Walked to Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven yesterday.

Waves from Wednesday’s storm must have hit the beach at Fort Phoenix. Big rolls of seaweed, mixed with seashells and grains of sand, lay at the high tide mark. Most of the seaweed appeared to be Knotted Wrack (Ascophyllum nodosum), and true to its name its six-inch strands were knotted together, the bulbous ends impossibly tangled.

The seashells, as usual at Fort Phoenix, were thick between the low-tide and high-tide marks. The vast majority of the shells are always Common Slipper Snail (Crepidula fornicata), usually open and empty. But yesterday there were lots of live Common Slipper Snails clinging tightly to empty Northern Quahog shells (Mercenaria mercenaria).

Aside from the slipper shells and clamshells, the beach had the usual sprinkling of Common Jingle Shells (Anomia simplex) and Atlantic Bay Scallops (Argopecten irradians). I saw two Whelk shells, one which was a good seven inches long and was probably a Knobbed Whelk; the other I think is a Channeled Whelk. I found one Eastern Oyster shell (Crassostrea virginica), and one well-preserved shell of an Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus). I did not find any of the delicate Ribbed Mussel shells (Geukensia demissa), although we found some there just last week.

I would estimate that there were twice as many gulls as usual at Fort Phoenix, many of them in the air: carrying shellfish in their bills, dropping shellfish until the shells cracked, harassing other gulls to steal a cracked shellfish away, or gliding along looking for more shellfish to pick up. The gulls use the summer parking lot, now empty of cars, as another rock on which to drop clams, cracking the hard shells open so they can eat the soft mollusc inside; although most of them still use the rocks at the edge of the sea.

I walked through the parking lot looking at the broken empty shells. Nearly all of them were clams, but I saw an occasional scallop, and one or two slipper shells. I watched as one Herring Gull dropped a clam; I heard it crack; the gull dipped into the broken shell with its bill, snatching out the soft inside, gobbling it down, all the while keeping a fierce lookout for nearby gulls who might steal its treasure.