You learn something every time you go birding. Most of the time, you see a new bird, NOT a “Bryozoan!” Since every birding adventure yields some kind of surprise, that’s where you need to have a small pad of paper and pen with you. It helps to record your location, date, a rough sketch of what you see, or details of importance about your find.
Up the Creek WITH a “What?”
I have never been down beautiful Broad Creek that flows through Washington in Beaufort County North Carolina without it being an adventure…thunderstorms, blazing heat, Ospreys defending their nests, paddling against 15 knot winds. Well this time, it was no different. My BFF (best friend forever) and I set out to have a lazy kayaking trip birding up Harvey Road Bridge to eat lunch, and then drift back.
We put in from the end of a pier near some marsh grass and chatted as we paddled. We conversed about what birds we might see and where they would be along the creek. Almost as we rounded a curve, we spotted something glimmering in the sun. We were’t sure just what was ahead of us floating in the water.
- It looked like foam.
- No, it looked like suds.
- Well, it looked just plain weird.
Apparently, some aliens had landed IN the water right in the middle of Broad Creek. (Remember the pad of paper idea?) We did not touch them, but paddled up to them…yes, there were more than one.
Taking out my cell phone, photos were taken as best I possibly could. I then forwarded them to a friend who grew up on Broad Creek. He, (never seeing anything like this before either,) suggested they be forwarded to the Pamlico – Tar Riverkeeper on Facebook for further identification.
Facebook Exchange with the Riverkeeper
Jane:“Hi. I was paddling upstream on Broad Creek in Beaufort County on July 8th. We kept passing some substance in the water. Best description as follows, mucousy jellied strands of something floating in the water with long thin submerged strands many feet long. I’ve never seen this on any waters I’ve paddled or sailed on. It also had a smell. Didn’t know how to mark the spot so I took a pic of where I was on the creek. What was on the surface looked like jellyfish after jellyfish, one after another glued together. The photos are the best I could do with my phone. Very Sci Fi looking…just wanted to pass this along.”
Riverkeeper: “Jane, where is this? And can you describe what you saw….texture, color, smell, etc...sorry, Jane, just saw your note above. I have no godly idea what that is. I’ll check in with Div. of water resources. Do you know if it is still there, or have heard of other reports?”
Jane: “I have no idea. I’m back in Ayden now. But it appeared soft and yet firm visually. We didn’t touch it with our paddles not knowing if it was toxic. It did not appear to be plant material. Or floating debris.”
Riverkeeper: “Okay, I have forwarded your description and photos to my friend who works for the state and is all over the area’s waters. I’ll let you know what she thinks. Thanks for passing this along. I’ve never seen anything like that.“
Jane: “Me either. Thank you for trying to find out. Also it was moving downstream with the current.“
The “Alien” and The Result
So we HAD seen something weird and had the strangest feeling this “alien” was ALIVE. As a result, I waited with the patience of a scientist doing an experiment for a response. Consequently, on July 20th, the Riverkeeper responded back with some very cool news:
Riverkeeper: “So, after consulting with a few others in the water resources field, we think what you saw is something rather rare, not a concern and pretty cool, actually! There is a couple of theories of what it could be. Our best guess is that is was some sort of bryozoan. At times there can be enough energy in the water (from wind activity) that can agitate these animals from the bottom and they float to the surface. It’s more typical to see out in the ocean, so what you saw in Broad Creek was probably even more rare. “
Jane: “Oh wow! How cool is that? Now I wonder what would have happened if I had touched them? So very excited to have seen them. Thank you very much for all your help. Being an artist and wildlife photographer, (didn’t have my Nikon on the kayak with me dang it, battery was at the house recharging) I feel great to know I got see something like this! May write about this on my website. Thank you so much!”
Riverkeeper: “Sure thing. And, best guess for all of us without seeing it, but that’s what we think it was. May I use 2 of your photos to post this info on the facebook page? Great educational opportunity….”
Jane: “Absolutely… I’m still excited about this and thank you! I was in a 10 ft. Kayak…the largest bryozoan had to be around 15′ long.”
Riverkeeper: “Jane, I scheduled the post to go out this afternoon around 4pm. [July 21, 2015] Okay to have your name included as the discoverer?“
Jane: “Absolutely…look forward to your post. Just wish my Nikon had been on board for better photos. Thanks!”
Birding Trip Gone Bryozoan
Hence, later on July 23rd, I received a message from the Riverkeeper that said by 8:49 a.m., “The post on the bryozoans went to over 2K people. Very cool educational opportunity. Tx!!”
We were sure planning on seeing Ospreys, Bald Eagles and a host of other birds on the creek. You know, your average birding expedition. As you can see, though, your birding trip can take a turn. I had NEVER heard of a Bryozoan before; NEITHER had many others I know. These were in fresh water. In a word, to even see a colony of these animals who are millions of years old was just fascinating to us.
What an adventure for this birder!