Sunday, September 30, 2012

Birds in Hand

Rain, sneaker wave, sand in everything, yikes. A fairly large crowd of us (seven people) went out to do the monthly COASST survey at Hobuck Beach. We found two (dead) birds before we even crossed Hobuck Creek, so we thought we might be in for a 20-bird day. We divided into two teams for efficiency, and leapfrogged each other down the beach, one team assigning odd numbers to its finds, and the other even numbers.

It was grey and misty, and forecast for showers after 11AM. "Looks like rain," said GD. "It's fog," said SP, who lives in Neah Bay and who is assigned to cause us good weather every month...

Hobuck Beach, September 28, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
High Tide. Kayakers So Close in We Could Have Counted Them As On The Beach, If We Were Counting. (Click for larger image.)

We worked the birds.

Doing Birds, September 28, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
A Bit Baffled, We Lay a Bird's Beak Right on the ID Page. It's a Match. (Click for larger image.)

The four of us on our team were giving proper attention to a dead pelagic cormorant, nothing left to do but photograph it

Tagging A Pelagic Cormorant (PECO), Bird #87 (Click for larger image.) we were all getting up from the sand and about to pick up our stuff, to get out of the picture or move around to a good angle to take the photographs; and nobody was watching the ocean. Eeeee-too-bad, as we used to say in New Mexico (NM spanglish for ¡Que lastima!) A sneaker wave came rushing up; we ran but not soon enough, were wet at least to the knees, jackets and other equipment on the sand had to be grabbed half-wet out of the wash; SP tried to rescue my pack and fell so she got wet all up the back AND the wave poured into her own open pack and soaked her camera.

Since S lives in Neah Bay and had her own car, she immediately headed back to try to dry her camera. The other three of us sorted ourselves out as best we could. GD searched around in the rearranged seaweed until she found our original tagged bird, though the chalkboard and any ID tools were washed away. We rummaged out someone else's tools and I took its picture, though it was not nearly as neatly arrayed as it had been before the wave caught it and us.

Very sandy and bedraggled Pelagic Cormorant (PECO) (Click for larger image.)

And on we went. It began raining, and kept it up on and off for the next couple of hours. There were lots of birds, we kept flopping our sticky selves down onto the sand to work on them, and the wave-caught team soon felt as sandy and bedraggled as the PECO. One by one we reached our limit for being wet or sticky or trudging in wet sand, and peeled off to head back to the van. That left three people still on task: JL, HP & NM, the few, the brave. All the way back they kept finding birds, you could peer out into the rainy air and see them down on the sand clustered over some late sentient being to give it what amounts to a memorial service: to recognize and identify it, and enter it into the scientific record... In the end we had 14 birds; the last was a puzzle and held the remaining three observers out on the sand at the end of the day for a long time. It was a Northern Pintail. "During migration, they have been seen in offshore waters," says Birdweb. They are in the ID book, and have been found on the COASST beaches before but not often (only 79 occurences on 419 beaches over the past 14 years; compare to almost 10,000 (dead) common murres over the same time frame).

There were elk in the elk fields by Highway 112 to the west of Sekiu. When we picked NM up at her house by the Strait just beyond there, I asked if she ever sees elk on the beach. She said people say they come down to the beach, but she has never seen it...

PS We called SP afterwards from the marina in Neah Bay where we always stop to wash up. She was home and dry, and her camera was resting in a container of rice. As of Saturday it had regained a couple of functions, but seemed likely to get no further toward recovery.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Sorry for the disruption. I think the IE display problem is cured.

After extended noodling in the dam cams' archive, found some rubble removal images. If this is how they are going to do it, wow, it is going to be slow. Surely they have to build a road down and remove directly into trucks...

Work on Glines Canyon Dam, September 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beware Strange Blog Behavior

Posts may be appearing and disappearing while I try to figure out what makes the sidebar stampede to the bottom of the page in Internet Explorer, but only in Internet Explorer.

