29 Sep Animals of the Oregon Coast! – Ascensy Perez
Hello everyone and welcome back to my last blog of the internship! My time here at the Siuslaw ends on October 7th, and it is an extremely bittersweet feeling to be leaving the Oregon coast. I still don’t know what’s coming next for me, but I do know that this internship has prepared me for wherever life takes me next!
Since this is my last blog, I thought I’d take the time to highlight some of the coolest species I’ve encountered during my internship. If there are any animal lovers reading this, I’m hoping that this will inspire you to visit the Oregon coast (especially Cape Perpetua) and try to see some of these animals firsthand!
Last week, I had the awesome opportunity to put together a migratory species table program which primarily focused on Gray Whales. Gray whale migration from Alaska to Baja begins in October and lasts until December and January, so November and December is generally considered to be the best time to see pods of whales along the coast. However, this summer I had the opportunity to see so many Gray Whales (and Orcas, too!)! Oregonians and visitors tend to be lucky year-round, as there is actually a resident group of 200-300 Gray Whales that frequent the coast. As a lot of the marine landscapes in Oregon are protected by Marine Reserves & MPAs, the whales realized there’s no need to migrate – all the food they could ever need is always right offshore! If you decide to visit the Oregon coast, I’d recommend heading over to Depoe Bay, where they offer whale watching tours year-round. Here, you’re almost always guaranteed to see whales up close, so it is definitely worth going!
In addition to whales being one of my favorite species to see, I have been enjoying a lot of the birds this time of year, especially Red Crossbills and Cedar Waxwings. These two species are some of the most beautiful and unique birds I’ve ever seen! Cedar Waxwings are so awesome because they look almost painted (or waxy, as made obvious by their name). Although there are Cedar Waxwings that hang around Oregon year-round, many of them are migrating south for the winter, which is why you can see them almost everywhere in large numbers this time of year!
Red Crossbills, on the other hand, mate during the late summer/early fall time frame so they have also been extremely abundant this time of year. Seeing these birds is an awesome experience because you can see the juveniles, males, and females all together in one place. There’s even a specific spot in the middle of the Captain Cook Trail at Cape Perpetua where you’d be guaranteed to see a bunch of them flying between trees and landing on a grassy cliff right in front of you. Red Crossbills have some of the craziest bills I’ve ever seen, and they are specially adapted for eating cones: here’s a YouTube video that shows how Crossbills use their beaks – it’s pretty wild!
I also want to give a shout out to the amazing tide pools here on the central coast, as they are very easy to access and have an amazing diversity of invertebrates. My favorite place to tide pool is Bob Creek, where you can explore tall hallways of basalt rock covered in mussels and sea stars, and even reach a really cool sea cave with a lot of giant isopods (if you’re into that kind of thing). The tide pools at Bob Creek and Cape Perpetua are included in a MPA and Marine Reserve, respectively, meaning the inverts you see here are about 25% larger than places on the coast that aren’t protected! Some of my favorite animals to see when I go tide pooling are nudibranchs (or sea slugs), especially the Sea Lemons and Leopard Nudibranchs. Seeing an abundance of huge Ochre Sea Stars is particularly amazing as well, since a lot of the sea star populations on the coast were almost completely wiped out due to Sea Star Wasting Disease and the increase in heat waves over the last few years. All in all, the tide pools along Oregon’s central coast are a beautiful must-see that should not be skipped.
The species that I mentioned are one of many that contributed to me having such an amazing and unforgettable experience this summer. I’m so glad that I got to spend this summer educating people on the animals I love so much, and now I’m very happy I get to share these details with all of you! I really do hope people feel inspired to come visit the Oregon coast, as I think it’s one of the greatest hidden gems this country has to offer.
Since this is my last blog post of my internship, I want to thank everyone who read my blogs – I loved being able to share my accomplishments to such an amazing audience. And thank you to EFTA for giving me this incredible opportunity, this summer is one I’ll truly never forget 🙂