Tuesday, September 29, 2009

That Earthquake in Samoa

Earthquake and tsunami in Samoa. There's a tsunami advisory in effect for the California and Oregon coasts. The news story in the LA Times says only about a 12 inch wave.

image from NOAA, Watches, Warning & Advisories, 09/29/09 (Click for larger image.)

The full warning text is long, but the part we care about assures us



Monday, September 28, 2009

Reading News

The library's hold system has come through with a whole pile of titles all at once. I have the newest mystery titles by Margaret Coel, Kenneth Abel, Peter Lovesey, Deborah Grabien, Harry Dolan, William Kent Krueger & Sara Paretsky to look forward to. (I'm an addict of the new. When I think I have nothing to read, I only mean that no brand-new mysteries I'm looking forward to are in hand.)

Plus three young adult titles, two juvenile fictions, Alastair Reynolds' newest, and three non-fiction titles. M is bringing me a pile of Wendell Berry's novels from her bookcase, which she is sure will feed my fiction hunger. Sunny Frazier is sending me a copy of her book. And really, it's time to take another run at Willard Bascom's Waves and Beaches : The Dynamics of the Ocean Surface, try to understand more about, well, waves and beaches.

The Kenneth Abel is a Katrina book, so I think I'll read that one next; last week I gobbled down Dave Eggers' Zeitoun in one long insomniac night, extraordinarily smooth nonfiction that proceeds like a Katrina novel—Katrina coming, Katrina happening, city drowned, aftermath (with unexpected further bad thing happening)— only it's truth. My bookmarks are in Kathryn Stockett's The Help and Scott Weidensaul's wonderful book about migratory birds, Living on the Wind.

The hold-for-emergency book is Katy Munger's new Casey Jones mystery, the first since 2001, which I think I will just go ahead and read, instead of saving it, the next time I am stranded with no new mysteries lined up and find myself neurotic with fear-of-nothing-to-read. Except once a few decades ago when I was in a broken-down Zen Center van in the middle of Market Street at rush-hour in San Francisco, I've never in my life actually had nothing to read.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

On Into the Weekend

Stirred out early-ish on Saturday to try to see the turkey vulture migration (please look at map). No, still no turkey vultures. I was out there at Salt Creek, sitting on the bench where the researcher Diann MacRae set up shop last year, at 9:30. The sun was out and many of the occupants of the campground wandered down the steps onto the rocks with their coffee mugs in hand, but no turkey vultures came across the Strait for the next hour and a half (unless they are really subtle, or happened to veer to the side before they came in sight). Fog came rolling in from the west at 11. I decided no vulture in his right mind would think about soaring across the Strait in a chilly fog, so I left.

Of course, probably the fog didn't stay; and maybe vultures don't have minds...

The other Sibley book (Bird Life and Behavior) quite interesting about New World vultures. They are more closely related to storks than to hawks. They form pair bonds for life, but will choose another partner if one dies. They have some inaesthetic habits.

Salt Creek County Recreation Area, 09/26/09 (Click for larger image.)

A couple of seals swam by just outside the kelp bed. They were really big, maybe they were sea lions, I couldn't get a good enough look to tell. One of the coffee mug people said there had been a whale in Crescent Bay around the corner yesterday, and after a couple of hours it swam right by the point here; and they had seen two sea lions.

Is the Sun or the Fog Going to Win

MP was cheering for the sunshine, I thought if we were going to be out on the beach for hours I'd just as soon have it foggy at least half the time.

Little James Island from Rialto Jetty, 9/25/09 (Click for larger image.)

After a while the sun took control where we were, which made MP happy. Off to the north you could see that the fog had not surrendered. The tide was coming back, the waves were beautiful, the gulls flying past were shining in the sunlight, there were not so many people on the beach, oh it was a fine day.

Tide Coming Back, Ellen Creek reach of Rialto, 9/25/09 (Click for larger image.)

This was Friday, we were out there to do the COASST survey of the three Rialto beach segments. We are keeping up the frequent resurveys for as long as the algae bloom is happening and the birds are still dying in elevated numbers (which I said I would not mention any more, sorry); and they asked if I was up for doing all three Rialto segments, instead of my usual two.

MP wanted to come, to see how it is done. We had a total of four birds. On Rialto Jetty, refound a white-winged scoter that AE and I had tagged on the 21st. On the Ellen Creek beach, two new birds, a common murre and a white-winged scoter. On the Hole-in-the-Wall beach, a surf scoter. We were working against the incoming tide by that point. MP went on to Hole-in-the-Wall to see if there were any more birds to work while I did #767, the surf scoter.

