Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kelp Dragon

Friday morning we did the monthly COASST survey for beached birds at Hobuck Beach. It was a quiet, partly cloudy day. There were a lot of people on the beach. Of live birds we had 2 eagles along the highway, posing nobly at the tops of trees as if they were wood sculptures; a great blue heron in the Wa'atch River; least and western sandpipers, semi-palmated plovers, a whimbrel. And of course gulls.

Hobuck Beach, August 24, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
(Blurry) Whimbrel with Kelp (Click for larger image.)

It was not a notably low tide, but so much sand has shifted in over the past month that the beach is wide and flat and seems to go out forever, a true summer beach profile. There was a kelp dragon.

Kelp Dragon (Click for larger image.)

Being out with people who know things is an endless delight. Now I know how to distinguish male from female crabs by the underside of their shells.

Boy Crab (Click for larger image.)

There were four of us, and five dead birds to work. Two gulls which were re-finds, already tagged last month (and not the more full of information for being a month more deteriorated). A baby cormorant, still in down. And two rhinoceros auklets, the first of which was so freshly dead it was soft, intact, very much itself still.

HP found some olive shells (Olivella biplicata). The Makah use them for regalia, so HP gave them to SP, our Makah teammate; who accepted them and gave them back to her, to pass on as a birthday gift. A small formal moment; careful hands, purple shells still wet and shining. Giving, returning, passing on.

The village of Neah Bay was hopping with people, boats, floats; gearing up for Makah Days over the weekend. We left HP at the trailer which the Marine Sanctuary maintains on the Coast Guard Base in Neah Bay, to get ready to set up the Sanctuary's educational booth for the event. JL and I stopped for a late lunch in Clallam Bay. There was a deer swimming in the Strait. Half the patrons of the diner went out across the highway to get a better look. When we left, the deer was ashore, sitting unmoving on the beach. We hoped it would recoup enough energy to move up the beach as the tide came in...

"The Trailer": National Marine Sanctuary's home away from home on the Coast Guard Base in Neah Bay (Click for larger image.)

Just for the record, people see summer-resident gray whales sometimes in Clallam Bay, but of course we didn't.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

As Blue As This

To Salt Creek with PB. It was blue out.

Salt Creek County Park, August 22, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

What we have around here are semidiurnal mixed tides, "two high and two low tides of different size every lunar day". What we had going for us at Salt Creek yesterday was the higher low tide, barely going down to three feet above mean lower low water

Tides at Crescent Bay, from NOAAfrom (Click for larger image.)

and I suspect the little island remains an island at that tide level— but we can't testify, because we were sitting at the kitchen table talking until much later than low tide, and as you know the tide does not wait for you. It was rising noticably when we got there, and kept rising. For sure the little island was an island, and a bit of sand reaching towards it went under the gentle blue waves as we stood on it.

Tongue Point, where the tidepools are, was under the waves; there were children, and sandpipers, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca was about as blue as you could wish for.

Children in the Creek (Click for larger image.)
Semi-palmated sandpipers; they were back where the creek was emerging from the marsh; the incoming salt waters had not yet reached them (Click for larger image.)
The tide pools were under water. Canada across the Strait. (Click for larger image.)

Daylight Shrinking

The sunset time (here) is another two minutes earlier every day this week. Thank you to the US Naval Observatory for the Sun or Moon Rise/Set Table for One Year generator.

It appears that I had a 'the walls are closing in' daylight-shrink panic, and checked the table, last year on nearly the same date.

There will be darkness.

O noes.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Good Morning, World

It's overcast down here, one of those mornings where the webcam on Hurricane Ridge shows us exACTly where the ceiling is:

Hurricane Ridge Webcam, August 19, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

This morning, for the second day in a row, OrcaLive has its camera down in the kelp forest under the waters of Johnstone Strait at Cracroft Point. Yesterday there were close sea urchin manifestations, many fish, and a lot of delighted watchers— who up until five years ago took the opportunity to hang around with their heads under the sea all summer for granted, and were thrilled, thrilled I say, to be able to be there again. To stay current with how OrcaLab is proceeding with the experiment in bringing back their cameras, keep your eye on the community page.

So I went wandering about just now hoping to find enough webcams to confirm it is overcast at the moment all the way from here to there (it is) and found a really extensive BC webcam page, which found me the view of Victoria harbor from the top of the Royal BC Museum (whee) and a jillion other nice places to visit.

