Beach walking pays off again!
In July of 2021, I made it to the Gulf Coast of southwest Louisiana. The purpose of the trip was actually to deliver some furnishings to an Episcopal day school in Lake Charles, a task completed by noon. After lunch, I made a beeline for the coast, traveling straight south on La. Highway 39.
Highway 39 is also known as the Creole Nature Trail, and when I have business in the southwest corner of the state, driving the Creole Nature Trail is a must. On this occasion, I drove straight south from Sulphur, La., to the coast, then turned west onto a spur of the trail that travels very close to the beach and offers easy access at many points.
I first went to a birding hot spot at the end of the spur near the Texas border, but not much except biting insects was happening there that day. Turning back east, I stopped in several places and walked the beach. A breeze off the Gulf moderated the July heat. Wading birds foraged in the surf and flights of brown pelicans, the B-52s of the bird world, went overhead from time to time. Late afternoon, I spied a common nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) crouched on the sand above the reach of the surf.
But the thinstripe hermit crabs were the most fun of all. Most of the time, all you see of hermit crabs is the tips of their feet. I picked up dozens of shells that day, hoping to find one or two not occupied by hermit crabs that I could take home. It was not to be. Over and over I peered into the aperture of a shell that looked empty at first, only to see tippy-toes that could not be pulled far enough in to be completely out of sight.
And as the sun drooped in the sky and I reluctantly headed toward my car so as to get off the beach before dark, I noticed shells moving–not by virtue of their own gastropod foot, but by virtue of multiple hermit crab legs and feet sticking out from under the shell.
And then I noticed two shells in a depression in the sand that seemed to be “facing” each other, a slightly odd thing to say since shells don’t exactly have “faces.” Had one of them moved? I wasn’t sure but maybe…. So I stood very still and watched. Sure enough! Legs emerged from one of the shells, embraced the other shell and pulled it closer. Awwww! Hermit crab love!
I wasn’t sure what I had observed so I did a bit of research when I got back to my computer. Yes, that is how hermit crabs mate.