August 25, 2023
Two nature mysteries–partially solved. Any ideas?


By Mary Reid Barrow

What are these and why are they on the beach?

Shapeless stinky blobs have been washing up on the beach in front of David French and Cathy Maston’s home on Bay Island for a couple of months.

One day recently there were two dozen or so, David said. Neither remember seeing the blobs before.

“They are stinky when they arrive on the beach,” he said.  “When they dry out, they are very light weight and have a sponge-like appearance.”

They are “crunchy, not at all flexible,” David added.

Cathy researched the blob and identified it as a potato sponge.

I have seen potato sponges here too, but rarely.  According to “Life in the Chesapeake Bay,” potato sponges are denizens of sandy bottoms in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Tiny critters live deep in the sponge’s crannies and others live on top of it.

According to another source, the sponges can be torn from the bottom by strong currents, usually caused by hurricane force wind, and then they die, floating in the water.

The question is why are they washing up on Bay Island now? I wondered if the sponges were torn from the bottom by the tornado that crossed over Broad Bay this spring.

David is not sure.  The tornado was a while back and so brief that it didn’t churn up the water a lot, he said. At first he did wonder at if the blobs were construction material torn loose by the tornado.

“I love a mystery,” David said.  And I do too.



And what about the pine branches strewn across my driveway?

Clusters of pine needles, dropped from the pine tree over my driveway, also have been showing up in quantities on the ground recently.

I was pretty sure squirrels were gnawing away on my branches and my imagination told me it was a female getting ready to nest.

I checked with Tim Nuckols of Nuckols Tree Service.  Squirrels do chew on branches to keep their teeth short, he said, but he thought mine might be a nesting squirrel. Squirrels nest both in late winter and late summer.

Sometimes, Tim added, a squirrel “just gets into a frenzy and can’t stop cutting branches.”

Maybe it’s akin to: “Honey, the baby will be here any day now and we have to get this nursery ready!”

Are your squirrels nesting too?


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