View from the Outer Coast


My latest favorite tidepool creatures: an isopod, a fish, and, wait for it . . . an arachnid.

The red velvet mite has been adding vivid dots of crimson color to the rocks around Ecola Point. According to Professor Google, a mite is an arachnid (which makes the red velvet mite an arthropod--in the same phylum as crabs). Also, I read that red velvet mites parasitize kelp flies--anyone who has been pestered on a windless shore by kelp flies can appreciate this. So, armed with new-found knowledge and a newly purchased magnifying glass (which I am ridiculously excited about--best $7.99 I ever spent), I ventured back into the field. Using said magnifying glass, I counted eight legs and saw the plush coat of this velvety, spidery beast. I watched bright arachnids stay suspended in the surface tension atop a still pool, which was pretty cool.

Also observed were rockweed isopods (with perfect cryptic coloration amid green seaweed holdfasts, stipes and fronds) and a clingfish (genus: Gobisox). I saw a green Gobisox at Haystack Rock today, adding some variety to the usual fish suspects: The sculpins have company.

Excellent people at Haystack today: A family from India who asked thoughtful questions and showed a level of enthusiasm for the tidepools that was off the charts, and a couple from Mexico who own a business taking people snorkeling with whale sharks. They invited me for a visit. If I disappear from Haystack, I might be in the tropics swimming with whale sharks.

Mole crabs were everywhere when I ran to Hug Point--miles of beach were as busy with scurrying mole crabs as last week's "mole crab nursery" at Haystack. I've been showing kids the "seagull shuffle"; my soggy steps have flushed mole crabs and other crustaceans from the sand at tidepool edges. When my feet shake the little creatures loose and they enter the water, I watch them swim, instead of feasting on them like the gulls do.

Mole Crab and Gooseberry

Yesterday submerged buckshot barnacles were feeding frenetically; feathery feeding appendages combed the water in uncountable numbers--the best barnacle spectacle I've seen. Multitudes of murres have been rafting near Bird Rocks off Chapman Point--rafts so dense and so vast they resemble oil slicks out at sea. Just a few hundred yards north of Haystack, while Amy and I were heading out on bikes at dawn, we saw an osprey plummet into the waves and emerge with a fish clutched in its talons.

For all the carnage our species has caused in the world's oceans, wonders still abound. And I couldn't be more excited to help educate people about protecting the healthy sea life that remains.

One child at Haystack Rock whose eyes are opened to the wonders of the ocean could be the next Rachel Carson or Sylvia Earle and change the way the world sees its oceans: not simply as playgrounds for boats or storehouses for seafood, but as the source of all life on this planet--an invaluable heritage stretching back billions of years that we now have the privilege of stewarding for the future.

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