Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kinda Nerdish

Webcams, weather data, maps. I do love the web. So the "SNOTEL - River Basin Snow Water Content" map has finally updated. The recent weather has brought us (the Olympic Peninsula) up to an average snowpack, and probably more important, moved the Sierra Nevada in California up one color on the graphic, from less than 25% of normal to 25%-50% of normal.

Um, yeah, this isn't precipitation, it's what water is stored in the snow. A lot of warm rain— for example, in that NW corner of Oregon— and the water storage doesn't improve, in fact it might get worse...

That Was Then, January 20, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
This is Now: January 30, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

For other anomaly maps, start on the Western Regional Climate Center's Climate Anomalies Maps and Tables page. Overall, alas yes, precipitation in this water year looks bad.

Then there's the grey whale migration to be thinking about.

  • American Cetacean Society/LA, which has been observing since 1979, started on December 1 and is reporting larger-than-average numbers of southbound greys.
  • Grey Whales Count is starting their season on February 13.
  • Orca Network started reporting gray whales in Puget Sound—these are the adventurous (?) early arrivers who probably will stop here instead of completing the migration to the Bering Strait— beginning on January 17.
  • Wayne Perryman counts northbound mother/calf pairs, and will begin the last week of March. He says, "I expect a big year for calf production based on the early retreat of ice last year."
  • Winter Whale Watch Week on the Oregon Coast counted 590 southbound whales. They will count northbound the week of March 19.
  • Journey North has a report from the breeding lagoon at Laguna Ojo de Liebre in Baja, that they are seeing "excellent numbers" of calves. [Later Tuesday evening: Yesssss, it is really time to start thinking about this. Journey North just posted their first Gray Whale update for the season. Good news. It's looking like good news.]
  • I will try to wait until the end of February to start going out to First Beach to fail to see whales. Just so I don't get bored with all that fruitless watching too early in the season.

It's quiet on the dam cams, the working barge has not reappeared on the cam since they pulled it out of the way of the blasting on the east corner at Glines Canyon last week, but the Dam Removal Blog has some nice images from last week's action.

Shout-out to @TheRedElm for the title of this post.

And very much looking forward to being able to also embed this quote (go read it), which belongs exactly here but which is in an article by @JenHoward not yet published.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Not A Magic Trick

It's winter. In winter I see elk from the roads, here and there out on the West End. It's fun to pretend that I make them appear for my guests with a magical power, but in truth I don't manifest them: they're there. I found an estimate number from 2005 of 8,600 elk on the Olympic Peninsula outside the Park.

Elk in the low field by the Bogachiel River bridge, WA 110 (Click for larger image.)

On Friday there were no elk on Beaver Prairie, and I didn't detour up to look on Quillayute Prairie. But after I left La Push and headed back east again, there was a small herd just on the other side of the Bogachiel River bridge.

Park wildlife biologist Bruce Moorhead, in The Forest Elk: Roosevelt Elk in Olympic National Park (1994) says:

A typical herd of about 20 elk, such as you might encounter in the Hoh valley, can have about nine adult females, three calves (or young of the current year), and perhaps eight "teenage" animals of either sex and one or two years of age.

They lose their antlers every year in late winter, February or so. And each year grow back a larger set than the year before.

Moorhead has an illustration of elk antlers, one-year-old and two-year-old and mature. Yuppers, the ones with antlers in the field by the river were definitly teenagers... He goes on to say,

Studies elsewhere suggest that undisturbed herds, such as those found in the park, are a "matriarchy" of older females, their female offspring, and their youngsters' offspring. Other than during the September and October breeding season, adult bulls older than one or two years of age typically remain apart from such herds, either alone or in small groups of males.

I guess we don't know whether the patterns he describes for the populations in the Park are the same for the much patchier and more disturbed (and hunted) populations outside the Park.

