Sunday, May 31, 2009


Hobuck Beach, Makah Bay (Click for larger image.)

Third expedition as a COASST volunteer, surveying Hobuck Beach (map), low tide, May 29th, with M.-S. (the COASST trainer). Wide sandy beach, wrack: 'thick' (more than a meter wide), weather: fog (and sun, but you gotta choose one on the data sheet). Hobuck gets lots of birds, mostly common murres, only not for the past few months. Two years in a row the breeding colony on Tatoosh Island just off Cape Flattery has failed. M.-S. says that because of the large numbers of eagles around, the murres abandoned their nests. They are not very flexible; move as a colony if at all; unlikely to just go somewhere else to start a new nest. We walk.

"Bird!" she calls out firmly. There it is, a couple of wings, plus head and neck.

It's a re-find. Already tagged and in the database. According to the protocol we do not need to measure re-finds, but we do the process on it anyway because I am a newbie. It's a sooty shearwater (formal abbreviation, SOSH).

Sooty Shearwater, SOSH, bird #242 (Click for larger image.)
How It's Done (Click for larger image.)

Pretty soon, another one. "Bird!" she calls out. Another sooty shearwater, re-find, SOSH, #243. Just wings this time. We do the process, and shift it around and photograph it, pack up and go back to wandering our wavy paths down the beach. A dozen lovely whimbrels are wandering around, too; just before they fly away they line up in a neat row so we can count them. Ooh I love shorebirds. If it has long legs and a long beak, I'm for it. We watch them for a while, go back to walking. (It's ok to look around at ocean, sky, wildlife; only you gotta stop walking while you do it, so you don't miss any bird carcasses while you are distracted.)

Hmmm. Kind of a lot of feathers here, more feathers, is there... oh look, a breastbone and some stray bits, but... I call out in a mumble, "Um... er... here's quite a lot of something but nothing to measure..." Then, "OH!!"

It's huge. The details of the beak are very clear. (M.-S. knows just what it is, of course.) She has to prompt me a lot, but we get there. "It's an... ALBATROSS?!?!?" (I'm a little overexcited.)

Black-footed albatross, BFAL, Hobuck Beach #244 (Click for larger image.)

Our beach ends at the Waatch River. We rest for a while. From here we would see all the way down the coast to the sea stacks at Point of the Arches, if it weren't foggy. I ask her what pelagic birds like shearwaters and albatrosses are doing on our beach. I mean, being a beach person and not a boat person, I've never seen an albatross, or a shearwater. "They drifted here," she says of course, but who knew they could drift so far, fetch up on the shore.

We head back along the upper beach. I pick up one of the really enormous sand dollars. Wander wander. "Bird!!" M.-S. has found what turns out to be a large immature gull. One wing of. LIGU, #245.

The field guide, Todd Hass & Julia K. Parrish's Beached Birds : A COASST Field Guide is brilliant. Constructed on characteristics of the sort of measurable parts that might persist in a beached bird—feet, beaks, wings—it makes it possible to count, study, identify, ACKNOWLEDGE even the lost pieces of birds we have found today. They are not bits, they are birds. Beings who will be valued, remembered.

Large Immature Gull, LIGU, #245 (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Confirmed Sighting of Fisher Babies

Remember the fishers (1)(2) reintroduced into the Park last winter and the winter before?? A news release from the Park this afternoon confirms that at least one of the females has had kits. There are pictures.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Time Trial

The first thing on our agenda when PH and SA come next month is to go tidepooling at Salt Creek. So I ran a time trial yesterday to work out how long it will take to get out there. 28 minutes. :-) It was high tide, everywhere we will be walking was covered with water.

High Tide at Tongue Point, Salt Creek County Park (Click for larger image.)

Impossible to imagine what it might be like about midmorning on the 10th of June. I did find a low-tide satellite image, but I don't think a -1.2 tide will be nearly as low as that. We can only hope that the weather will be like it was yesterday afternoon.

Crescent Bay, Salt Creek County Park (Click for larger image.)

Then I went home and started another DVD burning for the grand post-harddisk-crash backup (my poor old PC is very slow at DVD burning, plenty of time for expeditions while it churns...) and headed out again, onto Ediz Hook. The cruise ship flock swam by, Norwegian Pearl, then Star Princess, then Westerdam.

Star Princess (Click for larger image.)

Polar Enterprise is still looming over the terminal on the town side of the harbor, and Fesco Amderma is moored out in the middle. There was a lot of eagle action; the gulls would start screaming and carrying on, and if you looked around one or two eagles, juvenile or adult, would be cruising by or dipping down towards the inner shore of the Hook.

Juvenile eagle with Port Angeles Harbor & Olympic Mountains (Click for larger image.)
Eagle (closer) (Click for larger image.)

One of the failed eagle pictures is a pretty good picture of Amderma. She's Russian. And in February she was in Antarctica resupplying Casey Station !! (see this livejournal entry) as they got ready to settle in to their winter. (I think the journal writer's name is Liam; his most recent entry is dynamite.)

