Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sea Urchin Regret

Beached bird survey in Clallam Bay, COASST beach segments Slip Point and Middle Point. Friday, April 26. E. and I tagged along to keep JL company. There are just about never any dead birds on any of the Strait beaches: you drive out there, you walk the beach, you find nothing, you come back. Though in fact JL found a cormorant on the Slip Point beach earlier this year.

Westbound we took WA112 the whole way. There were elk by the highway.

Elk by Highway 112, April 26, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

We traipsed across the footbridge over the Clallam River, out on to the beach; and headed east towards Slip Point. You could see snow up on the hills on the Vancouver Island side of the Strait. (At Clallam Bay on the Washington side you are perhaps straight across from Jordan River along the West Coast Road on the Canadian side.)

JL mentioned we had just missed a 2-foot minus tide. There is supposed to be great tidepooling at Slip Point. Since it was a weekday and one of the best tides of the year, I was a bit surprised that the tidepool end of the beach was not aswarm with middle school students, waving checklists of invertebrates. But it was quiet. We had the beach to ourselves. At Slip Point just the old lightkeeper's house remains; the lighthouse itself and the boardwalk out to it are gone. This beach is really the community beach for the town of Clallam Bay. You are definitely not in the wilderness. The houses on Salt Air Street sit right behind the berm. :-)

... (Click for larger image.)

JL had trouble getting me to turn around once we reached the outlying rocks of the tidepools. Just on the first bits of rock there were carpets of aggregating anemones, and limpets and chitons and barnacles, oh my. Sea urchins were calling to me further out on the point. I was sure they were there, we had seen broken sea urchin tests in the wrack. But this was JL's expedition. We had another beach to walk, and a lunch plan, and she needed to be home for dinner guests. No time for making my way out to the sea urchins' pools.

Limpets and anemones (Click for larger image.)
Where elk? Pin on the right. Where bridge and where tidepools? Pins above left. (Click for larger image.)

Then we quickly moved to the tiny beach segment called Middle Point—no dead birds there either, though more trash to pick up—and then adjourned as is JL's practice to the Breakwater Diner, before the drive home. We took WA113 and US 101 on the way home. No elk, no eagles either. We were home by 3PM.

Whales, Waves, Wading

Charismatic megafauna FTW! Sunday the 21st headed for the outer coast, to look for gray whales at First Beach. There were elk by the highway at Beaver Prairie, but I had rapture-of-the-road and did not stop for a photo, allowed nothing to interfere with my pre-determined program: to get out there and See a Whale.

Out on the point in La Push, there was a woman with binoculars sitting on a log, looking over First Beach. "I don't suppose you've seen any whales," I said. "Oh, yes, right... right there, see it, see the sun gleaming on his wet back??"

Yes YES. I waved my arms in giant semaphore circles, and hooted gleefully: primate greeting cetacean. Woooo!

For the next while, the one gray whale (some of the watchers thought they saw two, close together; in which case it was likely a cow/calf pair) worked the area at the nearby end of First Beach. Watchers arrived, watched. You could tell where the whale had most recently surfaced by seeing which direction the watchers were looking.

Watchers Watching, April 21, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

The sea surface was calm, the tide low; it was gray to the south, more blue to the west.

Sky conditions, First Beach, April 21, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

Here's the thing: you can only see them when they are there. If they are there. There's 19,000 or however many gray whales on the move right now, but to see one from the shore at La Push, there has to BE one hanging around to be seen.

I think it (she?) was feeding, all that back-and-forth, perhaps glimpses of a flipper as she tilted on her side in the low-tide water to scoop up a mouthful of mud and amphipods. Mysterious parts appearing, anyway. Which was always pleasing, but the blows are the best part. Whoosh! There it is, the air that they breathe...

I set the camera on burst and took many many pix of empty ocean right where the whale last was.

Perhaps accidentally a bit of whale. (Found in camera.) April 21,2013 (Click for larger image.)

Then gone, and all the watchers too. Time for part two of the day's plan: wet feet, and a sloshy progress to the south end of the beach to get a photo back towards The School at the Edge of the World, one of my most favorite views on all the earth. Seeing the whales goes better with even a tiny bit of elevation, so I couldn't go down onto the beach itself until the whale was gone.

