Moon jellyfish are in local waters now. I always shy away from touching jellyfish until I recognize for sure what I am seeing, but they are certainly interesting creatures. Moon jellies are saucer shaped and bell-like and they have a short margin on all tentacles.
The translucent white bell can reach 12 inches. The ‘bells’ are luminous with blue-gray, transparent disks in the center and glowing horseshoe-shaped organs. They are indeed unusual looking creatures and well worth looking at. They often have an unearthly appearance. Always use caution around jellyfish and don’t touch unless you are very sure what kind of a jelly you’re seeing.
These unusual creatures are found worldwide, in tropical and temperate waters, near the surface of shallow bays and harbors. A large gathering of them is called a bloom. Each moon is about the size of a dinner plate.
These interesting but strange creatures have the ability to shrink one-tenth of their size when food is limited and later return to their original size.
Jellyfish feed on plankton, like tiny shrimp and crustaceans. Predators of jellyfish include sea turtles and other jelly-eating animals such as tuna, sunfish, butterfish and spiny dogfish. All of them keep jellyfish in balance. The leatherback turtle, our largest turtle, depends entirely on the jellies for food. Because jellies are more than 90 percent water and the leatherback can weigh more than 2,000 pounds, one turtle can consume many jellies. It’s all very amazing and fascinating. The lack of predators can cause large moon jelly blooms. You may feel a tiny sting, but it is generally OK to swim through a moon jelly bloom, so say the experts.
I watched two catbirds looking eagerly for food one afternoon, probably for their babies back in their nest hidden nearby. It reminded me of two catbirds once that had nested in a large hedge of roses – pink roses. When the baby catbirds left the nest and sat lined up in the bright pink roses, it was a sight to behold every day when the babies were fed.
Catbirds spread the alarm for all nearby when danger threatens, possibly in the form of a snake looking for food. A pair of catbirds flew at my late husband one day in the field in order to get his attention and come help when a large blacksnake approached their nest. He removed the snake to quite a distance from the nest and the catbirds quieted down. Other wild creatures pay attention to a catbird’s and blue jay’s alarm call. It’s always worth checking out what’s going on when you hear upset wildlife in your area.
In my last column, I mentioned the lack of whippoorwills calling on the island. This week’s email brought a response from the neighborhood of the famous Stone Barn preserve area where my friend heard one calling this week for the first time in 20 years! What a delight that was to hear about! If you live in that area, listen for their ‘whip-poor-will’ call at night. It may be repetitive, but enjoy it.
Whippoorwills are on the ground a lot and very vulnerable to free-roaming cats and dogs and other ground predators roaming about in the night.
Be sure to get out and take walks along the shore these lovely days, for lots of flowers that only grow in this environment are blooming. And don’t forget to explore the tide pools you find. Look for sand crabs, sea stars and sea cucumbers and look under the seaweeds tossed up on the shore. Lot of interesting creatures are hiding there.
All along the shore, there are treasures to discover. My book, “Living on the Edge,” will help you identify and learn about them. If you’re lucky, some birds or weasels might come to look at you.
Send any questions or observations to [email protected].