The minute she walked away I rediscovered that left alone with a dead bird I become excited and confused. My 'cootie discipline'—being careful about what I touch with the gloves, what I don't touch without the gloves— lapses entirely, and I find myself doing things like cinching down the tags with one glove off and one glove on; I flip the ID guide madly to and fro, change my mind over and over, remeasure, and forget to write everything down. I've put all the ID photos on a CD so don't need to show any here, but: wing feather detail of #765, a common murre if I got it right (you may remember that the last murre I thought I had turned out to be a rhinoceros auklet); and #767, a female surf scoter.

We had time to sit for a while in the sun and watch the waves, see the gulls fly by. Only a handful of pelicans, they must all be already well south of here. On the way home we went up the Sol Duc to see if the fish were jumping at Salmon Cascades. There were a few fish in the pool below, cruising around, but nobody jumped. Have to wait until after the next rain, probably, to watch Life At Its Most Determined. But it was nice to see the river.

Salmon Cascades, Sol Duc River, 9/25/09 (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

High Tide at Salt Creek

Salt Creek County Park, Tuesday afternoon. High tide. Not a hint of a single passing Cathartes aura (turkey vulture). Nobody around except gulls and harlequin ducks. And a couple of kayakers.

Tongue Point, where the Strait was washing over the tidepool rocks (Click for larger image.)

Only I couldn't get away from work until later than I planned, and arrived out there at about 2:30, perhaps too late in the day.

It was very gorgeous out there, sky very clear (the smoke plume that was about to wave over the Olympic Peninsula was still blowing out to sea.)

I wrote to Diann MacRae, who does the Olympic Vulture Study, Tuesday night; she answered back: "The highest numbers seem to come between 10 am - 2 pm, but also as early as 0930 and late as 430 pm. If it's a really good flight day, they seem to arrive around 10 and stream in for an hour or two or more." So since I got out there at 2:30 on Tuesday I'd have missed them, probably, though there probably weren't any, other than maybe a few calendrically confused ones. Sept. 26 to October 3 is usually the peak migration week.

Might go early Sunday morning and try again. I sure would like to see a few hundred big birds come gliding across the Strait from Sooke. Or not. I'm actually tired of thinking about birds all the time...

Kelp Bed at Tongue Point (Click for larger image.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Smoke Update

It's pivoting eastwards. Conditions here much improved.

11:38 AM here (Click for larger image.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Smoke Map

NOAA's SSD Fire Detection (Fire and Smoke Analysis) web site shows what eyes could see all afternoon, ever thicker. We are under heavy smoke from fires in Oregon.

The Smoke Map (Click for larger image.)
The Fires (Click for larger image.)

Salt Creek Is Calling

The afternoons are so warm, day after day. I bet the turkey vultures are moving. (See map.) I bet Diann Macrae, who studies the migration every year, is out there this very minute, ready to click her counter as the day warms up and the birds pass by.

I don't think this is an afternoon to run errands. When I leave Elwha after lunch, better head west.

"Our Firsts for Today Were..."

Monday. Beautiful warm blue evening on Ediz Hook (map). The harlequin ducks are back. A visitor couple in their 70s from Kitchener, Ontario, was out there with binoculars, their copy of Western Sibley tucked under the wife's arm. She said that they had seen female harlequin ducks in Alaska last week, but the males had already left there, so these males were a first for her. She asked me about the gulls, we decided with the help of her book and mine that we had 2nd-winter Heerman's gulls. Then there were black turnstones hopping around on the boom logs under the pilot station. Also firsts for her. She was quite pleased.

Three big ships in the harbor. Polar Discovery at the terminal having maintenance done; Overseas Long Beach and Atlas Navigator anchored out in the middle, well in the case of the Atlas far more easterly than usual for parked ships.

Mount Baker clear on the horizon. A great blue heron passing by overhead.

Strait and harbor, calm blue water. The sun set nearabout due west, couldn't have that experience of absolute reassurance, everything working as it should, because my compass was a little bit off. I set the declination at 20° based on the only topo map I had handy, but it is really 17° 23' at the moment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Last Post About Dead Birds

OK. No more. Maybe some links to scientific conclusions. (Current thinking: a strong non-toxic algae bloom that creates a foam in active waters destroys the waterproofing of the birds who are in molt who therefore can not simply fly away to somewhere more congenial because they have no flight feathers. No longer protected from the cold waters, they die of hypothermia. The scoters are in molt. Bye bye scoters.)

