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!


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