Sunday, March 18, 2012

This Beach Gets Everything

Friday morning early we headed out to Hobuck Beach on the Makah Reservation for the monthly seabird survey for COASST. The weather in town was rainy. By the time we reached the high point of the drive, between Lake Crescent and Sappho (map), it was snowy and downright discouraging. But people were waiting for us and it has to be done every month regardless of conditions, plus I had faith in the forecast, which was for a hole in the weather. It's going to clear, I kept telling JL.

US 101, somewhere west of Lake Crescent, March 16, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

We stopped west of Sekiu to pick up NM, spotted ten or a dozen swans in the Wa'atch River behind Neah Bay, and rendezvoused with SP at the parking area by the beach. By then the wind continued stiff out of the southwest but it looked like this:

Hobuck Beach, March 16, 2012.

We bundled up for wind protection, and set forth. NM was a relative newbie, so we went in detail through the process of identifying each dead bird we found, no shortcuts though in fact JL knew what each was. NM did the measuring, for practice. You get intimate with them by the time you are done giving each late sentient being its proper respect and a place in the scientific record. "We just leave it?" NM asked each time. Well yes. We don't have collecting permits, and anyway the bird belongs where it lies. But her reluctance to just leave it was contagious. I'd look back as we walked away.

COASST Volunteers Identifying and Recording a (Dead) Tufted Puffin (Click for larger image.)

Yeah, Hobuck Beach so reliably holds and accumulates what washes ashore that it is used for training new volunteers: there are usually dead birds for them to practice identifying. (Found the title for this post on my notebook page from the December survey, a quote from someone.) And usually has lots of wrack (this day not so much), dead birds, kelp, sand dollars and limpets and other invertebrates washed up,

... (Click for larger image.)

and marine debris. We citizen scientists are on alert for six particular kinds of floating debris which might be early arriving traces of the tsunami in Japan a year ago. And we found two of the kinds. Four of the big styrofoam floats, and two of the small flying-saucer ones.

Floats found on Hobuck Beach, March 16, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Also lots of bottles with markings in other languages. Chinese. (Japanese?) [Later: IJ emailed persuasively that it is more likely to be Chinese as there are no hiragana characters, only kanji.] Something Cyrillic. Something Scandinavian [Later: AW says it is Danish].

Bottles from elsewhere, March 16, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
Kitchen Table Portrait of Cyrillic Bottle, with Keyhole and Whitecap Limpets (Click for larger image.)

The others were inclined to at least consider that any bottle with kanji on it was fresh tsunami debris. But I remember finding a similar array two years ago in the spring when there had been a big swell out of the southwest. I think maybe even in the case of bottles which may be of Japanese origin (there were others not photographed) they are unlikely to be tsunami-related, just that conditions have fished them out of the garbage patch in the North Pacific Gyre and sent them to our beaches; and anyway there will be no way to say with certainty one way or the other. But the floats? There's a lot of them, all up and down the coast. People who know their beaches know they haven't seen them before...

Hobuck Beach. By this point we have moved on to the marine-debris tally-sheet part of the survey protocol

We came home via 112, hoping for elk. Saw two different herds in the fields.

Elk (Click for larger image.)

One last video. Two of the big foam floats we saw were actually out of reach, on the far side of the Wa'atch River at the north end of our survey territory. One had come to rest, the other was energetically rolling inland, pushed by the wind.

Foam Float on the Far Side of the Wa'atch River, Being Pushed Ashore by the Wind, March 16, 2012

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