Showing posts from May, 2015

What Is That Foam?

Visitors to Haystack Rock were recently greeted with an intertidal covered with a brownish foam and, naturally, asked 'What is That Foam?' The foam has been prevalent up and down the north Oregon coast during the last week, evident both in the surf, on the beaches and in the intertidal zone.

Sea Foam on Cannon Beach, Spring 2014 Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Propst
The foam is not pollution but is created by microscopic phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are one-celled organisms that are at the bottom of the ocean's food chain. Diatoms are the most common form of phytoplankton on the north Oregon Coast. The phytoplanktons contain a fatty-like material, called cytoplasm, that holds them together. When the phytoplanktons die, the cytoplasm 'glue' the individual skeletons together. This creates layers that trap air within the ocean water, increasing the surface tension and creating the bubbles. When there are a lot of phytoplankton more of them die creating even more surface te…

A Week at Haystack Rock

HRAP Interpreters have just completed their third month of the 2015 season on the beach this week! Nearly all of the wildlife that inhabits and visits the rock has been spotted already this year and will continue their habitation and visitation of Haystack Rock through the summer. Let's take stock of this week at the Rock!

By-the-Wind Sailors (Velella velella) first washed ashore in Cannon Beach in late March.  There have been several more events of sailors washing ashore and subsequently decaying on the beach. This week, an interpreter found a sailor on the beach that had barnacles attached to it.

By-the-Wind Sailor with attached barnacles
A wide variety of birds and ducks were spotted at Haystack Rock this week. Among them  were Pigeon guillemots (Cepphus columba), Harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) south of Haystack, vocal and active black oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani), Common murre (Uria aalge) on the the Rock and Needles, and Tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhat…

Haystack Rock Predators

Have you ever been quietly observing the tidepools at Haystack Rock when all the birds suddenly start squawking and they all seem to take to the sky at once? This is a sure sign that the predatory birds that frequent the rock are on the hunt. Haystack Rock is frequently visited by Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and occasionally by Osprey. The predators most common prey is the Common Murre (Uria aalge). Occasionally, they will take an adult cormorant, but more commonly they will take eggs from a unprotected nest after the parent bird flees it upon the arrival of the predators.

Birds taking to the sky in response to the arrival of a predator
Photo Courtesy of Susan Glarum

There are two pair of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that regularly frequent Haystack Rock. Eagles build large nests, predominantly in tall, sturdy conifers; one of the pair that visits Haystack Rock lives in the forest to the east of Cannon Beach and the other pair is usually seen flying away to the south. Bo…

Sea Star Update

Regular visitors to Haystack Rock last year were witness to the sea star wasting disease that claimed many of the stars on the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska. The wasting was first reported in June 2013 but was not seen at Haystack Rock until the early summer of 2014. Symptoms included twisted limbs, lesions and disintegration of external tissue. After extensive research by many researchers the wasting has found to be caused by the sea star-associated densovirus. The virus has been found in seawater and sediment and has even been found in sea stars collected in the 1940's. Sea stars with larger amounts of the virus in their system showed the more extreme cases of wasting. Researchers are still trying to determine why the virus, which has been around for a long time, is causing disease now. High populations of sea stars just prior to the wasting event and warmer seas are two areas that are being investigated.

Adult sea star with Wasting Disease
In the last month we have se…