Harlequin

A male harlequin duck stands in a tide pool as the waves come in behind him

I timed this short visit to the Oregon coast to coincide with low tides around both sunrise and sunset, planning to spend some time photographing tide pools, but my plans changed when I arrived at Yaquina Head. I had trouble finding subjects in the tide pools I wanted to photograph but the harbor seals were out in abundance, and then I saw a bird species I had never seen before, the harlequin duck. I spent the last morning photographing from a tide pool at least, as I had great views of both seals that had hauled out to sleep on the rocky shore and a nearby group of male and female harlequins. I was especially happy to get to photograph the harlequins in their environment as the tide came in, until the selfsame tide forced us both from our perches.

I’m happy to report that I did buy some News waterproof overshoes before the trip and they worked a treat, keeping my feet dry each day. On this day the tide came up fully over my ankles and thankfully my shoes underneath stayed dry, as I was wearing my beloved orange running shoes so I’d be comfortable on the drive back to Portland. They fold up nicely so they can go in a backpack or in a random corner in the corner, when home I hosed them out to wash off any residual saltwater and they soon dried and were ready for the next visit to the coast.

Homes for Urchins

Purple sea urchins sit in the depressions they've carved over time into the tide pool at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon

Purple sea urchins sit in the depressions they’ve carved over time into the tide pool, minimizing the force of the waves as the tide comes in and out. I came across these urchins in 2004 on a sunny day at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon. The picture below is a different set of urchins but taken on the same day, I’ve posted this one before but it was years ago.

Purple sea urchins sit in the depressions they've carved over time into the tide pool at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon

A Small and Beautiful World

Mussels and barnacles live crowded together in a tide pool at Enderts Beach in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in California

In this crowded space in a tide pool at Enderts Beach in California’s Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, goose barnacles fill the gaps left by California mussels while acorn barnacles attach directly to the mussels themselves. The snails and black limpets are a little more mobile but all have evolved some sort of hard enclosure to protect against drying out at times like these when the tide has receded, and also against the birds who prey upon them. They may not be able to evolve fast enough to survive their biggest enemy as we not only warm the oceans but acidify them too. But for the moment I will bear them witness, this beautiful little world that exists only in the narrowest strip up and down our coasts, halfway on land and halfway in water.

Missing Arm

A sea star with a missing arm in Olympic National Park

This ochre sea star (starfish) is missing one of its arms, there should be another arm in between the one pointing up and the one pointing right. I don’t know if it was suffering from sea star wasting syndrome that is killing large numbers of sea stars on the Pacific coast. Multiple species of stars are affected but the ochre stars are the most visible since they are easily seen in the intertidal zone.

Earth Imitates Life

Large rocks stretch to the sky at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park

These large rocks at Rialto Beach in Washington’s Olympic National Park reminded me of goose barnacles stretching to the sky. There are tide pools by the rocks if you’d prefer life to its imitation. There’s a gull enjoying this lovely spring morning as well as I always like to sneak a little wildlife into my landscape pictures when I can. Shown below are actual goose barnacles (also known as gooseneck barnacles) from Enderts Beach in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in California. Their stalk is said to resemble the necks of geese and according to Wikipedia, goose barnacles and the barnacle goose were named after each other, as the goose was suspected of growing from the barnacle.

Goose barnacles crowd together in a tide pool