We went to Oregon to celebrate my twenty-eighth birthday and our wedding anniversary. My birthday request was TIDE POOLS and all the invertebrates they can muster. Based on childhood memories, Krista claims the best tide pools are in Cannon Beach, Oregon — which spawned our whole Oregon Coast road trip. I demanded sand between my toes and star fish, and Krista delivered in spades.
On the first morning of my new year, we woke up early-ish to get to Haystack Rock a bit before the low tide. The shoreline was staffed with volunteers who helped to curate what we were seeing. They told us that my birthday was one of the lowest tides of the year. It was such a fortuitous coincidence. I was mesmerized by the rocky world exposed.
We saw a whole party of starfish hanging out on the side of a giant rock. There were so many! Krista waded into the water to get some shots of them.
An over-enthusiastic guy pointed out a bright orange and neon blue nudibranch to us, but it was too small to take a good photo. There was a nearby Sea Lemon nudibranch that was more willing to tolerate a close-up. Sea Lemon! How cute is that!
The intertidal zone is extraordinary because life is stacked on top of life stacked on top of life. Different animals inhabit the various zones of the tidal plain, and they have complicated relationships and life cycles. Here’s a photo of a periwinkle on top of a barnacle on top of a mussel. Isn’t biodiversity amazing?
Low tide pools are dynamic landscapes. The animals that live there have to tolerate life both in and out of water, constant change and abuse from the surf. No one exhibits the requisite tenacity better than the anemone. The anemones at Cannon Beach were fantastic – lots of giant greens and tiny hot pink ones. With the water coming in and going out, they are occasionally buried by sand. Fortunately, the waves usually wash off the sand and they go back to their tentacle-waving lifestyle.
One of our new beach friends is a sunflower starfish with eighteen rays. Sunflower starfish can get pretty big (up to 3 feet across!) and grow as many as 24 rays. This one was on the smaller side around 1.5 ft, but it was still mighty impressive to us humans. Did you know they can live 3-5 years? Yes, a truly spectacular beast.
How surreal is this crab? It’s a decorator crab. It attaches algae, seaweed, and other stuff to specialized bristles on its shell so that it’s camouflaged. It’s a crab with an outfit! <3
All in all, it was a pretty spectacular way to start my twenty-eighth year. I can’t wait to see what else my year has in store!