Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tidepools at Montana de Oro

The very high surf and tides of the morning were coupled with very low, slightly negative tides in the afternoon during my recent trip to the Morro Bay area. How lucky can you get? So on the second day of hiking at Montana de Oro State Park, I climbed down the steps into Corallina Cove to check out the tidepools. It was weird looking back towards the cliffs from the beach because all of it had been underwater in the morning.

Walking out on these rocks was not easy. The rocks formed ridges and on top were wet seaweed, aggregating anemones, and tar, all of which were very slippery. The marine animals tended to embed themselves in the ridges, too, making photographs difficult.

True to its name, the cove had an abundance of coralline algae. There was also an abundance of black turban snails. In fact, there was a general abundance of sea life. Everywhere you looked, there was something.

All of my old friends from Abalone Cove were there including the aforementioned aggregating anemones, ochre sea stars, and sea urchins. At first, I thought there were no urchins but when I took a closer look at my photos, I saw them hiding deep in the crevices of the rocks. Perhaps they were hiding from the sea otters which now range along the California coast from San Francisco to Santa Barbara County. This large anemone is a giant green anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) that lives in the cooler waters of Central and Northern California. It does not have the radial lines on the center disk that the starburst anemone does.

I did find one bat star all by itself close to the shoreline. There were probably others, hiding.

For most of the afternoon, I was by myself although several small groups of people came and went while I was there. Many birds joined me as well and they came quite close to me. (Except for the photo of the Oystercatcher which is a smaller bird, none of these photos has been cropped.) They seemed to know that I couldn't move very fast on those rocks and they were hungry. They probably had been waiting for low tide all day and I was just an inconvenience. Above is one of several Snowy Egrets that came to feed.

This one Great Egret I had found in the morning clinging for dear life to a rock when the surf was crashing all around it. Later it was up on the mesa searching for something to eat in the grass. And finally, here it was down on the rocks at low tide. This is probably the real reason it hung around the shore.

A few other birds showed up that we do not often see in Southern California. One was this Glaucous-winged Gull and another was the Black Oystercatcher below. Here's a fascinating photograph of the Western, Thayer's, and Glaucous-winged Gulls clearly showing the differences between them. In fact, this site has an amazing number of photos showing gulls in their various phases (it takes the larger gulls four years to mature and every year they look different making identification very difficult).

The Oystercatchers were very noisy, making screeching sounds as they flew. That fluorescent red-orange bill and eye is unmistakable.

Our local Abalone Cove will be having negative tides through February. Bad Mom, Good Mom has an excellent post giving the dates and times. Here are the Los Angeles tide tables for all of 2010.

1 comment: