As you walk along the beach, be sure to look towards the forest from time to time. Bald eagles, both adults and juveniles, can often be seen swooping from one tree to the next. Or if there happens to be a dead animal washed ashore, you just might be in the right place at the right time to see them flying low along the sand or over the waves as they disperse other birds in the area. Sometimes these majestic birds are even found flying around Haystack Rock in an attempt to find prey among the nesting birds. Did you know that a group of eagles flying together is called a “kettle”?
If you are lucky, you might come upon the official crustacean of the state of Oregon- the Dungeness crab. While they are easily found by those using crab pots off the beach, sometimes a bump in shallow water means that a crab has made its way on to the shore. Be sure you have the right permit and know how to tell between the male and the female before taking one home for your dinner! Only mature males are allowed to be caught. Did you know that the females can carry up to 2.5 million eggs under her abdomen until they are ready to hatch?
The largest animal you will possible encounter is the Roosevelt Elk which is five to six feet high at their shoulders and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds! The best time to spot them is at sunrise or early evening. Keep alert as you drive along Hwy 101 or up into Ecola State Park- these majestic animals could be bedded down in a herd or could even be bounding across the road in front of you!
Whole Sand dollars have long been a favorite beach treasure to take home, and you are likely to discover some on your beach walks during low tide. While white or light grey sand dollars have already died and are ready for you to pick them up, be sure to leave any that are a deep grey or purple alone because they are still alive! If you break a dead one open, you will find 5 small pieces that resemble doves inside. These are their teeth which they use to break down their food, phytoplankton.
If you happen to find a shell that looks like a snail lying in shallow water along the tide pools, take a minute to wait quietly as you will likely see a hermit crab reveal itself when it thinks that the coast is clear (please excuse the pun!). If you find a shell that happens to be empty, it’s best to leave it where it is because it will become the next home for a growing crab.
Vella Vella, or By-The-Wind-Sailor, wash up in masses on the coast during the spring time. These vibrant blue creatures with a fragile clear sail that points to the sky float on the open ocean waters until winds propel them onto land in the thousands. Within a population, two different types that are mirror images of each other exist, thus they are pushed in opposite directions by the wind because of the differing angles of their sails. If you touch one, it is best not to touch your face or eyes because an irritation could occur.
If you look out to the ocean and see what at first appears to be a group of black birds bobbing on the water, grab your binoculars and take a closer look! It is likely to be a “raft” of sea lions floating on the water together with their flippers sticking out of the air. The exposed flipper either helps to warm them via the sun or, if dipped into the water, helps to cool them as the evaporation process takes place. Often you will see these rafts drifting for hours just beyond the waves, with individual sea lions swimming up to join the floating party!