Millions of surf clams (Spisula solidissima) have washed ashore in recent weeks along Rockaway beach, especially in Fort Tilden where they are 2-3 feet deep in some places. Feeding on them are thousands of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. It’s an incredible sight and noone seems sure of why it happens. Surf Clams live in shallow waters along the coast from the intertidal zone down to about 100 feet in depth where they burrow down into the bottom sandy substrate.  Perhaps the recent cold winter impeded their ability to dig down and they were carried ashore by currents and wave action. Another possibility is that a drop in water temperature or salinity impacted them somehow. At any rate, this phenomenon (like the Arctic lemmings) periodically occurs and this year’s mortality is quite impressive. The gulls are happy, however, and it’s too bad they can’t be collected for soup kitchens before they die. The surf clam is commercially harvested and used in canned chowder. I believe that the “lip” of this large clam was the famous fried clam strip sold in Howard Johnson restaurants. Howard who? Pix by Don Riepe, American Littoral Society  017p1_lg.jpg

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