River Talk

Fourteen-day pause in the blasting schedule at Glines Canyon Dam, to give the river time to work on the newly exposed silt. (This would be more effective if it would ever start raining...) The dam removal blog has a video of the first several explosions in the middle of September.

When MP was here early in the month, we went to look at the fish trap in Little River, one of the tributaries above the former Elwha Dam (and below Glines Canyon). Water-flow was so low the trap wasn't operating, but we saw salmon coming upstream. One seemed to be defending a redd. Her tail was all broomed out, and she kept lurking under a log, then darting out to chase away other fish. Big fish, past the Elwha dam for the first time in a hundred years.

Here's a fresh image of the mouth of the river, from Roorda Aerial.

The mouth of the Elwha, September 22, 2012 (thank you, Tom Roorda (Click for larger image.)

Still not entirely sure how they are going to get a whole dam's worth of debris out of the area behind the dam. Keep watching the dam cams.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seals, Ships, Marina Life, Cetaceans

Also fish, harbors, scenery and map fun. Two days on the good ship Kingfisher (actually that's her brand name, but my host and hostess have not agreed on a name for her) in perfect weather. We zipped across the Strait to Friday Harbor, first circling up the west side of San Juan Island and then east through Speiden Channel around the outside of Henry Island, in hopes of seeing orcas, as the Southern Residents were known to be have been in the neighborhood two days before. No orcas. We moored in Friday Harbor Marina at slip H29 (G and H are the guest moorages).

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, September 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
The good ship Kingfisher (Click for larger image.)

JL and I walked up into town, first to the Whale Museum, then a sidetrip to locate my motel, then souvenir hunting (scored two very nice bookmarks from the bookstore with, yes, orcas on them), then ice cream sitting on a bench overlooking the ferry dock. Ice cream is an obligatory part of being in the Marina. But it was end-of-season, only about a third of the zillions of flavors were available, and one person doing the scooping-up.

Ferry-watching, September 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Also we bought some frozen baitfish to feed to Popeye the harbor seal, who lives in the marina. He was lurking right there by the fish shop on the dock, the better to encourage people to buy him eats.

Feeding Popeye (Click for larger image.)

I've never hung out in a marina before. It is very intimate. When we were cooking our dinner on the stern rail, so were the people in the next boat. Foot traffic constant to and fro, people returning with shopping bags. Before dinner we went back to the store to walk the dog and buy olive oil, which JL had forgotten to pack. People wander up and down the docks examining each other's boats and their accoutrements. Popeye the seal came by. We fed him some of our own baitfish.

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In the morning we retraced our route around the island, except this time we went inside of Henry Island, past Roche Harbor and through Mosquito Channel. There were a bunch of seals hauled out on a small island. These looked to be our only wild marine mammals on this expedition (Popeye doesn't count), so the Captain stopped nearby for a photo opportunity. Once out in Haro Strait there was much shipping channel entertainment, bi-i-ig ships in the morning light. We slowed down for better photos now and again.

The Seals in Mosquito Channel. JL's pic. September 18, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
Big Ships, headed for Vancouver (Click for larger image.)
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We angled far to the west, passing close to Victoria. Our program for the day was to catch salmon in Marine Area 5 where the limit is higher and you can keep wild as well as hatchery salmon. When we arrived off Freshwater Bay, a few miles east of the area line, a circus of whalewatch boats were busily surrounding what seemed like A Great Many transient orcas (now called Bigg's Killer Whales, but even the scientists are having trouble remembering), who were hustling on eastward.

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It was a perfectly gorgeous orca sighting, silhouetted against the Olympics and darn near in our own front yard. According to the Center for Whale Research, "We had 21 transients in the Strait of Juan de Fuca! They were members of T60's, T100's, T137's, T99's, T36's, T37, T37A1, and T2B." Jeanne Hyde blogged the encounter from the point of view of the whale-watch boats, and with great visuals. First Mate JL's visuals also pretty great:

JL's transient orcas (Click for larger image.)

