Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Day Started Cold, With Intermittent Snow

Lifelong science groupie/wannabe reporting in about the Oceanic Inquiries (community education class) field trip to go birding and tidepooling and searching for teensy invertebrates in the tidal sand/mud at Salt Creek County Park (map).

Salt Creek, Low Tide, February 26, 2011 (Click for larger image)(and eagle)

Two of the people in the class were the youth education and volunteer trainers with Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, so we got to travel all together in one of the Sanctuary vans, and stopped at the OCNMS/NOAA warehouse on the highway to borrow knee boots for two of the people who hadn't come prepared. Wandering around the warehouse stuffed with boats, survival suits, sampling equipment, etc etc it occurred to me that I have wanted to contribute to science all my life long. I am such a groupie for science that even a big rubber tub full of boots says "scientists' working tools" to me.

At the parking lot, our instructor looked up the creek and spotted a green-winged teal, some mallards, a Mrs. Bufflehead; there was a great blue heron. Sitting out on the sands, an eagle. We put on all our layers, gathered up the guide books, spotting scope, dishtubs of sieving equipment, cameras, binoculars;

Boots, Scope, Tools (Click for larger image.)
About half the party started out cold and never warmed up. (Click for larger image.)

and headed towards the tide-stranded island, sieving plugs of sand from the exposed bottom of Crescent Bay; finding not too many invertebrates, two or three little lives measurable in millimeters. A proboscis worm, a bloodworm, an amphipod called Eohaustorius. Each was kept wet on our hands by drops of water from the sieving tubs; and gently then returned to somewhere near where we pulled up the core we had extracted them from, with some hope that they went on with their really tiny lives. Er, except for the first one, the proboscis worm, which I accidentally broke in half while moving it to a classmate's hand for her to examine it. Though we put him back, both barely visible pieces, that one probably didn't make it.

Past the island, we tidepooled. It's a pleasure to use the knee-boots' advantage to walk just anywhere, wade right in like a wild creature might. I got well and truly stuck in the muddy sand at one point, would have lost a boot entirely without a hand from someone on more solid bottom. Walking on rock, our instructor accidentally stepped on and crushed a limpet. "Oh I'm sorry," she said to it.

Mossy chitons, branching coralline algae, green anemones (all closed up), barnacles, limpets, eelgrass (Click for larger image.)

Tubeworms, lots of seaweeds, red encrusting sponge, encrusting coralline algae, enormous mussels.

We clambered up onto the rocks on Tongue Point. Some scrambling around eagerly, some (me) terrified every minute of falling (gumboots are NOT the footwear for rock climbing or rock walking).

... (Click for larger image.)

Between the people afraid of falling and the people who were too cold to have fun, our instructor eventually had to declare the outdoor part of the day over. We adjourned to the Blackberry Cafe in Joyce, for hot chocolate or tea, shared treats, and passing around field guides and ID lists for all the things we had seen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

02/24 Cold

Winter Resurgent. Streets frozen. I should go out and finish the shoveling I abandoned at dusk. Suddenly it's snowing again.

The lot on H Street. February 24, 2011. (Click for larger image.)

When you can see across the Strait, Vancouver Island and San Juan Island are snowy white at the water level. At first I couldn't figure out what I was seeing. Out on the Outer Coast, snow. Everywhere, snow.

First Beach webcam. 02/24/11. Snow right down to the water. (Click for larger image.)

The college for some reason thinks this is a 'business as usual' day. I called my boss to say, 'Um, I'll keep you posted...'

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crisp Horizon, Breaking Waves, 9-Foot Tide, Low Swell

I couldn't stop looking at the horizon, the clear sharp dark blue edge. And like all the other people who were perched on logs all along the beach and along the jetty, I watched the tide come in. There wasn't much surf, but at the 9 foot high the bigger sets of waves washed right into the front edge of the drift.

How It Was To See and Hear, February 19, 2011
Looking North, Rialto Beach, February 19, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

Two eagles flew out over the ocean just off the jetty. I think these wouldn't be the same ones that seem to live by Ellen Creek. Might be the ones you see or hear from the pullout over the river just behind parking lot.


I spent a lot of time up there on the jetty. Usually I go north rather than south, away from the people staying near the parking lot. I edged a little south on the near end of the jetty. If you look east along the river from up there (on a day like this), you can see Mount Olympus.

