Monday, August 30, 2010

The Marmot's View

About a mile before Obstruction Point, there was a marmot by the road. He ran off, insofar as running is an option for a fatty like this one, and stopped not very far away, on a burrow entry that looks out northeastward over empty space. He was whistling, or perhaps another marmot we couldn't spot was whistling.

A Marmot At Home, August 29, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

This was the day before the weather was going to change, and we crammed as much as we could into it, that Houseguest Sprint we Olympic Peninsula people do when visitors come from places like Cincinnati :-) So up we were and toodling along the Obstruction Point Road, looking for scenery and marmots at quite the early hour. Succeeded.

Where the Marmot Was, August 29, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

This is probably what the marmot was looking at when we startled him away from the road:

The View in the Other Direction, August 29, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

Eventually we went on to the end of the road and had a walk along Lillian Ridge. There were in fact no marmots in the hollow by the parking lot where they usually frolic. It was mostly brown up there, but the green in this image isn't enhanced, just selected for :-) More about the rest of the day in next post.

Lillian Ridge Trail view, August 29, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Leaves turning, geese on the move, added another blanket to the bed.

Wait! Wait! Is it over?

We've already lost 2 hours and 27 minutes of daylight. Closer to 3 hours if you figure it twilight to twilight.
August 28:
   Begin civil twilight 5:54 a.m.
   Sunrise 6:26 a.m.
   Sunset 8:03 p.m.
   End civil twilight 8:35 p.m.
June 22:
    Begin civil twilight 4:32 a.m.
    Sunrise 5:14 a.m.
    Sunset 9:18 p.m.
    End civil twilight 9:59 p.m.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Morning After the Day Before

Sunrise horizon, August 24, 2010. The Strait of Juan de Fuca showing here and there; directly across from the bottom of the street is San Juan Island (Victoria is to the left); to the right of the telephone pole, Mount Baker far away east of Bellingham, 10,778 feet high and 90-some-odd miles away.

... (Click for larger image.)

Such a Day

Monday, walking Hobuck Beach with MS, J & S, surveying for COASST. Hobuck is an accumulation beach, and so frequently has birds to work that MS uses it for training newbies, and for refreshers for old volunteers. So it was on Monday. We worked six beached birds. (On my beaches I haven't had one since mid-November, when the wreck ended.)

August 23, 2010. At Hobuck Creek, starting the beach survey. (Click for larger image.)

The weather was astonishing, so warm and sunny we left all jackets and raingear in the car. People were all over the beach, sunning themselves or surfing or swimming ('without wetsuits !!!!' said MS). There were shorebirds (which I almost never have at Rialto), plovers and sanderlings and maybe least sandpipers; and lots of interesting stuff, shells and sponges and seaweeds, bryozoans and hydroids and mystery balls that don't seem to be anything but are everywhere once you start noticing

Unknown (Click for larger image.)

J. found an eagle feather for S. (in the end she had two; her family is Makah so she could collect them), and MS gathered a pocket full of olive shells for her (the Makah use them in dance regalia).

Looking back south from Wa'Atch River (Click for larger image.)

J has the official ID photos and the data sheets. Click for a less formal look at some of our six birds, who were: Cassin's auklet; pigeon guillemot; common murre; sooty shearwater; Western gull (little more than the head and a couple of feet, identification uncertain), and an out-of-place perching bird (some sort of pigeonish bird but the field guide doesn't give much help for non-beach birds). The beach is wide, we spread out to cover it, and when a beached bird is found you sing out, Bird!, very loud, to call the others to come identify and record it.

The last part of the protocol is to collect and record marine debris for a stretch of beach. There wasn't much, but it included an Asian cardboard beverage container. MS said one of the ways this year was anomalous was that the currents continued to bring in Asian debris from the North Pacific garbage patch long past the usual spring appearance. (J. reminded me she found a glass float this spring; I didn't want to hear it; drenched in envy every time I think of it.)

