Ochre sea star is the species of starfish that used to be common in the rocky intertidal zone around Pacifica. Despite their English name, these starfish come in a range of colors: ochre, lavender, orange, brick red.
In the vertical stratification of intertidal invertebrates along the rocky shore, these sea stars are normally found in the zone just below the band of California mussels. As the sea stars prey heavily on the mussels, their vertical distribution more or less defines the lower limit of the band of mussels.
Ochre sea stars used to be so common that at this time of year, several wintering glaucous-winged gulls specialized in feeding on them, spending most of their day seeking them out and then trying to swallow them.
Recently, a mysterious starfish die-off has hit many areas along the West Coast of North America, from Alaska to Southern California, killing ochre sea stars as well as other species. The die-off is caused by something called sea star wasting syndrome, but the pathogen causing this wasting and die-off is still unknown.
As I had not seen any reports from the Pacifica area, I took advantage of low tide December 5 to walk around the rocky shore of Rockaway Headland to see if our local ochre sea stars have been impacted by the mysterious die-off.
Unfortunately, I found that they have. I checked many large rocks that I know used to be covered with dozens and dozens of these starfish, but despite searching along a couple of hundred meters of shoreline, I was unable to find a single sea star.
The top photo (above) shows what it used to look like, with ochre sea stars crowded along the lower edge of the band of California mussels. This photo was taken two years ago. The bottom photo was taken December 5, 2013 in the same general area. The lower edge of the band of California mussels is still well defined, showing where the sea stars used to be, but not a single sea star is to be seen anywhere.
Pierre Messerli passes along this timely seasonal reminder: "The beginning of the rainy season may be a good time to remember that your headlights must be on if your wipers are on. Daytime running lights are not enough to comply with the requirements of 'headlights on' because with only the daytime running lights on, your taillights are not on. Don’t get caught!"
As we pondered the meaning of Measure V's defeat at the polls, in which the City of Pacifica seems to have been grossly out of touch with reality and public sentiment, a December 3 study session considered this poorly worded document from the city website:
It's a bit ironic that a City Council subcommittee and a citizen focus group produced many good ideas for community outreach, and yet in the wake of an election loss that apparently caught them all by surprise, their long lists of bullet points could have been reduced to a few simple words: LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE.
As Riptide correspondent Lionel Emde says: "Only in Pacifica do we need a 'plan' to communicate with the public."
Healing the Waters A special day of connection to participate in restoration of the waters that flow around Fukushima and at the foot of San Bruno Mountain. At Cypress Lane Wetlands, the restoration of frog habitat is a perfect setting for an Andean shamanic practice: Mihui, the Art of Eating Heavy Energy. Co-led by Paul Bouscal of San Bruno Mountain Watch and eco-psychologist Ginny Anderson. Saturday, December 7 at 1:30 p.m.
Planting Season Has Begun! Our volunteer propagators have grown more than 10,000 locally native plants this year, and we need your help to plant them all before the rains end! Join our Stewardship Saturdays, rain or shine, to improve native habitat on San Bruno Mountain, December 7, 14, 27, 28.
Growing Natives @ Mission Blue Nursery Join our team of volunteer propagators as we grow next season's batch of locally native plants for restoration and public sales. In case of rain, meet at San Bruno Mountain Watch office in Brisbane for seed processing, Wednesdays, December 11 and 18 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Take a Hike Experience San Bruno Mountain with a guided educational hike. Meet at San Bruno Mountain Watch office in Brisbane at 10 a.m. and hike until about 1:30 p.m., Saturday, December 7, Buckeye/Owl Canyon; Saturday, December 21, Shellmound.
Friday, December 6 at 7 p.m., Chinese Melodrama plays at the Chit-Chat Café (C3). We first heard this duo at an open-mic event at C3 nearly three years ago and have never forgotten the pleasure of Randy Bales’ singing and guitar-playing, while Dr. Lisa Chu’s violin weaves in and out of their versions of familiar pop and rock melodies, as well as a lovely song that I would not have believed was Metallica’s if I had not had a metal expert with us.
Saturday, December 7 at 2 p.m., Chit-Chat Café, Wentworth and Romero on flute and guitar.
The Montara Mountain Boys (Paul H. Taylor, Nick Evanson, Phil Hartman, Kenneth M. Sailors) return to the Chit-Chat Café on Saturday, December 7 from 7:15 to 9:30 p.m. “Country with a few curves.” Note that these guys also comprise two-thirds of the John Hall & Friends SingAlong Circus instrumentalists.
Plastic Onion Band plays at Cheers Saturday, December 7 from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
This time of year seems right for thinking deep thoughts about who we are and where we are going. Since we began in 2007 as an environmentally focused hyperlocal blog, we have covered mainly coastal stories.
But we do not live in a vacuum. Environmental issues particularly are interconnected. So I propose that we do more reporting and commenting on the global environment that we are a part of.
For seven years, we have done a good job of covering local wildlife, pollution, stewardship, conservation, land use, open space, etc. (our motto is "cover the waterfront").
Now let's start connecting our local stories to the bigger picture. Let’s cover environmental issues that concern us all on the regional, state, national, and international level—but always with our unique coastal perspective.
What say you, men and women of Pacifica Riptide? Are you up to the challenge?
Pacifica Performances presents the Skyline Concert Choir, Friday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m., Mildred Owen Hall, 1220 Linda Mar Boulevard, Pacifica, in the building with the colorful mural. The choir, directed by Dr. Jude Navari, continues its tradition of joyful concerts with "O Brillante Estrella, a Celebration of Holiday Choral Music of the Americas,” including "A La Nanita," "Carol of the Drum," and "White Christmas," plus Daniel Pinkham's "Christmas Cantata." Tickets are on sale at the door starting 30 minutes before the show. Special Admission: Adult $15; Seniors/Students, Members $10; youths under 18 are free. For more information call 650.355.1882 or email email@example.com. Check us out at PACIFICA PERFORMANCES. Mildred Owen Hall is wheelchair accessible.