The muddy inlets near the harbor of my hometown aren't very attractive from a tourist perspective, but there is an interesting habitat to explore there, especially if you are a macro-addict.
In the last days of October 2022, from the 21st to the 30th, I did just that, a bit of exploring in the intertidal zone.
In this set of photographs, you can look up close at the plant that dominates the place.
Its scientific name is Arthrocnemum macrostachyum.
Here you can see a leafhopper resting on one of its lower, dried-out branches.
When this shot was taken, the same planthopper has jumped on a neighboring desiccated twig with a juicy new shoot on it. It looks like the Macrosteles salsolae, but I'm not a hundred percent sure about the species. The family is Cicadellidae of course.
Here you can see a much bigger jumping insect hiding in the dense growth of the same coastal plant.
The Aiolopus strepens from the Acrididae family.
Depending on the tides, the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum plants can be seen a meter or two from the water ...
... or partially submerged in the shallows.
Sometimes, from a certain angle, the protruding plant parts look like little islands.
With a bit of surplus imagination, the thing in combination with its reflection can also look like some weird creature from the Sargasso Sea or something like that.
When the tide is low, you can see the coastal sea snails in the mud under the plants. In the following photograph ...
... you can take a better, more up-close look at two of those Phorcus turbinatus snails. Or more precisely, at their shell. The mollusks are hidden inside the stone-hard spiral shelters. One of those shells is wet, the other is dry. That's why they look so different.
Here you can see the macro portrait of an insect that was resting above the snails and the mud, on the upper branches of the plant.
I zoomed out a bit, in this photograph, so you can see a bit more of its anatomy. You can see more, but you can't see better that way, because as the background gets less blurry, the scene gets more messy and chaotic.
Here you can take a look from above. The insect is well-camouflaged in this environment.
In a wide shot that is closer to how I saw the scene through my own eyes only, where everything inside the frame is in focus, the long-legged, mosquito-like fly is practically invisible.
When it comes to the name of the species, this is the Tipula oleracea, a crane fly from the Tipulidae family.
While sniffing around the colorful small shrubs on the 21st of October last year ...
... I found a small wasp, that I saw in various coastal habitats many times before, but I never photographed it, because the insect was always too fast and shy for a good macro. This time the shooting started similarly, but ...
... but after half an hour of sitting and waiting in the same muddy place, the wasp accepted my presence and continued flying and exploring the plants around me.
At one point, I even caught it in flight. Getting the camera close to the action was that easy.
Today, while writing the post, I found out that this is the Ancistrocerus gazella, commonly known as the European tube wasp.
When this photograph was taken, the wasp grabbed something that I'm still unable to identify. It looked like a withered fragment fallen from some plant.
But it could have also been a cocoon made by some kind of larva, ad example. Something like that. I don't know.
The females of this species build nests in various tube-shaped cavities. Hollow stems. Pith cavities of dead twigs or the disused tunnels made by wood-boring insects. Inside these natural tubes, the cells are arranged linearly, with a clay partition between them. The wasp lays an egg in the first cell and then stocks it with several paralyzed caterpillars, before sealing it with a clay plug. Following cells are made and filled in the same manner.
With a nice variety of insects flying, jumping, and crawling in the slightly surreal forest miniature made of Arthrocnemum macrostachyum plants, the presence of arachnid predators is inevitable.
Here you can see the empty exoskeleton left by one of them. I can't tell you what species exactly left it ...
... but it could have been the spider shown in this photograph. I mean, not exactly that one, but a spider of that kind. The Tibellus maritimus. A species from the Philodromidae family.
This camouflaged ambush predator is hard to spot when it rests on the vegetation in its typical pose.
Here you can see the Gibbaranea bituberculata spider that has built a web among the stems and branches on the top of the plant. The spider is feeding on something, probably an insect, packed in silk and impossible to identify. Gibbaranea bituberculata is a species from the Araneidae family.
This spider from the Tetragnathidae family has also built its web on the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum ...
... in the intertidal zone.
The name of the species is Metellina segmentata. Next to the spider, you can see its prey. A leafhopper. I used the flash to reveal all the details in this photograph. In the following picture ...
... you can take a look at the scene illuminated by the ambient light.
I took many portraits of the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum on those warm, sunny days at the end of October.
It's a beautiful plant whose shapes and colors offer many opportunities for an interesting shot. The succulent stems look a bit like small, worm-like animals.
Very photogenic shapes.
In this photograph, taken through the macro lens, you can take a good look at all the tiny details of the structure. The leaves and flowers have merged into the articulate stem that gives a pretty strange, alien look to the entire plant.