About the question of magic, though, it's probably some kind of reverse sorcery which last spring kept me from seeing that other species of charismatic megafauna, the migrating grey whales which should be visible from First Beach; I mean I never saw one single whale one single time all season, and not for lack of trying.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nobody. Else. There.

Friday morning. Rialto Beach. There was nobody else there, and mostly nothing else either: no birds, no kelp, no trash, no break in the slope, no... Just the ocean, the beach face, and then the trees.

Rialto Beach, January 27, 2012. Morning. (Click for larger image.)

During the high surf days the waves had swept clear across parts of Rialto Jetty, either carrying the drift away or pushing it over and down the back side of the slope, where it seems it must be going to stay forever or until some unimaginable 1000-year flood on the river picks it up and carries it back out into the ocean. Further to the north, on the Ellen Creek beach segment, the waves had smoothed away the summer berm and flattened the slope of the beach face, shoving all the sand or pebbles up and into the forest edge. It was ever so clear why a scrim of salt-killed ghosts edges the beach. (McKay and Terrich, Gravel Barrier Morphology: Olympic National Park, 1992: "It is evident that frequent overwashing occurs along this part of the barrier and the entire barrier is retreating into the forested area... trees are being killed by saltwater intrusion and eventually are toppled by high waves and drift logs.")

Swept. (Click for larger image.)

From behind the screen of ghost trees, Rialto Beach, January 27, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

A raccoon (??) had passed by (Click for larger image.)

Even for a winter weekday morning, such solitude was unusual. This is after all a premier drive-to beach on the Outer Coast of a well-used National Park. After a couple of hours, a pair of people walked by, and shortly afterwards a through-hiker with a backpack. O noes, I had to share the ocean!! With three other people.

Later I drove around to the La Push side of the river; sat out on the point reading, sleepy. Every last stick of drift had been carried away from beneath the point, and a sharp bank cut. A crow pair was hopping around; skittering sideways towards each other, hunching their necks and clacking their beaks; keeping close to each other. A fishing boat came through the channel into the Quileute River mouth, heading for the harbor. The tide kept coming in.

... (Click for larger image.)
First Beach, With Crows (Click for larger image.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ready, Set...

The storm has cleared, finally, and they've moved the barge out of the way. I think Barnard Construction is about to blast that eastern corner of the dam face. Keep your eye on the dam cams today.

Glines Canyon Dam from the Dam Cam, early January 26, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Salmon, get ready. Soon it will be time to come home.

Well, ok, not all that soon. They're blasting the corner because gnawing at all that concrete with the crane and hammer is going really, really slow...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Elwha Love

The Dam Cams have been behaving a little funny, yesterday for a while the 'current' view was no more recent than January 10. But they are working this morning, and keep your eye on Glines Canyon Dam. According to the Peninsula Daily News, Barnard Construction is going to blast on the east side of the dam face, it should be really obvious when it changes shape, even if the cam updates bracket the actual explosion. Evidently the guys in the cage dangling from the sky hook (see previous post) were setting the charges...

There's a nice article about measuring sediment in the lower river.

PDN also says I missed a high-tide-and-heavy-surf event at La Push yesterday (see 3rd image in article). This is especially ridiculous since I spent most of the day on the couch reading Chris Dixon's Ghost Wave: the Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth, and watching big surf videos from around the globe on YouTube, over and over. Watch the trailer, it's cool. But I shoulda gone out to Rialto Beach in the rainshowers, well maybe not, maybe even the road would have been closed; but maybe I should go today, high tide at midday...

Water level at La Push yesterday was 2 feet higher than predicted... (Click for larger image.)

Friday, January 20, 2012


On Tuesday it did this:

Snowy Morning on the Deck, January 17, 2012. (Click for larger image.)

We just looked at the world through web cams, and stayed put.

