Friday, April 30, 2010

Windy Day, with Dragonfly Wings

Thursday after work, after errands. It was still blue out, so off to Ediz Hook (map) again. It was windy enough to bring out the windsurfers, whipping back and forth, back and forth across the harbor.

Sailing in the harbor with one transparent wing (Click for larger image.)

A Crowley tug backed up to the British Laurel, turned her so her bow pointed out past the end of the Hook, then led her onto the Strait towards Puget Sound. CSCC Shanghai came in off the ocean, picked up a pilot, and followed Laurel eastward. The two Coast Guard cutters who had escorted a submarine west early in the afternoon —we'd watched through the college library's vast expanse of windows looking out over the Strait, passing the binoculars to each other, yes yes a conning tower— came back from the ocean and into the harbor.

British Laurel & Crowley Response (Click for larger image.)
CSCC Shanghai (Click for larger image.)

There were lupines, of all things, blooming by the place where the pilots park their cars. And the mountains were looking good.

Monday, April 26, 2010


The volcano is busy at the moment. If the clouds stay out of the line of sight, we should be able to keep watching after dark.

Volcano cam. About 3:20 PM, April 26 (Click for larger image.)
About 3:40 PM. Dusk in Iceland. (Click for larger image.)

As Quiet As It Could Be

Evening, Port Angeles harbor; no ships; Olympic Mountains, 04/25 (Click for larger image.)

Sunday evening. Out on Ediz Hook (map), the birds were busy being beautiful. There was a flock of brants,

Brants (Click for larger image.)

a couple of pairs of harlequins, a couple of pairs of buffleheads, some grebes too far away to see clearly, and a common loon. "In breeding plumage, both sexes have striking black heads with white collars, white breasts, and black backs with white checkering," says Birdweb, but their photo is undistinguished. Getting a look at this creature in the binoculars was a ZOMG moment, striped necklace and all. Looked just like this, and it bobbed around in my imagination all night.

Mount Baker did its looming trick, so huge on the horizon but when you point a camera at it, immediately all 10,781 feet magically shrink to barely a blip, like R. A. Lafferty's "Narrow Valley". No ships on the Strait. No ships in the harbor anywhere. No wind. When finally APL Ireland came along the Strait, and lingered off the Hook to rendezvous with the pilot boat, you could hear her engines rumbling over the soft waves on the rocks—there were no other sounds.

APL Ireland with pilot boat, Vancouver Island in the background 04/2504/25 (Click for larger image.)

OK OK, there should have been all this while a 'birds' label. Either will or won't go back and tag three years of older posts...

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Mowing my way through the to-do list, and finally entered the beach surveys from 04/18, last Sunday, in the COASST database. No beached birds to record, of course, there haven't been any for months. Much as I feel that moment of reluctance when having to deal with the excitement and confusion of a feather-duster corpse to identify, at this point I'd like to find one occasionally just to confirm that if there were a dead bird to be found I would not overlook it. Hard to be sure you're paying attention when you're bored.

It was only a week ago, you'd think I could remember the air temperature, and whether there was wind, and other things I should record on the Marine Debris Monitoring Program Data Card; but momentarily I can't even remember whether I went around to First Beach afterwards to look for whales. Consulting the camera, it's clear why I didn't post about the day but promptly forgot it completely, procrastinated a week about doing the paperwork, and only just realized I should have recorded it here as well. The surf was flat, the light was flat. I got into portraits of pebbles and small wood pieces, since there was nothing else going on; but none of the photos came out. Yes I did go to First Beach and no there were no whales of course.

Seaweed and pebbles, Ellen Creek beach segment, 04/18/10 (Click for larger image.)
First Beach, James Island, La Push, absence of whales, 04/18/10

Friday, April 23, 2010


Probably won't backslide, either. I am of the generation raised not to be a litterbug. I just had to finally realize that recycled containers are still litter.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beautiful Evening, Too

Late in the day I went out on Ediz Hook (map). The wind was blowing like crazy. A visitor from Montana with a gigantic lens on his camera was stalking what turned out to be a couple of black oystercatchers. There was a largish mystery shorebird, a dunlin I think, in his quiet winter colors. Kayaker. Little sail boat. Polar Adventure out in the middle of the harbor. The ferry returned from Victoria. The tide was low. On the Strait side, a zone of mud-stirred-up water close along the rocks.

Polar Adventure and the ferry Coho, Port Angeles harbor (Click for larger image.)
Sailboat landing at the public dock (Click for larger image.)
Muddy water edges the blue windy Strait of Juan de Fuca (Click for larger image.)

Beautiful Day

The Webcam on Hurricane Ridge (Click for larger image.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nope, No Whales

"The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day." — The White Queen

Friday. People out on the point told me that there were multiple whales off First Beach on Wednesday, breaching. Humpbacks, maybe, said the informant, who was passing on hearsay. Another person told me that she was at the Quileute's 'Welcome The Whales' ceremony on Thursday and there were whales everywhere (she pointed in three directions). This was at least an eyewitness report.

