Cley beach is a place I love to walk. It has everything: birds to watch, proper rolling waves and pebbles and stones to collect, but it is particularly special when something unexpected appears along the shoreline.
On a sunny day a few weeks ago the receding tide stranded hundreds of orange starfish high and dry on the shingle. At first I thought they were all dead, but closer inspection showed that some were still alive as tiny tentacles were moving about slowly on their undersides. I carefully picked one up to throw it back into the sea (possibly a futile exercise as the waves would probably fling it back). It was bigger than my hand and its arms were fleshy, muscular and stiff and surprisingly heavy.
I imagine that the heavy water of a storm at sea must have lifted them from their feeding grounds on mussel beds and washed them all ashore. It is sad to see so many creatures tossed out of their natural habitat and I wondered if they would stay alive until the next high water when the tide might carry them back out to sea.
The Common Starfish – Asterias Rubens – can grow up to 30cms in diameter. It has five stout arms and the amazing ability to regenerate if an arm is lost. The lost limb can grow back completely within a year. If a part of the central disc comes away with the arm, that arm can, incredibly, become a new fully functioning starfish.
Seeing so many starfish on the shore reminded me of this,
‘.… when she saw the shimmering pattern of orange stars, she thought the world was upside down and the heavens finally within reach.’
From a Year of Marvellous Ways, Sarah Winman.
I like the idea of sea stars dotting the shoreline like the night sky.