Once all our visitors leave and the sun goes down on Pigeon Key, the island doesn’t go to bed. It comes alive! Join us as we take you nocturnal tide pooling along the shores of our island and find out what goes on after dark.
What is nocturnal tide pooling? Nocturnal animals are active at night and usually sleep during the day. So, nocturnal tide pooling is when you look for animals in the shallow water at night. Don’t forget your trusty headlamp! On Pigeon Key, you can find many cool creatures that only come out in the dark.
Bioluminescent shrimp light up the water by the dock. A Black-Crowned Night Heron sneaks by you looking for food. Lemon Sharks and Nurse Sharks circle the tiki hut. And the moon and stars light up your path. It’s time for the nocturnal tide pool!
First, you may notice that those big, beautiful shells that sit at the bottom of the ocean are moving. These are Queen Conchs and Horse Conchs on the hunt for food. The queen conch eats algae and other small marine plants. However, the horse conch preys on smaller conchs and snails. Get ready for a battle royale between the big horse conch and the smaller queen conch.
What else is moving? Many crab species like the Channel Clinging Crab, Decorator Crab, and Emerald Crab scurry around the rocks at night. You can lift rocks to look for even more crab species. You never know what you will find when you flip a rock! Sea stars sleep under rocks during the day, but at night, they come out to eat small organisms. You may see a Brittle star or Serpent star moving along the rocks looking for food.
There are also dangerous species that come out at night. You may notice a Green Moray Eel peering out at you – give it space! Moray eels can pack a mean bite, but if you stay away, they will leave you alone. Another species to be careful of is the Spotted Scorpionfish. They have great camouflage that disguises them as rocks. However, their dorsal spines are venomous, so don’t accidentally step on them. Another venomous creature you may find is the Bearded Fireworm. These guys look dangerous with their white setae that sting and cause a burning sensation. Look, but do not touch!
Finally, the coveted creature of nocturnal tide pooling is the illusive Caribbean Reef Octopus. This nocturnal species hunts at night for fish and crustaceans. Octopus are very intelligent and have fantastic camouflage abilities. They can change color and texture using specialized skin cells called chromatophores and have been known to disguise themselves with coconuts and algae. All of this makes them one of the toughest species to find. Keep a sharp eye peeled for one of their eight arms!
During nocturnal tide pooling, you never know what you will find. With past school groups, we have found a Southern Stingray, sea turtles, Sea Cucumbers, and many fish! Thanks for coming along on this adventure, and don’t forget to do some daytime tide pooling next time you visit Pigeon Key.