My COASST mentor says my last-month bird (1) was not a common murre but a rhinoceros auklet. I did wonder, when I saw how much bigger the murre was that JL and I identified last Monday, and plainly different markings. OK, my first bird, the 'feather-duster corpse', was a rhinoceros auklet. And, she says, the mammal that weekend was indeed a harbor porpoise.

Birds In Bunches

Not that it wasn't beautiful out there on Third Beach, but we weren't paying much, well really not any, attention to that.

Third Beach, Olympic National Park (Click for larger image.)

We were working the bird wreck, me and BR and AM from WDFW. 62 dead birds on the north half of the beach. One red-throated loon, one pelagic cormorant, and 60 scoters. I was data recorder, A. tagged and took photos, B. did measuring. When I left at sunset they were headed for the south half of the beach. B. didn't expect to find nearly so many on the south half, the north half is where they accumulate. Hope he was right... A. loaned me her spare headlamp, good thing, it was too dark to see in the forest before I got back to the car. The two of them were going to keep on with headlamps until they had finished (I think rapidly cover the whole beach and move all the dead birds to one spot, then do the workups with the lamps.) The survey doesn't count unless you do the entire assigned segment all in the same day.

Sunset, Working Fast, Bunches of Birds (Click for larger image.)

I rarely stopped long enough to put notes in my pocket notebook, it's all on the data sheets that B. has. But I think there were about a dozen white-winged scoters, and the other 48 were surf scoters.

Today going to Rialto Beach with AE, another COASSTer. Please god Rialto should have only a dozen or so as it did last week. Lucky for me, Ann is driving. I am TOTALLY WIPED OUT.

PS Gonna get a headlamp immediately. Headlamps are the bomb.

Part of the huge accumulation at the north end of Third Beach (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Else?

The other thing going on this week is the Santa Fe Poetry Broadside. I put up issue #59 on Wednesday, after long struggles with coding problems and validation problems. By no means all resolved, but it's up. I'll do some retrospective code repair some time between now and when it is time for the next issue (after I'm sure I know what to do). So here it is: Azimuth: Writing on Walls.

This, of course, is not my day job either. Oh wait. I don't have a day job.

Could, Would, Should

What I could do today is rendezvous with WR, a really skilled birder, to help him survey Third Beach. Third Beach will be just about the heart of darkness for this bird wreck. The problem is there's a longish access hike to get to the beach, and a longer stretch of beach to survey. Slow hiker that I am, and with not much stamina, I'm not sure I would be an asset as a helper. He's a pro, a wildlife biologist for WDFW (though in this instance functioning as a COASST volunteer).

I suspect I would just slow him down, and he can record and tag a skillion surf scoters without any help from me. Should I go anyway? Am I just talking myself out of it out of laziness, or being realistic?

Whichever, gotta call him soon.

Most recent article on the wreck: (1).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bird Wreck on the Outer Coast

There are a lot of news stories about our bird wreck.(1)(2). So people who saw us at work out at Rialto on Monday, measuring and photographing dead critters for COASST, thought they knew what we were doing; they approached us to ask if right there we had perhaps just now solved the scientific mystery by examining this very surf scoter. Oh, we'd say, we are just collecting data, the real scientists are hard at work at figuring out what it means. And they would tell us where they had seen other birds, Ruby Beach etc.

In the end JL and I lucked out, rained on for less than an hour of our day, and only 10 dead birds to work up. Five on Ellen Creek beach, five on Rialto Jetty. Seven scoters, one common murre, two gulls. Also in two separate places a live scoter, one a male the other a female, each sitting far up the beach, not moving but aware. Here are JL's photos of bird #756, a surf scoter. And the living distressed male we saw.

Ten was few enough birds to work up that we got both beach segments done even though we didn't arrive on the beach until almost one o'clock. I could not have done my two beaches without JL, especially at the beginning when we had three birds pop pop pop the minute we got down on the beach. In the rain. And just then, though the tide was going out and we were well above, a wave came up high and sloshed over the clipboard and the field book. Very dismaying. But by the end we were quite old pros at recognizing scoter legs and scoter body shape at first glance even from a couple of paces away. Speeds the process a lot if you already know and only need to confirm.

Plus there were lots of occasions for pelican appreciation breaks as they cruised by, especially by the end of the afternoon as flights of them were angling low across the jetty beach to go in and land on the river. Must have been fish around, we also heard a sea lion barking over there on the invisible other side of the jetty. Whatever is happening apparently not causing stressed pelicans.