Eagle, with Fesco Amderma (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Paradise Weather

Out at La Push today, helping in the Quileute Tribal Library. Weeding, mostly. Oooh there's some eminently weedable items on these shelves. Lots of eagles around the mouth of the river, and J. says she saw a whale out the window yesterday.

Looking out the windows, this is exactly what you see:

The webcams at La Push, looking southwest, looking west (Click for larger image.)

Citizen Science on a Rainy Monday

On 5/18/09, went with J.L. (and G.) to walk her two beach segments, Slip Point and Middle Point beaches, at Clallam Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Surprisingly long drive (perhaps because not as familiar). It might have been the wettest weather I have stayed outdoors in since I moved here. Warm; but wet wears you down eventually. Only took pictures by whipping the camera out from under the poncho already pointed down. No rain on the lens, but also no context to show, only wrack.

Beachcast sea star, Slip Point Beach in Clallam Bay (Click for larger image.)

We found no bird carcasses. Compared to Rialto Beach last weekend, a lot of sea stars were washed up on the beach; crabs, shells, even some sponges growing around the stipes of stranded kelp. In a small way this must be what Ebbesmeyer calls a "wash-up beach". We picked up a lot of trash—it turns out our COASST backpacks do include trash bags in one of their innumerable zippered pockets, and part of the assignment is to fill out a National Marine Debris Monitoring Program Data Card for each beach segment, whether you gather the trash or not. Somehow overlooked that on my first outing.

It was much easier to feel we have covered the beach with three of us spread out walking our wavy paths. Still, I am having to learn to resist my unconscious tendency to move down closer to the water, to look out at the water, the sky; to drift along listening to the waves, whatever. No-o-o-o, I need to be up kicking around in the wrack line; eyes skimming the beach; scanning for trash; thinking about here, not there; beach, not ocean.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Watcher of Ships (Continued)

No sea lion, in fact, nothing at all going on at the docks where the recreational fishermen come in; no trailers waiting, no boats fishing off the Hook, no halibut being cleaned on the dock, no eagles hanging around for scraps, nothing. So yesterday's dim sunset sea lion will have to do:

Sea Lion at the docks on Ediz Hook, May 16, 2009... (Click for larger image.)

Instead of small boat action, big boats. The tankers Stavanger Viking and Polar Adventure were anchored in the harbor. The pilot boat Juan de Fuca went out to Viking. Viking began to pull in her anchor; it took a long time. Just before the anchor came out of the water and was pulled up snug at the bow, the tug Crowley Response came out, got into position, and as soon as the anchor was secure began pushing Viking around to face outward. They steamed toward the Strait together.

Stavanger Viking and Crowley Response (Click for larger image.)

Meanwhile, Norwegian Pearl and Holland America Westerdam arrived off the Hook, with the tanker Polar Endeavor behind them. A fellow watcher told me he used to work on the Pearl, it's a wonderful ship, he said. He had me take a picture of him with Pearl in the background, so he could send it to his friends on the crew and tell them they had sailed right by his house.

The second pilot boat, Puget Sound, has still not come back from repair, so Juan de Fuca was very busy for a while. Ran to and fro out on the Strait picking pilots off all four of the outbound ships.

Juan de Fuca coming in to dock (Click for larger image.)
Pilots returning, Polar Adventure in the background. (Click for larger image.)

Watcher of Ships

According to the Seattle cruise port schedule, tonight's cruise ships are Westerdam, Norwegian Pearl, and Star Princess. The first two are just now rounding Point Wilson by Port Townsend, with Princess trailing behind somewhere off Useless Bay on Whidbey Island. (Thankyou.

I think I'll go out early, and see if I can get a picture of the California sea lion (dark, domed forehead) who's been hanging around the small boat docks. Last night at dusk he was hunting crabs ferociously.


Me and my COASST backpack**, whose number (written on it in black marker) is OCNMS 70**, did our first survey at Rialto yesterday. I have two beach segments, both short: 'Rialto Jetty', from the parking lot to where the rip rap meets the water and cuts off beach access; and 'Ellen Creek', from the parking lot to the mouth of the creek, where god knows I have been often enough before (1)(2). The headline news is: no dead birds. By the statistics, there rarely are (1)(2).

So when I came down on the beach I first went south along the jetty, trying to make my path a wavy line as described in the protocol, outbound along the bottom of the beach in case the dropping tide wanted to leave me a dead bird to identify, measure, and photograph; and returning up by the drift, examining the smallish and drying piles of kelp and looking among the wood litter.

For my very first official act, I accidentally wrote on the Writes-in-the-Rain version of the form instead of the plain paper one. Oopsie; it was overcast at that point, but certainly not gonna be wet. I recorded weather (clouds), oil (none), wood present (yes, medium size, continuous, high), wrack present (thick, patchy). On the return leg you count people (7). I added to the comments one shorebird, who seemed to be a turnstone but I didn't get a good look, eagles over the river on the other side of the jetty, small bits of trash, a bottle or two. Next time I have to bring a trash bag.

Wrack, Rialto Jetty beach segment, May 16, 2009 (Click for larger image.)

