[Tweeters] Dune

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Jul 2 09:06:54 PDT 2014

One of my hang-outs in Port Townsend while I'm here doing my temporary elder herding job, is Fort Worden State Park - a wonderful place.
For a while Port Townsend was home to the author Frank Herbert, probably best known as the creator of the sci-fi novel Dune. From reading his online bio I guess that his book was first inspired by the Oregon Dunes, which are some pretty fair sized dunes down by Florence on the coast.
The Pt. Wilson dunes are much more humble - no Oregon, Mohave, or Saudi sized dunes here. These are small dunes, largely covered and stabilized by interesting sand-loving plants. I don't think you could park even one of Frank Herbert's Sandworms here - which is a good thing for nearby RV campers.
Sand habitat attracts quite a number of unique plant and animal species. I've been watching the botanical phenology of this place since the first of the year. The first flower I noted was the tiny yet brilliant Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia - an annual) back in early April. Since then the dunes have been full of a succession of blooming flowers adapted to sand. I've made a lot of new vegetable acquaintances, with more to come.
Although those Oregon Dunes were Mr. Herbert's original inspiration, I wouldn't be surprised if he could have got some interesting ideas from the sands of Pt. Wilson! Nature on Earth is just as bizarre and mind-blowing as anything out there in Sci-fi land, and really is the source of many Sci-fi creations - it's what we know.
A few days ago I came across the mother lode of Sand Wasps. The Sand Wasp, as the name implies, is a sand-loving species which I first became acquainted with on a little sand patch at Fields Riffle - a spot along the Snohomish River just downstream from Snohomish town. If that were a Sand Wasp airport it would be akin to the nearby Snohomish airport - not too big.
The Sand Wasp colony at Pt. Wilson was more like Sea-Tac, or maybe LAX: there were hundreds and hundreds of them, so many that I could hear the buzz above the breeze.
The Sand Wasp is a digger, and the sand area's I was looking at were full of their burrows. If wasp's were cars, the Sand Wasp would be like a chubby pale Yellowjacket with six flat tires- they lie flat on the sand, and have big green eyes. Interesting.
Last week I was watching the Sand Wasps on a warm evening when I noticed a big flying object coming in to the Wasp airport - a Ten-lined June Beetle, which is a big Scarab beetle about an inch and a half long. I guess that would like a big military cargo plane at the bug airport. Later I saw a few more flying about, which was cool because I'd never seen any flying before.
Around that time I also was able to get good looks ( with my super-dooper close focusing binoculars) at a very tiny but bright Jumping Spider. Cruising online, I was able to identify it as Habronattus americana , a habituate of sandy areas. As with a number of Jumping Spiders the male is brightly, very brightly , colored. In this case the furry palps and fore legs are brilliant red, and the face is iridescent blue with white borders. An arachnid 4th of July poster. (good photos of this critter online). In a Sci-fi movie I think it would make a good car wash robot, with it's brushy implements.
The dunes are usually pretty quiet birdwise - Savannah and White-crowned Sparrow out in the dune herbage, Swallows over head. Go to the nearby Marine Science Center out on the pier for about the best look at a Purple Martin your'e likely to get - they have well attended nest boxes out there. And Guillemot boxes too.
Jeff Gibsonon the sands ofPort Townsend Wa

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