Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Beach Weekend

Sarah, Andie, and I just returned from a Labor Day trip to Pacific City. I have a lot to report, but I will limit the focus of this post to some interesting items we found on the beach. Each day, the three of us took a long, relaxing walk to look for sea creatures. We did not need to survey beached birds for our volunteer project, but we could not help but look for dead things that had washed up.

Some of the most interesting items we found were sea palms (Postelsia palmaeformis). These are not true plants, but kelp that thrive on rocks that are pounded by surf. While living, the flexible stalks bend over to absorb the relentless shock of the waves.

Like the larger bull kelp, sea palms are attached to rocks by strong holdfasts that anchor them in place until they die off and eventually break loose.

When the palms wash up on shore, the holdfasts are what interest me most.

They have many animals attached, including California mussells, acrorn barnacles, pelagic goose barnales, and small crabs.

This palm likely brok loose from the base of Haystack Rock, seen in the background.

It appears that the palms attach themselves to rocks and grow over the tops of these tidepool animals, possibly killing them. When the palms are ripped off of the rocks, they take many of these creatures with them. This seems to be an important type if disturbance that affects the compostion of the intertidal community: Death by Kelp.

Speaking of death, we found many washed-up common murres, mostly juveniles that had fledged this year.

This one was quite intact and had grown quite a bit since jumping out of its nest site.

We also found a black-footed albataross! This is the third one we found near Pacific City in two years and the most intact of them all. I guess there are not enough fish for all the murres and albatross out there.

Using Andie for scale, you can see how huge this bird was. I wonder if any of the hundreds of other beachgoers took time out from surfing, skimboarding, and dog walking to check out this beauty as we did.

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