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