Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 11th - August 17th, 2014

Daily Low Tides

Monday, August 11th
Low tide: -1.4' @ 7:44 AM
Low tide: 0.7' @ 7:56 PM

Tuesday, August 12th
Low tide: -1.2' @ 8:27 AM

Wednesday, August 13th
Low tide: -0.8' @ 9:09 AM

Thursday, August 14th
Low tide: -0.2' @ 9:52 AM

Friday, August 15th
Low tide: 0.5' @ 10:35 AM

Saturday, August 16th
Low tide: 1.2' @ 11:22 AM

Sunday, August 17th
Low tide: 1.9' @ 12:16 PM

Notes from the week

The HRAP team spotted lots of nudibranchs, or sea slugs, this week, including the leopard, shaggy mouse, red (or Rostanga) and opalescent. These animals are molluscs-- as are snails, chitons, limpets, clams, squid, and octopus! Most molluscs have at least a bit of shell-- one notable exception being the octopus-- and even most sea slugs have a shell in their larval stage. Sea slugs often specialize on a cnidarian (animals with stinging cells, like jellyfish and anemones). Not only are they undeterred by these animals' stinging cells (or cnidocytes) but they actually store them in their bodies and use them as their own defense! They pack these cnidocytes into their cerata, the fleshy tubes projecting from the backs of many nudibranchs, including the shaggy mouse and the opalescent.

In bird news, the oystercatchers valiantly defended their nest this week against seagull intruders. Also, the gull chicks are officially fledging! HRAP staff observed the chicks testing out their wings on Monday.

Yet more Velella velella are washing up on Cannon Beach., a site maintained by folks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, have come up with a fun and easy Velella citizen science experiment. Velella's characteristic sail is twisted to the left or to the right (an anatomical quirk that can have big consequences for the jelly)-- to participate in this "experiment," note the twists of 10 Velella. If all ten twist the same way, note how many more you have to count before you find an individual that twists the other direction. Check out the jellywatch page about Velella for more information.

Creature Highlights

HRAP staff spotted a cabezon in the tidepools this week.

If you're having trouble spotting this fish, then its camouflage is working!

Cabezon, named for their big heads, are a predator of the nearshore and intertidal. And humans, in turn, are predators on them! These are considered a game species-- which makes more sense when you realize they can grow a lot bigger than the individual photographed, up to 23 pounds.

  • Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)
  • Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
  • Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)
  • Purple sails (Velella velella)
  • Red rock crab (Cancer productus)
  • Ochre star (Pisaster ochraceus)
  • Leopard nudibranchs (Diaulula sandiegensis)
  • Shaggy mouse nudibranch (Aeolidia papillosa)
  • Red nudibranch (Rostanga pulchra)
  • Leopard nudibranch (Diaulula sandiegensis)
  • Opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis)

Ruppert, E. and Barnes, R. Invertebrate Zoology. 6th ed. Thomson Learning. 1994. 

Kozloff, E. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast: An Illustrated Guide to Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press. 1993.

Sept, J. D. The Beachcomber's Guide to Seashore Life of California. Revised edition. Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbor Publishing. 2002. Accessed 8/26/2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 4th - August 10th 2014

Daily Low Tides

Monday, August 4th
Low tide: 2.3' @ 12:34 PM

Tuesday, August 5th
Low tide: 2.7' @ 1:43 PM

Wednesday, August 6th
Low tide: 2.8' @ 2:58 PM

Thursday, August 7th
Low tide: 2.6' @ 4:08 PM

Friday, August 8th
Low tide: -0.8' @ 5:22 AM
Low tide: 2.2' @ 5:10 PM

Saturday, August 9th
Low tide: -1.2' @ 6:13 AM
Low tide: 1.7' @ 6:08 PM

Sunday, August 10th
Low tide: -1.4' @ 6:59 AM
Low tide: 1.2' @ 7:03 PM

Notes from the week

Another busy week here at Haystack Rock, both for the humans and for the birds! Tufted puffins can still be seen guarding their burrows, and the black oystercatcher pair continues incubating their precious eggs, which should be hatching any day now. Oystercatcher hatchlings are precocious and able to leave the nest as soon as their downy feathers dry-- usually within about 24 hours of hatching; tufted puffin hatchlings aren't quite as mobile and must stay in the nest longer. Both species stick by their parents' side until they are close to adult size.

