Oregon Coast Right Now: Translucent Critters and Battered Birds
(Oregon Coast) – A curious trifecta of odd science is happening on the Oregon coast right now, mostly thanks to all the heavy waves the region had earlier this week. Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe is reporting an abundance of translucent creatures called peanut worms washing up like crazy up and down the coast, an over-population of phytoplankton called diatoms and plenty of battered birds. (Photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium. Above: gobs of worms on a beach in Seaside).
Stranger still: they're all connected.
Boothe said thousands of these translucent worms have washed up along the shoreline, which in turn is giving the local shore birds a major feast.
“Usually burrowed into the sand or under rocks, these worms must have been unearthed by the heavy surf we have been experiencing the last few days,” Boothe said.
They are about 1.5 - 2 cm long. Boothe said that although peanut worms can be plentiful where they live, it is unlikely that you would encounter them.
“They burrow into tight crevices and under rocks,” Boothe said. “Along the tide line where most of the worms are accumulating there are thousands. Why they are washing ashore is a bit of a mystery. One theory is that they were uprooted by the heavy surf.”
The big wave action also created a bunch of super stressful conditions for birds along the entire Oregon coast. Most of those distressed are Western Grebes and Common Murres.
Boothe said the Wildlife Center of the North Coast – near Astoria - has recently been bombarded with tired, hungry birds. (Above: a distressed Common Murre).
“In the last few days the Seaside Aquarium, which acts as a drop-off center for injured animals on their way to the rehab center, has received well over 40 birds,” Boothe said. “The birds are showing up on the beach cold, tired, and hungry. This seems to be happening up and down the coast.”
More than just the heavy wave action is at play here, however. All that crazy tidal activity has kicked up tons of diatoms as well, which are microscopic in size. Yet this inundation is so intense it has affected the birds.
“Heavy diatom blooms can affect a sea bird's ability to adequately preen and dry its feathers,” Boothe said. “What we are seeing here is a combination of diatoms and really rough ocean conditions.”
Diatoms also have a tendency to turn the water brown, which they have in recent days. This often gets mistaken for oil spills or pollution of some kind, creating incredibly dark, oily-looking bubbles and waves. It is, however, a sign of a very healthy ocean.
More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....
More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....
LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles
Back to Oregon Coast
Contact Advertise on BeachConnection.net