Back at the starting point, I continued north to Ellen Creek. By then the sun was out. I managed to use the right form for this one. Weather (sun), oil (none), wood present (medium, continuous, high), wrack present (thin, patchy). 56 people, 3 dogs. In the comments, 'at least two logs whose DBH is greater than I am tall, but most smaller; very little wrack.'

22 of those 56 people appeared to be a scout troop returning from camping up the coast. It was hard to count the people, I'd get distracted and lose track of how many, or whether this foursome looks familiar because I saw them on the way out when I wasn't counting (count them) or is a group that passed me earlier (already counted).

It was downright hot by then. I went back to the car to throw away all the trash I'd picked up, switch packs, get food; and meant to go out on the beach again. The tide was coming back; I could have put on my tennies and cooled off by getting wet. But I was sundazzled and sleepy. Decided to go home.

**P.S. COASST is Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team. OCNMS is Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.


Thinking about weather and the progress of the melt on Hurricane Ridge. Eleven months ago it looked like this:

Standing at the Visitor Center, June 12, 2008 (Click for larger image.)

This morning,

Current RidgeCam, early morning, May 17, 2009 (Click for larger image.)

Hard to imagine that green grass is going to appear up there anytime soon, but I guess it does every year, and at more or less the same time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday Afternoon

I played hooky from technowoe yesterday afternoon and went to the ocean after I finished my long morning at the tribe. It was satisfactorily beautiful. Windy, sunny, high tide. (I love when the waves reach up into the gravel beds that are still dry and you get this fizzy wooshy sound as water soaks in and displaces the air.) Far out, a group of pelicans, coming from the north and appearing to head for James Island. Wave action.

It's so wonderful that the days are long.

Rialto Beach, May 12, 2009 (Click for larger image.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Morning on the West End

MB was in town over the weekend, and on Friday, with only half a day to spend, we swarmed off to the West End. First to Rialto Beach, where we raced the incoming tide out to the Hole-in-the-Wall,

Crossing Ellen Creek. (Click for larger image.)

turning around when we reached the big rocks, as the tide continued in. It was silly to insist on showing M. the most beautiful place in the world, but, it was the only place I wanted to be/see/show.

Out at the end of Rialto Beach (Direct link for RF.)

M. hoped to see whales, so we darted back to the parking lot and drove around to First Beach, sat out on the point to eat cheese sandwiches and fail to see any whales whatsoever.

First Beach. No whales. (Click for larger image.)

This was the third time in a couple of weeks to not see whales. The season seems to have ended without the cow/calf pairs appearing here. The calf count is apparently low all up and down the coast. The National Marine Fisheries Service biologist/observer at Point Piedras Blancas in California says this is a very slow year for calves. Other observation points report the same.

M. wasn't entirely skunked for big mammals. Over the weekend his family took him hiking up in the Elwha, and they saw a bear back by Humes Ranch.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Electronic Woe

Letting twitter tell it (Click for readable image.)

Dropped off PC at the shop this afternoon. They'll tell me tomorrow if files retrievable. Prob'ly not.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Missed My Chance

There was a cruise ship at Terminal 1 all day yesterday. This doesn't happen often. I coulda gone down to visit the Statendam at the dock if I'd known.

The summer-schedule cruise season begins tomorrow: three outbound every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. I'm planning to go out on the Hook tomorrow and watch them pull in nearby to drop off their pilots on the pilot boats, one two three. Have a little private wave-at-the-big-guys celebration.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Through the magic of modern communications—in this case, multiple email forwards—one of our leaping-steelhead photos (1) from the magical day with E. has new life in the April 2009 Olympic National Park Newsletter.

Maybe I gotta leave work early and go see if they are still jumping...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Magnetic Declination

According to NOAA's declination calculator, the magnetic declination at La Push at the moment is 17° 36' E, changing by 0° 10' W/year. Thank you, NOAA.

Well yeah, when I go back out there tomorrow I have to figure out exactly which direction the new webcam is pointing...

Mowing the Fish

There's a new webcam at La Push. It looks west, across the river channel and out between the islands to the endless ocean. Next landfall Japan, as they say in Tofino.

Webcam at the mouth of the river. Now. (Click for larger image.)
Webcam at the mouth of the river. Yesterday. (Click for larger image.)

So yesterday I was exactly there, looking just to the right of the image, watching sea lions, a whole bunch of sea lions, fishing in the river. Local guys would pull up, watch for a while, and agree with each other profanely (at least) that the sea lions were mowing the fish, catching all the fish. These huge fat critters would come up with a fish in their mouth, toss their head around a bit to rearrange the fish, then gobble it down. One of the less inebriated guys told me the fish were probably king salmon.

The sea lions were enormous, and vocal, and lunging around catching fish. Inbetween fishing episodes they spent time hanging a front or back flipper or both up in the air. Thermoregulating (1)(2).

I tried to see enough characteristics to be able to look up and find out what they were. Steller's, I decided last night, studying Folkens. (I needn't be right, but the California sea lions' heads seem different...

No whales, one eagle (heard a couple of others). There were sea lions close in at First Beach, too. One particularly, spending most of his time hanging an enormous back flipper up in the air, and a front flipper, and sticking his head up now and again. It was shirt-sleeve weather, and the surf was calm. I read my book.