As to nice places to visit, the Brown Bear & Salmon Cam is offline until next summer sometime; there isn't a marmot cam, alas, and the new marmot blog hasn't been updated since early in the season, alas alas.

A sensible woman would go out to the ocean today.

First Beach Web Cam (Click for larger image.)

OK, then, perhaps I shall. After I stick my head back under the sea and watch the kelp waving around for a while longer...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Another Magic Carpet Ride

I'm still a science project. Angel Flight West wafted me off to Portland this week, for my monthly examination by the doctor administering the clinical trial.

Brian, my southbound pilot, was worried that a pattern of low ceilings in the mornings at the Port Angeles airport might delay us and make me late for my Monday morning appointment, so he brought me down to Portland Sunday evening, and I stayed over in a motel. The air was still fairly clear and blue when we left Port Angeles, good glimpses into the Olympics and down Hood Canal. At about 5 PM we could see the afternoon's flock of cruise ships from Seattle steaming up Admiralty Inlet, but they were too far away for a good picture. By the time we were crossing the Columbia, a haze was moving in. Brian drove me from the Portland-Hillsboro airport to my motel, and in the morning brought me to OHSU. Truly a magic carpet experience...

Getting ready to leave Port Angeles, August 12, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
It's a Cessna 172S Millenium Skyhawk. (Click for larger image.)
Not so much haze when we left PA. Looking into the Olympics. (Click for larger image.)
Towards the Mouth of the Columbia, Haze Moving In (Click for larger image.)
At Portland-Hillsboro, parking the plane (Click for larger image.)

Monday morning, medical business. I don't tell much about that here, though I tweet through the day when I'm at OHSU by myself. Several of the people I follow were themselves tweeting their radiation and other medical appointments the same day, and I didn't feel especially alone.

Mike, my northbound pilot, picked me up at the medical center. He flies out of Mulino Airport, way to the southeast of Portland. We went first to pick up his wife, then headed out into what seemed like remote countryside. Whee. Someplace new, and a new line of flight and new things to look at down there on the ground.

The Grumman American in its T-hangar at Mulino (Click for larger image.)

It was hot hot hot. Over 90 degrees on the ground at Mulino (pronounced moo-LIE-no), and even 8000 feet up in the air the temperature was still like 87 degrees. And the haze was incredibly thick. Smoke from the huge fires in eastern Washington? Haze off the Pacific? Thick thick thick. We tried flying above it. We tried flying below it. Thick haze no matter what.

So no decent pictures of the ground, not of Mount Hood, or Mount Saint Helens or Mount Adams or Mount Rainier. But my camera's GPS was having no trouble finding the satellite (because of all that plexiglass that was making it so hot in the cockpit?), so I kept taking pictures anyway, to create a trail of location pins mapping the flight. We flew right over Portland International Airport, far above and perpendicular to the take-off-and-landing traffic. Seemed strange to me, but air traffic control and the pilot were ok with it :-)

Mike's Navigation Maps Are In His iPad (Click for larger image.)
Mike and Debbie at Port Angeles (Click for larger image.)
Airports and pins: Mulino at bottom right. Hillsboro top left. Portland International top right. (Click for larger image.)

Mike & Debbie let me off at Port Angeles, and flew eastward to go have dinner with friends in Renton. And I was home again. Could hardly have been easier. Thank you to Brian, to Mike and Debbie, to Angel Flight West, and to Kerry at OHSU who made the arrangements. And thanks to Dr. Pommier himself, who thought of AngelFlight as a way to make the monthly travel do-able. All this flight detail is for you, Dr. P.

More pins... (Click for larger image.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

West Again

West again; the Outer Coast was calling. We looked carefully for elk when we passed Beaver Prairie. No elk. The air was a lot cleaner, and we had blue sky that was really blue all the way to the curve before Rialto Beach where you can first see the ocean and James Island— but just then from there the islands and the entire Pacific Ocean were invisible in the foggy summer marine layer.

Not Seeing James Island, Rialto Beach, August 11, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

No elk, and no eagles, either, but yes on pelicans, cormorants, gulls, sea ducks of unidentified sorts. Also the most people (and dogs) I have EVER seen on Rialto. As we were leaving, the Park rangers were turning cars back up the highway, because there was were no more parking spaces. To tell the truth, I wasn't all that willing to share; but needs must. It is August, and a sunny weekend (tho not on the beach), at the premier drive-to beach on the Outer Coast of Olympic National Park. We shared.