I told all this to AE, who also surveys the Rialto beaches for COASST. She wrote back, "I had visions of you last night with headlamps on after dark still tagging the pesky critters." Heaven knows we had the same visions, especially after the wave caught our gear, in the rain, on the 3rd bird within a few yards.

Now just have to clean out and reorganize my bird pack. Which seems suddenly to be full of psychic dead-bird-cooties in addition to the more tangible damp gear and sand. I don't even want to touch it.

MS wrote me, "Dead birds not quite my thing." It's not like they're my thing either, they just kind of come with my 'citizen science' backpack. By the end of the day yesterday I had a better separation between datum-for-science and recently-deceased-sentient-being. Ten dead birds will do that for a beginner. Though there was a moment when I was nose to nose with a surf scoter (corpse), so fresh that the brilliant sunset colors of his bill were unfaded, and I had to tell him/it how beautiful it/he was.

Ellen Creek was running.

Pelican Appreciation Break (Click for very-much larger image.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nearly Due East, Nearly Due West

And all of two minds about what I'm doing today. There's a 'wreck' in progress on the outer coast, many birds washing up live and dead, and COASST wants us to go do our surveys soon, so they can try to understand what is causing this mortality event. But I'm in the middle of putting together the next issue of the Santa Fe Poetry Broadside, and (truth) not eager to find myself alone on the beach with 10 or 15 dead birds that have to be recorded properly for science...

Sunrise this morning, nearing the due east point (which from the deck is by the light stanchion at the baseball field two blocks over).

Sunrise, September 13, 2009. Nearing due east. (Click for larger image.)

There was lots and lots of action out on Ediz Hook on Friday. The tanker Prisco Zaliv Amerika (flag Cyprus, home port Limassol) came into the harbor escorted by tug, let out her anchor, the pilot boat went over and picked up the pilot, etc. The tug Edward Brusco pulled his barge Paul Bunyan past the Hook and on into Puget Sound (or anyway eastwards). Many many little recreational fishing boats were up to something, tiny boats, families, little kids in life vests, their trailers putting them into the water or pulling them out. Oooh I just love the moment when the trailer is pulled up the ramp, drizzling harbor water onto the roadway as it goes.

A seaplane no bigger than the little boats suddenly landed, taxi'd to the dock, and disgorged a man with a satchel over his shoulder; the plane was already gone before he made it off the dock, though he was walking fast and proceeded right in through the gate of the pilot station. (Where was he fetched from? Why such a rush?)

Pilot arriving, September 11, 2009 (Click for larger image.)

The sun set already behind Striped Peak on Friday, so no more sun-drops-neatly-into-the-ocean-off-the-Strait for more than six months, eee-too-bad. And I haven't left the house yet, so I guess it's Poetry Broadside today, beach survey tomorrow.

Sunset, September 11, 2009. Nearing the due west point. (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brief Intermezzo (NPR Calls Them "Buttons")

Earlier in the week on both my primary email lists, PubLib and NGC4Lib (Next-Generation Catalogs for Libraries), people were articulate and depressed on the subject of the apparent impending demise of our profession. It made me wish I were not increasingly "unmoored from the Great Library Raft of Raison" (as L.M. put it); I want to have gone down with the ship if it is going down. I want to continue to belong to readers and the servants of readers; to answerers of information needs, shelterers of the needy, purveyors of enjoyments; and to the kind of techies and madmen whose idea of fun is to tinker up projects like John Blyberg's catalog card generator.

I need to put the next issue of the Poetry Broadside up on the web this weekend, it's overdue; and I need to have the discernment to spend the coming last beautiful long days up on the mountain, and then out at the ocean, instead.

http://www.blyberg.net/card-generator/ made this. Thank you, John. (Click for larger image.)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Swell, Wind Waves, Tide, Surf

It's not that I expected 12-foot walls of water breaking directly onto the shore, and I should have gone around to First Beach to see what it looked like coming in from a different angle; but I'd love to better understand the relationship of swell, wind waves, tide, and surf. I'd ask Instigator Surfing, but he's locked up his blog and I don't know any other way to reach him. Hello? Hello, Gator, are you there? Help!!!

Sunday, a happily wild afternoon of intermittent driving showers, bright-weather patches, one purely gorgeous forked lightning strike on the sea stacks off the point to the north, with thunder (five seconds later). One eagle. Some pelicans. Flocks of duck-ish birds flapping by out to sea. Bunches of gulls intermittently, hovering in columns outside the surf line (what fish?). And endless carpets of foam, oceans of foam.

