Elvers at the beach

On Sunday afternoon, we went to our local beach (Westhaver) to mess around with a water course. It’s what we like to do in our spare time. Actually, it’s what Matt and Lily like to do — we only have two beach shovels. They dam up a little stream (which flows from a nearby lake into the ocean) and divert its course, then they open the floodgates, then dam it up again… you get the picture. It’s fun to watch them work. 

Anyway, on this particular day (May 26) we found some creatures that we haven’t seen before. They were in the little stream we were in the process of diverting — wriggly long worm-like things about 10 cm long. I think Matt found the first one, but it wriggled and writhed right off his shovel while he was carrying it over to us and darted away. Then Evie found one and picked it up thinking it was a piece of plastic. When it moved she realised it was alive. Hers was completely see-through with two jet black eyes. We figured it was an eel and scooped it up off the beach and put it in a little pond we made for it. We watched it for a bit, then let it go. Milo found a larger blacker one a little while later.

Here’s a photo (US government) showing baby eels that are identical to the one Evie found.



I believe they are called glass eels at this stage. Eels have a complicated life-cycle that begins and ends in the ocean, but I think our eels were in the process of heading from the ocean to the freshwater Westhaver Lake to mature. The fatter, blacker eels we found were elvers — the next rung up the life-cycle. 

There is some fascinating information on the American eel on this web site. Apparently, all American eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea and then migrate from there to various freshwater lakes and rivers along the east coast of North America. They live for 10–25 years.

And apparently, these elvers are very tasty on a slice of toast.

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