The Drift Line’s Getting Slippery on the Northern Oregon Coast: By-the-Wind Sailors Wash Ashore in Great Numbers

By-the-wind sailors, Velella vellela
By-the-wind sailors, Velella velella

Free-floating hydroids, by-the-wind sailors, Velella velella, have been washing ashore in great numbers, for weeks. It’s a fairly common event on Oregon beaches, but this happens to be one of the biggest I’ve seen, so I’m sharing a few images that captured my imagination.

Velella in the driftline
Velella in the driftline
Here’s the top of the drift line from a pre-dawn high tide.

Extensive Velella drift
Extensive Velella drift
It was a wide and slippery drift line.

Pink -tipped green anemones, Anthopleura elegantissima, with Velella velella
Pink-tipped green anemones, Anthopleura elegantissima, with Velella velella
I came across some rocks and found these anemones getting in on the action.

Surf dotted with Velella
Surf dotted with Velella

At low tide, the surf, as far out as I could see, was full of by-the-wind sailors. The anemones made me curious. How would other surf-dwellers react? Would surfperch take advantage too? I took one small male silver surfperch, Hyperposopon ellipticum, and with a sensation of anticipation that surprised me, I checked the gut. It was full of full of food – highly masticated crustaceans and unrecognizable goo, but no blue pigment and nothing resembling pulverized Velella.

I don’t know how things are progressing anywhere else, but if you live in northern Oregon and want see by-the-wind sailors while they are still fresh, now’s the time to head to theoutershores.