Re: NANFA-- A Trip to the Pacific NW

Jay DeLong (
Thu, 08 Feb 2001 10:15:09 -0800

Chris S was talking about:
>Along Patricia Bay in Sidney, B.C. I hand-caught a female plainfin midshipman.
>These deeper water fish come to the tidepools to spawn and lay their eggs. The
>female I caught (and returned) was no doubt guarding her eggs, which explained
>why she didn't flee when I came sloshing through her pool. There were also
>hundreds of sea stars (I forget their names), many as big as dinner plates.
>They're completely harmless; the bigger ones you can put on your face and
>scream, making pretend you're being attacked by the face-hugger from "Alien."

I believe the ochre sea star, genus Pisaster, is by far the most common
5-armed seastar. They come in orange, purple and other colors.

>The tidepools along Clallam Bay in Washington had many of the same inverts
>(minus the sea stars), plus bald eagles, sea lions, and seals.

And sea otters (remember?)
And there are sea stars there, just not great numbers where there aren't a
lot of large flat surfaces to hold on to when the waves crash. And there's
not a distinct intertidal zone because there's not much gradient to the
coast there. The animals there (on the North Olympic Peninsula by the
way-- just across from Vancouver Island) have to withstand rather brutal
conditions. They tend to get battered about and washed away if they're not
small enough to live under the rocks like sculpins and crabs, or tight
against them like limpets and chitons. These aren't what many people might
typically call tidepools. It's more of a rocky beach and when the tide is
out there are pools that retain water. The water is murky with a lot of
stuff in it and you have to pull back the kelp and peer in with your face
close to the water. They're not like tidepools of the calmer sections of
the coast where you can find delicate sea anemones, tunicates, sponges and

>The foul stench
>of rotting kelp and other sea life greeted us when we stepped from the
>car, but
>we got used to it quickly. We used a dipnet to sample fishes from the kelp,
>including the beautiful green gunnel. Imagine a lime green, eel-shaped
>darter --
>that's what the gunnel reminds me of. Tidepool sculpins were also in
>plus chitons as big as the palm of your hand.

Don't forget the most common inhabitant-- crabs! Kelp crabs, rock crabs,
shore crabs and zillions of hermit crabs.

I used to work up there once a year for 2 weeks at a time. One time after
work I visited those tidepools and was standing on the rocks near a tree
with crows. A hawk swooped in a grabbed a crow, taking it to the
ground. The other crows went ballistic and for 10 minutes they screamed
and dive-bombed the hawk repeatedly while it tried to fend them off and rip
feathers from the crow. Somehow the crow got away and took off for Canada
(30 miles across the water) but it must have realized the foolishness in
that and cut a long slow arc back. I could see a large white featherless
patch on his back and rump. I thought the action was over so I walked over
to where the tussle had been and the crows were still so mad one of them
puked on me. Luckily my motel room was just 10 minutes away.

On another trip there I found a sea urchin skeleton full of sand and didn't
bother to rinse it out and just took it back to my motel room. It ended up
being full of sand fleas, little amphipod-like invertebrates that have
springy legs and bounce about for locomotion, sort of like fleas but
larger. They were all over the counters and sink before I realized what was

That's a fantastic place to visit.

Jay DeLong
Olympia, WA

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