On the high tides of the new and full moons in spring, horseshoe crabs turn to mating. Thus when mid-May rolls around in New England, my thoughts turn to horseshoe crabs… hey I can’t help it it is just the way my mind works
All of this probably has something to do with my youth, profitably spent on the beaches of Long Island Sound during Jacques Cousteau’s heyday. But I digress!
About a week ago (Sunday, 16 May 2010 to be exact), Joan and I made our second annual trip to the Wellfleet Bay Mass Audubon Sanctuary in Wellfleet, MA (on Cape Cod) in search of horseshoe crabs and whatever else the day might bring. (Wildlife photographers learn quickly not to expect anything and to be prepared for everything.)
The horseshoe crabs were there and actively mating… we probably saw about a dozen mating pairs and twice that many lone males.
This four shot sequence (taken over about 4 min) shows the process. The larger female tows the male around. At the water line (of the highest tides of the month), the female digs into the sand (first image), deposits her eggs (second image) and drags the male through the nest (third image) to fertilize them. The pair then heads back to open water (last image).
Sometimes, large numbers of shore birds attracted to feast on the eggs, but not this time. However, we did see a few small birds on the beach including an endangered piping plover and a pair of least sandpipers.
We also had great fun watching (and photographing ) the fiddler crabs.