Quileute River, with Mount Olympus. Zoomed in, and in context (Click for larger images.)
Looking South-ish (Click for larger images.)
River, Jetty, Islands, Ocean, As You First See It from the Road (Click for larger image.)

The wild run of winter steelhead is still coming up the Quileute and Sol Duc Rivers. There were pickups and boat trailers parked just about everywhere they could park, all along the rivers. The other pleasure of the highway was of course the elk on Beaver Prairie. Zoomed view in the previous post. Here's the wider view. (The parcel is for sale. It will not be like this forever.)

Elk on Beaver Prairie, February 19, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

The Daily Me

So all I want in my personal news input at the moment is Libya, and other evidences of the world turning upside down. I get irritated when NPR has other stories; I think, wait wait, your job is to address the confirmability of what I'm reading on the web. I am baffled by my librarianly and techie and bookish tweeps, who are continuing to post the content which has entranced me for years; what? how can you not be retweeting revolution and suppression...

well but how can I be retweeting things I know nothing about, instead of the mild librarian-day-in-the-life concerns that most of my followers presumably have followed me for?

It's even put a crimp in my usual reading diet. Shall I stick to natural history and gloomy-future-of-the-earth? Am I entitled to read fiction, especially mysteries? Imaginary deaths on the page, while I hover my mouse button over links labelled 'graphic' showing torture blood and death, and consider whether, since I am trying to witness, it is permissable to avoid clicking. (Mostly I avoid.)

Am I entitled to a life of comfort?

Nevertheless, I went to the ocean yesterday, and was rewarded with elk on Beaver Prairie. Highway 101, a two-lane all the way around the Olympic Peninsula, goes right by this meadow, and every time I drive to the outer coast I examine it carefully for elk, going out and coming home I check every time even though I've only ever seen them in winter, and there haven't been any for a year at least. But yesterday, yes. Photo also includes evidence that there was indeed lowland snow out on the West End, though no precip at all here in PA.

Elk on Beaver Prairie, February 20 (Click for larger image.)

I stopped twice along the way in places I knew I could get a signal, to put the iPad online and see what was happening. Slaughter of demonstators in Libya was happening. I came home. I emailed tiny faraway elk pictures to everyone. Do you see what I mean?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Frosty Morning

The forecast was for 'lowland snow', then maybe not; actually there doesn't seem to have been anything at all. And day by day there is more light, morning and evening more light.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Where Skates, Rays and Chimeras Fit Into the World

Dark on the beach on Friday. It was so gray and dim that I kept thinking that dark patch of sand over there, those cobbles in the hollow, that blackish cut end of driftwood, anything might be oiled. Not. I even sniffed the end of the log. No oil smell, of course not. The oil has not come this way. As usual, there were no beached birds at all. Nothing there but beauty, a dark undistinguished beauty.

Looking North from Ellen Creek (Click for larger image.)
James Island from Rialto Jetty, February 11, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

What I think of as the Raymond Carver point, where(ever) on the beach that Ellen Creek comes together with the Pacific Ocean, had shifted back south again from its temporary northward position last month. A couple of eagles flew by just there, very vocal, and landed in a tree a little ways behind the beach along the course of the creek. They went on talking to each other for a few minutes. Gulls. A few seastars washed up in the surf line as the tide came in. A skate carcass behind a log; images: (1)(2).

Ellen Creek on February 11, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

I just wasted at least an hour trying to make clear to myself where skates fit into the world; who could resist 'skates, rays and chimeras'? I'll spare you all but this (since you probably don't care):
          Class Osteichthyes (bony fish)
               + Subclass Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
               + Subclass Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish)
          Class Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
               o Subclass: Elasmobranchii (sharks, skates, and rays)
                     * Superorder: Batoidea (skates and rays)
                     * Superorder : Selachimorpha (sharks)
                o Subclass: Holocephali (chimaeras)

It didn't rain until I was reaching for my notebook to record the end time of the second survey. My pen was missing and I looked down in case I'd dropped it right in that thought moment; there were raindrops on the cobbles. For the record, since this was a COASST survey, I will mention that the last time I found a beached bird was two large immature gulls on September 5, 2010; and before that, not since the end of the wreck, on 11/14/09.