We had a couple of unusual animal sightings on Sunday. In the morning, we spotted a salmon trapped in one of the tidepools!

A salmon found its way into a Haystack Rock tide pool this weekend. 

On Sunday afternoon, we glimpsed a six-rayed star tucked between a couple aggregating anemones on a tidepool rock. These stars are different from the ochre star (the purple and orange stars more commonly found at Haystack Rock) in a number of ways. First, as their name implies, they have six arms instead of five; second, they reach adult size at just 9 cm instead of 25 cm, and third, their parenting style is much more hands-on (rays-on?) The mother star will brood her babies for over a month, clinging to the rock by the tips of her rays and holding her babies beneath her. When the tiny stars have developed tube feet capable of clinging to the rock, the mother star can finally release them, flatten against the rock, and resume eating.

Many six-rayed stars are a drab gray or olive green-- not this one!

Creature Highlights

A common question HRAP interpreters are asked is, "What are all those green blobs?" In fact, many visitors to Haystack Rock don't even think about the "green blobs" at all-- that's why we have to step in to make sure visitors don't scramble over the rocks and crush them. They don't look alive, and they certainly don't look active.

But the common aggregating sea anemone-- which does indeed look like a green blob when it is out of water-- is more active than you might think. These animals are capable of cloning themselves, typically by splitting in two, and in fact can create large, tight groups of genetically identical individuals. When one such group encroaches on another group's territory, war ensues-- clone wars! And the anemones are well-equipped to do battle.

Aggregating sea anemones always bear these club-shaped stinging tentacles in a crown below their oral disc, but they usually only extend them when they feel threatened by invading unrelated anemones. These clubs are called "acrorhagi."

The next time you visit the tide pools, take a look at the blankets of "green blobs" on the rocks. You may notice a break between clusters of anemones. It may not look it, but that's an active battle ground. Check out a great video of this here

  • Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)
  • Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
  • Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)
  • Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
  • Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
  • Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)
  • Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)
  • Purple sails (Velella velella)
  • Sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus)
  • Lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)
  • Red rock crab (Cancer productus)
  • Ochre star (Pisaster ochraceus)
  • Surf perch 
  • Shore crabs
  • Sand dollar (Dendraster excentricus)
  • Sea lemons (Anisodoris nobilis)
  • Leopard nudibranchs (Diaulula sandiegensis)
  • flatworm
  • Salmon
  • Six-rayed star (Leptasterias hexactis)

Ruppert, E. and Barnes, R. Invertebrate Zoology. 6th ed. Thomson Learning. 1994. 

Elphick, C., Dunning, J., Sibley, D. (eds) The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, 2nd ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Kozloff, E. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast: An Illustrated Guide to Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press. 1993. Accessed: 8/15/14 Accessed: 8/15/14

Sunday, August 10, 2014

July 28th - August 3rd 2014

Daily Low Tides

Monday, July 28th
Low tide: 2.0' @ 8:28 PM

Tuesday, July 29th
Low tide: -0.1' @ 8:52 AM

Wednesday, July 30th
Low tide: 0.2' @ 9:20 AM

Thursday, July 31st
Low tide: 0.5 @ 9:48 AM

Friday, August 1st
Low tide: 0.9' @ 10:18 AM

Saturday, August 2nd
Low tide: 1.3' @ 10:54 AM

Sunday, August 3rd
Low tide: 1.9' @ 11:38 AM

Notes from the week

The unusually large beaching event of purple hydroid "jellyfish" known as Velella velella continued this week. A couple of other maritime creatures visited the shore as well, including a lion's mane jellyfish on Wednesday and a juvenile harbor seal on Thursday.

 Lion's mane jellyfish washed up on the sand.

In addition to these animals, the waves brought us some beautiful sand patterns.

Sort of an "art deco" sand pattern.

Sand patterns can be like a Rorschach inkblot test. One volunteer saw a scallop shell here. What do you see?
On Friday, we were also lucky enough to witness a hermit crab seek out a new shell (see below) and another female hermit crab carrying bright red eggs.