Near Hole-in-the-Wall (Click for larger image.)
... (Click for larger image.)

We ambled all the way out to Hole-in-the-Wall before eating our picnic. I promised EW that it would be worth the wait, and that it's the most beautiful beach in the world.

Giant green anemones on the rocks. One purple sea star. The sun began to play at burning back the fog, the colors changed and changed. Some pelicans sat down on the water out among the sea stacks and had a brief fishing party, which made me so happy I forgot to take a picture of them before they flew off.

In Which Many Places Happen

On Wednesday, went with EW to Neah Bay. She spent two happy hours in the Makah Museum, then we went on to Hobuck Beach. There were gulls, and quietness, one intact sand dollar, one passing eagle, and one dead bird (a gull). EW lives in the desert. All our greenness and damp air and oceans and so on, including grey skies and bits of rain, are very pleasurable for her.

Hobuck Beach, August 8, 2012. Sand dollar, Dendraster eccentricus (Click for larger image.)

On Thursday, a very full perfect day. Over we went on the ferry to Victoria. Ferry was late on account of thick fog, was foghorning itself along for 3/4s of the trip until popping out into the sunshine, then got stuck behind a huge double barge full of dirt (huh?) on its way into the Inner Harbor, then when finally the ferry could move it went too fast and failed to stick its landing, had to try a second time to line up the ramps correctly before we could debark.

Houseboats in the Inner Harbor, Olympic Mountains on the skyline across the Strait, Victoria, BC, August 9, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

For these three reasons we lost nearly an hour of our planned time in the Royal BC Museum, which turned out to be ok with me because I had become disoriented and claustrophopic in there and had to go outside, even though the First Nations artifacts were amazing, mural-sized vintage photos are a whole different experience from seeing the same ones in books, and the dinosaur exhibit was also terrific.

T Rex, Royal BC Museum, Victoria (Click for larger image.)

Then we trotted off to our reservation for high tea at the Empress Hotel, EW's lunatic desire. Finger sandwiches, scones, little tartlets and other fancy desserts, all on a three-story stand and much tea and faux Brit elegance at vast expense (EW's expense). You put the milk in first if you are having proper British tea. And of course you let the waiter pour to refill your cup. EW got up, refilled her own cup and put the milk in after. The waiter pretended to reprimand her. 'M.I.F. is the rule. Milk in first.'

WC fetched us from the curb in front of the hotel after tea, and off we drove west along the shore to an easy-access beach. This was carefully planned by me: Wednesday we drove west to Neah Bay and back on the Olympic Peninsula shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Thursday I wanted us on the Vancouver Island side, looking back across to where we had been. The weather cooperated. West we went to French Beach Provincial Park, admiring the other side across the blue water all the way along. EW and I took off our shoes and got our feet wet, then she flopped out for a nap on the cobble shore while WC and I sat on a log and discussed my health. (Sigh.)

French Beach Provincial Park, August 10, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Leisurely indirect drive back into Victoria proper, and an impromptu early supper in WC & PW's sun porch, pizza and leftovers of our Empress high tea goodies. It was fine. They dropped us off at the ferry terminal early and went home to presumably do something more sensible about their dinner, and EW and I had a happy time loving the Victoria harbor and all its activity. Sea planes, water taxis, the Clipper setting forth, etc etc while we waited for the ferry, which was again running a little bit late. We sailed for home. A brass band on a small boat paralleled the ferry as we departed the harbor, giving us a mariachi serenade. We waved and cheered for them. Woo hoo. I mean, really, whatever gods orchestrated this day outdid themselves. A waterborne mariachi band sendoff?

It would be sort of terrific to live on a houseboat and let the water taxi deliver your groceries, no? (Click for larger image.)
Mariachi Send-Off in the Inner Harbor (Click for larger image.)

So Friday we went up to Hurricane Ridge. Conditions were against us. The air was thick with Asian smoke again, as it was a few weeks ago; you could barely even see Mount Olympus; also the road to the Hurricane Hill trailhead was closed for paving work. By necessity we stuck to the trails near the Visitor Center, and managed to have a tiny bit of Lupine Heaven even in the flat smoky light.

Bailey Range & Mt. Olympus behind, in smoky air, August 10, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
Lupine Heaven on Hurricane Ridge, August 10, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Saturday we went to Rialto Beach. See next post.