Saturday, September 27, 2008

Any Day With Harlequin Ducks In It... a particularly good day.

Went out to Salt Creek Park pretty early this morning. Tomorrow is the Audubon Society event with the Olympic Vulture Study, but I wanted to get out of the house, and besides who said the birds would wait for tomorrow. The tide was well out over the Tongue Point tidepools. Saw a tern dive and catch something, in Crescent Bay. Some auklets, some cormorants. Gulls of course. And lots of harlequin ducks, chasing each other around and making their bath-toy squeaks and generally not behaving with the sort of dignity you'd attribute to such an elegantly marked critter.

Diane McCrae turned up with her scope after about an hour, but the migrating turkey vultures did not. We shared giggles over the harlequins, and pointed out other birds to each other. She keeps peanuts in her pockets and tosses them out to the crows; well, it must get boring sitting there day after day waiting for hundreds (or thousands) of turkey vultures to cross the Strait and start streaming by overhead so she can count them on her tally sheet.

Blue-grey morning, Salt Creek Park

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pelican Migration. Who Knew?

Rialto Beach in foggy weather. Pelicans passing by for hours, flying north to south. They flew by in threes and twelves and thirties, not fishing, not hanging around, just flying by, flying by. We can't find any book or web page that tells us that that's what pelicans do on the Washington coast at the end of September. That we saw what we saw.

Out there they are fluid, graceful. They skim the water, they rise up, they bunch, they spread out. Direct links: (1)(2)

Overhead they are astonishing: six-foot wingspans.


More to tell: then we went around to the other side of the river, birds and things in La Push. Then we when we came home we went straight out onto Ediz Hook where the only action whatsoever was a loon on the Strait side. Then we went out on the deck at 8:30 and watched Golden Princess pass by the bottom of the street, a rectangle of bright lights steaming past in the dark. No wonder there haven't been any visible cruise ships. Sunset moved but the sailing schedule did not.)

Right now we gotta dart out to the Hoh Rainforest and get rained on.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Winter Coming Soon: Lillian Ridge

Out to Obstruction Point with P. We were above the clouds that have blanketed town for the past two days, but the air was murky up there. (Maybe smoke in the air. There's fires in Oregon.)

We hiked a little ways in, had a picnic, looked and looked and looked for marmots. It was lavishly beautiful; but dry; and everything seemed over, finished, shutting down, winter-coming, though it was warm warm warm. We saw a horned lark in the grass. Many scarlet patches of Vaccinium deliciosum, all over the landscape. Accenting tiny lakes, and scattered down the slopes.

P. heads down to look for a patch of scarlet berry leaves. (Click for larger image).
Patches of Cascade blueberry, leaves turned scarlet. (Click for larger image).

A mile or so down the road on our way out, a marmot was sitting on top of his burrow, very close to the road. Oh he was so cute, with his little white nose and his body so fat, so ready to hibernate. Didn't try to get a picture, getting out of the car would have scared him off. Sleep well, marmot. See you next year.

Looking back: because we might not see it again until next July. (Click for larger image).

PS Hunting around for some history that explains why there is this astonishing road straight to paradise, I found the Kaleberg's beautiful page of photos taken up there this week. Lots of red, and before the foggy (smoky?) air moved in. Found the history on Nature Education Enterprises blog.

Monday, September 15, 2008


A great blue heron just landed in the top of the tree in the middle of the vacant lot across the street. Stayed a while, silhouetted against the bright eastern sky. Then spread his vast wings and flew away.

Cool Tool

Equinox coming, equinox coming. Weather permitting, perhaps on next Monday can get a nice reassuring experience of "Yes, by golly, the sun rises in the (exactly) east and sets in the (exactly) west."

My old sighting compass does not hold its declination setting anymore, and I have to keep resetting it. So what is it (exactly) at the moment, here? Estimated Value of Magnetic Declination. "Declination = 17° 35' E changing by 0° 10' W/year". Thank you, NOAA.

PS Note to self: used the lat/long of the airport, Latitude: 48.11888888; Longitude: -123.49361111.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Actual Ocean

Always the same place, about 80 minutes from home. So. Out to the end of Rialto Beach, Sunday last. It was a perfect blue day. I filled the camera with attempts to capture pelicans,

and waves striking rocks. Pelicans floating, pelicans hunting, pelicans diving. As most often, I stopped short of the end of the beach, at the spot where, the first time I saw it, I thought it was the most beautiful beach I'd ever been on. Click for larger images.

Perfect blue day
Sea stacks before the arch: the guardian stones

And again at sunset on Thursday, with M. Pelicans diving, chipmunk on the beach. Hike out to within reach of the sea stacks, sit on a log, picnic. We hiked back just in time, the sun touching the horizon as we left, the whole visible world composed of golden light.

