Wild Kingdom

It being a lovely day yesterday, I stopped by the harbor to take in the view. Here’s the vista from Mayo Beach:

After a minute or so I noticed that there was some sort of large animal in distress just offshore. All I could see was a single dark flipper lifting out of the water and flapping about. I thought it must be another of the small cetaceans that beach themselves so often in the harbor at low tide (see here). I used my phone to take a low-res video:

(This is a really terrible video, but it’s that black blob popping in and out of the water in the middle of the picture. It looks much father away than it actually was.)

A fellow sitting on his porch nearby noticed this thing in the water too, and waded out in his shorts to get a better look. It turned out not to be a mammal at all, but a mola — a strange critter, also known as the ocean sunfish, that looks like a huge swimming head with one long fin on top pointing up, and another on the bottom pointing down. Here’s a picture of one:

Mola mola

As you can imagine, shallow water is a problem for these guys, and it turns out that the large swift tides in shallow Wellfleet Harbor often catch them unawares. (Regular readers may recall I found a dead one on the same beach about a year ago, as documented here.) This hapless mola was in a similar pickle — caught in about eighteen inches of water, it was unable to get vertical enough to swim properly, and so was just floundering along sideways, making very little headway.

I hope it got out of there eventually.

Meanwhile, as I was standing on the beach I noticed something else flopping about, this time on the mud-flat just a few feet away. I went over for a look, and saw that it was a razor clam on the move. For the benefit of those of you who have never seen a razor clam in full flight, I shot a video of that, too.

Here it is:

There you have it, readers: nature red in tooth and claw.

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  1. Kevin Kim says

    It seems I need to download and install Flip4Mac on my computer to see your images, and because I’ve got an older OS, I can’t seem to download version 2.4 (the website’s not showing me any links to version 2.4). So it’s a no-go for viewing your awesome vids.


    Posted October 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    OK, Kevin – uploaded to YouTube.

    Posted October 26, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink
  3. Kevin Kim says

    Why, thank you, sir. And those vids were quite fascinating.

    Posted October 26, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Permalink
  4. Sally says

    I particularly enjoyed seeing the razor clam move. I recall a novel I read with my boys a few years ago – The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch – about a boy with a fascination with marine biology who comes across a giant squid in Puget Sound.

    Posted October 27, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Hi Sally! Great to hear from you. Hope you and family are well.

    Posted October 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink