Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Steelhead are native to North America west of the Rockies, but this popular sport fish has been introduced in almost every other state and on every continent except Antarctica. You may be surprised to learn that steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species, but rainbow trout live only in freshwater and steelhead are anadramous, meaning they spend part of their lives in freshwater and part of their lives in the ocean. Because of their different lifestyles steelhead and rainbow trout are different in appearance, most noticeably in size and color. Rainbow trout derive their name from their beautiful, multi-hued coloration. Steelhead are generally more streamlined in shape and silvery or brassy in color as adults. Adult steelhead/rainbow trout range in size. They can reach 45 inches in length and weigh over 50 pounds, although they are usually much smaller. A typical weight is about 8 pounds. Because steelhead spend 2-3 years in freshwater followed by 2-3 years in the ocean they are typically larger than rainbow trout.

Steelhead/rainbow trout have a varied diet and will feed on just about anything, including zooplankton when they’re young and fish eggs, small fish, crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and even mice as they mature. This fish is also a food source for many different predators depending on the region and habitat. Their predators include lampreys, fish, birds, bears, river otters, raccoons, and humans. In the ocean, steelhead are eaten by many species including seals, sea lions, and orcas.

Steelhead have been called the ultimate game fish. These elusive and challenging fish can test an angler’s patience and persistence, but the reward is hooking into a fish that is famous worldwide for its line-peeling runs and spectacular, acrobatic fight.

Siuslaw National Forest Drift Creek Wilderness

Locals and visitors alike marvel at the iconic image of the Douglas-fir. Did you know this tree provides for much more than good pictures? The Doug fir, as it is called by many, is highly revered and for good reason. In addition to its beauty, this tree has played an important role in the history of Oregon as well as the United States. Impress your next visitors by sharing new knowledge about this interesting species.

The Douglas-fir is named for David Douglas, a botanist who described the tree on his first trip to the Pacific Northwest in 1825. More than a century later in 1939 the Douglas-fir was designated Oregon’s state tree in recognition of the significant role it has played in the state’s economic development. In addition to being beloved by Oregonians, the Douglas-fir is well-known across the country. Today, it is the country’s top source of lumber and accounts for nearly half of the Christmas trees grown in the United States. This tree also played a unique role in American history, including being used by Native Americans for building, basketry, and medicinal purposes. Later, Doug fir was used for railroad ties and telephone and telegraph poles as the nation expanded westward.

Keep an eye out for this important species next time you explore the Oregon Coast!

Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)

You probably have a loud, outgoing friend or two that can be trusted to make their presence known whenever they walk into a room. If you’re a resident of the intertidal community between Alaska, and Baja, California the Black Oystercatcher could be that friend. The Black Oystercatcher is a keystone species in this region and is believed to be a particularly sensitive indicator of the overall health of the rocky intertidal community. This large, long-lived shorebird measures approximately 15 inches in length with a long, thick, reddish-orange bill, a yellow eye encircled by an orange ring, and pink legs. These colors stick out against the bird’s black and dark brown plumage. In addition to its eye-catching appearance, black oystercatchers are gregarious and noisy birds, making several different types of noises to call to each other loudly and to scold other birds that may get too close to where it is feeding.

Oystercatchers inhabit marine shorelines, making their nests above the high tide line on offshore rocks, rocky shores, and sand or gravel beaches. If disturbed, they take flight with loud, ringing whistles easily heard above the sound of the waves. Despite its name, this shorebird seldom eats oysters. Instead, it feeds on a variety of intertidal invertebrates including mussels, limpets, chitons, crabs, barnacles, and other small creatures.

Black oystercatchers are highly vulnerable to natural and human disturbances. Major threats include predation of eggs and young by native and non-native predators; coastal development; human disturbance; shoreline contamination including oil spills; and global climate change. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the entire world population of black oystercatchers is estimated at about 11,000 individuals. More than 50 percent of that population lives in Alaska. If you have the chance to see a Black Oystercatcher next time you visit the beach in Oregon take a moment to appreciate this interesting bird, but keep your distance and help preserve this unique species.