Rialto Beach, looking north, evening
Rialto Beach, looking south, evening

I should have gone again yesterday.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Whoo Hoo: Orcas in the Harbor

According to Orcanetwork, "There were 5 transients that went into Port Angles Harbour on the afternoon of the 9th. They were T41, T41A, T44, T109A and T109A2." According the the news article they appeared around 2 PM. So I was at work, and then at the laundromat, while I was missing my chance to see orcas from shore Right Here.

(My colleague J.R. told us on Friday morning that Thursday afternoon he and his wife had seen orcas from the tribe's beach at Angeles Point.)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Seasonal Note

This week the Coho ferry slips back from four runs a day to three, and is spending his nights at the mooring here in Port Angeles instead of in Victoria. First crossing of the day is the 8:20 from here, and no longer the 6:10 from the other side.

I've redated the visit posts. Having them appear in-order-as-composed rather than chronologically was confusing even me (and I was there when they happened.) One more retrospective post to put together, our Friday morning on the Strait. But I'm going to wait to do that tonight. Time to ignore the siren call of desk chair and couch, and head out to the ocean.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I've been here a year. When I have guests, they ask me whether I have made new friends here. Except for M. (whom I have known for two decades), not.

This week I heard from a bookseller friend who has been reading about Yeats, and it made me think of The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Because, now that she put it in my mind, I can see this: except that I came near the ocean instead of to the sort of place Yeats was (writing as if) yearning for, I did it. I went where I wanted to be and here I am, living alone in the bee-loud glade.

One year and counting, and I'm still not lonely.

Out the window. Dusk.

This post comes with a soundtrack, I suppose. Hamilton Camp's setting of Innisfree. But I can't get a good link to the sound clip, and anyway it doesn't sound the way I remember from forty years ago. (Or perhaps the soundtrack is the surf at Rialto.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Visit: Heard a Marmot, Saw a Marmot

Late on Thursday afternoon we drove up onto Hurricane Ridge and then out the dirt road to Obstruction Point and headed up the trail along Lillian Ridge. Almost right away we heard a marmot whistling, right where all the trail books say to watch for marmots. We looked and looked, and finally spotted him, sunning on a rock on the far side of the hollow. He/she was just hanging out on a rock, whistling.

Where the marmot was, elevation 6100' on Lillian Ridge

We hiked along the trail to the next little rise, and then another, one eye on the time because we had a long way to go to get back to town before dark. There were not so many flowers. The sun got lower in the sky, the light more lavish. When we came back the marmot was quiet, but still on his rock. With the sun behind him he cast a tiny far-away shadow on the bit of meadow below. We enjoyed the idea that he spends most of his time looking at the world from his rock, except when he goes in his burrow, which we imagined must be right there under the rock

The View from a bit further on and higher up

PS The revision of the Park website has caused their photo of an Olympic Marmot to vanish. Here it is, as retrieved from the Wayback Machine.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Also Wednesday There Were Pelicans

Having-it-all mode worked very well for the whole visit. On the way home from the rainforest, though it was late, we went out to Rialto. Tide high and dropping. Marine layer fog thinning. Pelicans. Dozens, in small groups. Flying, floating, fishing.

Pelicans in front of Cake Rock.

The Visit: Wednesday the Hoh Rainforest

(Company this week. We did the headline tour of the north and west Olympic Peninsula.)

Perfect sunny weather in the forest. We took two of the trail loops from the Visitor Center, Spruce Nature Trail (which loops out to the river) and the Hall of Mosses.

In the Hoh Rainforest. Spruce Trail. (These photos are J.K.'s)

The rangers say it is not certain why the mosses prefer the bigleaf maples. Perhaps something about the configuration of the bark suits them better ("PH and porosity," says one of the rangers. "I was just reading about it.") Perhaps, they agree when I hold my arms out and pose as a maple standing there in the crowded Visitor's Center, perhaps also the more horizontal habit of the maple limbs makes it easier to establish there...

In the Hoh Rainforest. Hall of Mosses. (This photo by mb.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Continuing Diminution of Daylight

The sun is rising 80 minutes minutes later, and setting 86 minutes earlier, than it did when the days were endless. That's two-and-three-quarters hours difference. Already. And rises a good 30 degrees (three-fists-at-arm's-length) to the south along the horizon from where I marked the spot at the end of June.

Begin civil twilight 6:02 a.m.
Sunrise 6:34 a.m.
Sunset 7:52 p.m.
End civil twilight 8:24 p.m.
June 22:
Begin civil twilight 4:33 a.m.
Sunrise 5:14 a.m.
Sunset 9:18 p.m.
End civil twilight 9:59 p.m.

Best not to think about it.