Tag Archive for Salish Sea

Fall Color on Orcas Island and a Couple of Seals

Madrona trees in the fading sunlight along the bluff above Deer Harbor.

October 2019

Orcas Island,

Salish Sea

An October family gathering at Deer Harbor on Orcas Island was met with three days of rain and about a half an hour of glorious sun on Saturday. For the most part, the heavy cloud cover muted the usually brighter fall colors but they were great anyway.

Getting to Orcas Island is always a pleasant trip. The ferry leaves from Anacortes and stops as Lopez and Shaw Islands before depositing  us on Orcas. The ride is about one hour total.

Although most of the color was the Big Leaf Maples, I was particularly attracted to the Madrone/Madrona (Arbutus menziesii) as they were shedding their red bark and exposing their yellow for the winter. Also they appeared to having a bumper crop of red berries this year.

 

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Big Leaf Maples at Orcas Landing

 

      The sun appeared briefly just before it went down and I grabbed my camera and took off
      to catch some of it on the trees. I was richly rewarded with the following series
      of photos taken along a path that overlooks Deer Harbor from a bluff above.

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Madrona along bluff above Deer Harbor

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Piece of peeled red Madrona bark.

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More Madrona showing their skin colors

 

      As I noted above, most of the time there was cloudy and wet. But this makes for some interest as well.
      I think it shows the tree structure better against the grey sky.

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Madrona against a grey drizzly sky

 

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View of Deer Harbor from our cabin deck. San Juan Island sits across the water on the left.

 

I did say there were seals

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A seal was out fishing and came by to check us out on the docks. This photo looks backs across the harbor to the bluff with the Madrona stand.

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This seal was successful having come up with a fish. The gulls were hoping for a free lunch but no such luck for them.

 

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The view from atop Mt. Constitution.  Compare this to what it looks like from there when clear 

 

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Color and clouds in East Sound

 

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A bumper crop of red Madrona berries., The tree was full of birds.

 

Last are a few photos of the ferry ride home

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Leaving Orcas island at Orcas Landing

 

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Shaw Island terminal with a bit of color

 

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Some pelagic Cormorants at the Shaw Is. dock.

 

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Lopez Island terminal

 

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More Madronas from Lopez Is. to the right of the terminal.

 

So thanks for coming along on my little tour of the San Juan Islands on a wet October weekend. It was a good trip and we enjoyed the short excursion and the few minutes of sunlight.

The Nooksack River – a Treasure to Preserve

North Fork of Nooksack River at Horseshoe Bend – Mount Baker National Forest

 

I’ve written of conservation efforts to preserve our local PNW waters and the salmonids that spawn and live in these streams. In these posts I have periodically mentioned the Nooksack but I have not featured this marvelous River as it deserves.

The Nooksack River is neither a large nor a long river by most standards as it runs only 75 miles from its origin in the glaciers of the North Cascade Mountains to its delta and mouth where it empties into Bellingham Bay to become part of the Salish Sea.

However, its relatively small size does not diminish its importance to the Pacific Northwest and its marine environment. The Nooksack is one of the few streams in the PNW that supports all five native pacific salmon species as well other salmonids such as steelhead and the rare Bull trout.

Snowy Owls and Trumpeter Swans are Snow Birds to the Pacific Northwest

Juvenile female Snowy Owl, Sandy Point WA

 

November/December, 2017

At the Edge of the Salish Sea

These two snowy white birds have recently returned to our area after summering and breeding in Alaska (Trumpeter Swan) and the arctic tundra (Snowy Owl). One does not have to be an avid birder to celebrate their annual arrival as both are real showboats with their white feathers and their relatively large size. The snowy Owl is the largest by weight of the NA owls  and has a 50” wingspan while the Trumpeter Swan is our largest native waterfowl, stretching up to six feet and weighing up to 26 lbs.

The Birth of a Harbor Seal Pup

Mamma harbor Seal and minutes-old pup

In our part of the Salish Sea, late June is the beginning of harbor seal birthing (pupping) season that runs through August. On July 2nd, I was fortunate to observe one of these births on the shore of Bellingham Bay. On an early Sunday morning walk, I saw this harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) swimming erratically in tight circles and occasionally coming up to the rocks on shore, then back to the water.  I was concerned that it was ill and disoriented. I could not have been more wrong. Mamma seal knew exactly what she was doing.

Eelgrass Meadows, the Tidelands’ Global Nursery

 

Eelgrass Meadow along eastern shore of Bellingham Bay

This diary is about the wonders of eelgrass, one of the major components of near shore habitat that nurtures a myriad of sea critters. Additionally it provides many other functions in support of our sea life, our recreation, and it even contributes to reducing the CO2 problems in our oceans and atmosphere. There are other sea grasses and kelps that contribute as well, but I think that eelgrass is a star.

Eelgrass is a common name for a species of seagrasses.  I will focus on the salt water variety of Zostera marina and describe its vital ecological functions, its current status, and efforts to sustain it. This form of eelgrass is the most widely distributed aquatic flowering perennial in the northern hemisphere, growing largely in the cooler waters of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

World distribution of Zostera marina

I will in part highlight eelgrass in Puget Sound, the southernmost part of the Salish Sea which is the second largest estuary in the US (by volume). However, most of what applies to our local intertidal waters also applies to eelgrass beds and other seagrasses elsewhere in the Salish Sea, along the shores of Oregon and California, the western Atlantic Seaboard and near shore habitats globally.200px-World_map_ocean_genus-Zostera.jpg

This is the first of a two part post. In this first part, I describe the many gifts it gives us. In Part 2, I describe its current status, take a look at its threats and the efforts underway to preserve this valuable resource.

   

World distribution of Zostera marina

Gray Whales of the Salish Sea & the Pacific Northwest

WhaleRonK

Gray Whale tail preparing to dive into the ghost shrimp infested mud at the bottom of the sound.

It is Cinco de Mayo and these whales are fresh out of Baja Mexico. So, how about some whales for a bit a diversion after a full day of “Trump this” and “Trump that …?”

Whales are so much smarter and better looking.