A group of 45 high school students visited us that day, as did another group of 23 adults.

Creature Highlights

Let's talk about hermit crabs!

We'll leave a discussion of crab classification to the experts, but it's worth noting that hermits are part of the group "Anomura" within the crustaceans (themselves a type of arthropod, along with insects and spiders). "True" crabs like the Dungeness are a different type of crustacean, a group known as the "Brachyura." The differences between the two groups are somewhat subtle, and mainly depend on the architecture of the legs and abdomen.

But any schoolchild will tell you what really makes a hermit crab stand out: it doesn't have its own shell!

A hermit crab photographed while on the hunt for a new shell. HRAP staff observed this animal leave its current shell for a larger one, only to find that the new shell was already occupied. It retreated back to its original shell. Better luck next time!

This unusual but highly successfully strategy makes hermit crabs a cosmopolitan group consisting of many species-- including some that live on land! (What do they use as housing? Pieces of bamboo!) The adaptation to this nomadic, squatter-like existence begins early on in the hermit crab's life cycle, when the larva begins to develop asymmetrically in order to better occupy twisted snail shells in the future.

Hermits are both opportunistic and selective when it comes to choosing a new shell to live in. At Haystack Rock, we often seen them occupying black turban and dogwinkle shells. Once it moves in, the hermit will sometimes decorate its new shell with sea anemones, whose stinging, sticky tentacles ward off predators like crabs and octopuses.

Hermits are also opportunistic feeders, usually living off of the detritus- bits of dead animals-- left in the tidepools, although some have a specialized method of filter feeding, and one or two species is an active predator. Mostly, though, they are scavengers-- a key role in the ecology of the tidepool.

The humble hermit crab serves as a reminder that even the animals we're used to seeing all the time have complex and interesting stories to tell. We tend to focus our attention on creatures that are rare and mysterious, but it's worth taking a closer look at the more commonplace animals from time to time.

  • Black oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani).
  • Western gull (Larus occidentalis) -juveniles seen hopping about, practicing for flight
  • Tufted puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)
  • Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
  • Purple sails (Velella velella)
  • Dungeness crabs (Cancer magister) -seen mating
  • Sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus)
  • Lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)
  • hermit crabs
  • Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) pup

Brusca, R.C. and Brusca, G.J. (eds.) Invertebrates. 2nd ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc. 2003.

Lamb, A. and Hanby, B. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest: A Photographic Encyclopeida of Invertebrates, Seaweeds and Selected Fishes. Maderia Park B.C. Harbour Publishing, 2005.

Hazlett, B. A. The behavioral ecology of hermit crabs. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 12: 1-22. 1981. Accessed 8/10/14.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July 21st-July 27th 2014

Daily Low Tides

Monday, July 21st
Low tide: 2.4' @ 2:41 PM

Tuesday, July 22nd
Low tide: 2.6' @ 3:52 PM

Wednesday, July 23rd
Low tide: -0.3' at 5:12 AM
Low tide: 2.6' @ 4:49 PM

Thursday, July 24th
Low tide: -0.5' @ 5:59AM
Low tide: 2.5 @ 5:40 PM

Friday, July 25th
Low tide: -0.6@ 6:40 AM
Low tide: 2.4' @ 6:26 PM

Low tide: -0.6@ 7:17 AM
Low tide: 2.3' @ 7:10 PM

Low tide: -0.5@ 7:52 AM
Low tide: 2.2'@ 7:50 PM

Notes from the Week

HRAP staff and volunteers worked extra hard this week covering double daily low tides. For tide pool enthusiasts like us, one of the joys of summer is good low tides and long daylight hours to take advantage of them. Another joy of summer is beautiful weather, which we've had in spades lately-- except for Wednesday, when multiple squalls, complete with bursts of torrential rain, interrupted one of our beach shifts. Kudos to our visitors for braving the bouts of bad weather with good humor and enthusiasm.

The day before, we also suffered a setback when the HRAP truck wouldn't start. This is the truck that carries our signs, binoculars, spotting scopes, field guides, and other equipment that helps us successfully educate visitors about the wildlife of Haystack Rock. We're currently fundraising for a new truck, one suited for life on the beach that will last us a decade or more. Visit if you're able to donate!