The Ocean Prediction Center said the sea would be very quiet. Three foot swells, excellent conditions for looking for gray whale blows. It was true as to swells, but as to whales, well no. I went out to look after putting in some (spacey) time at the tribal library, 'cause last week SA & I hadn't seen any, and on Sunday I'll need to go to Rialto Beach to do the April beached birds survey, no messing around failing to see whales at First Beach. So I went to La Push. And again failed to see any blows. I'm not sure I've ever succeeded without being helped to focus by other folks nearby who were already seeing— but nobody on the point there was seeing them either. While not seeing whales I did manage to read about a hundred pages of Peter Hessler's book, which has suddenly become riveting after a slow start.

Quiet Ocean off First Beach, La Push, April 16, 2010 (Click for larger image.)
Boat Coming in to La Push, April 16, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Up On Top

Sunday. No-o-o, we are not driving up there. Not even sure the road is open. (I call the Park's road phone, a number which oddly enough I have memorized. Road is open but icy.) Snow depth, 120 inches.

Current Ridge-Cam (Click for larger image.)

One More, One More

Saturday. Different people see different things. SA was here for a visit, another of those one-night house guest events my beloveds specialize in. I picked her up down at the harbor, and off we went to look for whales at First Beach. We had to stop a couple of times so she could take photos of the old logged-over areas along Highway 110, which I've mostly trained myself never to see (1)(2).

It was peaceable and flat seas and low tide out there. No whales. SA comes from inland. We walked on the beach, and she took her shoes off and waded in briefly, and we squinted out into the cloudy-ish flat glare looking for whale spouts. Not a one.

The Sea Was Very Peaceful (Click for larger image.)

So we went and had lunch at the Quileute Rez's restaurant, hoping for halibut. "Are you kidding, there's no opening," said the waitress, and indeed there was no fishing traffic in and out of the marina as we watched. No fresh local seafood alas. We looked at the river, and out to sea. There was a sea lion diving and swimming around. Later we went back out onto the point and looked for whale blows some more. No whales. It was more blue out, though, and there was a lot of sea lion action in the river. They were fishing for steelhead, one watcher thought; diving, a little bit of barking. So we were not without wildlife, just without whales.

Quillayute River (Click for larger image.)

So we headed back, and went up the Sol Duc River to look for steelhead jumping at Salmon Cascade. Yes there were steelhead jumping. SA liked that because unlike the whales who weren't there or the flitting diving sea lions, you sure knew when you saw a leaping fish. I hooted and hopped with excitement, but SA found it ultimately very sad: the fish jump and jump and bounce off and fall back, and when they finally succeed in getting up there and spawning, the fish die. But yeah, charismatic wildlife in the form of leaping steelhead. We stayed and watched a long time. There weren't so many. We waited. "One more, one more," said SA. And after that, "one more" again. How could we leave. Fish were flinging themselves up the Cascade.

Yes there were steelhead, jumping here (Click for larger image.)

No pictures of fish in flight this time, but last year in April, another one-day visitor managed to capture it.

It was getting more and more blue. When we got back to Port Angeles we went straight down to Ediz Hook and looked at the harbor and the Strait. Some shorebirds. Some gulls. The sound of a barking sea lion but we never saw it. Oh it was beautiful out.

Blue Gorgeous from the Hook, and the Olympics Stood Out Strong Behind Port Angeles (Click for larger image.)

So we went off to a restaurant by the harbor ("Just so you know, we're out of everything to do with halibut"), and watched the sunset and the beautiful blue dusk, and the water moving and lapping outside the windows. By then I had made poor SA look at water in six or seven different places in the course of the day, and was extremely happy and contented, myself. I hope it was OK for her. :-)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Button Button

Right on the front of today's paper:

Coming soon to a National Park near you... (Click for larger image.)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

When the Whole Surface of the Sea is Foam

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

Thursday evening went to a public meeting about adding a small parcel to Olympic National Park on the east shore of Ozette Lake. The Quileute Tribe would like the parcel to go to anyone except the Park, as they can't exercise their treaty right to hunt in a National Park. Is there anything to hunt on the Umbrella Creek parcel? Probably not a pertinent question. Protection of treaty right to traditional uses of 'usual and accustomed places' is defended fiercely by the tribes (1), and the Park therefore is not a natural partner. As the Elwha Klallam tribal chairman said a couple of years ago, 'respect the treaty, or give us back the Peninsula.'

Friday afternoon, there was that grand tour of the industrial underpinnings of Elwha ecosystem restoration. A couple of days later the lingering question in my mind is all that sediment to be bonded with settling agents to pull it out of the water supply, and then returned to the river. They needed special permission from the state to engineer it this way— ordinarily you're not allowed to return chem-i-fied slurry to the stream. So out it goes, into the Strait, and currents carry it eastward to restore the former beaches. Won't the clams notice? Surely the clams will notice...

