For Part 3 of my series on Beach Eggs, we’ll look at different vertebrate eggs, all photographed on beaches in or near Port Townsend. All but one here are fish eggs, and at the end is the egg case of a different vertebrate, but eggs laid by birds aren’t included. You may be familiar with fish eggs enjoyed by humans— caviar, sushi roe— and many fish eggs provide valuable nutrition for seabirds and marine invertebrates. Even experts I’ve consulted can’t identify all fish eggs just from a photo, including this cluster of orange eggs nibbled on by two Sanderlings by Pt. Wilson. (Please note: sometimes you’ll need to scroll up and down, even refresh the web page, to view these photos.)

Oligocottus maculosus (Tidepool Sculpin) eggs

Tidepool Sculpin (Oligocottus maculosus)
Here are some bright yellow eggs laid by a Tidepool Sculpin among barnacles on a large boulder. I’ve also found them in an unlikely spot— among the spines of a Purple Sea Urchin. The Tidepool Sculpin is the fish I find most often swimming in our local tide pools. It’s usually a couple inches long and, unlike its eggs, is perfectly camouflaged against rocks and seaweeds.

Sculpins and Allies (Suborder Cottoidei)

Sculpins and Allies (Suborder Cottoidei)
A marine biologist wasn’t able to accurately identify these multi-colored clusters of fish eggs on a much larger boulder. He said the best one could do is to say they’re from “Sculpins and Allies,” so possibly the Tidepool Sculpin. He was delighted by this photo of so many colors of eggs.

Tubesnout (Aulorhynchus flavidus)

Tubesnout (Aulorhynchus flavidus)
The Tubesnout is the only fish in its genus, and it’s a lovely fish with a long, thin body and a very long “snout.” It’s only found in shallow waters off the Pacific coast of North America, and I’ve seen them swimming by the dock at the end of Taylor Street. One spring day on the beach at Cape George, I found many clusters of these golden eggs laid on seaweed, actually a non-native seaweed called Japanese Wireweed.

Porichthys notatus (Plainfin Midshipman)

Plainfin Midshipman (Porichthys notatus)
The Plainfin Midshipman is the most amazing fish I’ve ever seen, and I wish I could hear it one day. The first one I found was from my kayak. Unfortunately, it was dead, floating on its back, displaying its gorgeous design of bioluminescent photophores. You can’t see the photophores here in this male who’s guarding eggs under a rock at low tide by Dabob Bay. One male can mate with a few females and then would have to protect up to 1,000 eggs! The Plainfin Midshipman’s other common names are “singing fish” and “humming toadfish” because some males create loud humming noises from muscles on their swim bladders. It’s such a loud noise that houseboat residents of Sausalito, CA once couldn’t sleep because it got as loud as an airplane engine at full throttle. Peter Bahls, a biologist and ED of NW Watershed Institute, showed me this fish. He was contacted last year by David Attenborough’s team as they’re working on a special about sound in nature. Peter found Midshipmen for them, and we may be able to watch the program in late 2024. Meanwhile, here’s some fun history:

Beringraja binoculata (Big Skate egg case)

Big Skate (Beringraja binoculata)
Now for the vertebrate that’s not a fish, the Big Skate. This is one of only two skate species that has more than one embryo in its egg capsule, usually three or four, but up to seven. The large, leathery, oblong egg capsule, often called a “mermaid’s purse,” is the largest egg capsule of any skate. I found this one, almost a foot long, washed ashore on the beach at Cape George. Years ago volunteers and visitors to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center delighted in observing the embryos develop in an aquarium tank.

Stay tuned for the final photo essay in this series, which I told a friend will be the grand finale, with some more remarkable beach eggs!


  1. Wonderful article Wendy. I would like to know more about the Midshipman. What an interesting fish – and one that communicates via sound. Thank-you

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