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

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

All Anemones Great and Small

A giant green anemone sits beside a colony of aggregating anemones in a tide pool in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

There are two species of anemones in this tide pool at Enderts Beach, the big green one is an aptly-named giant green anemone. The clustered little ones are aggregating anemones, they can reproduce multiple ways but this colony would likely consist entirely of clones. Giant green anemones are sometimes seen in tight groups but if there’s room they often spread out.

The Oystercatcher

A black oystercatcher stands on a rock covered with goose barnacles and California mussels in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

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.

Revenge of the Crabs

The shell of a red rock crab floats in a tidepool

I came across this red rock crab floundering in a tide pool, struggling to emerge from under the rocks and climb onto the beach but the incoming tide washing it back down. Clearly a zombie crab, but still I took pity on it and decided to help it, despite its gaping maw and triangular teeth.

“Need some help there little one?”

“Yes! About time! How long were you going to watch me struggle?”

“Promise you won’t eat my brains?”

“Just help me up!”

“I’m not going to help you if you’re going to eat my brains. And you don’t have to be so, ah, …”

“What? I don’t have to be so what?”

“Nothing.”

“Crabby? Were you going to say crabby?”

“No. Well, maybe. Yes.”

“For millions and millions of years my kind has ruled the border between land and sea, and from that border down to the depths of the deepest oceans. And in our new more fearsome form so too will we now rule the land!”

“Oh no!”

“Now you show me the respect I deserve!”

“No, I meant ‘oh no’ as in ‘oh no, the gulls have spotted you’.”

“What? Quick! Get me out of here! Help! Help!”

“Promise you won’t eat my brains!”

“We do as we must!”

“Well then, it was nice meeting you, but I’m going to keep walking down the beach. Goodbye, and good luck.”

“Help me! Help me! Don’t walk away! Maybe I’ll only nibble!”

If it said anything more I couldn’t hear it above the cries of the gulls as they closed in. If you weren’t eaten by a zombie today, say a little thank you to the gulls, they are our defenders.

I did stop to photograph this dead crab because its scattered parts reminded me of a monster climbing from under the earth, but we’re looking at the back of the crab, not its front. The large hole is where its abdomen would have been, and the teeth are bits of soft flesh left behind by scavengers (they didn’t leave much). While only one leg was still attached with the others discarded nearby, one was close enough, and angled well enough, that it seemed as though it was an extremely long arm emerging from the stones of the beach. The eyes are just a depression on the shell but if I stood at the right angle they looked like eye sockets.

The 8:13 to Beaverton

A dense bed of mussels in a tide pool at Rialto Beach

Mussel beds are one of my favorite parts of tide pools, as a slightly-claustrophobic introvert they remind me of crowded trains. There are a couple of trains that I try to catch on my commute as for whatever reason they are usually fairly empty at my stops, when most trains are quite crowded, and arrive and leave work at convenient times. I got to my stop this morning just before the 8:13 to Beaverton and almost have the entire car to myself.

The mussels are covered in acorn barnacles with some limpets and snails along for the ride. I don’t know what type of snails they are, frilled dogwinkles? Eroded periwinkles? Wrinkled amphissas? I do know this: A+++ to whoever came up with snail names, I love you.

Assorted Candies

A black turban snail nestles into a gap between aggregating anemones int a tide pool at Enderts Beach in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

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).