Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dusting Kannon

This room is called the Kannon-Do. A couple of times a day it's my job to vacuum and and dust and set up cushions for thirty people. In between times the cushions are picked up and tables set up for thirty people to eat.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

View Corridor

When you make a right turn from Colorado Hughway 17 and proceed east on County Road T, this is what you see. It's nearly infinity. (In the planning world, this is called a view corridor, and other bureaucratic phrases even more denatured.)

Kit Carson Peak, Challenger Peak, Crestone Peak. All Fourteeners, as they say in Colorado. Over 14,000 feet.

The Next Place Will Be Really Cold

It's sure enough going to -11F on Friday night, the exaggerated number I was telling everyone but hoping against. If it's that cold, what snow there may be won't melt, right? The Guest Manager at Crestone Mountain Zen Center says there is no snow on the ground now, but maybe I better get snow chains for the rental car in case there is difficulty getting out of there on Saturday, right?

Someplace Entirely Else

In Santa Fe, seeing friends. Distracted by lost luggage (which finally appeared). Gray skies, grey leafless branches, buildings the color of earth: the palette of winter in El Norte.

Drove up the mountain with PG. It's been very dry, there's not a lot of snow, but at least some of ski runs were open. We tiptoed onto the beginning of the Winsor Trail. Just looking, you know, had no hiking gear, snowshoes, or crosscountry skis. Then we drove back down to the big-view pullout, and ate sandwiches in the car.

The aspen forests are a most wonderful color whose name I don't know, hazy swathes of bright beigy tree-tops. I didn't get a good picture.

Aspens. (Click for larger image.)

Aspens. (Click for larger image.)

We don't have aspens in the Olympics, though according to the range map there is an outlying patch near Victoria on the other side of the Strait. The explanation must lie in glacial history.

Range map for Populus tremuloides (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Journey, with Personal Tech

My car is waiting patiently at the PA airport, and I'm about as far as I can be from there. After a family visit here in the opposite corner of the lower 48, to Santa Fe and then Crestone Mountain Zen Center. Blogging will be sparse, not least because writing is frustrating on the iPad.

The south-facing cam at Fairchild Internatioal Airport, Port Angeles

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Endangered Species

Another Friday, another COASST survey, a (very) different beach. Vast lots of red clouds before sunrise, but when I got to the park-and-ride lot at Laird's Corner the sunrise part of the sky was behind the foothills of the Olympics. (Way south. In fact, within a few days of as south as it gets.) The view north looked peaceable across the still rural fields toward the Strait: slowly brightening sugarplum sky. I waited in the frosty beautiful morning for MS and JL to pick me up.

Strait of Juan de Fuca from Laird's Corner, Before Sunrise. December 17, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

We headed out to Hobuck Beach (map). SP was waiting for us there. It was dry, but gray and a bitter wind. All four of us wore our raingear for warmth and windbreak.

Hobuck Beach (Click for larger image.)

We had lots of birds to identify. There usually are, at Hobuck, that's why JL and MS use it for training volunteers. Unlike 'my' beach at Rialto, Hobuck is an accumulation zone, and we had 22 or 23 dead birds. It helps a lot to have a team: one to do data, one to measure, one to tag and take photos, one to work the book and diagnose what it is we've found. Last month JL did it alone, in rain; she was very glad to have dry weather and company...

Since I was the datakeeper and writing on the report sheets, I wasn't keeping a separate list in my notebook, but we had something like:

fork-tailed storm petrel (one wing of)
green-winged teal (one wing of)
bufflehead (just the head)
marbled murrelet
northern fulmar (6 or 7, all dark phase)
common murre
rhinoceros auklets (2)
California gull
Brandt's cormorant
American crow
whitewinged scoter
black scoter
large immature gull .

The treasure of the day was the marbled murrelet. It's endangered. It was very fresh, and very small and perfect. On the datasheet you must fill out the box for 'foot condition': is it pliable, stiff, rotten, no feet at all? "Foot condition?" I asked. "Very very soft," said SP, caressing the little feet.

JL Tagging the Marbled Murrelet (Click for larger image.)

