Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 24th, 2014

Low Tide: 0.8' @ 1:48 PM

First official day of Oregon Spring Break - and it was a lovely one. The winds didn't pick up until the end of the shift so visitors were out on the beach in large numbers. Our highest count was 148 people in the intertidal.

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus luecocephalis) continue to make regular appearances at the Rock, usually resulting in the Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis) taking off from the cliffs in a raucous cloud of white and grey.

There was an unconfirmed case of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome observed at Haystack Rock by staff and visitors over the weekend. Photos were sent to researchers at U.C. Santa Cruz, but it is important to note that nothing will be confirmed until monitoring can be set up. This may be an isolated case, if it is even the disease, and more research will need to be done.

Sea Star Wasting Syndrome is a description of symptoms found in many species of sea stars. It is characterized by the appearance of lesions on the ectoderm, or skin, of them animal. The lesions expand, leading to arm loss and eventually death, sometimes in a matter of days. Observations of the syndrome have been made from Alaska to southern California, though few cases have been documented thus far in Oregon. Because of the geographic span of the outbreak and it's potential to rapidly affect sea star populations, monitoring prior to and during the event is of great importance. This will allow researchers to estimate impacts of wasting syndrome and document recovery.

The photos below show the animal observed at Haystack Rock over a period of a few days.

Sea star with whitish lesion appearing on arm, photo take on Mar. 21st.

Same Sea Star with arm missing, photo taken on Mar. 24th. Again, this case is unconfirmed but we would like staff, volunteers and visitors to be aware of a potential observation.


The Haystack Rock Awareness Program and the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe) are partnering to seek citizen support in monitoring local sea star populations. HRAP will be hosting an informational session with U.C. Santa Cruz research associate Melissa Miner on April 7th, from 5:00 PM  - 7:00 PM, at Cannon Beach City Hall (163 E. Gower, Cannon Beach, 97110). The event is open to the public and will focus on Sea Star Wasting Syndrome information and monitoring protocols. 

See the flyer below for more information on the meeting or visit MARINe's website at for information on Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.

March 23rd, 2014

Low Tide: 0.7' @ 12:32 PM

We had our first visitor count of over 200 people during Sunday's shift, with 202 people counted in the intertidal at one time. The weather was sunny and the winds light, which drew the early Spring Breakers to Haystack Rock.  Staff and volunteers had their hands full providing information, education, and tours of the ecosystems at the Rock.

In this post I want to especially thank our many dedicated and talented volunteers that make the Haystack Rock Awareness Program possible. Thanks to the enthusiastic help of volunteers during this shift, we were able to man a bird station helping to keep some pressure off the intertidal and give visitors a chance to see the start of nesting activity on the Rock. We had a couple volunteers who were unable to be on their feet during the shift, so instead they chatted with visitors from chairs and showed off some of the exciting creatures found at Haystack Rock by using laminated photos and fact sheets. It just goes to show that every little bit helps and there is an opportunity to interpret for everyone!

If you would like to volunteer with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program our upcoming Spring Volunteer Interpreter Training is a great way to "get your feet wet"! Join us on Saturday, April 5th, from 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM. We'll give an overview of the program, introduce you to volunteering with HRAP, have a presentation by local geologist Tom Horning, and join HRAP Staff on the beach for a hands on school group training! Returning and new volunteers are welcome to attend!

For more information check out the flyer below, or contact HRAP Volunteer Coordinator, Alix Lee, to register: or 503-436-8095.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 22nd, 2014

Low Tide: 0.6' @ 11:26 AM

With beautiful, sunny weather and light winds HRAP staff and volunteers were busy educating and interpreting for the large number of visitors to Haystack Rock on Saturday. Our highest visitor count during the shift was 186 people in the intertidal.

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus luecocepahlis) have been seen almost daily during our recent shifts, hunting the intertidal and soaring over the Rock. There are two nesting pairs in the area that visit Haystack Rock. Keep an eye out for them and for the occasional juvenile or sub-adult passing by.