And yes, this was the day that Egypt's revolution had its climax. I left home very late, because I was watching AlJazeera English online. And they were on my mind all day, those millions of people who went to the streets and turned the world upside down almost entirely peaceably. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, millions of Egyptians. Thank you, Egypt.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Woolly Pups and Sunshine

(Letter to a friend:) Last night was the Perspectives program at National Park headquarters about 'Status of the Translocated Sea Otter Population in Washington'; presented by Steven Jeffries, who's been with WDFW for 31 years, he said. He also said,

The impossibly cute little otters are called woolly pups. 'They look like ewoks.' They lose that brown woolly look after a while, and they grow HUGE. A large male can weigh 100 pounds. There's about 1200 of them off the outer coast of the Peninsula now. They're all descended from 30 who were translocated here from Alaska in 1970, and released at La Push. (57 were moved, 30 survived the translocation.)(They had to be moved somewhere, by the way; at that time there was underground nuclear testing going on near their island in the Aleutians.)

They move around in big rafts, and they eat a lot. Urchins are their favorite food. At one point a raft of 80 or so sea otters shifted into the Strait and completely wiped out a huge colony of red sea urchins between Slip Point and Pillar Point. Then left. Presently an enormous bunch hanging out at Destruction Island, where Jeffries guesses they are finding lots of Dungeness crabs to eat. They also like razor clams.

They're very vulnerable to oil. They don't have blubber, and depend on their thick fur for warmth and waterproofing. Even a small spot of oil can be like a hole through which their body heat leaks, and they can die of hypothermia.

According to the Peninsula Daily News this morning, the Coast Guard overflight yesterday saw no signs of a slick from the fishing boat that went down on Thursday. But the article also quotes the resource protection specialist for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, who says, approximately, it was so windy and the swell so high you couldn't have seen a slick if it was there...

I'll survey my beaches on Friday, to look for oiled birds. If there's a slick and it stays offshore, the sea otters are safe; but birds can encounter the oil out at sea, and can turn up as much as 60 miles from where they get oiled. Right now the weather is gorgeous, rain again on Friday and over the weekend. This is such a consistent pattern I'm starting to think it's a message from the universe to give up my college job since there is only ever sunshine on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. "Don't take it personally," says my reference colleague, DK.

How shall I not. It looked like this today: harbor, Ediz Hook, Strait, Victoria across the water. The ship is Alaskan Legend

If You've Got It, Flaunt It: The View Through the College Library's Windows (Click for larger image.)

I'm reading Carl Safina, The View from Lazy Point. His epigraph, from E. B. White: "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the word. That makes it hard to plan the day."

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Oil Spill Response Training

Ocean Inquiries, the community education course I signed up for, coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Arco Anchorage spill in Port Angeles harbor. So our first two class meetings were about spills, and we were also encouraged to attend a program at the Feiro Marine Life Center discussing that spill, lessons learned, subsequent spills, effect on birds,

etc, etc, and so forth.

A lot of the attendees at the Feiro program had worked on spill response for the Arco Anchorage spill. Photos from back then showed a good many of the people in the room when they were 25 years younger. We were all invited to sign up for an upcoming HAZWOPER training (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response). You have to have a HAZWOPER certificate to be allowed to help out at spills. (Sorry, that ridiculous word is what everyone calls it; it's what the certificate says; nobody ever explains what it is an acronym for.) Oh no way, sez I, I do not want to know about this. But I registered for the training.

Thus I found myself on Saturday, January 29, in Sequim with JL, my COASST mentor, spending 8 hours in an evil hard chair; and earned an official certificate of training for '8 Hour HAZWOPER As described in 29 CFR 1910.120 (q)' by staying in that evil chair taking notes and being bored for an entire day; certificate signed by the contract cleanup specialist trainer dude from Marine Spill Response Corporation, and the Coast Guard. If I can manage not to mislay my certificate, I can show up to volunteer at an oilspill anywhere in this country, and certainly if one happens to occur in our area. Which it will eventually, but one hopes not during the lifetime of this certificate, which is 18 months then I have to attend the training again. The 8-hr certificate lets you be a support worker in the process but not actually handle oiled wildlife. For that, you need a 24hr training certificate AND special trainings for birds or mammals.

I thought about my old friend David Chadwick's satirical nuclear-freeze-era rock band, the World Suicide Club, and its motto: "It's going to happen." So it is. But I don't want to know. And I'm old and fat and can't be safely hopping around rocky beaches that are 3 miles from a parking lot...

The above is as I wrote but didn't post it on Wednesday last week. On Thursday, February 3rd, a fishing boat sank in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (1)(2). I'm sure that twice in the past month at these various programs I have seen maps that assured me that the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is inside a voluntary no-go zone for shipping, an ATBA Area To Be Avoided. That didn't work, did it?