On Thursday, HRAP staff chose to close the intertidal to Homo sapiens visitors so that black turnstones could feed there uninterrupted. Black turnstones are a staple of the intertidal bird community, and as their name suggests, they forage by turning over stones to eat the crabs, barnacles, and limpets underneath.

The Needles hosted some great wildlife this week, including a purple sea urchin (see below) and Brown Pelicans diving for fish. While most pelicans sieve fish from the surface of the water, Brown Pelicans "plunge-dive," using the force of their impact to stun fish before scooping them into their stretchy throat pouches. Their dives are so forceful that they create a splash that is often mistaken for whale spouts.

Brown Pelicans tuck their heads in and rotate their body left as they dive. It's thought that this position protects their trachea and esophagus as they collide into the water. Photo by Susan Glarum.

As common as Brown Pelicans are today-- coastal residents may think of V-shaped flocks of pelicans as an emblem of everyday life here-- this is a species that faced extinction as a result of the pesticide DDT. Made famous by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, DDT disrupts the birds' calcium metabolism so that they lay thin-shelled eggs which can't bear the weight of their parents' feet. Pelicans have made a spectacular recovery following the ban of DDT but still face threats from oil spills and habitat degradation.

Speaking of happily nesting birds, eight tufted puffins were spotted constructing new burrows on the north side of the rock on Sunday. Staff interpreter and regular blog contributor Susan Glarum provided us with this fantastic shot of a puffin landing on the rock.

  A tufted puffin touches down. Photo by Susan Glarum

Creature Highlights

Sure, you've seen your fill of aggregating and green sea anemones-- but have you ever heard of a rose anemone? How about a moon glow anemone?

Rose anemone in the sand. 

Rose anemones have pink columns and white or pink tentacles and oral discs. Moonglow anemones are also called burrowing anemones. They tend to look like blobs in the sand, but in actuality they are often living in the holes excavated by boring bivalves. (Don't let the name fool you. Some of us find these to be among the most exciting of the clam species.) Moonglow anemones are characterized by white horizontal stripes on their tentacles, and can appear a bright green if colonized by algae.

As hinted above, we were lucky enough to spot a purple sea urchin at the needles this week. Smaller, more purple, and shorter-lived than its big red cousin the red sea urchin, these echinoderms (a member of the sea star family) are a common inhabitant of the rocky shore, but are hard to find without a good low tide exposing them.

Purple sea urchins like this one rely on the crashing waves of the low intertidal to bring them snacks in the form of algae, like this sea lettuce (Ulva sp).


  • Brown Pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis)
  • Black Turnstones (Arenaria melanocephala)
  • Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)
  • Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
  • Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
  • Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)

  • Purple sails (Vellela vellela)
  • Dungeness crabs (Cancer magister)
  • Aggregate anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima)
  • olive snails (Olivella sp.)
  • rock louse (Ligia sp.)
  • tube worms [Polychaete (a class of Annelid, or segmented) worms]
  • Ochre star (Pisaster ochraceous)
  • tube snout/needle fish (Aulorhynchus flavidus) 
  • Leopard sea slug (Diaulula sandiegensis)
  • Lemon sea slug (Anisodoris nobilis)
  • Opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis)
  • Shaggy mouse nudibrach (Aelid papillosa)


Lamb, A. and Hanby, B. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest: A Photographic Encyclopeida of Invertebrates, Seaweeds and Selected Fishes. Maderia Park B.C. Harbour Publishing, 2005. Accessed 8/2/2014 Accessed 8/2/2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

July 7th - July 13th 2014

Daily Low Tides

Monday, July 7th
Low Tide: 2.6' @ 2:21 PM

Tuesday, July 8th
Low Tide: 2.7' @ 3:25 PM

Wednesday, July 9th
Low Tide: 2.7' @ 4:26 PM

Thursday, July 10th
Low Tide: -0.7' @ 5:45 AM
Low Tide: 2.6' @ 5:25 PM

Friday, July 11th
Low Tide: -1.2 @ 6:34 AM
Low Tide: 2.4 @ 6:21 PM

Saturday, July 12th
Low Tide: -1.5 @ 7:21 AM
Low Tide: 2.1 @ 7:15 PM

Sunday, July 13th
Low Tide: -1.6 @ 8:07 AM - Lowest tide of the year!
Low Tide:1.8 @ 8:09 PM

Notes from the week

Great weather and our lowest tides of the year combined to make this an excellent time to explore the tidepools at Haystack Rock. This post is going to mostly be a list and photos of some of the amazing creatures we saw!

