Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reading News & Citizen Science

Someone tweeted that Ursula Le Guin's Powers had won the Nebula award. Alas, I couldn't remember anything about it, so off I went to the library, lined up Gifts, Voices and Powers on a table near the YA shelves. Managed to dip into the first two and refresh my memory without being caught up, but slipped under her spell and reread the whole latter half of Powers. After a while I stopped imagining I was going to get up and leave the library soon, even just to check it out and finish reading in comfort on the couch. Just sat there till I was done. (M.S. says that Le Guin would long since have won a Nobel Prize if she weren't writing genre fiction.)

Really what I'm reading at the moment is COASST Protocol, A Guide for COASST Volunteers. I am now officially a citizen scientist signed up as a volunteer with the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, to make a record of beach-cast bird carcasses on Rialto Beach from the parking lot to Ellen Creek once a month. Took the six-hour training, have identification manual, Beached Birds: A COASST Field Guide by Todd Hass and Julia K. Parrish (unofficially, Dead Birds for Dummies) and protocol notebook and a backpack of data sheets and rubber gloves and cable ties to attach to the carcasses to number them and a paintbrush to remove sand before photographing them, and who knows what else.

Also data sheets for any marine mammal carcasses I happen to find, and data sheets for tracking debris (nets and styrofoam and things) and human use of my beach. It's all about absolute consistency. If I'm going to miss going out in a given calendar month, I have to let them know and they will try to get out there and do it for me.

I've never noticed a dead bird on my beach. Either I don't know how to look, or quite likely there aren't usually any. Still gotta do the survey to get a baseline, so if there is a mortality event where a lot of dead birds turn up (they call it a 'wreck'), they can say firmly, 'This is not normal for this beach, we need to examine this."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It Is So Spring Around Here, and a P.S.

In the neighborhood (Click for larger image.)

Forsythia and flowering trees everywhere in town. It's hard to remember that up on Hurricane Ridge, the snow still nearly reaches the roof of the Visitor's Center.

Hurricane Ridge Webcam. (Click for larger image.)

P.S. Found in the camera, can't imagine how I missed it: on the Sol Duc River, Olympic National Park, where the steelhead were jumping.

Salmon Cascades, April 21... (Direct link, for R.)

P.P.S. Forgot to mention that a seal kindly showed him/herself to E. when we stopped by the Quileute River to see if anyone was home. And also an eagle in a snag by the river.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fish in Flight

Charismatic fish. E. took the picture. (Click for image in context.)

On Tuesday, nothing as planned. We vibrated back and forth between First Beach and Rialto: failing to see whales on the south side of the river, and then seeing not much scenery on the wild beach to the north, intermittently having the whole world disappear into fog. Good eagle manifestations in the mist. One seemed to pull something to eat right out of the ocean then landed on a tree near us and posed.

Eagle at Rialto Beach. Fog. (Click for larger image.)

It cleared for a while,

Temporary clearing, Rialto Beach (Direct link, for R.)

so we went back to First Beach and watched and watched. No blows. Maybe E. saw a whale. Actually I'm sure she did, but she wasn't sure that's what it was, it not being remotely like seeing and touching them in San Ignacio Lagoon last year.

There were some very graceful northbound flocks of birds far out over the water. And a group of pelicans, yes pelicans, northbound. Then the fog moved back in.

I took us up the Sol Duc River just for the late afternoon sunshine in the trees, planning for us to turn around at Salmon Cascades after a quickie look at the river. No, we won't see any jumping fish, I said. And then E. saw one. And another. Huge jumping fishes, some of them. We were so surprised and excited we were screaming. It was practically erotic, the incredible unexpected fierce determined fishes, leaping leaping leaping. I wanted to fling my arms around E. and dance.

Charismatic fishes. E. took them. (Click for larger image.)

I think some of 'em were 30 inches long, and fat. There were also some really tiny ones. They had to be mature or they wouldn't have 'heard' the chemical call of the river, but so little. A gentleman there said they were steelhead, and later so did a middle school teacher from New Hampshire who raises brook trout with her 7th graders and knows a lot about East Coast salmonids. :-) OK then. Gotta read up steelhead, Oncorhynchus mykiss (1) (2)(3) (4).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


E.W. here for her long-planned mini-visit. Thick fog in town, but I think by the time we get to the coast we will be ok for looking for gray whales.

First Beach Web Cam (Click for larger image.)

Yeah, still sick. A whole week and more. Popping antibiotics and trying to ignore it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Continuing to contemplate my web presence, privacy (both my own and working in a place that is not mine to tell about), and so on. Tried a new social medium, gingerly, and am already over my head. Meanwhile, lying low as I came home with a spectacular head cold, and my inner ears definitely did not fly well.

LibraryThing is bragging on its new widget. Let's see:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reading News

In Tucson with mom. Long travel day yesterday. Clouds below, not much looking out the plane window; consequently read two mysteries. Presently gnawing on Paul Krugman and Ivan Doig, which ought to slow down the rate of burning through the pile I brought, while I contemplate just how compulsive I am. 'Do I have enough books?' is a distractingly loud question in the back of my mind almost always.