Here you can see just one juicy stem surrounded by the dried-out parts of the plant.
All these stems are similar, of course, but at the same time, small differences in shape and size give a dose of individuality to each one.
That's why I photographed so many.
Here you can see a dead, completely dry Arthrocnemum macrostachyum surrounded by a sea of living ones. On one of those desiccated branches ...
... I photographed a fly from the Syrphidae family. Can't tell you the name of the species.
Arthrocnemum macrostachyum isn't the only interesting plant that grows in the salt marsh parts of the bay.
In this photograph, the light green stretch of terrain, surrounded by dark green and red-purple Arthrocnemum macrostachyum growth, is covered with the Halimione portulacoides plant. In the following shot ...
... the focus is on one single leaf of that plant.
Here you can view the dense growth of Halimione portulacoides from a low angle. You can also see the hotel and the apartment buildings across the inlet.
Some rosy leaves can look more colorful than they really are when lit from behind.
This yellow flower with a small caterpillar on it ...
... belongs to the Limbarda crithmoides. Some of the flowers shown in this photograph are in their prime, while others have lost the petals, produced the seeds, and dried out.
Here you can take a good look at the succulent leaves of the plant.
I found a bunch of insects and spiders while exploring the Limbarda crithmoides ...
... both on its flowers and among the foliage.
This young nymph of some bug from the Miridae family was sucking the plant juices in the center of the flower.
The Oxyopes heterophthalmus, a Linx spider from the Oxyopidae family was camouflaged on the stem.
Here you can see the same spider crawling across the succulent leaves.
Among the leaves lower on the plant, I found this very small red spider that I wasn't able to identify. It looks like something from the Theridiidae family.
The iridescent jewel shown in this set of four photographs it's a small wasp.
It was photographed on the dried-out flowerhead of the Limbarda crithmoides plant. After a fairly long Internet search, I still can't tell you the name of the species. I'm pretty sure though, that the genus is Torymus and the family - Torymidae.
This fly from the Syrphidae family, the Sphaerophoria rueppellii, was feeding on the nectar of the nearby flower that was still in good shape at the end of October.
In this tryptich, you can see the Limbarda crithmoides leaves in various stages of their development. New leaves look like little balloons.
Here you can see the Chorthippus maritimus, a grasshopper from the Acrididae family. In the following shot ...
... a Limbarda crithmoides shoot is surrounded by Arthrocnemum macrostachyum plants.
On the 28th of October, early in the afternoon, the low tide was exceptionally low ...
... so I spent a couple of hours in the muddy area that gets submerged for longer periods.
When it comes to the coastal plants, only the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum can be seen there.
The muddy layer all over the woody branches and succulent stems of the plants shown in the last three shots is a clear sign that they grow in salty water most of the time. Furthermore, in this last of the three photographs, the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum is surrounded by a bunch of sea snails.
Not far from there, more or less at the same distance from the first line of vegetation, I photographed the remains of a clam shown in this picture. One photograph was taken using the flash, the other shows the scene in natural light.
At one point, while exploring the terrain near the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum shrubs ...
... I found an interesting insect that was running fast on the wet mud.
This is a species I rarely encounter. Saldula saltatoria.
A shore bug from the Saldidae family.
A bit later, in the same area and for the first time in my life ...
... I found & photographed the nymph of that species.
This tiny flower ...
... was photographed a bit further from the sea, near the upper edge of the intertidal zone.
With this series of floral shots, is time to introduce the Limonium narbonense plant.
Some of its flowers were covered with aphids.
Here you can see the leaves of the plant. The red, decaying leaf in the center of the picture looks more like some kind of fruit or flower at first sight.
At one point, while I was photographing the Limonium narbonense flowers ...
... a minuscule insect entered the scene.
It's a wasp. That's all I can tell you about it. I mean, all that I'm sure about. Probably one of the many small, similar-looking parasitoid wasps hard to identify.
The family could be Platygastridae.
In this photograph, its antennae look almost like another pair of legs mounted on the head. That's cool. In my opinion. In the following photograph ...
... the focus is again on the wet mud near the opposite end of the intertidal zone ...
... where I found this minuscule fly.
This insect is so small that I didn't have any idea about its shape before taking a look through the macro lens. The family is probably Ephydridae.
Here you can take a look at the small bug from the Miridae family, can't tell you the name of the species ...
... that was passing across a stretch of muddy terrain ...
... directed to the nearby shrubs.
The long-legged fly shown in this set of three photographs was resting on one of those plants.