We were not in the Park, so I could cheerfully pick up limpet shells and small sand dollars and sponges and things. MS found me a chiton plate (so now I have two on the kitchen table), and a very small sea urchin (ditto). MS and SP agreed there was more wood on the beach than they had seen there before, and MS thought it was noteworthy that we were seeing a kelp called Pterygophora. There were lots and lots of sand dollars, mostly big ones, more than I've ever seen there; some wave or swell condition must have shoved across their beds out in Makah Bay and pushed them ashore. I wrote them down in the margin of one of the datasheets. Some flocks of kildeer; I wrote them down. We also had two harbor seals, a California sea lion, and a river otter. (Corpses of.) Wrote those down too. One of the harbor seals was cut open, had been necropsied by a biologist working out of Neah Bay(?). Towards the end of the day he came jogging along the beach in skimpy running clothes, stopped to say hello to MS and introduce himself to the rest of us; but it was too cold and he soon had to resume his run or freeze.

MS travels for NOAA now, in the international marine protected area capacity building program, and she was oh so happy to be on the beach doing birds. When the sun would try to break through she would skip a few paces and wave her arms, calling out "Shadows!!" As the other three of us became colder, slower, more clumsy, she led us cheerfully through the identifications. I promise you, by ourselves we could not have gotten the storm petrel from one wing, or the green-winged teal from one wing. Or the bufflehead when all we had was the tiny head and some naked neck bones.

About half the birds were re-finds, had been tagged the month before, or even two months before; they were not in good shape but you don't have to remeasure those that have already been recorded. Some of the 'new' ones were also awfully deteriorated. The next to the last bird of the day was up in the grasses at the back of the beach. It looked more like weeds than a bird carcass. Icky weeds. That one I entered on the form as a 'northern fulmar, dark phase, very rotten'; MS of course knew at a glance what it was, and said we didn't have to measure or tag it. JL did take a photo. It counts, it's recorded.

PS. I always love to be out on the beach with JL and SP, adding our scratchy notes about the beached birds we find to what is known about the world. When we get to do it with MS, watching her doing science every minute all day long, listening to her tell what she knows, learning while adding a tiny bit to the scientific record—that's... wow.

Sand Dollar (Click for larger image.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Every Time I Look at This Photo

...I think I'm dreaming. The Olympics seen from across the Strait by Benjamin Madison on his Victoria Daily Photo blog. Go look. Thank you, Mr. Madison.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Rainbow Was a Lie

One day houseguest, with rain. Tuesday we went to Salt Creek County Park, wind and rain. A sunbreak passed by. Then more rain.

The River Hopped Up

It rained a lot on Sunday. The river hopped up, though not to a level of threat that showed up in the tribal email. John Gussman went out and took pictures, thank you Pacific NW Environmental Video Channel.

USGS 12045500 ELWHA RIVER AT MCDONALD BR NEAR PORT ANGELES, WA (Click for larger image.)

PS By Craig Childs' taxonomy of floods in The Secret Knowledge of Water— 'ornamental', 'powerful', 'Fear of God' — this one probably should be classed as 'ornamental'. Cliff Mass has videos of the Stillaguamish, and of Snoqualmie Falls. Those probably went to 'powerful'. :-)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Moment of Sun on the Beach

Friday. At sunrise the view mountainwards said, "Go." A big wet storm forecast for the weekend, but not yet. Along Lake Crescent, the sky changed every minute.

Mount Angeles and Klahane Rige, Olympic Mountains, December 10, 2010 (Click for larger image.)
Lake Crescent as seen from US 101, Olympic National Park, December 10, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

Rain along the highway, a moment of sun on the beach, rain on the beach, clouds, mists. A constant donning and removal of raingear and layers.

This was a COASST beached bird survey; I had to hustle along to complete both segments before the waves chased me up into the drift, as the tide was not-all-that-low when I got there, and rising. (Had there been birds to identify, the plan would have fallen apart as that takes me HOURS extra.) Waves had swept and smoothed the strand, pushing all the small wood and the gravel and sand right up to or past the big logs at the back of the beach. Were there anything to record on the survey forms, it will have been buried within one tidal cycle.

The Ghost Tree Still Hasn't Gone Over (Click for larger image.)
Big Log (Click for larger image.)

No dead birds; at one spot on Rialto Jetty a small clump of feathers, from a gull that had been some eagle's lunch, probably, but no sign of the rest of the bird. A very small amount of marine debris: a piece of netting, small bits of rope, some plastic. I've gotten out of the habit of allowing time for picking up the trash and recording it on a Marine Debris form. Will have to go back to doing it, beginning with next month's survey.)