The Ocean Prediction Center gave us something like a 12-foot swell on Sunday, and the Marine Weather Forecast said wind waves 1 to 3 feet. The high tide was at 2:15 PM, and a whole lot of people were out there to get a taste of it, all dolled up in ponchos, slickers, umbrellas, or nothing but t-shirts (it was warm).

Intermittently there were bigger sets of waves, roar woosh, and the people playing with the edges of power would have to hold on to the nearest log while foam washed up their thighs, or happily run shrieking back up the beach. (Only the older and more timid folks like me seemed to have last month's rogue wave at Acadia National Park in the back of their minds.) Indeed it was pretty energetic out there.

James Island, etc.; can't decide whether better with sky drama or without, so here are both... (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Perhaps I should go pick some more blackberries. Since it's not storming, and I'm not filling out start-Medicare forms (yes; 65 imminent), also not continuing the redesign of my actual home page, also not sorting papers...

Not Storming (Click for larger image.)

Later: changed image. Still not storming.


No, this is not 'Reading News'. :-)

On September 16th there will be a "tsunami warning communications test along the entire west coast of the lower 48 states." This will include a test of the AHAB (All-Hazard Alert Broadcast) siren. We will NOT actually be evacuating. The National Tsunami Exercise with evacuation drill will be on 3/24/2010. But the AHAB will sound at Lower Elwha, triggered by the satellite warning system as it ought to work in the real world; in fact it sounds every first Monday at noon, for a test, but in those cases the button is pushed by the tribe's Community Emergency Response Team leader. The event on the 16th is statewide.

AHAB siren on the roof of the shop at Lower Elwha... (Click for larger image.)

We are in the tsunami zone. At Elwha, and here in town along the harbor. Here's a map. Click for larger image. (Sorry for the blurriness. It's from the Washington State Hazard Mitigation Plan, Hazard Profile - Tsunami, 2004, and I can't find a better version anywhere...)

I've borrowed this train of thought from the Elwha Klallam Library's blog, where I posted it yesterday. I don't mean to make this a regular thing, but one of my projects for the weekend is to reconsider my web presence. There is at present a mostly rigid wall around my librarianly life at the tribe, because I have construed it as not mine to tell about; that's why what I write here is nearly all beach-bunny all the time, with not even as much about my library life as I share on Twitter. And in fact AHAB and the tsunami map, and the preceding post about the Washington Coastal Atlas, really belonged here rather than there; only I couldn't think of anything else to post and needed to put something up.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Thing of Beauty

Washington Average Annual Precipitation, from the National Atlas. Here's the local part (click for larger image):

Rain This Morning, Rain Tomorrow, Rain All Weekend

We can hope, anyway. The Drought Monitor shows how much we need it.

I've lots of paper and digital housekeeping planned for the rainy days, that and to watch the neighborhood grasses turn green again. (We can hope, anyway.)

Lately went hunting for the source of one of Cliff Mass's satellite images and rediscovered the U. Washington Department of Atmospheric Sciences page of data links. I think that my habits have become too narrow in many ways and this question of what information sources I tend to use to draw my picture of the world is one of them. The six-day wave forecast for La Push holds out great hopes for Sunday. Hmmm. Yes. NOAA's Marine Forecast also gives us a 9 foot swell on Sunday. Enough to notice. Haven't yet found a display that shows me the storm about to be sweeping in. GOES West 1 km. Infrared, maybe; though it doesn't look like several days of weather in that image, there are other systems behind that one...

On the way back from Elwha this afternoon, stopped and filled a container with blackberries from the huge spread of bushes along I Street. They are nearly perfectly ready, I hope the wet weather doesn't ruin them.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Wading Weather (Not)

Sunday the sun never came out at the ocean, however bright it may have been inland and at home along the Strait. Much of the day the clouds sat right on the beach and you couldn't even see the pelicans passing by just offshore. Late in the afternoon it lifted a little, and bunches of pelicans would suddenly loom out of the cloud. It was even possible momentarily to see both ends of the beach.

Rialto Beach, August 30, 2009. (Click for larger image.)
The end of the life of a really big log? After how long? (Click for larger image.)

The tidal range was minimal, from a low high of 5.6 feet at 10:34AM to a high low of 3.7 feet at 3:42PM. I mean, why bother going in and out at all, Mr. Tide? I expected no surf, but the waves were in fact coming in quite respectably. I said I'd wade, and it was warm enough. So wade I did.