Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock

Our trip to the Oregon Coast continues with a morning at Haystack Rock. Haystack Rock is teaming with wildlife in July. The rock is filled with nesting birds including Western Gull, Brandt’s Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Pigeon Guillemot, Black Oystercatcher, Common Murre and Tufted Puffin. During my visit I was able to see at least one of each of these species. Some were close enough to photograph and others…well, let’s just say it’s a big rock and pretty tall, so I didn’t get a chance to photograph them all.

Our last morning was overcast with a thick sea fog that made photography very difficult. In fact, some of my favorite images of the morning didn’t come out very well because the auto-focus on my camera was fooled by the sea fog. What I thought was in focus actually was enough out of focus that the image is disappointing. Still, I had a fantastic morning at Haystack Rock and I could have easily spent the entire day there.

My first “find” of the morning was a flock of Harlequin Ducks. This was a life bird for me and I was quite excited to find them. The males were not in their beautiful breeding plumage, but I was happy to just have them close enough to focus. The exceptional low tide that morning not only made it easier for me to photograph these ducks, but it allowed me to get much closer to some other species as well as the residents of the tidal pools. Click an image to view larger.

Harlequin Duck.  Haystack Rock
Harlequin Duck

I was also fortunate to photograph an adult Western Gull with a chick sleeping in the grass on the rock. The nest was higher up the rock, but because of the low tide, I was able to get close enough for a decent shot. The chick is directly below the gull’s beak.

Western Gull and chick.  Haystack Rock
Western Gull and chick.

One of the neat things about the wildlife at Haystack Rock is that a group of volunteers drive out on the beach each morning and setup a series of displays. They post signs along the tide pools to not only keep people safe while exploring the tide pools, but also to keep them away from the nesting wildlife. At low tide, the rocks are exposed and the marine life within the rocks are trapped until the next high tide. Tide pools are all over the Oregon Coast, but Haystack Rock has some of the most easily accessible tide pools on the coast.

The volunteers are quite helpful and willing to answer any questions you might have. Unlike some volunteers in Florida, they are quite happy to have photographers with big lenses and tripods working the rock. Of course, it helps to be courteous and cooperative, but there are places in Florida that even the nicest photographer is treated as a criminal for simply taking photos of the wildlife.

But I digress…

On a previous day, one of the volunteers turned me on to a nesting pair of Black Oystercatchers. With the low tide, I was able to get some great opportunities to capture images of the adults…

Black Oystercatcher adult.  Haystack Rock
Black Oystercatcher adult

and their chicks…

Black Oystercatcher chick.  Haystack Rock
Black Oystercatcher chick

This image of an adult Black Oystercatcher on the nest with one chick standing by her side and another one poking his head out of her wing is perhaps my favorite of the day. I didn’t know it at the time, but there was a third chick under mom at the time that I didn’t see until later. While this is a favorite image, I’m disappointed in the quality. It’s a potential award-winning image, but the low light, sea fog and distance to subject were such that I didn’t get the image as sharp as I would need to in order to win any competitions with this image.

Black oystercatcher adult and chicks.  Haystack Rock
Black Oystercatcher adult and chicks

One of my goals during this trip was to photograph Tufted Puffins in the wild. I got photos of one frolicking in the Newport Aquarium last year, but the excitement of a captive bird isn’t quite the same as capturing images in the wild. While I accomplished my goal, I would have been happier if the puffins weren’t 200 feet up the side of the rock and 100 yards away from me. I’m not sure if there are better places along the coast to photograph the puffins, but Haystack Rock is one of the best places to view them.

Tufted Puffins.  Haystack Rock
Tufted Puffins

While I could have spent more time photographing the wildlife, I needed to get moving so that I could be ready in time for breakfast with the family. So before I left, I took a few moments to capture some of the creatures of the tidal pools. Intertidal zones host a variety of sea life. These intertidal zones, or tidal pools, are areas of beach or rock that are exposed when the tide recedes. The flora and fauna that live there are in the different “zones” depending on the amount of time that they are out of the water. The “zones” are somewhat easy to see and are defined as the low, middle and high intertidal zones. The areas that are left exposed for the shortest amount of time are where you will find marine life such as sea stars, sea lemons and other animals that can’t survive out of the water for very long. As you go higher in the zones, the sea life is less dependent on the water and is more terrestrial in nature. While all the organisms requires some amount of sea water, some of the sea life only needs a little bit to survive. Those organisms are found in the high intertidal zone or even perhaps in the splash zone. The splash zone only receives splashes of water from wave action and only at the highest of tides.

Sea Star.  Haystack Rock
Sea Star

The Sea Stars seem to be quite gregarious, climbing over each other as they look for clams and mollusks to attach to for a meal.

Sea Stars.  Haystack Rock
Sea Stars
Sea Stars.  Haystack Rock
Sea Stars

Thanks to the volunteers at Haystack Rock, I was directed to this Sea Lemon that was crawling in the sand. I wish I had my polarizing filter attached for this image.

Sea Lemon.  Haystack Rock
Sea Lemon

The volunteers also pointed out this six rayed star

Six Rayed Star.  Haystack Rock
Six Rayed Star. He’s just a little guy.

and this gooseneck barnacle.

Gooseneck Barnacle.  Haystack Rock
Gooseneck Barnacle

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I could have spent all day at Haystack Rock. The next post will be on the Haceta Head Lighthouse.