Beachcombing for Sea Beans in Bermuda - Observation of the Week, 5/31/22

Our Observation of the Week is this “sea bean” (Macropsychanthus comosus), seen in Bermuda by @miguel-mejias1987!

“My passion for nature dates back to my early childhood, and man, all the signs were there!” says Miguel Mejias, who hails from Bermuda. 

As a little boy, I remember running up and down my garden chasing after butterflies with a handheld net. I also had my own collection of isopods (“rolly pollies,” we kids called them) that I kept in a box under my bed; I still remember my mother screaming as they crawled all over my floor after she had unknowingly knocked the box lid off while sweeping my room.

Now thirty-four years old, Miguel’s focus is mostly on bird conservation and behavior. He studied the breeding biology and migration of Bermudian White-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus catesbyi, known as “longtails” in Bermuda) for his master’s degree and is researching the breeding and singing behavior of Bermuda’s White-eyed Vireos (Vireo griseus bermudianus) for his doctoral thesis. “I count myself lucky in being able to research species in my country,” he explains. Miguel credits his grandfather figure, Dr. David Wingate, for his mission to conserve birds and other endemic species of Bermuda. 

As a naturalist, Miguel says he appreciates many non-bird organisms and he credits his friend Luke Foster (@lukef2006) for getting him into beachcombing for sea beans a few months ago.

I found this particular individual by literally kicking about dried Sargassum on a beach, and it slowly rolled down a shallow sand mount; it’s the biggest “purse” I’ve ever seen. Its initial beauty was obscured by dried, white, coral growth, which indicated to me that it was adrift for several months, at least. I consider every sea bean I find a treasure and the sheer luck of finding one, rare or common, is something I never take for granted.

This seed comes from Macropsychanthus comosus, which is native to tropical coastal forests in the Caribbean and from Mexico down into South America, Miguel tells me. 

From these forests, seeds or “sea beans” drop into the rivers, which are flooded during the rain seasons, and can be carried out to the ocean, where they drift in currents to faraway places. While considered a very common find among US shores along the Gulf of Mexico, it is fairly uncommon in Bermuda. It’s my favourite species of sea bean because of the diverse array of patterning of the seed case, across individual beans.

“I originally intended to use iNaturalist strictly for bird sightings, but I realized that’s what I have eBird for!” says Miguel (above, with a longtail). 

But I found, personally, that I wasn’t enjoying it as much, and I started to feel like it was a chore, instead of actual enjoyment. So, I started to submit observations, regardless if it was new or a repeat of another species, whenever I genuinely wish to post something, as opposed to throwing in a bunch of random things, to keep my rankings up; I enjoy it much more this way. Although I intend to iNat wherever life takes me, I think my primary goal is to document as much biodiversity in my home country of Bermuda as possible. Overall, I would say iNaturalist continues to reinforce what I’ve always known; life is precious and diverse, and it's worth protecting, at all costs.

(Photo of Miguel by Fae Sapsford. Miguel had the proper permit to handle the bird.)

- You can see Miguel’s publications here.

- This is an informative blog post about sea beans.

- Below is a photo Miguel took after a day of beachcomiing. Featured beans, by their beachcombing names: Sea Hearts (Entada gigas), Sea Purses (Macropsychanthus comosus), Sea Hamburgers (Mucuna sp.), and Star Nut (Astrocaryum sp.). 

Publicado el 31 de mayo de 2022 a las 09:44 PM por tiwane tiwane


Beans on the beach! How cool (: Congrats on the feature @miguel-mejias1987

Anotado por biocowboy hace casi 2 años

What fun! Excellent!

Anotado por susanhewitt hace casi 2 años

So many neat finds, and neat bird!

Anotado por mbwildlife hace casi 2 años

Hurray! You do so much for Bermuda!

Anotado por maryah hace casi 2 años

Nothing better than a day spent beach-combing! Thank you for sharing your finds!

Anotado por lisa_bennett hace casi 2 años

Super! What a surprise to see Sea-beans being featured! I've been picking them up and writing about them in Florida since I was a child. They connect people, places, and nature and can travel ocean currents for decades before coming to rest on distant shores. Happy Beachcombing!

Anotado por seaheart88 hace casi 2 años

Thanks so much, everyone! This blog post makes a fitting early birthday present, given my newfound hobby! Special thanks again to @tiwane for this amazing write up. :)

I learned quickly that beachcombing and birdwatching share many parallels, which is probably why I got hooked on the former so quickly. First, you become accustomed to “hot spots” that you frequent quite regularly. Second, you just never know what “goodies,” whether common or rare, will be there waiting for you on any given day. Third, one can appreciate the great distances these beans travel from their tropical destinations, just to reach the shores of Bermuda by chance!

Anotado por miguel-mejias1987 hace casi 2 años

I can credit both @miguel-mejias1987 and @lukef2006 for a memorable trip to Bermuda earlier this year. Two fantastic naturalists exploring an island that is popular as a tourist destination, but almost entirely overlooked by biologists and hobbyists alike. Having eyes like theirs out in Bermuda is a boon to our community. Keep up the good work guys!

Anotado por silversea_starsong hace casi 2 años

I love it! There's just something so satisfying about a nice, smooth seed. I'm so impressed with the diversity you can find in one day, @miguel-mejias1987!

Anotado por carrieseltzer hace casi 2 años

What a beautiful collection! :)

Anotado por carolr hace casi 2 años

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