Oh, did I mention the sea lions? Sea lions working the river (what fish are running?), and intermittently barking up a storm. There were lots of eagles. The truly gigantic piece of driftwood was still there (a year later ), still attracting climbers. (Note the woman on top of the top of the roots, for scale.) The Quileute tribal school presented the hoped-for photo opportunity, blue roof with blue water and blue sky. Towards the southwest, it had gotten very dark, it was plainly pouring rain out there. I was 5-layers-warm on top as I sloshed along inside the edge of the ocean, but my feet were freezing. It was actually warmer in the water than on the sand with wind blowing on wet skin.

Walking First Beach, La Push, April 21, 2013 (Click for larger image.)
Water Shoes, April 21, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

On the drive home, the elk were no longer out on Beaver Prairie. It poured down rain twice along the way. Then I was home. Shoutout to IJ and @helgagrace for encouragements, and @vcmcguire for the wet feet.

STX Harmony

When we flew in past the harbor on the 19th, I could see there was a fully-loaded log ship at the T-pier. The next day was devoted to errands. As I came down the hill, I could see that she was still there, so I went to look. The top of the load was aswarm with longshoremen lashing the logs down, beginning at the bow end. Suddenly two more log trucks came out onto the pier, and their logs were loaded as smaller parcels into apparent spaces along the top of the load further back towards the stern.

STX Harmony topping off her load, April 20, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

She sailed for Lanshan sometime that night, soon disappearing from the ship-trackers; came back into view as she passed through Umiak Pass on April 26, and is invisible to the (free) tracker websites again. Will arrive Lanshan about May 8.

STX Harmony near Umiak Pass on April 26, 2013. 10,000 thanksyous to (Click for larger image.)

Almost immediately another logship tied up. Pacific Basin Black Forest. She was already full yesterday evening, will surely sail today.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Instead of a working memory, I have the following: all the saved email, inbound and outbound; all the digital photos, thousands of them, stored in chronological order; and this blog. But alas, keeping up here has turned into a continually-postponed item on the to-do list. Once again am attempting to bring the record up to date, without creating too much confusion of chronology.

Wading, on April 21, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

In the Marine Sanctuary office they are offering me writing assignments in place of the occasional (boring) volunteer work I do for them in their Endnote 'library', because they remember some of the blog posts of the past. Like my friends, they haven't noticed that I'm not doing it much any more. I need to find a polite way to say, Gawd no. Owing OCNMS a writing project would just add to the loo-o-o-o-ng list of communications arrearages which hang over my head as I lie on the couch reading whenever I am not at work.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Just returned from a trip to Florida for family stuff. Changed planes in Saint Louis eastbound, in Denver on the return. Long layover at DEN, and I had a good wander. Not much in the way of amenities at the far end of Concourse C. But there on the windows, Machado.

Airport art, Denver (Click for larger image.)

Flying out of Denver, had a good wave at @susanbdot and @pixelmountain, then the clouds closed in below and we didn't see the ground again until Seattle. I surely looove Southwest's flight tracker...

Horsetooth Reservoir and Fort Collins, CO (Click for larger image.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

For Purposes of Record Keeping

The weekend was stormy, but Monday the 8th it was sunny here in town, so off I went to First Beach to look for whales. It was not sunny out there, but blue-y grey. There was mist and a bit of wind and some raindrops, and a certain amount of whitecaps. Had there been any gray whale blows, I'd have had trouble seeing them. So maybe there were there, and maybe not, you know?

No Whales. From the point in La Push overlooking First Beach, April 8, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

Whale Watching Week on the Oregon coast was March 23-30; and the Quileute Tribal School in La Push had its Welcome the Whales Ceremony on Wednesday April 10th, two days after I was out there; so the time could have been right. But it's the mothers and babies who hug the shore at First Beach, and according to the observation sites along the way, the cow/calf pairs have not yet been seen this far north. So perhaps I was too early. Or perhaps this will be the third year in a row that ten thousand or so (or more) gray whales migrate north up the coast and I never see any...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Little Airports Everywhere

So I had my magic carpet ride on Monday, April 1. Thankyou, AngelFlight. The morning pilot, John P., is based in Hillsboro.

