Monday, February 24, 2014

February 23, 2014

Low Tide: 1.2' @ 1:16 PM

Our second shift at Haystack Rock was another successful day of intertidal interpretation and education. The weather started out partly sunny and warm, but by the end we were holding onto our hats and dripping wet in the wind and rain. Despite the changing conditions, we had a good number of visitors peering into the tide pools with our highest count at 69 people.

Adding to the list of nudibranch species we've seen this year, we spotted a Flabellina trillineata and a Red nudibranch (Rostanga pulchra). Flabellina trillineata can look very similar to the Opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda carssicornis) another common species we see at the Rock (including the 4 we found on Sunday). Flabellina trillineata can be distinguished by the three white lines down it's body while H. crassicornis has two clear blue lines down it's sides. Can you see the differences?

Flabellina trillineata (photo from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/flabtril)

Hermissenda carssicornis seen at Haystack Rock (photo credit: Caitlin Chew)

Other new sightings included a raft of hundreds of Common Murres (Uria aalge) on the north side of Haystack Rock. Murres spend the winter at sea, sometimes up to 100 miles offshore. As spring approaches, thousands are making their way back to the coast lines to breed and many will be nesting on the Rock. We also spotted a female Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) on the south side of Haystack. Typically found in marine waters in the winter, the Greater Scaup can be seen on lakes, ponds and bays. A surface diver, A. marila feeds on clams, snails, crustaceans and aquatic insects. Not a common sight at Haystack Rock, so keep an eye out for this bird!

Aythya marila in breeding plumage, male on left and female on right.
Non-breeding male looks simile to female with a much less distinct white patch on face.
(photo and info from http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/greater_scaup/id)

Other sightings from Sunday included 2 Rufus Tipped (Acanthodoris nanaimoensis) nudibranchs, Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata), and a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 22nd, 2014 - Welcome Back HRAP!

Low Tide: 1.4' @ 11:57 AM

Our first day back on the beach in 2014 was sunny and beautiful. Our highest visitor count was 105 people.

Besides the usual sea stars, anemones, and muscles, we found our first nudibranchs of the season. The queen of nudibranchs and staff interpreter, Lisa Habecker, sighted an Opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis) after searching the tidepools. This species is identifiable by the bright orange projections (cerata) on it's back, colorful yellow-green body, and clear blue line along it's sides. An interesting fact about H. crassicornis include it's ability to incorporate the stinging cells (nematocysts) of hydroids they ingest into their cerata. By the end of the day we had seen 3 of this species.

An Opalescent nudibranch out of the water at low tide

Another notable nudibranch we found was a Rufus Tipped (Acanthodoris nanaimoensis). Identified by its yellow tipped cerata covering a white or gray body, with red tipped antennae-like rhinopores. We found two in the tidepools.

We were briefly visited by a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and we also spotted our Black Oystercatcher (Heamatopus bachmani) parents and fledgeling on the north side of the Rock. Between the needles and Haystack, we spotted a Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) diving amongst the waves.

It was a wonderful first day on the beach and we are looking forward to many more this season. Hope to see you in the intertidal and keep checking back for more sightings!

HRAP staff and volunteers educating visitors about intertidal ecology