The name of the species is Orthoceratium lacustre. The family - Dolichopodidae. Some minutes later, and about fifty meters further along the seashore...
... I came across a young tree that grew in the salty mud, surrounded by Arthrocnemum macrostachyum shrubs.
This is a very unusual find. I never saw a pine tree growing this close to the sea, among the vegetation specialized for the salt marsh conditions. If this sapling manages to grow into a tall tree, the scene will be even more unusual and kinda surreal. The following photograph ...
... was taken even closer to the sea.
This medium-sized fly from the Ephydridae family was feeding on microscopic algae and bacteria by filtering small chunks of mud in its fairly large mouthparts. When it comes to the name of the species, it could be the Ephydra macellaria, but I'm fairly far from being sure about that.
The Saldula saltatoria was running all around the the fly, on the mud covered with a thin film of water.
At one point, while sniffing around the intertidal zone ...
... and photographing groups of coastal sea snails waiting for the sea to return ...
... I came across these lovely gems. I mean, they aren't precious or semi-precious, but these chunks of calcite look a bit like a treasure.
Some sea snails ...
... have found a nice shelter on edge of the jungle miniature created by the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum plants.
Here, before continuing with the macro stuff, you can take another look at the coastal scenery dominated by the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum.
The sea often brings colorful garbage to the shore. Here you can see a piece of green rope ...
... and a leafhopper on that rope. The following photograph ...
... was taken a minute before. The insect was approaching the rope.
The leafhopper is climbing the rope in this photograph.
On the 27th of October, at 10:35 AM, the tide was pretty high ...
... and many Arthrocnemum macrostachyum shrubs were completely or partially submerged ...
... so I was focused on the coastal plants that grow further from the sea.
In this chaotic wide shot, you can see the intricate growth of the Atriplex prostrata.
Focusing on details helped me get out of the colorful chaos on the ground in front of me. In the following photograph ...
... the focus is on one single leaf of that plant.
These fruits and thorns ...
... belong to a plant that looks like a crouched porcupine from a distance.
The Juncus acutus plant.
Here you can the Juncus acutus in its coastal environment where it towers over the rest of the salt marsh vegetation.
This photograph was taken through the macro lens, so you can take a good look at the small fruits that were ready to release the seeds.
The long thorns, filled with spongy tissue, that resemble the porcupine spines are the stems of the plant.
This grasshopper, the Omocestus rufipes, was hiding among the leaves of the Dittrichia viscosa, another plant that can be found only above the intertidal zone.
In this set of four photographs, you can see the young leaves of the Beta maritima.
This interesting plant, photographed against the blurred harbor, has a lovely scientific name.
Salsola soda. I don't know, it sounds kinda cartoonish to me.
The tiny flowers shown in this picture made of two photographs aren't new to this post.
The Limonium narbonense was introduced earlier.
This small spider, can't tell you the name of the species, was hanging on the thread spread between two branches of that plant.
With this set of three floral shots, is time to say a definitive goodbye to the Limonium narbonense plant. You won't see it in this post again.
This springtail was photographed on the 30th of October, during the low tide ...
... on the humid ground under the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum shrub ...
... very close to the sea.
Sea snails were quiet, sealed inside their rock-hard spiral fortresses ...
... and the minuscule springtails were out in the open ...
... focused on feeding and running around.
Saldula saltatoria shore bugs were also running around ...
... so I photographed one of them. With the flash and in natural light.
Here you can see a springtail sniffing around in search of food. In the following photograph ...
... the same springtail is feeding on a minuscule fragment of something that I wasn't able to identify.
A minute later, on the nearby Arthrocnemum macrostachyum shrub ...
... I found a colorful detail that looked like something worth photographing.
After taking a few more Phorcus turbinatus portraits ...
... with the flash ...
... and in natural light ...
... I came across a group of springtails in the small muddy arena between the shrubs.
Here you can take a good look at those creatures. It was a group of springtails in a feeding frenzy.
Seen with the naked eye, this minuscule but kinda epic action scene looks just like a dot of dirt on a muddy little stone. It can be followed only through a good macro or magnifying lens.
Twenty, thirty centimeters above the scene, on the branches of the Arthrocnemum macrostachyum, this Orthoceratium lacustre fly was eating a small chunk of something slimy.
All springtails shown in the post are Anurida maritima springtails from the Neanuridae family.
The following links will take you to the sites with more information about some of the protagonists of this post. I found some stuff about them there.
AND THAT'S IT. THE STORY ENDS HERE. AS ALWAYS IN THESE POSTS ON HIVE, THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE MY WORK.