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Oregon Coast Wildlife Officials on Beach Fun Finds

Published 10/08/21 at 5:46 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Wildlife Officials on Beach Fun Finds

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(Oregon Coast) – Now that it's essentially “Second Summer” on Oregon coast, there's still plenty of cool stuff to be found, whatever the weather is doing. (Above: petrified wood near Cannon Beach)

So what's on the beaches? Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recently sent out its weekly recreation updates and mentioned a few interesting, beachy items. The point is to look down while you're out there.

“Beaches can be more than a place to lounge or fly a kite,” ODFW said. “In addition to the many types of birds that frequent Oregon's shores, take a look for other inhabitants at the beach. Check the wrack line where the water deposits shells, algae and kelp, and driftwood that are food and homes to a large variety of unassuming actors.”

Oregon Coast Wildlife Officials on Beach Fun Finds
Gooseneck barnacles photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium

The agency said beach hoppers, beetles, mussels, and gooseneck barnacles are just some of the animals you'll find in those areas.

Gooseneck barnacles are a particularly interesting Oregon coast find. Most of them are pelagic, which means they live on the open ocean, according to Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe.

“Along the Oregon coast, when the wind blows out of the west, marine debris which is floating close to shore washes up on the beach,” she said. “With that in mind, you may want to take a closer look the next time you spot something washing in.”

Boothe said the gooseneck barnacle hooks onto hard surfaces via their flexible stalks. They're often stuck to large driftwood logs that have just come in, or manmade oddities that wash up.

They can be found worldwide, drifting along on the ocean's currents and feeding on plankton by filtering it out of the water with hair-like feeding tentacles called cirri.

“There are over 1,000 different species of barnacles world wide,” Boothe said. “Some have adapted to living in some extremely unique environments, such as the pelagic gooseneck barnacle, which lives exclusively on floating marine debris. Or the Coronula diadema barancle, which lives exclusively on Humpback whales.”

It's not uncommon to find smaller gooseneck barnacles living on larger ones. They make great city planners, apparently.

Mole crab, courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Spring and summer showcase little mole crabs hiding under the sand: they're about the size of your thumb, according to ODFW. With some warm weather still in the wings for another week or two, the tail end of summer weather may still provide this sight.

You may also find the tracks of olive snails in the sand by the waterline. These plow through the sand in search of grub, and they come in powerfully colorful shades of grey, purple and pinks.

Photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium

As more west winds come barreling in, look for skate egg cases in the sands, which are also known as "mermaid purses."

Mermaid purse, courtesy Seaside Aquarium

Looking for ancient life? ODFW said the battering of waves tends to reveal fossils of shelled animals. Look for the walls at Newport's Beverly Beach, Seal Rock, Fogarty Creek State Park and Arcadia Beach near Cannon Beach.

On the southern Oregon coast, Cape Blanco near Port Orford is a hot one for sussing out the millions-of-years-old critters.

Head to the beach below the lighthouse (it's a rather steep one, but not particularly long).

Cape Blanco, courtesy Oregon State Parks

Late fall is reportedly among the better times to engage in rockhounding down here, but you'll want to stick to low tides. Also look for the periods after heavy weather, as that has usually stirred up or uncovered the gravel beds. The cliff walls here can also drop off agates and fossils periodically, so check the bottoms of these areas.

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