Back at Hobuck Creek, recording marine debris (Click for larger image.)
The beach segment runs from the point south of Hobuck Creek to the Wa'Atch River. Map from topoquest (Click for larger image.)


I just added tags to a lot of posts. My tag cloud did not visually reflect the relative importance of, say, pelicans or marmots in my life, or even my online life. So I fixed it. Sorry if this updating of old posts causes your RSS reader to burp.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Not Cloud Number One

Look at that. Clear air from Vancouver Island to Cabo San Lucas at the bottom of Baja. And beyond. Have I mentioned lately that it's all one coast? No, probably not since the grey whales were migrating this spring. It's all one coast.

The GOES-West 1 km Visible image is my present favorite toy (Click for larger image.)

Ships and Things

Sunday evening. It's blue out. Polar Enterprise is still at the terminal, and Alaskan Legend is anchored in the middle of the harbor. The Kapitan Man is coming out of Puget Sound and approaching Ediz Hook, outbound. Destination Provideniya, according to, though I can't quite imagine why. I go out to take a look at her, and find her crossing paths with Hapag-Lloyd Savannah Express, inbound. Savannah is carrying almost no containers, which seems odd.

Savannah Express, the much small Kapitan Man crossing behind it (Click for larger image.)
Alaska Legend mid-harbor, Polar Enterprise beyond; Port Angeles Harbor in front of the Olympic Mountains. (Click for larger image.)

The cobblehenge builders have been at work here and there along the Hook. It's incredibly blue out.

Strait of Juan de Fuca (Click for larger image.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jonesing for Blackberries

Sun's out

GOES-West 1km Visible image... (Click for larger image.)

and the smoke's all blown east

NOAA's smoke map. Thank you NOAA, and winds from the west (Click for larger image.)

and blackberries are ripening on the sunny lots and corners. I've been carrying containers in the car for the last week or so, waiting, and picked some berries on my way home from the tribe this afternoon. Ate 'em all. Gotta go get more, and admire a world momentarily returned to blue.

Strait of Juan de Fuca, from my window (Click for larger image.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If It Had Been Like This

Low tide at Rialto Beach, surveying for COASST. Had I had the sense to check the tide tables before hauling L. out there on her first day, had it been low tide and early in the day instead of high tide and already exhausted when we got there, the whole visit would have unrolled differently.

Low tide, warm grey weather. Rialto Beach, August 15, 2010. (Click for larger image.)
Almost the sun broke through, never did. Rialto Beach, August 15, 2010. (Click for larger image.)

"The migrating barrier invades and kills the forest trees." (meaning, the gravel barrier beach retreats, winter storm waves overtop the berm, and salt and cobbles wash into the forest.) That's "Gravel Barrier Morphology: Olympic National Park...", by Patrick J. MacKay and Thomas A. Terich, Journal of Coastal Research, v. 9, #4, Fall 1992. This one will go over in next winter's big storms, I think.

Ghost tree in ghostly weather. (Click for larger image.)

Formally, as to the monthly examination of my two beach segments for beach-cast bird carcasses, once again no dead birds. On the Rialto Jetty segment there was a place where there were a LOT of feathers, fresh feathers. I looked and looked, back and forth, up and down. No sign of anything else. I decided it must have been an eagle kill, and after he'd torn into the critter (gull?) and strewn many feathers around he must have carried it away to work on elsewhere. Or it was buried by the ever higher smoother beach sands of late summer, but I didn't think so. Or picked up by the surf and carried along the beach; just in case, I looked even more carefully as I proceeded north, but as far as the turnaround at Ellen Creek, no sign of it having washed ashore.

Good Morning, Fire Weather

Boy howdy, it sure looks like winds pouring down the Columbia River Gorge pushed the smoke right out to sea there. Can that be right? The blue is Critical Fire Weather. More to come, then. Stay inside, C.

Image from NOAA/SSD Analyzed Fires and Smoke (Click for larger image.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Now Heavily Smoky Here

And NOAA's smoke mapping website is broken. Phooey. Many things broken, including my temper. Must take to the couch and read a book.

