Escape to the Beach


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Double rainbow over Galveston Bay

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A few weeks ago we talked ourselves out of going to the beach the Friday before my birthday. Not knowing what crowds would look like, it just made us nervous. That said, the beach was still calling. We decided to take a Wednesday off and go very early in the morning so we left the house at 6:30 and arrived at about 8:45.

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These last few years we’ve usually picked one of the public entrances on either side of Galveston Island State Park. I enjoy walking down the state park beach because it is a lot more wild and less maintained. Also, beach side entrance from the actual state park is still closed as it was last year because of construction in the state park so it was even more desolate than usual.

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When we arrived there were a few people on the beach but everyone was spaced far apart. The beach to the east, past the posts keeping you from driving down the beach, was fairly empty too despite being in front of the row of beach houses. There were folks out walking but it wasn’t packed. That area slowly increased in activity as time went on as did our little public access area.

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Forest was thrilled to be at the beach! He’s been practicing holding his breath under water this summer, something he has been too timid to try until now, and since he has this newfound skill he’s really become more of a water kid than he was before! Usually at the beach he likes to hang out in a little dug out pool of water Chris would dig for him and then sometimes splash at the water line but this time he was completely wanting to stay in the water the whole time to jump the little waves near the shore! I’m really grouchy at this pandemic because we were finally going to get real swimming lessons for him this spring and summer and now that is put off for another year (two?).

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It was a high sargassum time on the beach and I was glad that as soon as we got out of the car Forest asked “What’s that plant?” and wanted to play with it. We explained that it was actually a macroalgae and most people freak out about sargassum (it makes the beach “dirty” or they don’t like it brushing against them in the water) but he immediately took to it and was interested, especially after we started pulling floating sargassum up to look for marine life within it!

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One of the first things we found was a Sargassum Nudibranch, Scyllaea pelagica, something I had never seen in the sargassum! They were very cool and we found several throughout the day.

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And lots of Sargassum Shrimp, Latreutes fucorum

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Beach Morning-Glory, Ipomoea imperati

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I headed east down the beach early for a walk before more folks came to the beach. It was very pleasant along the walk and I ended up bringing a bag to pick up trash along the way, something I always say I’m going to do but never actually do.

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Open beaches!

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The handful of cars early on in the morning.

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A nudibranch egg case washed up on the shore.

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Blue Button, Porpita porpita

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A cute little crab that was commonly seen in the sargassum. I think this could be a juvenile blue crab but I’ve not been able to actually identify them quite yet.

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And of course our big find was seeing several Sargassumfish, Histrio histrio. It’s been many years since I’ve found one but we came across several that day. We kept our eye out for sargassum seahorses but no luck!

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Atlantic Sergeant Major, Abudefduf saxatilis

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A nudibranch on the left and an egg case on the right.

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Towards 11:30 the beaches got busier. The area to the east had more umbrellas and beach towels scattered as far as I could see down the beach. And our public area slowly added a few more cars. Everyone attempted to give those there a wide bearth but then two cars with an extended family group of 9 pulled into the east of us between the other car that was parked near the wood posts and we cringed. I was miffed they didn’t pull into an area further back that had a bigger gap of space but there they were, next to us. Under any other circumstances it wouldn’t have been a big deal but pandemic times? Too close for comfort, especially with the several kids they had. We put up with it for about an hour before Chris decided he was done with it and we packed up and headed out about 12:45. The rest of the area was also starting to get a little busier so it was only a matter of time before we would have left anyway.

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But before that I walked down to the Galveston Island SP side to get some quiet and see what I could find down there. It’s just always nice to be on a section of beach that barely anyone else is on—something you don’t get too much of in the height of summer in Galveston.

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There was a tropical disturbance earlier in the week that brought some rain to the coastal areas and that morning there were still showers coming in off the Gulf, which I think helped deter some of the people on the beach that morning. This little shower came in right before we left.

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A video of the nudibranch moving—give it a minute to load as well as the next two. Or click through to view it over on Flickr.

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I’m glad we were able to make it happen! Hopefully we can do it again next month or maybe in September. Once school starts things will quieten down a bit more so September will be a good time to go. Go early and avoid the crowds!

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One thought on “Escape to the Beach

  1. shoreacres says:

    What a neat day! It’s interesting, too, because I haven’t seen any Sargassum this year. I’ve never examined it as closely as you did. I really was surprised to see the Sergeant Major — I love those fish. I was thinking this morning that once the high tides from Hanna recede a bit, it will be a good time for a little beach-combing. We’ll see!

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