March 21st, 2013

Low Tide: 0.4' @ 10:33

With the rain finally breaking and the sun coming out after so many windy days on the beach, Friday's shift was a welcome relief to HRAP staff and volunteers. Visitor's appreciated the weather as well with our highest count at 56 people in the intertidal.

Our creature highlights from the day included:

  • A pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalis) hunting
  • A six-armed Ochre Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus)
  • Matts of Dogwinkle Whelk Snail eggs (Nucella sp.)
  • Opalescent Nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis)
  • Janolus Nudibranch (Janolus fuscus) - Our first sighting so far this season!
Six-armed Ochre Sea Star

Dogwinkle Whelk Snail Egg mass on the underside of a boulder.

Check back to this post as I try to get more photos from this shift!

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 16th, 2014

Low Tide: 1.3' @ 7:22 AM

Wrapping up the weekend with an early shift, HRAP staff spent another day exploring the edges of the intertidal and avoiding the high surges. At least the wind had died down from the night before. Our highest visitor count during the shift was 4 people in the intertidal. Not many were tempted out so early in the morning, but our staff was there to provide interpretation and educational opportunities to the few who were.

When there is little exposure in the intertidal, a lot of attention is shifted to the birds of Haystack Rock. Every shift we're seeing more Western Gulls (Larus Occidentalis) establishing nesting sites on the Rock. In addition, HRAP staff observed Pelagic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) exhibiting nesting behavior and establishing nest sites on the south cliffs. Keep an eye out over the next month as more species return to Haystack Rock!

Other highlights included:
  • Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalis) - seen flying around the Rock several times before heading off NE
  • Common Murres (Uria aalge)
  • Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus)

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here is a special "creature feature" for all of you Irish, and Irish at heart, Haystack Rock fans!

The tidepools at Haystack Rock are full of creatures that show their “heritage” in beautiful displays of color year-round. Going with the theme of the day, some intertidal animals and plants brighten the landscape in varying tones of green and yellow. Giant Green Sea anemones, sea lettuce, and sea lemons are just a few of the many living organisms we see at Haystack Rock that remind me of my Irish background. Though one of my favorites dons it’s green attire to blend in with it’s environment, like many of us do on St. Patty’s to avoid getting pinched!

Tidepool Sculpin (Oligocottus maculosus) inhabit tidepools in nearly all intertidal zones from the Bering Sea to southern California. At Haystack Rock, we see these small, up to 3 1/2 inches, fish during almost every shift. While common and well studied by scientists, these animals are incredibly interesting and adapted to living in the harsh intertidal. Tidepool Sculpin have been found tolerant of extreme temperature changes, from the cold waters at high tide to the high temperatures of shallow tidepools during lows. They are also able to smell their way back “home” to their original tide pool when they venture out or are displaced during time of extreme low tides. 

Just like we dress in green on St. Patrick’s day to avoid being pinched, the Tidepool Sculpin is able to change its color to blend in the environment. In sand and rock dominated areas, the Tidepool Sculpin’s coloration is mottled brown and grey with darker pigment bands across its back. When it moves to algae dominated areas, the sculpin is able to change the pigmentation in it’s melanophores (pigment cells in the skin) to match the green color of the algae! These fish are so good at camouflage, it is often difficult to spot them until they move in quick bursts of speed. Keep a close eye out for these and many other exciting creatures in the tidepools at Haystack Rock!

Tidepool Sculpin exhibiting brown and grey coloration pattern. Image from http-// 

Tidepool Sculpin in St. Patrick’s Day green blending in with algae. Image from 

Information above provided by The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest (Sept, Duane. 1999. The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing).

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

March 15th, 2014

Low Tide: 0.8' @ 7:03 PM

Saturday was HRAP's first evening shift of the season! Once again high surge and strong winds left little of the tide pool area around Haystack Rock exposed for exploration. It didn't keep visitors off of the beach though, with our highest count at 39 people in the internal during the shift.

Our creature highlight for the night was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalis) spotted hunting by staff.

