[Tweeters] Birding the Old Neighborhood

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Nov 20 20:19:00 PST 2013

Sunday November 17th I achieved escape velocity and got out of the the gravitational well of Everett Washington, for a change. I was headed to far away Bellingham Washington, for a little reunion tour. I don't get out much.

Anyway, I got an invite from Joe Meche to go on a North Cascades Audubon bird walk on the B'ham waterfront - my old stomping grounds. I had a nice time with Joe, and a small group of birdwatchers, on a day of November weather. Saw all sorts of birds, although not a lot of any one type.

I used to be a Bellinghamster, from 1973 to 1983, when I went to college there, and then became a successful college drop-out. It's a great place for a nature nut like me. But I hadn't been down to the waterfront for 30 yrs, despite only living about an hour drive away in Everett.

After Joe's bird tour, I walked down to one of my old hangouts - Post Point. I was somewhat surprised by it's appearance. Apparently, in the past 30 years, vegetation has been growing there without my direct supervision. It looked really different than I remembered, and looking at photos I have from 1981 confirmed how much the native tree's and shrubs have grown there. That's progress I can live with.

After a short auto tour of old houses I used to live in,( you can't go home again) and a drive by of the ol' WWSC campus, I was pretty much overloaded with past life information.

But I had one more stop on Memory Lane. Headed back to Everett on Chuckanut Drive I stopped at a favorite spot in the old neighborhood. The really Old Neighborhood. That spot is where there are nice fossil Palm leaves along the road. These palm leaves are quite like the modern Chinese Windmill Palm, which you can grow in your yard now, if you live in the maritime lowlands.

Yes, way back about 50 million years ago, in the Eocene period, Washington was sorta one big sultry swamp, and during this period about 27,000 ft of sand washed down into this coastal area and formed what is now known as the Chuckanut Formation - largely sandstone. All sorts of neato geology to be seen in this bunch of rocks in the B'ham area.

Boning up on this topic online I found out that somebody had discovered giant bird tracks in some Chuckanut stone a few years ago. That bird was the Diatryma (or Gastornis, if you prefer) an 8 ft tall flightless bird, that weighed up to something like 350 pounds! Back then (some) birds were big and horse's were small (only about the size of a house kitty, or small dog).

What if birders could time travel! I imagine the following scenario from "Eocene Birder" magazine:

" Well known Eocene birder, Mr. Frederick Flintstone, was found deceased on the site of his latest, and last, field trip to the Eocene. He had been missing a few days,and a search party was put together. Mr. Flintstone's body was found, still holding his Iphone. It appeared he had suffocated. His body was surrounded by Diatryma tracks.

According to Eocene birding expert Dr. Festus Doppelganger it appears that Fred's death was the result of a dangerous Diatryma recording found on his Iphone. "We recorded this for Cornell University a few years ago, not realizing that it was a series of Diatryma insults. We've now removed it from our download list. I guess that the big bird had heard just one too many insults, and sat on Mr. Flintstone trying to get him to shut up. It was just a tragic misunderstanding".

Jeff Gibson

back in

Everett Wa

P.S. Apparently there is a display of Eocene fossils (like the palm I mentioned) and the Diatryma tracks at the WWU campus, at the Environmental Sciences building, wherever that is. I'll have to go visit again and check it out.


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