Abalone Cove tide pools - May 2010

There hadn't been many low tides that are low enough to warrant a tide pool trip this spring, but May 2 was promising, with a tide of -0.33 and a group of friends, most of whom had never been tide pooling who were excited to see what I'd been raving about. We met up in LA and headed to Rancho Palos Verdes, CA to Abalone Cove.

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I hadn't been to Abalone Cove since my first tide pool trip with V, T and my sis back in July 2008. I thought parking might be a bit difficult because the lot doesn't open until noon, but since we were there early (before 7 am!) we parked on Sea Cove Dr. remembering we'd need to move the car by 9am.

[UPDATE: As of Sept. 2010 you can no longer park on Sea Cove Drive at any time without a permit. Also, the hours listed on the Abalone Cove web site for the parking lot may be inaccurate. I'd suggest calling before you head down there or you might have to risk parking illegally!]

A short hike down and some slower scrambling over mid-sized rocks and we were at the tide pools area, greeted by this orange sea star looking beautiful against the bright green of the algae.

ochre sea star

While tide pooling, you need to give your eyes time to adjust since there is just so much to look at and a lot of the creatures you may have never seen before so they are almost invisible until you know what to look for. We soon were in the midst of dozens of sea hares - more than I had ever seen in one place. There was also more and more ochre sea stars (orange and purple), various types of anemone, sea squirts, and a few urchins.

sea hare

anemone (moonglow?)

As we got closer to the land that juts out and into waters that were a little deeper, we were suddenly surrounded by urchins, hundreds! And there were even some large red urchins (most that you see are the California purple urchin). At one point, I looked down at a sea hare and saw what looked like a worm but turned out to be the leg of a brittlestar! I had never seen one before. The photos aren't great because he was moving quickly, but I was really excited. It seems like even though I've been at least a dozen times, I'm always finding something new to marvel at.

my first time seeing red urchins


Since the others hadn't been tide pooling much if at all, they kept asking me what things were and I was happy to share my knowledge, but at one point J pointed and said "Woah, what's that thing!". . .

. . . and the answer was, "I have no idea!". It was amazing! We all tried to decide if it was some kind of mutated ochre sea star that just didn't know when to stop growing new legs. I took a little video which illustrates my extremely excited and "what the hell!" kind of response. I was completely baffled and continued to be excited about this discovery pretty much the whole rest of the day.

When I got home I thought about how I could possibly search for this and decided just to search "20 legged sea star". I got a result right away.

From the wikipedia article:

"The sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) is a large predatory sea star usually with 16–24 limbs called rays. It is the largest sea star in the world. Sunflower sea stars can grow to have an arm span of 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) in diameter. The color of the sunflower sea star ranges from bright orange, yellow and red to brown and sometimes to purple, with soft, velvet-textured bodies and 16–24 arms with powerful suckers."

A quick search on youtube for "sunflower sea star" and you can see the amazingness of this creature. So excited to have seen one!

Here are a few more of the photos I took:

On the way back to the car we saw so much trash on the beach that we had to begin a spontaneous trash cleanup. Here's what we collected just on the way back to the trail from the tide pools. Sad! Clean up after yourselves!

We also saw this strange squiggly mass. I took a photo not knowing what it was. Turned out to (probably) be sea hare eggs! They lay masses like this that contain as many as 85 million eggs!!

 After getting back in the car we stopped at Wayfarer's Chapel which none of us had seen and then got brunch in Manhattan Beach. In every way, this was a perfect day! Next low low tide not until September (what is going on!) but I'm looking forward to it.

Click here for more of my photos from Abalone Cove and the neighboring Sacred Cove.


  1. Tide pools, exploring new places, art fair..what a great Sunday.


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