Octopus at Coal Oil Point Reserve
By Robert Bernstein
My unicycling partner Danielle has a son Charles who is exceptionally skilled at finding and gently handling wildlife. We all met up at Coal Oil Point Reserve to see what Charles could find. The dream find would be an octopus.
Here are all my photos and videos!
While we were waiting to meet up with Danielle and Charles we met up with Cris Sandoval and Kevin Lafferty who have managed Coal Oil Point Reserve for decades.
They are scientists and also excellent caretakers of this precious habitat. One of their greatest successes has been the restoration of the snowy plover such that there have been generations of baby plovers born under their stewardship.
One of the greatest challenges has been with dogs, which are rightly perceived as a threat by the plovers. A plover does not have to be killed to keep it from breeding. Just a perceived threat is enough. Please do your part and do not bring dogs into any wildlife preserves.
Cris Sandoval explained that the tidepools at Coal Oil Point Reserve are a Marine Protected Area. She said that this protection keeps this area diverse and rich in marine life.
We saw these odd patches of broken seashells on the beach:
We quickly realized these were sea anemones that had been exposed at low tide. Kevin explained that the anemones actively collect the shell fragments to protect themselves from exposure. He also told us that many of these anemones are 100 years old or more! Even more reason to be careful where you walk around tidepools.
Of course this is how they look when happily submerged:
We also were happy to see vertebrate wildlife like this heron, with Isla Vista as its backdrop.
And this egret taking off nearby.
Eventually we met up with Danielle and Charles who had already been scouting for a while.
Charles soon spotted this small fish:
And a number of crabs, including this one:
Charles started carefully turning over rocks. After just a few tries, we saw a tentacle poking out. Yes! It was good-sized octopus! A two-spot octopus. So named because they can make two blue spots appear, one on each side. As you can clearly see below and to the right of the eye of the octopus in this photo:
Here is a video of Charles and Danielle with the octopus and a bit at the end where I got to briefly hold it.
Definitely the highlight of the day!
There were some other interesting finds as well. Charles pointed out this chiton embedded in a rock. Chitons are marine mollusks.
Related to this other mollusk that he found
And, of course, we saw plenty of these mollusks that we all know well!
And Merlie spotted this small shrimp which I briefly caught on video as it quickly darted around.
In case you don't recognize Danielle without her unicycle, here we were together just before the start of the Solstice Parade in 2017!
Here are more photos of us in Pali's Flaming Heart Grand Finale that year when the theme was "Celebrating Unity"!
[Ed Note: The article has been updated with an explanation that the tidepools are a protected area, per the author.]