Creature Features

PROMO intro Seal 512x219

This olio of writings and photographs is a sample of Refuge intern/volunteer Peter Pearsall's work with the Oregon Coastal Refuge Complex starting in December 2014. Many of these "Creature Features" have appeared on the Complex's Facebook page; others turn up throughout the six Refuge websites managed as part of the Complex.

Click on the links to read each feature in full.

  • Gooseneck Barnacle

    PROMO List Gooseneck 150x118

    Barnacles are crustaceans, distant kin to crabs, shrimp and lobsters. Being arthropods, they have bodies split into segments—head, thorax, abdomen—but none of this is visible on an adult, intact barnacle...Read on

  • Peatlands at Neskowin Marsh

    PROMO List Bog 150x118

    Wherever freshwater is allowed to pool up and stagnate across a relatively level area of land, you've got the makings for a mire...Read on

  • Bufflehead

    PROMO List Buffle 150x118

    On bays and lakes along the Oregon coast, wintering waterfowl gather by the thousands in quacking, honking, squeaking, whistling flocks...Read on

  • Semidi Islands Aleutian Cackling Goose

    PROMO List Cackler 150x118

    In July 2008 this Cackling Goose and 82 others of its ilk were captured and banded by refuge biologists on the remote, uninhabited Semidi Islands, part of the Aleutian archipelago in Alaska...Read on

  • Baby Birds' Diapers

    PROMO List Chicksac 150x118

    Baby birds in their nests can be a darling sight to behold. But like all babies, chicks produce a lot of poop...Read on

  • Pacific Chorus Frog

    PROMO List Chorus 150x118

    Calling out a sharp "krek-ek" in the evenings or stereotypically ribbit-ing the night away, the male Pacific Chorus Frog's vocalizations are usually aimed at attracting a mate...Read on

  • Short-billed Dowitcher

    PROMO List Dowitcher 150x118

    Threading to-and-fro across our mudflats and salt marshes is a medium-sized shorebird with a disproportionately long bill, probing the substrate for worms, shrimp and other aquatic invertebrates...Read on

  • Great Egret

    PROMO List Egret 150x118

    The gracile Great Egret stalks clearings and waterways from the Americas to Europe and Africa, tall and stately, long of leg and neck and possessed of a most unmusical croaking call...Read on

  • Northern Flicker

    PROMO List Flicker 150x118

    There is a largish brown bird alighting on the lawn. It crouches, scans the yard’s perimeter, and proceeds to stab and flick the soil with its bill, which is sharp-looking and slightly decurved...Read on

  • Origins of Haystack Rock

    PROMO List Haystack 150x118

    Imagine, if you will, a portion of the northern Oregon coast 40 million years ago. Clatsop, Tillamook and Lincoln counties are at this point mere motes glinting across an abyss of geologic time, but the physical coordinates are more or less analogous...Read on

  • Heermann's Gull

    PROMO List Heermanns 150x118

    Identifying gulls can be a headache. Many species acquire adult plumage only after several years, with individuals in each progressive year looking slightly different from the last...Read on

  • Hermit Thrush

    PROMO List Hermit 150x118

    The mixed-wood forests at Nestucca Bay NWR, ensconced in low clouds and wintry drizzle, exude a damp tranquility this time of year. But all is not quiescent in the understory...Read on

  • For Birds, Windows Can Kill

    PROMO List Kingfisher 150x118

    From skyscrapers to one-story ramblers and everything in between, our fenestrated structures cover the landscape, presenting a deadly maze of mirrors to flying animals...Read on

  • Yellow-spotted Millipede

    PROMO List Millipede 150x118

    In the dank forests along the Pacific coast there can be found a leggy little creature, scarcely two inches in length, crawling among the sodden leaf litter and conifer needles and mossy, moldering woodrot at a methodical plod...Read on

  • Red Phalarope

    PROMO List Phalarope 150x118

    Red Phalaropes are among the daintiest and most eccentric of shorebirds. Wintering in southern oceans from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope, they're apt to dabble on the water's surface like ducks, often tens of miles offshore...Read on

  • Do Birds Get Cold Feet?

    PROMO List Sanderlings 150x118

    Birds, like all mammals and some fish, are homeotherms, meaning that they internally regulate their body temperature by burning calories to create and conserve heat...Read on

  • Red-breasted Sapsucker

    PROMO List Sapsucker 150x118

    Woodlands in the Pacific Northwest are home to a great many birds that, in some fashion, use trees to survive. Some roost in trees, nest in trees, hunt from trees; others glean insects from leaves and bark, or pick fruit from branches, or harvest seeds from conifer cones...Read on

  • The Escargot-getter

    PROMO list beetle 150x118

    Emerging from a rotted log, the beetle scurries across the path, its purple-black carapace agleam in the woodland gloaming at Nestucca Bay NWR. The waning daylight is its signal to grow active and alert—time to get up and start the night’s work...Read on

  • Witch's Butter

    PROMO List Tremella 150x118

    Growing on dead hardwoods of every variety, occurring in a broad latitudinal swath encircling the globe—from China to Sweden to the central Oregon coast, in temperate and tropical climes—the jelly fungus known as Tremella mesenterica, or “witch’s butter”, has perplexed people from time immemorial...Read on

  • Varied Thrush

    PROMO List Varied 150x118

    The dim, dripping forests of the Pacific Northwest ring with an otherworldly song—a "ventriloquist voice," as writer Lyanda Lynn Haupt describes it—a single chord whirring with harmonics that seems to emanate from nowhere in particular, and yet everywhere at once...Read on

  • Of Decomposition and Rebirth

    PROMO List Bolete 150x118

    The creek is low and rank with dead salmon. Strewn about its banks are gnawed fish heads, fish tails, discarded fish guts, even whole fish, barely touched…Read on

  • For the Birds

    PROMO List GCSparrow 150x118

    When in 1962 Rachel Carson wrote, “Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world,” she was sounding an alarm to the world…Read on

  • Senescence

    PROMO List Senescence 150x118

    Oregon may be known as a state covered in drippy, year-round verdure, but the fact of the matter is that many of our native plants do not stay perpetually green, and instead turn brown and shrivel up when sunlight grows scarce in the fall…Read on

  • Bug-bear

    PROMO List Woolly 150x118

    The autumnal equinox has passed, leaves are starting to turn, and throughout the country woolly bears are running rampant across streets and sidewalks, sensing in their fuzzy little bodies the urge to pack on fat before the cold sets in…Read on

  • Pacific Madrone

    PROMO List Madrone 150x118

    Growing throughout the coastal mountains and inland valleys of western Oregon are stands of broad, heavy-limbed trees with peeling red bark and glossy ovate leaves…Read on

  • Horse-tale

    PROMO List Equisetum 150x118

    Behold the lowly horsetail. A weed, some say, an eyesore proliferating in roadside ditches and untended yards. Who hasn’t seen this Plain Jane of a plant, cropping up alongside urban trails or thrust inexorably through the asphalt…Read on

  • Transformation: A Swallow-tale

    PROMO List Papilio 150x118

    Emerging in the spring with warming weather, the adult Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) hangs from its chrysalis, allowing the blood-like hemolymph circulating through its body to fill its four wet, wrinkled wings…Read on

  • Lemons of the Sea

    PROMO List Lemon 150x118

    Sea lemons are nudibranchs (Latin nudus, “naked”, Greek brankhia, “gills”), a class of gastropod mollusks commonly referred to as sea slugs. Technically, nudibranchs are further defined as strictly marine, carnivorous, hermaphroditic gastropods that shed their shell after the larval stage, but let’s not get esoteric about it…Read on