Creature Highlights

  • Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani)- observed in the saddle area potentially looking to nest again?
  • Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalis)
  • Great Blue Herron (Ardea herodias) - flew over and disturbed nesting birds
  • Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba) - observed with chicks, very active and heard calling frequently, spotted returning to their nests with fish
  • Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata) - many observed in the grassy slope on the north and soaring around the rock
  • Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus) - observed feeding chicks

    • Leopard Nudibranch (Diaulula sandiegensis)
    • Granular Claw Crab (Oedignathus inermis)
    • Dungeness Crab (Cancer magister) - male and female spotted
    • Leather Chiton (Katharina tunicata)
    • Lined Chiton (Tonicella lineata)
    • Shaggy Mouse Nudibranch (Aeolid papillosa)
    • Sea Lemon Nudibranch (Anisodoris nobilis) - observed feeding on Bread Crumb Sponge
    • Purple Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpurpatus)
    • Six-rayed Sea Stars (Leptasterias hexactis)
    • Opalescent Nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis)
    • Mossy Chiton (Mopalia muscosa)
    • Olive Snail (Callianax biplicata)
    • Red Rock Crab (Cancer productus)- juveniles and adults observed
    • Red Nudibranch (Rostanga pulchra)
    • Ochre Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus) - adults and juveniles seen, mostly out at the needles
    • Giant Green Anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica)
    • Aggregating Anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima)
    • Bread Crumb Sponge (Halichondria sp.)
    • Red Encrusting Sponge (Ophlitaspongia pennata)
    • Hairy Chiton (Mopalia ciliata)
    • Speckled Limpet (Tectura persona)
    • Purple Encrusting Sponge (Haliclona permollis)

    Photos from Haystack Rock

    A juvenile red rock crab perches on a patch of red encrusting sponge. To the left, a six rayed sea star clings above aggregating anemones. Photo taken by volunteer interpreter Kari Kidd.

    A tiny red nudibranch grazes on its food of choice, red encrusting sponge. The small bump just left of the center of the sponge is the nudibranch. Above photo courtesy of volunteer interpreter Kari Kidd. Photo below taken by staff interpreter Susan Glarum.

    Above: A red rock crab hides in rock crevice next to a lined chiton and giant green sea anemone. Photo taken by staff interpreter Katie Corliss. Below: Another red rock crab peers out from a crack. Photo by staff interpreter Susan Glarum.

    Beautifully colored lined chitons. Photo above courtesy of staff interpreter Katie Corliss, below taken by staff interpreter Susan Glarum.

    Six rayed sea star - they do not get much larger than this. Photo by staff interpreter Katie Corliss.

    A shield limpet hitches a ride from a mossy chiton. Photo courtesy of staff interpreter Katie Corliss.

    Hariy hermit crab. Photo by staff interpreter Susan Glarum.
    Pelagic cormorant and chick. Photo courtesy of staff interpreter Susan Glarum.

    Purple encrusting sponge and aggregating anemones. Photo by staff interpreter Katie Corliss.

    Albino leather chiton - a rare find! Photo from staff interpreter Nadine Nordquist.

    A sea lemon nudibranch chows down on a patch of bread crumb sponge. Photo taken by staff interpreter Susan Glarum.

    Distinction between different colonies of aggregating anemones. Each colony is made up of genetically identical animals. Photo taken by staff interpreter Katie Corliss.

    A purple sea urchin observed clinging to the underside of a large boulder. Photo taken by volunteer interpreter Kari Kidd.

    A pelagic cormorant with its chick. Photo by staff interpreter Susan Glarum.

    Tiny hermit crab balancing act. The larger crab is using a barnacle shell for its home! Photo by staff interpreter Katie Corliss.