Astonishing Beachcombing on Oregon Coast: Jellies, Rare Fish, Eagles
(Oregon Coast) - There is some interesting, perhaps even astonishing, stuff washing up on Oregon coast beaches already – and storm season has barely begun (bald eagle photo by Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium).
Tiffany Boothe, with Seaside Aquarium, called them “priceless finds.” Loads of sunfish (usually quite rare on these shores) have popped up all over the coast, and Boothe said the north coast has seen lots of jelly fish, bald eagles and even a very old tooth from a sperm whale.
Boothe said four sunfish – also known as Mola Molas – were found recently around Gearhart. These normally dwell quite deep in the ocean and rarely wash up on Oregon beaches. But this fall has seen at least a dozen, with CoastWatch reporting about five in the Newport area, one in Lane County near Florence, and two possible sightings on Tillamook County beaches.
Sunfish photo Tiffany Boothe
CoastWatch talked to the Hatfield Marine Science Center’s Bill Hanshumaker – a marine education specialist – and he told them it could be that this area is in a down-welling cycle, which could be bringing warmer water towards shore, thus coaxing the sunfish within stranding distance.
Boothe said a small Blue Shark came onto Clatsop Beach (north of Gearhart), measuring about three feet long.
“Different types of jellies have been seen on the beaches, like moon jellies, water jellies, brown stinging nettles, etc.,” Boothe said.
She noted aquarium manager Keith Chandler had seen some bald eagles as well.
“Bald eagles are out in full force scavenging the beaches each morning to see what the tide has washed in,” Boothe said Tuesday. “The other morning Keith saw seven. This morning I saw four.
“Along the Oregon coast the bald eagle's diet consists mainly of dead water fowl. However they are scavengers and will eat whatever looks tasty.”
Coastwatch reports a huge run of jellyfish washing up onshore in the Florence area last week, along with lots of bull kelp.
Meanwhile, perhaps even more extraordinary, hundreds, even thousands of sea stars have been washing up during high tides on some Florence beaches recently. In late October, one CoastWatch volunteer spotted “two large collections of several thousand Ochre Sea Stars.” These are colorful and large starfish.
But one find startled Boothe in particular.
“The best find of the year; a very, very old tooth of a sperm whale,” Boothe said. “A beach comber from Idaho, Josiah, found a tooth from a sperm whale on Sunset Beach. Remember, it is illegal to posses any body parts from endangered animals and also any body part of a marine mammal with soft tissue still attached. Josiah immediately brought the tooth to authorities, who, after obtaining valuable scientific information from the tooth, will most likely help Josiah register the tooth so that he can legally posses it.”
The tooth was so old it might've been petrified, Chandler said.
Boothe said it is often difficult to gather information on marine mammals, especially those are as elusive as the sperm whale.
If you decide to hit the beaches, the wild seas that are responsible for these interesting finds are also precarious. Also, there is a warning to stay away from any sea mammals that wash up, especially sea lions, because of an infectious disease they may carry that can be transferred to humans or dogs.
“Be careful: winter waves are large and unpredictable,” Boothe said. “Be sure you are aware of the tide and never turn your back to the surf.”
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