Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Beach in Winter and a Puzzle

Yesterday we visited Seapoint Beach in Kittery, Maine at low tide. I've mentioned many times that winter is the best time to visit the beach. Seapoint Beach is open to non-residents of the town from October 1 to May 14, so we all get to enjoy this wonderful beach. It is a favorite for dogs too, especially at low tide when there are vast expanses of beach for chasing tennis balls and other dogs, followed by a mad run into the tidal waves.

At low tide Seapoint Beach is a broad swath of dark brown sand and after rough seas often full of wrack--piles of various seaweeds and shells and tiny organisms that get rolled together at the high tide line. Yesterday the wrack line was wide and deep.
At the far end of the beach a spit of land juts out into the ocean, separating Seapoint and Crescent Beaches. The rocky shore along the spit collects fragments of shells and seaweed, and other debris.
Crescent Beach is steeper, with little sand, and mostly rounded rocks of various sizes. 
There is so much to see at the beach, both far and near. You can cast your eyes out into the ocean where buffleheads and loons and other wintering waterfowl swim and feed, and then beyond to ships and fog, and the mysteries of the sea. Close in, patterns in the sand and wrack change with every tide. The tides bring in bits of this and that, and sometimes you find a little treasure among the flotsam and jetsam. I found one such treasure that I've been pondering since yesterday. I offer it up as a puzzle to solve, as I really don't know what it is. Help me if you can.

It is a fragment of a skull, likely from a fish(?). The "snout" end is about 1.5 inches wide and the length from the snout tip to the widest part at the other end is 3.5 inches.


  1. I confess Ellen that you quickly speculating about this puzzle. My first thought was that I don't know anything about fish skulls. But a quick search online led me to something vaguely similar that was in fact not a fish skull but most likely the torso
    of a member of the auk family. So then I searched auk pelvis. That led me to more images that looked vaguely similar.

    Since you only have one view it's hard to tell. But you might want to search for auk/puffin skeleton and go from there?

    Good luck. I did just finish a book on bird skeletons but didn't really memorize the images. A quick look through the auk section doesn't confirm anything. If I have time later I'll investigate a bit more. But it does seem worth investigating the idea that maybe it's not a skull at all?

  2. Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your sleuthing and suggestions. You had the right idea, as I moved on to something other than a skull after another friend suggested the same. I posted my findings in a later post. The pelvic bone is, I think, correct, although perhaps more likely from a gull, which of course are common as sand at the beach. I enjoyed sorting out this puzzle and will have to keep an eye out for more such fragments.