Spill Response training notwithstanding, unless oil or oiled wildlife on the shore are actually reported, there will not be organized response from the official response machinery; no activity and no one to wave my certificate at. But I'm already involved as a beachwatcher with a regular assignment. Email from COASST:

"Northern Washington COASSTers -

"We want to alert you to a "breaking news" situation over the weekend. An 80-foot vessel sank off Cape Alava on Thursday evening with 3,800 gallons of fuel aboard. As of Saturday, there was a continued release of diesel from the vessel, and a 3-5 mile long sheen was sighted 15+ nautical miles offshore and moving toward the NW, away from islands and the coast of Washington and British Columbia.

"Weather today (Sunday) could bring the fuel toward the coast. The US Coast Guard plans daily overflights to assess the sheen (movement, size).

"Based on previous spills, oiled birds can be found 60+ miles away from the spill site (several days later), so we are alerting everyone surveying NORTH OF POINT GRENVILLE TO NEAH BAY, WA (+ a few farther north and south).

"What you should do:
a) consider doing a survey this week or weekend (Feb 7-13), follow up with (c)
b) if you live on/near the beach, consider doing daily checks (not surveys) to assess oil, follow up with (c)
c) relay ANY information on the presence of oil (yes/no) and oiled birds (yes/no) to Janet/COASST - including from any surveys you completed this weekend (Feb 5-6); bring a cell phone with you and don't hesitate to call if you find oil or live, oiled birds.

"We promise to update you as soon as we hear receive more information. If the situation gets worse, we will change the oil spill response protocol accordingly..."


Wednesday Sunrise

Wednesday sunrise, already clouding over again. It remained more or less cloudy all week. Sometimes rainy; on Thursday night, a whole lot. I gotta say, I lived so long in New Mexico that even after three and a half years here, I love the sound of rain in the night. Every time.

February 2, 2011, Sunrise (Click for larger image.)

Meanwhile, what I have been thinking about, alas, is oilspills.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Orca Network Says

"We have received the latest census of Gray whale Mom and calves from San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, Mexico:
    January 19, 2011: 41 adults, 19 calves, 60 total
    January 25, 2011: 76 adults, 35 calves, 111 total

"These are excellent numbers for whales in the lagoon, especially for Mom/calf pairs which were way down in all of the birthing lagoons in Baja last year."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Settled On A Log

Tuesday afternoon it was finally so clear through the college library's window wall that we could see beyond Victoria across the Strait to the distant toothy profile of snow mountains on the British Columbia mainland. Monday, however, the forecast failed to deliver the partly sunny weather promised; the sun may well have been shining on some part of the Olympic Peninsula at some time during the day, but not where I was or when I went.

Rialto Beach, January 31, 2011. The camera makes everything blue but it was not. (Click for larger image.)

I was ready for a blue ocean, and had carefully prearranged to spend only a little time at the tribe and then head west; so I went. It was not blue, and not much surf, nor many people, nor any wrack at all. Once I'm settled on a log, it's obvious that if all I want to do is read I should always invest the road time to get to the outer coast and read there. Why ever not? Sound of waves, eagles passing by, foam swashing up the beach. The new configuration of logs and the new beach profile to be examined—they are always new on every visit, especially in winter when the king tides arrive in the dark of night. Books to be read.

The New Beach (Click for larger image.)

The falling tide exposed more pebbles of one size or another, ponded together with their size mates. I like them small and smooth and dark. Two eagles went by, one chasing the other. There kept being almost blue areas in the sky, and then gone again. Having started late, I had to leave well before I was ready, in order to be off the highway before full dark.

Log I Sat On (Click for larger image.)
Smooth Beach Profile (Click for larger image.)

Truth: I haven't been blogging. I'm not bored with where I go, but I may be bored with sharing pictures of it, and trying to make always-the-same-beach new in words. Down at the harbor I was bent out of shape by new security signage ('No photographs.' Say what?!?), and it was better for my state of mind not to go than to have another tantrum about it; so I missed the loading of the two log ships. It's been gray all the time and the days are still very short. This is the time of year when any random conversation with a local is likely to end at, "I'm ready for the days to be longer..."

Evidence That The Sun Almost Came Out, Once. Shadow of a Woman Wearing Six Layers (Click for larger image.)