We lingered a while heading eastward with the crowd of boats and whales, then continued west until we were across the Marine Area 5 line. Then we fished. The boat seemed happy to be doing its proper job.

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We caught two coho (silver) salmon right away. First Mate JL kept up the log on the back of the fishing license. Then we had a series of misfires, nibbles and catching tiny little fishes. I took a turn driving the boat. Captain JL asked me to please steer us out of the nursery and back into the bigger fish. I was more concerned to stay in our lane, and not run into any passing big ships. But in fact then we caught our two more fish. "We're done," said the captain, and we headed back to Port Angeles.

Host and hostess, JL & JL. September 17, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Thank you to JL & JL for an adventure that in multiple ways greatly expanded my map.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Headed across the Strait to San Juan Island on JL & JL's boat. If there are fishes we will fish. If there are cetaceans we will watch them. There will be a lot of water, and sunshine all day today and tomorrow. :-)

Approximate possible line of travel... (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

(Under the Sea)

Last night there was a sea urchin nearly sitting on the lens of OrcaLab's underwater camera at Cracroft Point.

about 5:17PM, September 14, 2012, on the underwater cam (Click for larger image.)

At dusk he (they come in male and female genders, but all on-camera sea urchins are called 'Spikey Guy' or 'Spike', depending on who is posting about them to OL's community page) began to wander off camera, and was gone by the time they turned the camera off. But this morning he was back in the same spot.

About 7AM, September 15. (Click for larger image.)

Dam Stuff

Another morning in paradise.

Saturday sunrise in Port Angeles, September 15, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Warm again, sunny again. Keep your eye on the dam cams, the work of lowering the Glines Canyon Dam resumes this morning. According to the dam removal blog, there will be blasting September 15 (today), 17, 19, 21, and 23. Then a two week pause, to allow the river to meander across and erode the newly exposed lake-bed sediments. If it doesn't start raining, ain't gonna be a whole lot of eroding going on.

Glines Canyon Dam at 7:14 AM, September 15, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

I may come back in and add another image after today's explosion.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Seal

I was at the Marine Sanctuary office on Friday morning, entering electronic documents into their database. A phone call came in reporting that there was a baby seal on the beach on the harbor side of Ediz Hook, with lots of people and dogs around it. L., the Sanctuary's Resource Protection Specialist, rounded up some of NOAA's 'please leave the seal alone' signs, and keys to a vehicle (he bicycles to work), and invited me to come along out to the Hook to create a zone of solitude around the baby seal, if we could find it. But when we arrived, it was already dead.
Baby Seal, Ediz Hook, September 14, 2012 (Click for larger image.)
It seemed to be very freshly dead, but flies had found it; and some people had apparently had time to make a memorial array beside it with kelp and stones.
... (Click for larger image.)
Though on the whole dead critters are left where they lie, we were not in the Sanctuary, but rather in a very heavily trafficked part of Port Angeles's outdoors. L. moved the little seal to the outer side of the Hook, and left it next to the Strait.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Another Forest Sails Away

The log ship which arrived on September 1 was not fully loaded until September 8. Suddenly (well, I was thinking about other things until I noticed the work was finished) the loader machines were parked on the dock, onboard cranes shipped, workmen making last checks of the tie-downs.

Pacific Basin's Cape Flattery, getting ready to sail to Lianyungang, China, on September 8, 2012. (Click for larger image.)
... (Click for larger image.)

Hawsers still tied her to the dock, though, and there was no sign of the tugs; so I went out on the Hook. From the harbor side you could see how low she was riding in the water. The Crowley tug Valor was anchored near the eastern end of the harbor.

View from across the harbor. Valor at anchor. (Click for larger image.)