Smoke Is Back

The fires in the interior of British Columbia are here in our air. Map from NOAA's Satellite Services Division (SSD), Fire Products, Fire & Smoke Analysis.

Smoke Map from NOAA (Click for larger image.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Darting to the outer coast. OMG look, it's foggy out there. (It's been wierdly totally cloudless in Washington State for days.)

First Beach web cam (Click for larger image.)
GOES 1km visible, showing fog crept up coast this morning (Click for larger image.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Marmot Quest #Fail

We went to Obstruction Point, as L. wanted to see marmots. Naturally they were all hiding. We weren't up for hiking. The mountains were in fine fettle, however, and there were flowers, and flitty little chipmunks.

Here There (Should) Be Marmots (Click for larger image.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dearly Love To Be Sure It Was a Snowshoe Hare

Up on the Hurricane Hill trail with this week's houseguest. Changing weather, so we did not go on to Obstruction Point after our walk.

Hurricane Hill, August 9 (Click for larger image.)

Twice we saw what we think must have been a snowshoe hare. L. spotted this one under a tree next to the trail. He must have thought he was hidden, for a while he went right on eating. We didn't know to pay attention to his back feet, which would have been diagnostic if we had seen them. There are no other rabbity creatures up there on Hurricane Ridge, or in fact in the Park. I'd dearly love to be sure that snowshoe hare is what he was...

Snowshoe Hare on Hurricane Hill (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Third Boat Day

Thursday morning we went to Telegraph Cove to rendezvous with our water taxi. He had had a fishing charter at 5AM, so we weren't going out until 11AM or so. Nice slow morning. We zipped on over to OrcaLab on Hanson Island in heavy fog. It took some doing to get into the boat in Telegraph Cove (very low dock), and out of it at Hanson Island (no dock at all). We had a lovely time: visiting with Grandmother Cedar, sitting in the house talking about orcas (one of our transients the day before would have been T19b, he has a tilted dorsal, oh yes he did, that was him), meeting the volunteers, looking at Blackfish Sound out their wonderful windows, hearing all the news, having tea and cookies. Paul Spong himself gave us the lab 'here's what we do' tour, a treat for the two newbies in our party.

Getting back on the boat was yet more of a challenge, E. who is even shorter than I am sensibly just crawled under the rail instead of trying to step up onto the boat and then climb over it. We returned around the back way, so we got to thread our way through Weynton Passage and admire all the narrow openings and mysterious passages among the Plumper Islands, just about the best there is for scenery. Then our captain ran out of gas. He puttered ever so slowly a little bit further to a place where it was safe to be without power for a while, then shut down and telephoned for someone to come across from the fuel dock in Telegraph Cove. There we sat for about 45 happy minutes, bobbing around just short of where Weynton Passage enters Johnstone Strait. Conditions were perfect, it was warm and flat, slack current, we were perfectly safe, it's one of my favorite spots in the world, looking through the mysterious spaces among the islands,

and we had a mini-wildlife tour just sitting there. Some dolphins, a seal on a rock, a minke whale came very close by and then went on his/her way; and a herring ball also nearby, with gulls and ducks and three eagles working the feast. We five loved it, just quietly being in one of the more entertaining and productive intersections in the world of water. It's an orca thruway when they are around, which of course they were not; a very biologically rich spot and we couldn't have had a better place to be dead in the water. :-) (Some photos of the Plumper Islands in this post from three years ago.)

A little boat called Knot Again brought us fuel, and followed us in. (All this took place on this map:)

(Click for readable image.)

Friday, driving down the island, saw a bear. He walked across the road, casually showing off: 'this is what a bear looks like in profile, don't I do it well?' I wished for a dashboard camera.

PS Transient orcas are what we saw this week, and mostly they just have numbers, haven't been named. The Northern Resident orcas have names, and to the people who try to observe them in their core habitat every summer, they also have families, histories. Read a little about it in Paul Spong's blog. Personally I've always identified with Scimitar, A12, who is even older than me and still earning her living in the ocean.

