[Tweeters] Clarity in Mudville

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed May 22 08:59:20 PDT 2013

Do you enjoy seeing the beauties of our clear Puget Sound waters? The long stalks of Kelp emerging from the depths, or schools of fish shimmering in big swirls, or maybe a diving bird zipping around underwater? Watching the amazing communities of sealife on docks and pilings? Well , if you do, don't bother coming to Everett Wa., because you won't see nuthin'.

OK, so that's a slight exaggeration, but the truth is, the shoreline waters are usually too murky to see much of anything. Why? Because we're right at the mouth of the mighty Snohomish River, which dumps it's sediment load, and often it's a big load, right here into Port Gardner. This creates our massive mudflats and fine estuary habitats, which supports diverse community of species, including birds like Ospreys and lots of little sandpeepers.

Yes, the aquatic life is quite rich, but you ain't gonna see much of it at high tide. When working on boats at the Everett Marina (in contrast to the clear waters of Seattle, or Edmonds) I would typically look in vain at the pilings and dock floats for sea creatures- the visibility about 6 inches, and even that not very clear. The river also brings in a lot of freshwater, which a lot of the Sounds showier marine plants and animals dont enjoy.

That's why I was really excited last night to find some clear water here in Mudville. A neighbor needed some help with applying some lettering to the transom of his boat, and there was a lull in the rain, so we zipped downhill to his boat parked in a little marina tucked away on the Navy base. After getting waved through by friendly guys with assault weapons, we got down to the boat. Of course I immediately rushed to the dock edge for a look.

"See, look at him!" my wife exclaimed to the boat owner, " first thing he does, is stick his nose over the dock." I just love looking, I can't help myself.

And what did I see? First I saw many Mussel's sticking out of a sea algae (that I'm not familiar with). With their shell's just barely open, in inner mantles glowed a dark but brilliant electric blue, quite beautiful I thought. And then, the coolest thing ever, a little bitty Pipefish! snooping through the 'seaweeds'. It was only about 2 and a half inches long. And then another, and another- in total 5 Pipefish, the largest only about 4 inches.

Pipefish are a really interesting little fish that imitate eelgrass- even down to their swaying movements, which are not typically wriggly and 'fishy". These little guys, the smallest I've ever seen, were about the diameter of your standard pipe-cleaner, and about as stiff; this close realative of the famous Seahorse, has a similarly bony body structure, yet is capable of some amazingly zippy moves, if it needs to. The water was dead calm and very clear- what a miracle.

Of course everybody else was interested in working, and it was getting darker, so we spent the next hour getting the tricksy boat lettering on, just as it started to rain, and the breeze came up. So underwater viewing became impossible and I couldn't show my wife a pipefish. Oh well.

Pretty quiet birdwise, except plenty of Caspian Terns, and a brief on-the-water confrontation between a Glaucous-winged Gull and one of the Marina Mooching Mallards which created some loud excitement.

Jeff Gibson
on the docks of
Mudville Wa

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