My morning ride, a Cessna 182R, arriving in Port Angeles through a hole in the cloudcover, April 1, 2013 (Click for larger image.)
The Olympics from above the ceiling as we took off. April 1, 2013 (Click for larger image.)
Mount Olympus (Click for larger image.)

John came with a friend, Tod J., in the co-pilot seat; they talked the whole way about aviation electronics and the radio traffic and so on. There was low overcast almost all the way, couldn't see the ground (except for the Olympics showing off above the clouds; and the log yard and Morse Creek through a hole in the clouds before the ceiling closed in again).

The log yard, and the Morse Creek curves on US 101, Port Angeles, April 1, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

Then no ground visible until almost to Hillsboro, where we did NOT land at HIO (Portland/Hillsboro)

Portland/Hillsboro General Aviation Airport (HIO) where we did not land (Click for larger image.)

but at a weentsie airfield a few miles to the south called Twin Oaks Airpark (airport code 7S3). We seemed to just come down and land in the middle of farm fields, then taxi'd up a steep driveway and parked the plane in what seemed to be (and apparently was) the front yard of the owners. There are little airports everywhere. Who knew? Nice aerials on their website.

At Twin Oaks Airpark (Click for larger image.)
John and Tod at Twin Oaks (Click for larger image.)

John P.'s car was at Twin Oaks, and he completed the magic carpet effect by himself driving me into town to OHSU. He knew exactly which way to go.

Then the usual at OHSU: lab work, waiting by the entertaining 7th floor window wall (construction everywhere, no mountains visible, the tram moving up and down, checking on the progress of Zidell Marine's barge), appointment with Dr. P. As always, he was interested in the travel arrangements. I showed him a photo of John P.'s Cessna Skylane; before he moved on to the next patient, he darted off to check the aviation weather, came back to assure me that conditions were much better and the ceiling higher both at Hillsboro and in Port Angeles. After appointment, I took the streetcar

Zidell Marine's new barge as seen from near the streetcar stop at OHSU, April 1, 2013 (Click for larger image.)

and lightrail back out to Hillsboro,

MAX leaving the Fair Complex/Airport Station in Hillsboro (Click for larger image.)

walked over to the airport, and met my afternoon pilot, John V. He works for Boeing, keeps his plane in Renton (Seattle area). Much better ground visibility on the return, a smooth cheerful flight.

Chehalis River and I5 (Click for larger image.)

I was home,

The spit at the mouth of Sequim Bay, Sequim, WA. Eighth Street bridges over Valley Creek and Tumwater Creek, Port Angeles (Click for larger image.)
John V. with his Cessna 210N, Port Angeles (Click for larger image.)

back in my desk chair, not quite 8 hours after I left and not bored for a minute. Ten thousand thankyous to John, Tod, John, and AngelFlightWest.

For aircraft geeks. Inside the T210N

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Red Alder Catkins

Where the Elwha River flows into the Strait, the new landscape architecture remains, at least as of March 29: flowing straight out, the new sandspit gone or rather smooshed strait-wards creating wide shallows even at low tide. There were eagles hanging around, and black oystercatchers, grebes in the water and maybe a loon or maybe no. The light was murky, it was hard to see. The camera wasn't happy at all, nor was JL who had had sunshine at her house and dressed accordingly.

River Flowing Out, March 29, 2013 (Click for larger image.)
A little movie
Blurry eagle (Click for larger image.)

We found a drift card buried in the sand behind the beach, released only two days before and already washed over to the backslope. We threw it back into the river to try again to get somewhere, though this may not have been the intention of the middleschool scientists who had made it.

Driftcard (Click for larger image.)
Bloodstar (Click for larger image.)

Later we wandered back through the woods along the riverbank well inland; in New Mexico you'd call it a bosque. There were itty bitty birds, and some mergansers on the river. Exuberant red alder catkins.

Red Alder Catkins, Elwha River, March 29, 2013. (Click for larger image.)

Later still, we went to the Blackberry Cafe in Joyce. It was sunny in Joyce.