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 9th, 2014

Low Tide: 1.5' @ 2:31 PM

Sunday was another day of high surge and little exposure at Haystack Rock. HRAP staff and volunteers worked diligently to save signs from the surge, search the outskirts of the tide pools for interesting creatures, and help visitors stay safe during the unpredictable water. At least the wind had died down. The warm temperature and break from the dusts drew visitors on to the beach and encouraged exploration. Our highest count during the shift was 34 people in the intertidal.

It was another day of infrequent creature sightings, but we were able to catch a quick glimpse of a Pacific Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) in the water just north of the Rock! Other sightings included:

  • Rafts of Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) south of Haystack Rock
  • 2 Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani)
  • 1 Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)
  • 2 male Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus)

March 8th, 2014

Low Tide: 1.4' @ 12:22 PM

Saturday was a gusty day at Haystack Rock. Visitors, volunteers, and HRAP staff alike were hunkering down in rain coats and walking at angles into the wind. Even with high surges, low exposure, and high winds visitors still sought out the tide pools. Our highest count during the shift was 17 people in the intertidal.

There were few creature sightings during the day, however Junior Volunteer Alanna had an exciting encounter! After spotting a Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) scavenging something in front of the  HRAP truck, Alanna went to get a closer look. As she approached, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalis) swept in just in front of her and snatched whatever the gull had been feeding on. An exciting site to see!

We are looking forward to more fascinating encounters this season so keep checking back for more updates!

March 7th, 2014

Low Tide: 1.1' @ 11:18 AM

After a week of rain and blowing winds, Friday turned out to be a beautiful day on the beach at Haystack Rock. Due to surges on the south side of the Rock, less of the intertidal was exposed than is usual during low tides of this height, but visitors were still drawn to the tidepools as the sunny weather enticed people outside. Our highest count for Friday was 26 people in the intertidal.

We observed our first nesting behavior of the season during this shift! Western Gulls, Larus occidentalis, were seen establishing nesting sites on the Rock. This species nests in colonies on rocky islands, often amongst other gull species. Western Gull nests are a scrape in the ground filled with vegetation, feathers, rope, plastic, or other items.

An interesting fact about Western Gulls: they are an opportunistic feeder and have been known to steal milk from lactating female seals while they lie on their backs sleeping on the beach!

(Photo Credit: Lisa Habecker, Information Above provided by:

Other creature highlights included:
  • Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata)
  • Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus)

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 2nd, 2014

Low Tide: 0.6' @ 7:08 AM

We had a short and wet morning at Haystack Sunday, with an early low tide and some blustery winds. Our staff and volunteers were still able to interact with visitors though, with our highest count at 17 people in the intertidal.

We welcomed two new staff members to our HRAP team yesterday! Deborah Strock joined us on the beach for her first shift and Junior Interpreter Katie Corliss joined the rest of the staff for a training session at City Hall. Make sure to welcome them during your next visit to Haystack Rock!

The creature highlight of the day was waiting for us when we pulled up on the beach - a Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrines, was perched on top of the Rock! As the morning progressed, we were lucky enough to see the Peregrine defend it’s territory from a sub-adult Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, that came a little too close to Haystack. 

Peregrine Falcon (Falco Peregrines)

Once an endangered species in the United States, Peregrine Falcon populations have made a great comeback since the outlaw of pesticides like DDT. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica, and particularly thrive on the coasts. Preferring wide-open spaces, look for Peregrines perching or nesting on tall structures like Haystack Rock. These birds perform spectacular aerial assaults when hunting. They catch medium sized birds in mid-air with swift dives, sometimes reaching speeds of 200 mph!

Distinguishing characteristics include a blue-gray coloration with significant barring underneath, a dark “helmet", and a dark “mustache” in adults. Peregrine Falcons have a long tail and long, pointed wings.

(photo and information above provided by:

Other creature highlights included:
  • 10 Pelagic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)
  • 1 Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)
  • 2 Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani)
  • 3 Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus)
  • 1 Rufus Tipped Nudibranch (Acanthodoris nanaimoensis)

Come out and visit HRAP this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (March 7th - 9th) during low tide at Haystack Rock to see these and many more exciting creatures for yourself!