Tag Archives: South Coast

Squid Eggs

Helen and Peter's BIG find! A cluster of squid eggs on Haskin Park beach.

Helen and Peter’s BIG find! A cluster of squid eggs on Haskin Park beach (near Pacific Beach, WA).

Thanks Helen and Peter for passing along a photo of their Haskin Park find: Squid eggs. A first for COASST! Helen did a little research of her own on this non-bird find, “we learned that these little opalescent packages are squid eggs and found an amazing video of a squid laying eggs in the sand and transporting them back to a hanging cluster to attach.”

At COASST, we’ve had squid on the brain ever since we were introduced to Scarlett Arbuckle, who earned her PhD at Texas A & M looking at Ommastrephid squid, Dosidicus gigas. Now, Scarlett is a new member of Selina Heppell’s lab at the University of Oregon, home to a wealth of projects, among them the northward invasion of Humboldt Squid in the Pacific Ocean (check back soon, for our upcoming blog on Selina).

When you’re a squid expert like Scarlett you’re always on the look out. Scarlett says “most people first disregard squid eggs as tunicates. Helen and Peter’s photo shows a cluster of squid egg sacs, probably from loliginidae squid family. The sacs were knocked loose from their anchoring and washed up. Depending on the available substrate and species, female squid will anchor the sacs in clusters in the sand, on rocks, or, like shown in the video, to ropes and man made structures.”

While it’s difficult to tell the species without a specimen in hand (COASSTers know all about that!) Scarlett ventures these are likely “California Market squid egg sacs, since they range from Southern California all the way to Alaska.”

More to come? Yes, definitely. We’re hoping to work with Scarlett to figure out what kinds of data COASSTers can collect on beached squid to inform researchers. Stay tuned!

What’s Washed In

We have been seeing lots of interesting things being found out on the COASST beaches. Here are a few of the many photos that have been sent in recently:


The tiniest of tubenoses, this is a Leach’s Storm-Petrel found in North Oregon. All dark upperwing and a small wing chord of less than 18cm puts us in the “tiny” category of the West Coast guide, and a similar spot in the Alaska guide, one shared with many of the small Alcids (e.g., Marbled Murrelet, Cassin’s Auklet). Underwing linings are not white (you’ll have to trust us on this point) so we’re left with Storm-Petrels. Of those, only the Leach’s has a white rump and dark brown (vs. light gray) plumage.


A Large Immature Gull entangled in blue filament (see left leg) found in the Puget Sound. Entangled birds make up about 0.5% of all birds found during COASST surveys in any year. Look carefully at that bill – dark and hooked, but no tube or separate bill plates, so it’s not a shearwater or a jaeger.


There’s only a few species with white in the upperwing and the secondary feathers – Ivory Gull, Glaucous Gull, Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan or Snow Goose. Dark primary feathers tell us this is a Snow Goose-light morph, found in the Chukchi Sea (it’s finally melting up there!)


A rubber cat found on the South Coast of Washington – perhaps used as an under-pet-bowl placemat?


Finally, a glass ampoule (sealed vial) found on the South Coast of Washington. Modern ampoules are mostly used to contain injectable pharmaceuticals. The best way to dispose of an item like this and other medications is through a local pharmacy, or National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, or via the FDA’s suggested method.

You never know what you may find out on those beaches!

Intern Field Trip: Cape Disappointment

This past weekend, the COASST interns (Shannon, Adrienne, Chelsea, An, Stephanie, Hilary) road tripped down to Long Beach, Washington and Cape Disappointment to do a COASST survey . It was a chance for all of us to experience conducting their own survey and learn more about beached bird species identification. Perusing the coast under the grand Pacific Northwest sunshine. There’s nothing better than that.


Klipsan Beach entrance – our first stop.


Liz (left) and Adrienne (right) head out to Klipsan beach to start their survey.


Adrienne scans the surfline for any birds that might have washed up on shore.

It wasn’t long until we had our first find. It was a wing that had been partially buried in the higher portion of the beach, and the team quickly got to work to try and identify what they had found.


Adrienne measures the wing length (wrist to end of outermost primary).

The next step was to determine the species!


Liz points out mottling on the upperwing. Eventually we decide: Large Immature Gull.


Adrienne takes a couple of photos of the Large Immature Gull wing.

Soon we were on a roll. Not too much further from our first find, we come across another find: just a head!


Liz shows us the starting point of the bill measurement.


The head is tagged: black, white, red (#901). Large adult gull.


Our last find: a Sooty Shearwater –  a seabird with one of the longest migration routes ever recorded: 39,000 miles.

After COASSTing, we had the rest of the day of explore Long Beach and Cape Disappointment – not a disappointment in any sense!



Liz, Stephanie, Adrienne, An, Hilary, Chelsea, and Shannon.


Cape Disappointment was spectacular, actually.




Handy Chalk Holder

Use chalk like a pen/pencil with this nifty holder.

Thanks Janice, who surveys the Damon Point East and West, for introducing us to this neat and helpful addition to the COASST field kit: a chalk holder. Most any office supply store carries these portable plastic holders that turn your chalk into a mechanical pencil. “It’s especially helpful in the rain, and for using up those smaller pieces,” adds Janice.

COASST – It’s not just for Seabirds!

“Seabird” is a part of the COASST acronym and seabirds are the focus of our program, but from the very start volunteers have collected data on ALL dead birds found, not just the ones associated with the ocean.  COASST volunteers have thus far documented 156 dead-on-the-beach species from Humboldt County to the Chukchi Sea. About 30% of those are species that have no ties to the marine environment. So what gives? How does a landbird end up dead on a beach?

Sometimes, we know exactly how. We have raptors to thank for many of our out-of-place finds. COASST data verifier Charlie, watched this Peregrine Falcon (photo above) swooping on a Northern Flicker at Grayland Beach in Washington. He was curious to see if it would then show up on a survey. Sure enough, Laurie Lindeman and Bev Dage came through, finding the picked-clean wings 5 days later (photo below)!

Then there are some real puzzlers. Varied Thrushes are generally described as reclusive forest birds, but for some reason they show up more than we’d expect on COASST surveys. Compared to American Robins, by any measure a more numerous bird, Varied Thrushes (photo below) have been found 20 times, while robins only 6. The reason for this is a total mystery to us!

Life must be hard for raptors, and like any bird (think murres!) the first year of life presents special challenges. There is a real learning curve when it comes to pursuing active prey. Most of our raptor finds involve juvenile birds, like this Red-tailed Hawk (photo below) with the banded brown tail of a youngster.