Thursday, December 15, 2011

Frosty Ocean

On Monday tagged along for the monthly beached-bird survey at Hobuck Beach. Four of us from Port Angeles, including my bird mentors MSB and JL, and SP who lives out there at Neah Bay. (map) It was cold, cold cold; heavy frost here in town and all along the highway. Lots of birds visible from the highway as we drove along the Strait, ducks and cormorants. Half a dozen or so bald eagles scattered along, including one in a tree by the harbor at Neah Bay who didn't seem to have moved at all when we came back five or so hours later. A pair of swans near the Wa'atch bridge.

Hobuck Beach, December 12, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

The wrack and everything else still frosty when we came down onto the beach. The first (dead) birds we found were frozen, and the beach itself frozen hard under our knees as we worked to identify them.

The first bird—and several of the others—was a common murre, a tidy little intact juvenile high up in the drift. We also had a couple of rhinoceros auklets, a Pacific loon, a Brandt's cormorant; maybe 12 bird (corpses) total to identify and report to COASST. We divided into two teams and hopscotched each other along the beach, me and SP and MSB doing the even-numbered birds, whose ID photos ended up in my camera... (example)

Working birds, Hobuck Beach, December 12, 2011 (Click for larger image.)

Shorebirds, wrack, lots of sand dollars. I picked up several limpet shells, whitecap and keyhole. Am way into limpets these days.

Stopped for a snack at the turnaround. There was a loon showing off in the mouth of the Wa'atch River, we stalked him with JL's camera; the sun was warm, we were all very mellow.

Lots of sponge in the wrack, and lots of sanddollars (Click for larger image.)

Kept right on finding (dead) birds on the return leg. We picked up a whole lot of trash as we returned, and left one big heavy trashbag with a surfer whose vehicle was parked right behind the beach, so we didn't have to carry it all the way back to the car. It was very satisfying to pick up trash all the way, and not just the 1/4 mile that we were filling out the Marine Debris tracking form...

On the way home, two pairs of swans, and a field full of elk by the highway just west of the Ozette turnoff.

Elk along Highway 112. We were talking cameras when they appeared, as in what shall I buy if I want to reach out for elk who may otherwise be faraway fuzzy specks... (Click for larger image.)

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