Thursday, December 8, 2016

What is That Scurrying On the Sand?

August 8th was a cloudy day with a few sprinkles in the morning at Haystack Rock. Katie Corliss, lead interpreter, along with three additional interpreters were on the beach for the 1.5 ft low tide at 11:13 am. Over five hundred visitors experienced the Marine Garden during the five hours the interpreters were on the beach.

Katie captured a great video of mole crab activity in the sand. In the genus Emerita they are crustaceans commonly known as mole crabs, sand crabs or sand fleas. Related to hermit crabs and stone crabs, the mole crab spends much of its time buried in the sand. It is well camouflaged by its gray shell, burrowing quickly and frequently into the sand. The crab lives in the area of breaking waves, moving up and down the beach with the tides. It feeds by filtering tiny plankton from receding waves using a sweeping motion of an antenna. Check out the video of the crabs scurrying in the sand and burrowing in.


Mole crabs are less that 2 inches in length and can be found along the entire west coast of the US from Alaska to Baja California. Their life span is rarely more than 2 to 3 years and they can reproduce in their first year producing bright orange eggs. Next time you are at the beach, look closely down at the sand near the tide line for these scurrying crabs.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Opalescent Nudibranch In The Sand

Today we look back to August 3rd on the beach. Gina Palmer was the lead interpreter on the beach for the 1.4 ft low tide at 7:46pm. It was a sunny afternoon with a NNW winds between 15 and 25 knots. The opalescent nudibranches, typically found under the boulders in the central pools of Haystack Rock, were today out in the sand.

Opalescent Nudibranch 

The opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis) is an invertebrate that resides in the intertidal rocky shores from Baja California to Alaska. They grow to about 3 inches, subsisting on a diet mainly of hydroids, but will also eat small sea anemones and bryozoans.  A nudibranch lives for a maximum of one year and is hermaphroditic. It's eggs are laid in narrow, coiled strings attached to eelgrass or algae. 

The opalescents are a colorful species of nudibranch, having bright orange areas on their back with a blue line on each side. Next time you're in the intertidal zone at low tide - anywhere on the west coast -take a look in the sand or under boulders for these colorful invertebrates!

Friday, October 28, 2016

That's A Wrap on the 2016 Beach Season

On October 27th we officially wrapped up our 2016 season on the beach. We're still working on our final counts, but as of September 30th, we've interacted with 98,500 people this season both on and off the beach and hosted 52 educational programs on the beach. Now that's an epic season!

HRAP Staff and Volunteers finished the season with an 'End of Season Cleaning and Storage Party' on the 28th. The HRAP trailer was emptied and the equipment cleaned and stowed for the winter.

Planning for the 2017 Beach Season is already underway and we'll be back on the beach in February.

We'll be revisiting the 2016 season on the blog this winter. Check back in with us to learn about the season from the perspective of the HRAP Interpreters.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Red Ascidian Tunicate - Aplidium solidum.

Red Ascidians are tunicates, a marine invertebrate with a hard exterior layer, or tunic, where it get's it's name. The first known species of tunicate dates back to 485.4 millions years ago to the early Cambrian period, when most modern phyla first appeared.


The red ascidians have two siphons which move water in and out of it's body, much like a heart. They grow in colonies up to 20 centimeters long and can be a favorite food of the opalescent nudibranch.

Have you seen a red ascidian at Haystack Rock? Let us know! Happy Tide-pooling!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dendronotus Density Dispatch

Tidepools on the north side of Haystack boasted a startling abundance of nudibranchs in the genus Dendronotus. "Dendrites" is Greek for "treelike." Upon close examination, these creatures with branching bodies did appear treelike.

Individual dendrontid against a background bryozoan.
From a distance, however, the dendrontids looked like a dense growth of algae carpeting the floor of the pool. 

The "blob" in the left-hand corner is a nudibranch "walking" upside down by moving its foot across the surface tension of the water. The mossy growths covering the sand are clusters of dendrontids in uncountable hundreds.

Courtesy of Stephen Grace

Friday, September 9, 2016

Until the next time we see them - Tufted Puffins

This summer, a U.S.F.W.S. volunteer closely monitored the iconic tufted puffins who call Haystack Rock their breeding ground home.

The puffins use this space as their breeding ground, because they prefer to stay close to the ocean shore. Their survival is dependent upon the sea, where they catch the food that they eat and feed their young. 

Puffins eat small fish and squid. They can hold several fish at a time in their large bill, which allows them to transport the fish back to their burrow to feed their chick. Recent studies on Atlantic puffins attribute the successful fledgling, and long term survival of chicks to an adequate food source. When fish populations decline, so do the puffin populations.  

These puffins lay their egg 2-6 feet deep in a burrow. Near the top of Haystack Rock, on the grassy slope. The north side is shielded from the strong south winds. They dig out the soil with their large, shovel like bill, and lay one single white egg. Since it is so deep in the burrow, out of sight of predators, the egg doesn't need much camouflage. 

Puffins are auklets, they are related to the pigeon guillemot and common murre. They are black, football shaped birds with a heavy orange bill. You can spot them flapping their wings furiously, flying in circles out and back to the rock. The reason they are so clumsy on land is because they are built to be out at sea. The murres look just like the puffins when flying, except that they have a while belly and sharp black beak. They look like small penguins.

Murre (left) Puffin (right)

The tufted puffins are seen at Haystack Rock from April - August. While not breeding, the they spend much of their lives up to 60 miles off-shore. They have nothing to land on out there. So, they float on top of the ocean surface and dive up to 200 feet deep. Talk about some incredible survival skills! Many of them are headed back out to sea now. You may spot some stragglers through September if you are lucky.

We received this report on September 3rd from Tim, the U.S.F.W.S. Volunteer who has been monitoring the puffins: "Not a puffin in sight on this gorgeous morning at Haystack rock Cannon Beach. Other observers report that there were several here a week or more ago but that their numbers quickly dwindled. It has been a great season and we will hope for good puffling viability and continued improvement with this population. Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this important project" 
We wish the tufted puffins a safe journey. We hope they have a lot of squid and food sources for the adults and their chicks. We will be waiting to welcome them back and to celebrate their return.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A strange fish caused great excitement at the Rock this last week. A visitor came to the truck to say he'd "found a stingray." When one of our volunteers got to the tidepool, only the eyes in the photo were visible. The fish stayed buried in the sand with only its eyes exposed for about two hours as its pool shrank and warmed. An occasional puff of breath stirred the sand in front of its face. Many visitors stepped to the edge of the pool to stare at its eyes. When the tide came back in and refreshed the pool, the mystery fish finally rose from the sand. It swam around and then reburied itself. The mystery fish is oval, translucent, and this one is about two inches long. Can you guess what species it is?

Courtesy of Stephen Grace