Some stray images, and yes, I probably should have pitched the camera into Goletas Channel in the middle of the second day.

Tuesday. The bear on the shore at Hidden Cove. (Click for larger image.)
Tuesday. Dolphins. (Click for larger image.)
Wednesday. Somewhere west, vicinity of Goletas Channel. Very smoky air. (Click for larger image.)
Wednesday. The curved dorsal fin. (Click for larger image.)
Thursday. Waving goodbye at OrcaLab. (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

North Island Waters

Port McNeill, northern Vancouver Island. Here to rendezvous with some of the long-time supporters of OrcaLab and denizens of the Orca-Live community website.

Luckily actually seeing orcas is not the whole purpose of the exercise, because they are mysteriously absent. Tuesday we were out with the MacKays on the Naiad Explorer. Well we had no orcas, not a hint of one and nobody knew where they were. The big events of Naiad's day were: a black bear on the shore, 100 or more pacifc whitesided dolphins dancing with the boat (if Bill stopped, they slowed down and paraded away, if he started up again, SHOWTIME!!!) We went way west, to look at the sea lion rookery in the Millar Group, drifted among many islands, put the hydrophone out in many places (no calls), and at the end of the day had a minke whale and a friendly grey whale. It circled the boat, it stared at us, it was such an amazing sight that I forgot to take pictures. Later that evening, OrcaLab reported "Bill Mackay thinks the residents may have spent part of the day near Blunden Harbour/Browning Island foraging amongst scores of jumping salmon. Bill was relaying a report he got when he arrived back at the dock."

Wednesday again on the Naiad. We headed west right away, and eventually heard a report of a small group of transient orcas ahead. These are the mammal-eating, far-ranging orcas, not the fish-eating residents who (used to) spend each summer in these local waters, and whose names, family histories, and calls are very familiar to OLers. We found the transients in Goletas Channel, and paralleled them heading west for a long time. Ellen said they were "T18, a sprouter male, a young adult and another female."

Then we (barely) saw some Dall's porpoises out in Queen Charlotte Strait, and they skittered right away. On to visit the sea lion rookery. Then headed back, seeing two humpbacks along the way. Nice synchronized performance from the humpbacks. No resident orcas. Late in the day Bill heard that they were seen rounding Cape Scott, outbound.

Today we go by water taxi to pay a visit to OrcaLab itself, tucked on the back side of Hansen Island..

I seriously considered pitching the camera into the ocean yesterday. All the images are flat and grayish. Well, so is the air, as we are under heavy smoke from huge forest fires in interior British Columbia. Everyone else was getting good images. But I kept doing the wrong thing, or forgetting entirely to try. Nevertheless I saw what I saw, the humpbacks huge and graceful, flukes up as they dove; the T18s momentarily close enough to the boat that saddle patches, eye spots and details of the dorsal fins were plainly visible; the whitesided dolphins racing with the boat, spread out across the surface of the Strait.

T18s in Goletas Channel; SeaLion Rookery on islets in the Millar Group, Queen Charlotte Strait. (Click for larger image.)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The One Same Beach

Rialto on Saturday. There were so many people I could barely find a place to put the car. Fewer people once I traipsed north away from the parking lot. It must be summer at a drive-to beach in a National Park. :-) At mid-day, the tide was coming back in; there was a small parade of through-hikers heading south, having taken their last chance for the day to round the low-tide-only points in their day's itinerary; their permits and bearproof canisters dangling from their packs. I asked one couple how far they'd come. 42 miles, they said, they started at Shi Shi last Sunday.

Rialto Beach, Mid-Day. (Click for larger image.)

Gulls overhead and flying by, and a maybe grebe out in the water. Not too much else except the fizzy sound of high tide soaking through the pebble beds. I read a lot. I was happy.

There kept being blue holes in the sky, then clouds closing in again. (Click for larger image.)