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Upside Down Forest Hits Oregon Coast Beaches; Whales, Tide Pools

Published 03/18/2016 at 4:51 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Photo: bull kelp has been piling up on the coast lately

(Oregon Coast) – Whales, lots of whales, tide pool discoveries and lots of interesting critters washing up on the beaches. This is the post-storm world of the now very calm Oregon coast, where sunny skies and calm seas are giving way to a vast and varied display. This includes beach finds that are part of what you might call an upside down forest. (Photo: bull kelp has been piling up on the coast lately)

At the top of the list is, of course, whales. Whale Watch Week is coming up at the end of the month, and their peak spring migration is happening now. Numbers of whales sighted is actually quite good on calmer days like these, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

The interesting secret about whale watch season, however, is that it doesn't end with Whale Watch Week by any means. The gray whales are migrating northward for at least another month or two for awhile. Then summer kicks in and you'll often see them lingering near-shore, especially in the Depoe Bay area.

April, in fact, brings a bevy of Killer whales following the babies northward. These make for striking sights, but their presence can spook the grays in the area.

The agency added a variety of birds winter along the Oregon coast, including buffleheads and Black scoters and surf scoters. These are still spotted in good numbers.

ODFW said now is also a good time to go tide pooling – but watch for higher tides. March often brings a fair amount of low tides and calmer breakers, making exploration of these colorful colonies a blast.


The agency noted sights could include gumboot chitons and ribbed limpets. Gumboot chitons are small, reddish creatures with eight plates over the back. That, in turn, is covered by another of skin-like material. They can live for almost two decades if they stay clear of raging surf and keep their more sensitive side down. They hide in fairly protected spots during the day and lounge about eating algae at night.

See the Oregon Coast Tide Pool Guide for a complete list of spots on the beaches.

Among the other tide pool finds include sea cabbage, black pine, spongy cushion, sea moss, split kelp, winged kelp and encrusting coraline algae. That's on top of the squirty urchins and sea stars.

There's lots of bull kelp washing up right now, according to Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium. The famed velella velella keep coming in, along with kookier creatures like burrowing sea cucumbers and casings of cellophane tube worms – which caused a bit of a stir last month.

Bull kelp live in massive underwater forests off the Oregon coast - a kind of upside down existence - and have long blades that stretch as much as 100 feet. They have “holdfasts” beneath them that hold onto the ocean bottom, but sometimes they are torn free.

Bouncing around the ocean, these bulbous, whip-like objects get tangled up together in giant masses, and then these wind up on shore after storms. These can leave gi-normous piles on the sands that often have heads scratching. Where to stay for this - Where to eat - Map and Virtual Tours




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