After a while the tug Response came in off the Strait and headed for Cape Flattery, and Valor came across the harbor from the other direction. Action time. I headed back to the dockside. It all happens very slowly. Another watcher pointed out a great blue heron on one of the floating booms. There was a kingfisher. And gulls. The birds on the floating booms did seem to be watching.

Valor lining up to pull the bow of Cape Flattery out from the dock. (Click for larger image.)

Slowly the ship began to move. She was all the way clear of the dock before the captain blasted her horn (startling the bejeezus out of me).

... (Click for larger image.)

And gone.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Salmon Come Home

We are still in the 'fish window', the six weeks in which there is no demolition work on the Glines Canyon dam removal because Chinook and pink salmon are moving up the river. I'd have said 'theoretically moving up the river', but it's really happening: they are seeing fish. My tribal email is full of photos, and there are some on the dam removal blog. Because no silt-producing work is going on, there has been not much action on the dam cams, though the contractor's crew is preparing for blasting after the middle of the month.

On the Dam Cams you can see that Elwha Dam is gone and Lake Aldwell is gone, and green stuff of some sort is growing up in places. From the camera pointed at Glines Canyon Dam you can see that something major has happened, but you can't really get the picture.

This is now: Glines Canyon Dam on the DamCam. (Click for larger image.)

There's 100 feet or so of the dam left, and ALL the demolition rubble (which has been dropped behind the dam) to be removed. But here is the real picture, taken on September 2 from the air. (10,000 thankyous to Tom Roorda for permission to use his image). There's nothing left of Lake Mills but a little puddle.

Glines Canyon Dam and Lake Mills from above, September 2, 2012 (photo by RoordaAerial) (Click for larger image.)

There sure doesn't seem to be anything growing in the emerged lakebed (yet). But it hasn't rained to speak of for seven weeks. Any plant trying to sprout and/or grow might find it a little difficult. The absence of rain probably contributes to how little silt is coming out of the mouth of the river into the Strait. (10,000 more thankyous to Mr. Roorda for this one, too.)

Elwha River flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, September 2, 2012 (photo by RoordaAerial) (Click for larger image.)

One Pelican

Beautifully clear sunrise morning.

Water Horizon at Sunrise, September 7, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

A perfect day to go up the mountain, and out along Lillian Ridge from Obstruction Point. But MP is in town, visiting from the desert; and we both wanted Ocean.

Ocean. Soundscape for Cee.

Endless blue water, blue sky, white foam. The tide was coming in. One pelican; not a whole string of them, just one, who flew away north, later returned. In the binoculars, definitely a pelican dude. Any day with a pelican in it is a good day.

Rialto Beach, September 7, 2012 (Click for larger image.)

Thank you, Olympic National Park.

PS Hope the video now works. Have had an awful time with it.)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Drought Monitor Says

Hurricane Isaac's wet progress through the middle of the country did make a difference. But outside of the storm's track, things have gotten a little worse.

US Drought Monitor for August 28 & September 4, 2012.. (Click for larger image.)

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL. Thank-you to all.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Transportation Notes

On Thursday morning, Rhapsody of the Seas was at the Dallas Road cruise ship dock in Victoria. In the evening, Rhapsody had left for Seattle to unload the present crop of passengers on Friday morning, load up a new bunch, and set forth again; Celebration Infinity was sitting in the same place, her passengers presumably still running around Victoria, but she would be in Seattle by morning.

August 30. Rhapsody of the Seas in Victoria. (Click for larger image.)
August 30. Celebration Infinity in Victoria, (Click for larger image.)

On Friday evening we were out on Ediz Hook in Port Angeles, when Rhapsody and Infinity came by to drop off their pilots before heading up to Juneau with the new crop of passengers... I can't say that EBD found the fact that they were the same ships of riveting interest.

August 31. Rhapsody and Infinity off Port Angeles, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (Click for larger image.)

On Sunday morning at 0-dark-30 she flew home to Florida.

At Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles, September 2. (Click for larger image.)