Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Desperately Beautiful Day

It was a desperately beautiful day at the ocean.

Surveying for beached birds at Rialto Beach, my monthly assignment for COASST. No dead birds on the Ellen Creek segment. Not so much in the way of live ones either, except little birds singing a lot in the woods behind the beach, who seemed to be mostly robins. No eagles. Nothing to find in fact, except a cleanswept beach, the gravel and sand smoothed up the slope.

Ellen Creek beach segment, March 23, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

The pink sand was evident for the first time in a long time. Rau describes the same sand on Second Beach. The color comes from grains of garnet. "These heavy minerals were originally in the Pleistocene or ice age deposits that cap bedrock in this area. They have since been eroded from the Pleistocene deposits and brought to the beach by streams where, because they are relatively heavy, they have been concentrated along the beach by wave action." It's one of those explanations that are just a mystery.

Pink sand (Click for larger image.)

Nothing to find on the Rialto Jetty segment either.

James Island and Little James Island from the jetty beach, March 23, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

It was hard to pay attention to looking for beached birds, because I knew the minute I set foot on the beach that there wouldn't be any. There was no wrack, no litter except far back in the drift. Obviously anything the size of a dead bird would be either carried away or already buried in gravel unless it arrived just now. Whole trees are buried in that gravel. But dutifully I looked, special attention to the drift, eyeballing across the whole sweep of beach where there was nothing nothing, and then along the surf line returning, and looking looking looking.

Fresh Red Alder Buried in Gravel (Click for larger image.)
Smooth beach profile (Click for larger image.)

So then I went to First Beach to fail to see the gray whales passing by. No whales. (No whales on Sunday either, a trip so unexciting I didn't even post about it.) A harlequin duck and a surf scoter in the river. A nice sea lion manifestation in the mouth of the river, and Quileute fishermen in little boats setting and moving nets with floats. I think the humans and the pinniped were all after steelhead. There were surfers, and lots of people coming and going to walk on the beach. Nobody else seemed to be looking for gray whales, which is just as well as they don't seem to have been passing by today.

James Island from the First Beach Overlook in La Push, March 23, 2011 (Click for larger image.)
Looking South to Quateata Headland from First Beach overlook, March 23, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

P.S. The elk were out on Beaver Prairie when I was heading west.

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