. The creek side has areas of salt marsh. The path is beside the water only a quarter of the way and otherwise a narrow beaten path in the marsh. All along the path and beside it are neat round holes -- homes of the fiddler crabs. The picture above is actually on my track. The picture below is from Wikipedia so you can see the strange, awkward looking single claw of these little creatures. In the past two weeks they have been out by the hundreds, scurrying along, diving into their holes at footfall, if they are near enough, otherwise swarming into the marsh grass.
I have just read the Wiki entry and was reminded of what I had been told [or maybe I read] before. Only the males have the claw. Which means I see about twice as many females as males. The ones I see are about an inch and a half long and the majority seem to be the same size.
Not stepping on them takes concentration. So far as I know I have not stepped on any but sometimes I take to the grassy areas to avoid the thick swarms on the path and worry that I am stepping on ones hiding under the grass. My intentions are to walk without harming them. They are not pretty or endearing but they are clearly sensate creatures eager to survive and they seem to be thriving. I don't know if they have natural enemies. I have never seen a bird trying to eat one. Perhaps they are protected by their claws and shells and have too little meat on their surely very tiny bodies to be worth eating if you're a gull or plover.
Many people find creatures of this size and general ugliness repulsive or just icky. Rachel doesn't like to see them at all and I've warned her against walking that path around midday. I am not repulsed by them and somewhat curious about their lives. The majority of their holes are covered with water when the tide is high, so when the tide is low what are they looking for on the land? Are they mating this time of year? Are there tiny insects that they eat or is it plant material that is their diet? I'll have to explore the Wiki references one of these days.
When I walk their presence forces me to focus on my footsteps. That is a good thing, for I can walk beside the ocean on the other side of the spit and become lost in reverie and barely hear the wash of the waves -- letting those chattering monkeys of the mind take over when awareness would be soothing and peaceful. I even find it peaceful to share the path with the crabs.
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