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.

Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

The Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is the largest jay in North America measuring in at 12-13 inches. Like many humans, this bird knows it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. They have a few unique skills that might surprise you.

The Steller’s Jay is related to the Blue Jay but has a slimmer bill and longer legs. It is also the only western jay with a crest. The front part of this jay is black while the back, wings and tail are dark blue. This coloring helps the Steller’s Jay easily blend in with the evergreen forests of the mountainous West where it is typically found, although this bird is also known to frequent campgrounds, parks, and backyards.

This bird is very intelligent and opportunistic. Steller’s Jays usually travel in pairs or family groups. They have a complex social and communication system, with a variety of calls, postures and displays. For instance, a spread wing shows submission, and a raised crest might mean attack. Steller’s Jays may also mimic the screams of hawks and Golden Eagles. This bird feeds mainly on acorns and pine seeds, but will raid other bird’s nests for eggs and nestlings. They will also eat small reptiles, nuts, berries, fruits, and insects.  Curiously, these jays have distendable esophagi that they are able to use to carry acorns and nuts. These foods are often cached for the winter or saved for eating at a later time. What unique skills do you have up your sleeve?

Rough-skin Newt
Rough-skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa)

What do think of when you say the word Newt? Maybe you thought they were just a mythical made-up creature!

Well in fact the Oregon coast is home to this very interesting creature the Rough Skinned Newt!

Rough-skinned newts were named for their dry granular skin―most other salamander species have moist, smooth skin. A terrestrial adult newt has a brown head and back with a bright orange belly. They can grow to almost eight inches long.

Where Found

Through the non-breeding season, terrestrial adults live in forested areas along the coast and through to the eastern Cascade foothills. They find protection in or under soft logs.

For their size, newts migrate relatively long distances between breeding and non-breeding habitat. You may see them traveling during spring and fall as they migrate.

Toxic

An interesting study from Standford University reveals Rough-skinned newts harbor the same deadly toxin found in blowfish in their skin. A newt must be ingested to be toxic.

The newt emits an acrid smell that probably discourages most predators from tasting it. Except for Garter snakes which dine on the newts and have evolved resistance to the toxin.

Researchers report that in some areas, the snakes have somehow spurred greater toxicity in the newts through natural selection. Through this process the newts have increased their levels of resistance far beyond what the newts are capable of.