Oysters and (Neptune's) pearls

When I visited Paihia I was most impressed by the spectacle of oyster encrusted rocks along the shore.  The native rock oyster (Saccostrea commercialis) is found in the northern North Island, certainly not as far south as Wellington.  But most of these shells are those of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) which displaced the much smaller local oyster in commercial farming and dominate here, with their larger and sharper shells.  These stick to the rocks tenaciously so even when the oyster is long gone, there is a decorative and painfully memorable (for bare feet and unprotected legs) display.

Oyster encrusted rocks on the shore at Paihia Beach, looking out to Motumaire and Taylor Islands on a sunny late afternoon.  The oysters are protected from harvesting, but seagulls heed no rules!

This is a red-billed seagull, Chroicocephalus scopulinus, a smaller gull which is a New Zealand native, tarapunga or akiaki in Maori.  There is an Australian gull of very similar appearance but apparently they are not closely related.  Like all gulls, it is a scavenger and - new word to me - a kleptoparasite - stealers of food from other gulls or from other species - including unwary eaters of fish and chips on the waterfront.  Anyway, this one was having a more gourmet snack. 

I noticed some brown algae - seaweeds - growing on and around the oyster zone, and was taken by the idea of luxury suggested by the following combination...

One of the common names given to the brown alga Hormosira banksii is "Neptune's pearls."  It is also called Neptune's necklace and sea grapes.  It does look like strings of beads to me, the hollow beads varying in colour depending on the conditions, but generally being olive brown and never opalescent.  Nevertheless, I see oysters and pearls! (and when I can pick the brains of a friendly phycologist, I will be able to write about another brown alga which also made lovely patterns on the shore.)