Showing posts from March, 2015

Brought By The Wind!

You never know what you'll find on the beach from day to day. The strong south-west to west winds late last week washed a number of things onto our local beaches. Just in time for SOLVE's Beach Cleanup on Saturday March 28th, there was quite a bit of debris for the volunteers to clean up!

Due to the same winds,  a large number of By-the-wind Sailors (Velella velella) also washed onto the beach. This animal is an open-ocean dweller that lives in colonies floating on or near the surface with each individual up to 10 cm in diameter. The animal's body is composed of an oval 'float' full of gas filled pockets with a 'sail' set diagonally across the top of the float. Hanging down from the underside of the float is a single large-mouthed feeding tube, surrounded by rows of reproductive bodies and numerous blue tentacles around the rim. At sea, the float and sail remain above or near the surface and the sail helps distribute them using the force of the wind. Howeve…

Intertidal Zonation

Each creature that calls Haystack Rock home thrives in a specific environment. Some need to be submerged in water all the time, some can be exposed much of the time, others may just need a splash of water from time to time. Intertidal organisms must also cope with a broad range of temperatures. While they are underwater temperatures are relatively constant, varying by only a few degrees. But over the span of a year while exposed during low tides, temperatures may dip to below freezing or may become scaldingly hot: temperature ranges can vary significantly over a period of a few hours.

This dynamic environment leads to one easily visible feature of intertidal communities: vertical zonation - the tides cause species ranges to be compressed into very narrow bands. What appears as horizontal 'line' near the base of Haystack Rock is a reflection of zonation, with each creature inhabiting the narrow band that suits their needs.

Vertical Zonation evident near the base of Haystack Roc…

A Gull's Life!

Haystack Rock had a healthy dose of rain and wind this past weekend - typical weather for this time of year and quite the change from the mild sunny days we have been enjoying the last two months! While that may have curtailed human visitation to the rock somewhat - and led to the cancelation of the Sunday HRAP shift - it didn't phase the creatures of the rock.

Western Gulls are probably the first species of bird you'll see when you step onto the beach.  They are a stocky bird with a heavy bill. In their first year, they are predominately brown with a dark tail and bill. At full maturity, they have a white breast, gray wings with black tips, a white tail, and a predominately yellow bill.

The gull has a small claw halfway up the lower leg that enables them to sit and roost on high ledges without being blown off - which likely came in handy on Sunday that brought wind gusts up to 100 mph to the beach! Coastal birds, they can drink both fresh and salt water; salt is flushed from …


Spring is just around the corner, although it seems like it arrived in Cannon Beach back in January! Many of the inhabitants of the intertidal have been spawning this last month ensuring their species will continue to inhabit the Rock!

First up is the California Mussel (Mytilus californianus). This mussel, the only mussel in residance at Haystack Rock, can be found from Alaska to Mexico and grows to up to 10 inches long. They gather in dense beds, firmly attached to the rocks and each other,  in the mid-intertidal. The sexes are separate in mussels with each broadcasting their egg and sperm into the surrounding waters where fertilization takes place.

Spawning Male Mussel Photo Courtesy of Lisa Habecker

Spawning Female Mussel Photo Courtesy of Lisa Habecker
Not to be left out, the Moonglow Anemone (Anthopleura artemisia) were also spawning. Like the mussels, the species can broadcast spawn. Once fertilized, the larvae seek a suitable location to settle and then start their life as a yo…

February at the Rock!

It's the start of another great year, Haystack Rock Awareness Program's 30th, at the Rock and what a start it has been!  Staff and volunteer interpreters began manning the beach on 'lucky' Friday the 13th and have just finished three great weekends of support with hardly a raindrop encountered - a real rarity for February on the north Oregon Coast!

February 15th at Haystack Rock Photo by Sarkawt Amir Sabir, a visitor from Kurdistan
Visitors to Cannon Beach in February took the opportunity to visit the rock during our string of sunny days and mild temperatures. The number of visitors topped 100 per hour on several days and over 2000 visitors on our opening, four-day weekend.

 Visitors loving the Rock and it's Creatures on Valentine's Day 
The inhabitants of our Rock, birds, fish, and invertebrates alike, did not disappoint the visitors. There were birds circling, sculpins in the tidepools, and the invertebrates were out in force. We spotted six species of nudibr…