So after a couple of days thus spent thinking about the nitty gritty of what 'national park' means, I needed to get to the outer coast and listen to waves for a while. The elk herd that hangs out on Beaver Prairie was hanging out as I drove by. Always a pleasure. I tried to get closer by driving up one of the side roads, but even though there were 'street' names, there were also No Trespassing signs. Well hmmm, elk in the West End. Elk herd seen here often. Elk herd seen once on Quillayute Prairie. Maybe there are elk to hunt in season on the little parcel east of Lake Ozette...

Just before the parking lot, a tree had come down on the road in Friday night's windstorm. There had been a high surf warning, ending right about when I arrived on the coast; so I didn't go to First Beach to look for whales, but headed to Rialto Beach. When the whole surface of the sea is foam, you can't see the whale blows. JL told me that even the scientists don't try to survey for birds or mammals at sea when it's like this, not because the water is rough for the folks in the boats (though it may be), but because you can't see anything. Mostly I just read a really really good mystery (Barbara Fister, Through the Cracks), moving higher up the beach whenever the incoming tide began to bring the foam to my feet; and listened to the waves; and watched the foam roll up higher and higher, sheets of foam, sweeps of foam.

View with Walkers (Click for larger image)

One eagle. Some gulls. Many walkers coming back from Hole-in-the-Wall as I arrived; there had been a minus tide. Many watchers a few hours later, perched in and on the drift as the tide reached its peak, enjoying the fierce power.

Tree on the road (Click for larger image)
Just for listening...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Freeing the Elwha

"Olympic National Park News Release: Public Invited to Celebrate Elwha Restoration Project Milestones; Two Water Protection Facilities Completed, Paving Way for Dam Removal Next Year"

So I went. Everyone was so happy in the pouring rain. All the Park Rangers in their dress browns, and the engineers and the contractors and the politicians and the civil servants and the tribal representatives. One speech after another invoking the return of salmon to the Elwha River. They are so proud of the new facilities, each a milestone in a 20-or-more year struggle to get to this point: freeing the Elwha.

Elwha River Watershed (Click for larger image.)

It's really going to happen, finally. The RFP for the dam removal itself will go out next week. Contract to be awarded in August, dam removal to begin January 2011, a year early because the contractor for the industrial water facility brought it in a year ahead of schedule.

I repeat: It's really going to happen, finally. The RFP for the dam removal itself goes out to bid next week. The Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam will be GONE, and the salmon will be free to find their ways up the river again. They were handing out buttons which read "Last Dam Summer" because after the coming summer the dams will be being sliced down. People were grabbing handfuls of buttons like they were popcorn (me too), and pinning them on. And everyone was very happy.

Touring the Port Angeles Water Protection Facility (Click for larger image.)

But ah, but oh. There were tours, of the domestic water facility just west of town, and of the industrial water facility down under the new high bridge on the Elwha River.

There is no place wild. To undam the Elwha River, to remove the engineering works of a century ago, enormous complicated modern engineering works have been put in place and more to come (ground just broken on the Lower Elwha fish hatchery). To protect the water supplies from all the mud which will be released as the dams come down: vast pumps, settling tanks, fish rescue screens, and chemical mixing tanks. Without all this machinery —to protect the city's domestic water supply, and also the water that goes to the paper mill, the fish hatcheries, to the Lower Elwha Klallam reservation— there could be no dam removal.

Touring the Industrial Water Facility in the Rain (Click for larger image.)

This is the day the contractors turn over the keys to the operators. It's done and they are so happy with what they have done. A celebratory tour is not the moment to ask: "Is this where you accidentally destroyed the salmon redds this whole project is intended to protect when you were putting in the diversion channel? How sure are you that the chemical/mud slurry which settles out and is returned to the river will be harmless to the nearshore environment in the Strait? What are the failsafes in the engineering which protect the water supply, the lower river, and the Strait if we're wrong, if the engineers are wrong? Can't we just turn the clocks back?"

Intake Structure Upstream of the Industrial Water Facility (Click for larger image.)

In the Influent Pump Station (Click for larger image.)

Contractor Explaining the Slurry Pump Station (Click for larger image.)

Note the "Last Dam Summer" button (Click for larger image.)

There is no place wild.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Current Ridge Cam

According to the Park's Hurricane Ridge Current Conditions page, the snow depth 'at the snow stake' is 92 inches.

The Camera on Hurricane Ridge (Click for larger image.)

Going to a public meeting at Park Headquarters tonight. I'll ask somebody where the snow stake is located.

Now Looking at Another Country

There were a few of the usual big ships in the harbor, Sierra, Overseas Long Beach, Alaskan Frontier. Time for a new round of trying to understand: how is their routine governed, what do they do when they make a pit stop here?

But I was mostly interesting in looking out across the blue water as downtown Victoria sharpened, softened, sharpened. There were gulls and black turnstones looking out also.

Gulls Look Across the Strait at Another Country (Click for larger image.)
Downtown Victoria, B.C. (Click for larger image.)

Evergreen Salute, with the pilot boat (Click for larger image.)