Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Cockle Drop Zone
Sand lake is one of my favorite spots on the Oregon Coast. It is a unique body of water that in not really a lake, but a saltwater estuary. Unlike the many bays along the coast, there are no major streams draining into the lake, so most, if not all of its water comes from the sea.
At high tide the area is flooded and actually resembles a lake with Whalen Island (the forested area) in the middle, but at low tide, as seen above, it is more like a series of channels that wrap around the island.
Last weekend, we visited the west side of the island at low tide. This is a great time to catch some interesting gull behavior.
Like the human clammers, western gulls and glaucous-winged gulls flock to sandy flats at low tide to hunt bivalves such as this cockle.
After pulling a cockle from the sand, they carry their prize high in the air.
At a certain height, they drop it. When the cockles hit the wet sand, you hear a "crack" as the shell breaks. The gulls drop down to eat the contents before another gull swoops in to steal them.
The beach is littered with shell fragments from successful cockle drops. It might be wise to wear a hard hat when clamming in the area.