Outstanding Yaquina Head

yaquina  027yaquina  001yaquina  032Hector and I found the name Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area a bit unusual.  But we discovered that an Outstanding Natural Area (ONA) is a Bureau of Land Management designation established by Congress “primarily to protect unique scenic, scientific, educational, and recreational values.  Recreation activities focus on education and interpretation of the ONA’s unique resources”.  So there.yaquina  046

June reportedly has the most negative tides of the year in Oregon.  So we visited Yaquina Head’s tide pools during low tide on days when there was a negative tide. The weather was variable as is the norm around here, from sunshine to wind to rain. yaquina  035

As we walked down to the appropriately named “Cobble Beach” we encountered multiple groups of students with teachers and several rangers.  It was fun, but quite noisy.  Overhearing bits of the lesson, it sounded like a great day of learning.

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yaquina  048Because it had rained, the footing on the rocks was a little tricky, and, once out on the larger rocks by the water’s edge, there is quite a bit of slippery seaweed.yaquina  036

yaquina  041The small effort paid off; during our multiple visits we saw many critters including lots of hermit crabs, ochre sea stars, purple sea urchins, sea anemones, mussels, acorn and gooseneck barnacles, limpets, tidepool sculpins (fish) and black turban snails.yaquina  039yaquina  037

yaquina  040In the low tide zone, which is only exposed in extremely low tides, we also saw rarer red sea urchins, giant Pacific chiton, and blue top snail.yaquina  049yaquina  047yaquina  043

yaquina  038There were helpful volunteers perched on the rocks, sharing “sightings” of special critters and pointing out some different types of seaweed that I was ignoring while looking for critters. There was feather boa, seersucker kelp, black pine and iridescent, among others. This place is full of life!

yaquina  042And the most fun find of all – a Pacific Giant Octopus. He was hiding under a rock in the high tide zone. And then he swam out. Once the students got wind of this, there yaquina  045was a mob scene of excited students walking over, and when the poor frightened octopus spotted the onlookers’ shadows and heard their excited screams, he quickly swam under another rock. The ranger told us that the octopus had probably gotten stuck in these higher rocks and if he couldn’t get back out to sea they would help him.

Oh, and did I mention that there were more seals with babies around the corner of the beach.yaquina  044

yaquina  002yaquina  007On to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. We made a reservation for a tour of the lighthouse (they fill up fast), one of the more unique lighthouse tours we’ve taken.yaquina  012

The ranger. a BLM employee, gathered the group outside the lighthouse and told us that once we stepped inside, the tour would become a first-person tour. To clarify, the ranger would take on the character of one of the actual lighthouse keepers from the 19th century, and, of course, he was dressed the part.yaquina  014yaquina  013

As lighthouse keeper, he treated us as a visiting group from olden days. He described “his” and “his” assistants’ many duties, including maintaining the light; cleaning, polishing and repairing. It was very informative and entertaining and the kids in the group loved it.

yaquina  016yaquina  018The Yaquina Head Lighthouse’s tower is Oregon’s tallest. It took about one year and over 370,000 bricks to construct it.  We climbed up the beautiful staircase to the watch room just below the light. Then the “lighthouse keeper” allowed one person at a time to climb up a small stairway and take a peek into the beautiful lens.yaquina  017

The first-order Fresnel lens, first lit in 1873, was automated in 1966 and continues to light the way.yaquina  015

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yaquina  009yaquina  004The park also has an interpretive center with great exhibits on the history of the lighthouse, the history of the area and its wildlife.yaquina  006

The overlook in front of the lighthouse and the area around Cobble Beach are great places from which to spot gray whales and birds.yaquina  028

We saw colonies of common murre, pelagic and Brandt’s cormorants. And a couple of bald eagles.yaquina  051yaquina  026yaquina  031yaquina  030yaquina  029yaquina  065

yaquina  053yaquina  057A pretty interesting sight was a bald eagle drying its wings after a hard rain and then being harassed by a daring seagull – something that seagulls seem to specialize in.

Different seagulls took turns at this. I wonder how they decided who gets to taunt the eagle next?

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yaquina  064yaquina  050But our most amazing bird sighting was a nest with peregrine falcon babies – three of them! Mom and Dad had apparently left to hunt for food for their babies.

Once again, there was a wonderful volunteer with a scope that helped us get a closer look.yaquina  010

yaquina  005Yaquina Head truly was outstanding.

~ Brendayaquina  063yaquina  066

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  1. I hope Hector does not get tired of hearing my praises, but oh WOW. Love those purple and red urchins. I have never seen any of those. And that Bald Eagle shot where it probably was yelling at the Sea Gull was just perfect.

    • Believe me, he doesn’t get tired, it makes him very happy that others love his photography since he loves it so much. The tide pools at Yaquina Head were extra special, probably because they are so well protected. And I love that the bald eagle looks so mad!

  2. I think that each post that you put out just gets better and better… I love the trips you share with us, but, and it’s a big BUT, the photography is National Geographics good… I’m absolutely blown away by the photos…

    • I am loving tidepooling, it’s one of my new favorites as well. If you get a chance, check out the tide pools at Yaquina Head, they are so rich with life, probably because they are so well protected.
      Brenda

  3. We loved Yaquina Head and the tide pools when we visited. OMG Hector, your photography leaves me speechless! Thanks for bringing this gorgeous country to life. 🙂

  4. Beauty, beauty, beautiful!!! Love all the colors, especially the purple sea urchins! And yes, your posts just keep on getting better and better!!! Thank you so much!

  5. You hit the jackpot on this one!! While I didn’t care for how bundled you were, Brenda, it was so worth it after seeing those amazing photos of all the sea creatures in the tidal pools. I MUST get to the coast to see these tidal pools. This something we have never done and I am so anxious to have this adventure. What beautiful colors:)

    Hector, that screaming bald eagle shot was wonderful!!

    I love the photo of you, Brenda, coming down the stairs in the light house:)

  6. We were there in March. We were host at Yaquina bay lighthouse for the month. If you are still in the area you may want to visit there. It’s a very unique lighthouse. We loved our time there. Hope that sometime our paths may cross love you photos and the story.

    • Thanks Jim. We loved that lighthouse and the well done tour. So glad you are enjoying the tour … we sure are! See you down the road.

      Hector

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