First Beach Webcam, January 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Glines Canyon Dam Cam, January 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

That was four inches, maybe. Wet stuff. Wednesday maybe another four inches sifted down. Dry stuff. Driveway was shoveled Tuesday late, but then people drove up and down on the Wednesday whitestuff, turning it snowpacked-and-icy and not shovel-able. It's a messy icy heap down there at the bottom. We'll need chains to drive the first 30 feet, no matter how fast it warms up today. (Well, because we're timid old ladies. NOBODY barreling along the cross street on the packed snow is wearing chains.)

My houseguest hates and fears the Evil White. She has spent days staring out the window, making sure it is not Coming To Get Her. We had books to read, and internet connectivity, and food. But slowly we got cabin fever. Twitch twitch.

Entertainment on the DamCam, Two Guys Hanging from a Swear-to-God Sky Hook. January 19, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

The main bulk of the storm hit south of Puget Sound and into Oregon. We will have to wait until the Snotel maps are updated to see if it did any good where it is desperately needed, the bone dry Sierra Nevada... Now it looks like there's a pretty good swell edging towards the California coast. Will they call the Mavericks surf contest? Are the 24 official bigwave surfers heading to their airports around the globe??

Ocean Prediction Center, January 20, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

The cam on Hurricane Ridge is covered with ice. There are pix in my own camera of the street yesterday, but I'm too much of a slug to download them. Good thing this happens only about once every other year.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Beach Day (With Elk)

On Friday we went to the ocean. Might actually have preferred to do nothing on Friday and outer coast on Saturday or Sunday, but a snowstorm was coming, so off we went.

There were elk, both on Beaver Prairie and in a field of stumps and grasses and scotch broom.

Elk on Beaver Prairie, off Dancing Elk Road :-) January 13, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
Boss elk on Beaver Prairie, January 13, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
Elk among the stumps, January 13, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
The elk in the scotch broom were at the pin by Sappho. Beaver Prairie is the other pin. (Click for larger image.)

It was kind of a murky day. Tide too close to high to get out on the beach, really. We stood up in the drift and watched the moderate swell come in and in. Sometimes the sun tried to break through. Blue patches grew in the sky, but never any direct sunlight.

... (Click for larger image.)
... (Click for larger image.)
Looking back: Quileute River, Rialto Jetty, James Island and Pacific Ocean beyond. (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Four Nights, Five Days

Right, we were in Seattle for a long time. I no longer feel like Seattle is a mystery land halfway to Kansas, and don't have quite the same fear of Driving in the Big City. If you make wrong turns, you just drive in circles until you get headed in the right direction, and meanwhile may see stuff. Like some sweet little park somewhere that we deadended at (Kobe Terrace Park, apparently), and Suzanne Tidwell's yarn-bombing in Pioneer Square. Trees with sweaters, oh my...

January 8, Seattle. Trees with sweaters. (Click for larger image.)

Once we were settled, GF picked us up and took us here and there, including a sweep along wherever (the ship canal?) to Chittenden Locks.

Working docks along the ship canal. Fishing boats in from Alaska, January 8, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

January 8, goldeneyes at Chittenden Locks. (Click for larger image.)
The railroad brdige downstream of the locks (Click for larger image.)

The next three days were all about medical business. The only workout the camera got was those entrancing sunrises from our room. Thursday morning we saw my Big City Doctor at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, then drove off down the hill and onto the ferry and home.

January 12. Lake Union from the waiting room, 4th floor, SCCA (Click for larger image.)

According to the GPS data which the camera creates, we were exactly here,

Location map from the exif data... (Click for larger image.)

when I took this image of leaving the Emerald City.

Seattle from the ferry, January 12, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

PS. Continuing to mostly put the images up as is, using auto settings on the camera and mostly no after-processing. Will inch further along the learning curve later on.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Four Sunrises...

...from a window in the big city. We country mice found our window endlessly thrilling.

Sunrise, looking toward downtown Seattle, Monday, January 9 (Click for larger image.)
Rainy sunrise, looking toward downtown Seattle, Tuesday, January 10 (Click for larger image.)
Sunrise, looking toward downtown Seattle, Wednesday, January 11 (Click for larger image.)
Last sunrise, looking toward downtown Seattle, Thursday, January 12 (Click for larger image.)

