Saturday, September 24, 2016

Red Ascidian Tunicate - Aplidium solidum.

Red Ascidians are tunicates, a marine invertebrate with a hard exterior layer, or tunic, where it get's it's name. The first known species of tunicate dates back to 485.4 millions years ago to the early Cambrian period, when most modern phyla first appeared.


The red ascidians have two siphons which move water in and out of it's body, much like a heart. They grow in colonies up to 20 centimeters long and can be a favorite food of the opalescent nudibranch.

Have you seen a red ascidian at Haystack Rock? Let us know! Happy Tide-pooling!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dendronotus Density Dispatch

Tidepools on the north side of Haystack boasted a startling abundance of nudibranchs in the genus Dendronotus. "Dendrites" is Greek for "treelike." Upon close examination, these creatures with branching bodies did appear treelike.

Individual dendrontid against a background bryozoan.
From a distance, however, the dendrontids looked like a dense growth of algae carpeting the floor of the pool. 

The "blob" in the left-hand corner is a nudibranch "walking" upside down by moving its foot across the surface tension of the water. The mossy growths covering the sand are clusters of dendrontids in uncountable hundreds.

Courtesy of Stephen Grace

Friday, September 9, 2016

Until the next time we see them - Tufted Puffins

This summer, a U.S.F.W.S. volunteer closely monitored the iconic tufted puffins who call Haystack Rock their breeding ground home.

The puffins use this space as their breeding ground, because they prefer to stay close to the ocean shore. Their survival is dependent upon the sea, where they catch the food that they eat and feed their young. 

Puffins eat small fish and squid. They can hold several fish at a time in their large bill, which allows them to transport the fish back to their burrow to feed their chick. Recent studies on Atlantic puffins attribute the successful fledgling, and long term survival of chicks to an adequate food source. When fish populations decline, so do the puffin populations.  

These puffins lay their egg 2-6 feet deep in a burrow. Near the top of Haystack Rock, on the grassy slope. The north side is shielded from the strong south winds. They dig out the soil with their large, shovel like bill, and lay one single white egg. Since it is so deep in the burrow, out of sight of predators, the egg doesn't need much camouflage. 

Puffins are auklets, they are related to the pigeon guillemot and common murre. They are black, football shaped birds with a heavy orange bill. You can spot them flapping their wings furiously, flying in circles out and back to the rock. The reason they are so clumsy on land is because they are built to be out at sea. The murres look just like the puffins when flying, except that they have a while belly and sharp black beak. They look like small penguins.

Murre (left) Puffin (right)

The tufted puffins are seen at Haystack Rock from April - August. While not breeding, the they spend much of their lives up to 60 miles off-shore. They have nothing to land on out there. So, they float on top of the ocean surface and dive up to 200 feet deep. Talk about some incredible survival skills! Many of them are headed back out to sea now. You may spot some stragglers through September if you are lucky.

We received this report on September 3rd from Tim, the U.S.F.W.S. Volunteer who has been monitoring the puffins: "Not a puffin in sight on this gorgeous morning at Haystack rock Cannon Beach. Other observers report that there were several here a week or more ago but that their numbers quickly dwindled. It has been a great season and we will hope for good puffling viability and continued improvement with this population. Thanks for the opportunity to be part of this important project" 
We wish the tufted puffins a safe journey. We hope they have a lot of squid and food sources for the adults and their chicks. We will be waiting to welcome them back and to celebrate their return.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A strange fish caused great excitement at the Rock this last week. A visitor came to the truck to say he'd "found a stingray." When one of our volunteers got to the tidepool, only the eyes in the photo were visible. The fish stayed buried in the sand with only its eyes exposed for about two hours as its pool shrank and warmed. An occasional puff of breath stirred the sand in front of its face. Many visitors stepped to the edge of the pool to stare at its eyes. When the tide came back in and refreshed the pool, the mystery fish finally rose from the sand. It swam around and then reburied itself. The mystery fish is oval, translucent, and this one is about two inches long. Can you guess what species it is?

Courtesy of Stephen Grace