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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Surf zone surprise

An early evening walk on Salmon Creek Beach yielded a surprise in the surf zone: 

There were at least 6 Cassin's Auklets (Ptycoramphus aleuticus) very close to shore.  The auklets would drift south with the current, sometimes almost wash up onto the beach, then fly back to deeper water and start the process again.

I'm used to seeing Cassin's Auklets offshore, but watching them in the surf zone raised lots of questions.  

What drove them there?  Was it the strong winds yesterday?  Were they looking for a place to rest?  Or was there food attracting them to this location?  If so, what type of food?  Cassin's Auklets eat krill, and there could be krill close to the beach, but is there another possibility?  Fish?  I read later that Cassin's Auklets eat Dungeness Crab larvae.  That seems possible for this location, too, but I don't know if there are many crab larvae around right now.

I know that Cassin's Auklets live in the open ocean.  I know they must be used to large waves.  But it was still fascinating to watch them maneuver through the breakers and rough conditions close to the beach. 

P.S.  Cassin's Auklets are ~23 cm (9 inches) long.

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