If you’re lucky enough to be near the Oregon coast at very low tide, pull on some warm clothes and hit the beach! You might see the following creatures and more:
Giant green anemones are definitely the drama queens of the Oregon anemone family, all neon-green tentacles in vibrant rings. But if you want to see them in all their glory, you have to catch them under water — otherwise they just look like pendulous blobs huddled on the rocks.
Some rocks are absolutely covered with them:
Then you have aggregating anemones. These little greenish-brown masses are not as sexy as the great green guys, perhaps, but they have their own charm. The tiny bits of rock and shell that stick to their columns act as pretty wonderful camouflage.
Ochre stars seem to be everywhere — on the beach, on the rocks, huddles among the anemones.
They look quite innocuous until you see a gang of them in the act of prying open mussels for breakfast:
You might also run across a sunflower star — which, unfortunately, don’t fare too well once they’re washed up onto the beach.
There are lots of other sea stars with great names (sun star, blood star), so keep your eyes out!
You’re most likely to encounter purple encrusting sponge (aka purple intertidal sponge), which mounds along many sections of rock (or, in this case, over empty giant barnacle shells). It’s hard to miss.
I’m not sure if the orange stuff above on the rock is a sponge or something else entirely. If you happen to know, please leave a comment!
It’s hard to believe that these pointy appendages are related to crabs and lobsters, but the acorn barnacle casings above actually house a sort of shrimp-like creature. Ditto for the gooseneck barnacles below:
I found all of these at Oceanside Beach, just opposite the Three Arches at super-low tide.
If you do go out, pay attention to the tide charts — the lower, the better, if you want to find creatures. But the minute the tide starts coming back in, turn back around!
Wear warm clothes, put on sturdy shoes, and plan to get your feet wet. Don’t detach any animals from their locations — and if you touch, touch gently and with care (not all sea creatures are human-friendly). Finally, please don’t take any critters home.
If you want a blog that explores all of these critters (and more) in far more detail, I’d recommend both theoutershores and Exploring Rocky Shores of Southern Oregon Coast.
Alki Beach in Seattle is similarly spectacular!