No wrack on the Ellen Creek beach segment, except here and there behind the logs. Now that I know to watch for it, bryozoans in the mix, but really not much of anything. On the Rialto Jetty segment, here and there a wrack of small wood, which we have not seen for a while.

When I left there was a vigorous rain shower. Eventually outran it on the highway, and there was a stupendous rainbow.

Small Wood (Click for larger image.)
A handsome gull, in thoughtful rather than noble pose... (Click for larger image.)

That Was Then

Here are the Park's two glaciation animations. No longer on their website, alas, so I can't point you to the webpages. And you've seen them in these pages before. But repeating them here so they are not lost. Wish we could slow down the animations so we can savor the moment when the mountain glaciers have retreated, the big ice rivers block the outlets, and there are long lakes in all the valleys.

This bears on the Elwha dam removals. Barely 10,000 years ago, all the salmon had to gradually disperse up the newly opened rivers, find breeding gravels, settle into a new pattern of life. As our salmon present-day will have to do after the dams come down.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Yes Ships

This morning between outbursts of rain, the sky cleared up a bit, and a big tanker came cruising by the bottom of the street, very close in. Like maybe she would be coming into the harbor, that close in. Popped out on the deck for a picture, then to to look her up. Yes. Alaskan Explorer, destination Port Angeles.

Alaskan Explorer on the Strait, December 9, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

It was time to go to work. I just about kept pace with her easterly progress as I drove across town, so that she was just pulling around the end of the Hook when I parked; and when I got to my desk and then walked over to the college library's astonishing wall of windows, there was Explorer, just steaming by.

Alaskan Explorer coming into the harbor (Click for larger image.)

I worked until 8PM on Tuesday, and had my first experience of all that glass as a black curtain. Anything could be going on out there in the black night beyond the glass. The world might end out there and the building exist alone in infinite darkness. How would we know?

PS I think I've solved the iPad blogging problem. More investigation to be done, but the fifth attempt got me almost there: the trick will be to post the photos by email, then write directly in Emailed photos seem to behave the way I want. Yaay.

No Ships : a Meta-Post

Yesterday dawned rainy, but I had no fresh photos to put on the blog. I detoured down to the harbor on my way to work. There were no ships large or small anchored out in the harbor, no big ships at the terminal (W.C. Park Responder was there, as is often the case; when moored next to a freighter or tanker she is so small she doesn't even rate mention; but right then she sat among the idle cranes and miscellaneous work boats and was the only ship around). It was about 9AM, so the ferry was halfway to Victoria. Everything was quiet, and dim, and greyish. There were puddles everywhere. Momentarily it stopped raining and a hole opened in the clouds; a fuzzy-muzzy bit of rainbow touched down on Ediz Hook (map).

Ferry Not At Home, December 8, 2010 (Click for larger image.)

OK then. I have now spent literally hours trying to put up a successful blog post from the iPad. is not a friend to a java-less environment. The Blogpress app produces unsatisfactory results as to where the photos are stored and how they behave. And if Blogpress could be easy to use for composition I haven't figured it out yet. Tried emailing a photo from iPad to twitpic, but ran into the java problem again in trying to get blogger to pull in the photo from there. I am not best pleased with the Gadget at the moment. Nor with Google, whose choice it is not to write an iPad-compatible app for its users. I'll keep trying other avenues, but we are verging on the territory of This Is Really a Time-Sink Not Worthy of One's Energy In a Suffering World.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hydrologic Outlook

It's raining. We're having an average year for wetness so far, and the forecast includes a Hydrologic Outlook for a potential heavy rain event this weekend. (Click for larger image.)

PS Beware strange blog behavior. I'm trying to contruct a post from the iPad, using the PhotoPad and BlogPress apps. So far not so good. and the Gadget do not play well together...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Ocean Inquiries

Barbara Blackie is giving a community course next quarter at the college. I'm signed up, and hoping it will fill with enough students to happen. (in the Peninsula College catalog)

Course Description: Explore current topics in marine biology and conservation through group discussion, lecture, and presentations. This class is a partnership between Peninsula College, the Feiro Marine Life Center, and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and will closely follow topics introduced through the FMLC public lecture series. A field trip is included.

Thursdays, 6:00PM- 7:30PM Port Angeles Campus. Class meets on the following days: 1/20, 1/27, 2/17, and 2/24. Class fee = $36.00. "