Sunday, April 28, 2013

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.

1 comment:

vcmcguire said...

This makes me happy.