Then we went home. More about being in Seattle, and some health news, in next posts. Right now we need to go to the ocean...

Friday, January 06, 2012

New Year's Eve Ocean

Stopped by the OCNMS volunteer office today to check if my NOAA login is working again (yes) and talked to JL, the new camera's godmother, about my struggles. She said this one was an ok picture,

New Year's Eve, Rialto Beach. (Click for larger image.)

and explained some of the camera's baffling behaviors. So though I don't usually post things out of order, here are some other images from Saturday last. Various settings, no after-processing:

Dahdayla Island, December 31, 2011 (Click for larger image.)
Looking North, December 31, 2011 (Click for larger image.)
Pebbles (Click for larger image.)

(Why the camera's GPS gave the elevation as anywhere from 26 feet above whatever it thought sea level was (no) to 255 feet BELOW sea level (definitely not) remains mysterious.)

Thursday, January 05, 2012


It's the time of year when minutes count. We examine the condition of the light obsessively, morning and evening. Is there more light yet? Is there? Is there? Here, finally, this very morning, sunrise is earlier than it was yesterday. 8:03 AM (It's not symmetrical, you will recall, neither against the clock nor up and down the latitudes. Check yours...). And we've gained 15 minutes at the sunset end since our earliest sunset at 4:20 on December 14.

OK then, at sunrise on January 2, Mount Baker showed off his silhouette briefly in the endless run of cloudy mornings. Mount Baker, over behind Bellingham, about 90 miles away as the eye sees it (or maybe a 4-hour car trip including a ferry but not including climbing the mountain when you get there)(does anyone climb Mount Baker? I dunno.)

Mount Baker on my horizon, January 2, 2011, over roof and under wires. (Click for larger image.)

This business of 'as the eye sees it'. Just walking around the apartment, and anywhere I am around town or on the road, my attention zooms right past the foreground to water, always. Or to the horizon. My famous water view is an extremely small slice of the world but it's what I see first. In reality, it's just a tiny bit of what's out there, you can barely pick it out on a real photo.

Moment of sunshine without zoom, morning, January 5, 2011. (Click for larger image.)

Mt. Baker if it had been visible yesterday morning would be just to the right of the telephone pole. Under other cloud conditions you would see tiny bits of San Juan Island (US) and Victoria (CA) on the other side of the Strait. Here is a full-size strip from the same image. On a blue day my eyes automatically pick out every tiny bit of water between the houses and through the leafless tree branches.

Horizon of that moment (Click for larger image, then scroll for the water bits.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

GOES and Other Tech Toys

Oooh, lookit this. GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) weather data overlaid on a MODIS imagery base from the Terra and Aqua satellites. GOES West and GOES East. We're not actually seeing anything available to the eye, it's digital magic; on offer 24/7, day and night and winter and summer, and clear as clear can be. Thanks to MSNBC for the explanation, shoutout to @stevesilberman for the find. I love it madly.

GOES/MODIS imagery mashup. See GOES West and GOES East for current, and be sure to click to full size when you do... (Click for larger image.)

Sure enough the dam cams are offering entertainment. A full portrait of the barge at Glines Canyon Dam flitted by yesterday evening as it changed position.

... (Click for larger image.)

The First Beach Cam was down all weekend, but boy is it ever back. According to the Ocean Prediction Center this is only a 12-foot swell, but such a lively one. Why am I here and not there?

... (Click for larger image.)

My new camera, by the way, is a Canon Powershot S100. JL took me all the way to a camera store in N. Seattle so I could try out cameras in the hand before choosing. It should be absolutely idiot-proof, but doesn't seem to be. Even in AUTO mode strange things happen on the little screen. I am not learning very fast, because not trying very hard. I meant it to be easy.