Life is precarious in tide pools. Mussels and barnacles that live too low on the rock surface are within reach of predatory starfish. Those too high are at risk of drying out while they wait for the rising tide. And in this case, the high spots also had just enough purchase for a black oystercatcher to walk along their perimeter, feeding as it went. But its target on this day was not the mussels and barnacles but the snails that feed on the algae on their shells, here it is about to swallow the soft part of a snail it has extracted from its shell.
The oppressive summer heat might be the biggest obstacle I had to overcome to be willing to move to the desert, but not far behind was saying goodbye to the coast (and in California, the nearby wetlands). I was rather taken with tide pools and the coast in general on visits to the redwoods in California and the rain forests in Washington and decided to make a concerted effort to visit the coast more often, which is why I was at the Oregon coast on this day in early October. A few weeks later I’d find out my team was getting laid off and thus started the process that would take me from the Northwest.
I changed the lock screen on my phone to this picture of a harbor seal as soon as moving to Arizona became a possibility, before it even became a strong possibility, to force myself to think repeatedly about whether I could really give up the coast. I decided I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the coast, and never would be, but I was ready to say hello to the desert. And to the desert I go.
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.
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.
A black oystercatcher stands in what must feel like heaven to a bird that eats mollusks, a rock covered in goose barnacles and California mussels. When the tide comes in this rock will be underwater, something I still have trouble wrapping my head around. I love watching and listening to oystercatchers as they hunt in the tide pools so it was a special treat to get to photograph this one so completely in its element. After watching them at several places in California and Washington, I began to wonder why some of them had extra black spots next to the pupil of their wondrous orange-ringed yellow eyes, leading me to a paper that suggests you can fairly reliably determine whether the oystercatcher is male or female by these eye flecks. I suspect this one may be a male since it had only small specks next to its pupil, they were hard to see unless I zoomed in on the picture.
When I visited the tide pools in Redwood National and State Parks, I didn’t know much about most of the creatures I was photographing, I was just taking pictures of things that caught my eye and planned to read up on them later. I was taken by the shapes and colors of these aggregating anemones that were clinging to a rock at Enderts Beach, like a box of assorted candies. Then I noticed where a black turban snail had nestled down between the anemones and took my favorite picture of them. Once I looked more closely I noticed other little creatures in the scene, from the goose barnacles in the upper right to the black limpets on the snail’s shell (almost invisible since they were on the dark part of the shell).
On my previous visit to the redwoods I was only planning on visiting the forests but was surprised to learn that part of the parks include beaches. This time I deliberately spent time in the tide pools, mostly at Enderts Beach in Crescent City but also a little bit further south near False Klamath Cove. This yawning gull atop a bed of goose barnacles was at Enderts Beach as the tide was rolling in, taken on my last morning while hiking back to the car, ready to start my trip back to Oregon (after one last brief hike in the redwoods on the way). I planned the trip to coincide with days with nice low tides after sunrise.
Much like a short trip to the Olympics in March, this short trip to the redwoods in June re-charged my batteries more than I was expecting. Partly from the time spent in these tremendous forests and partly from the variety of hikes in the parks, as both include beaches with tide pools. It’s hard to take in how many different types of life you can observe all within a few miles.