Found myself Wednesday evening just before the public library's closing time with my master Reading Greed Wish List in hand, conferring with the woman who orders mysteries. 'Never heard back about these here four suggestion I made last month...' She kindly masked how shocked she must have been, faced with this paper with the eight or nine subsections of authors and titles printed out in a very small font, want want want want want, with my library card number conveniently showing in two different places to facilitate placing holds... Naked need. She entered some orders to pacify me.

Friday, April 10, 2009


In my persona as helper to tribal libraries, I was back out at La Push on Thursday, working in the Quileute school library again. Before heading home, I sat out on the point and looked for whales. After a bit, saw them.

Last year I started too early, was looking and looking in February and early March when they weren't there to be seen; and I get it that I need to be upslope a little, up on a log, or at an overlook; but the crucial difference is the thing I learned from the couple on the beach on Tuesday: watch for five minutes. Not walking along watching, just stand still and watch. They're there.

First Beach, James Island, Quileute River channel, and out to the west.

The weather was better, sky bluer, no glare. There were a number of spyhops, and once I was even pointing the binoculars where a whale just slowly stuck his barnacled head straight up and then sank down again. Another moment there were three different blows within a couple of seconds at three different spots: three whales.

I couldn't stay, was leaving for Tucson at impossible AM the next morning and not packed yet. But had a happy half hour. When they're there, they're there. Watch for five minutes and you will see them blow.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Watch for Five Minutes

Yesterday, wandering along First Beach in La Push, looking for whale blows, not seeing any. On the one hand you can't see what isn't there, on the other hand...

Kite-flying families, Twilight tourists, surfers, eagles. Aha, standing on a log at the front edge of the drift is a woman with binoculars, staring seriously out. I wander up (that 'up' is a clue, my tendency to angle right down to the swashing waves is counter-productive for seeing the water surface outside the surf line) and ask, have you been seeing them? "They're there," says the woman. "Just watch for five minutes, you'll see them blow," says her husband. I sit on a log near enough to the couple to be inside their aura of serious seeing, and it doesn't take but about 15 seconds. A blow and a bit of dark whale back. Involuntarily I hoot and wave my arms, primate greeting cetacean.

It was another curiously hazy/murky day, and windy. The tide was going out. As long as you grant that seeing them blow or seeing bits of whale back or a very occasional fin qualifies as 'seeing a whale', I by golly saw A Great Many gray whales. The water was calm, there was a lot of wind and glare. I never managed to point the binoculars at a whale, the blow or the flash of rolling back went by too fast. Couldn't track whether that one over there, and ah-another, and the-one-between-here-and-the-buoy were three whales, or one on the move.

After a while I waded across the creek and watched from a different spot. More surfers came, and more Twilight tourists. It got glare-ier. My feet were getting really cold, but I kept thinking either, "I'll leave after one more," or, "I can't leave now, I just saw one." Eventually I stopped seeing whales, and I wandered back, wading the creek again, watching for blows. Retrieved my car from behind the school, and drove up to the point to put on dry shoes and socks. The point was swarming with Twilight tourists, and one lady seriously watching. "There," she said, pointing. "You all are here for Twilight but I'm here to watch whales."

Yes, there. Again someone else's serious seeing helped me see. There were many. Not all at once, and who knows whether each manifestation was a different whale or the count (had I been counting) was only a half or a third what it seemed. In the end, the feeling, more peaceable than ecstatic, was that I had seen whales all day, lots of whales; that the gray whales are migrating past First Beach right now oh yes, yes they are.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On the Weekend

Did went to the ocean Saturday. The weather claimed to be sunny, but was actually kind of hazy, kind of murky. I kept wondering if it was my eyes. There were buffleheads on the lake, an eagle at the beach, skunk cabbage visible in wet places in the woods, lots of corvids; lots lots of people— whole family groups and nearly all with dogs; no seal at the river overlook, no elk in the field at Beaver (probably never will be again but I'll look expectantly each time I drive by there, forever).

Saturday Gulls (Click for larger image.)

While we're reaching back into the past, and given that every trip to the ocean involves driving along Lake Crescent even though I almost never mention it, still less often show it... note the fresh snow:

Lake Crescent, about 8 AM, March 26 (Click for larger image.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!! Hummingbird!!!

Oh yaay. It only took him/her two days to find the feeders. Whizzed by so fast I didn't see what it was, except, what it was was a hummingbird.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Spring. Ready.

OK, hummingbirds, ready when you are.

Clock, So To Speak

I sure do love hearing the ferry. Hello, Coho. Good morning to you. I had no idea it was already 8:20. (Better get a move on...)

In Brief (139 Characters)

hard frost on everything this morning. blue sky. the ocean is calling. no posts on beachbunny journal for a week. displaced by twitterlife?