[Tweeters] On the Beach, Again

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Mon Jul 7 12:04:24 PDT 2014

Last night I took another walk to Point Wilson, here in Port Townsend, which I had skipped for a few days due to the holiday weekend.
Again it was the last hour before sundown, the settling sun peeking in and out from behind some low scattered clouds. With the sun at my back I got more good looks at some birds out on the Sound.
First were more Rhinoceros Auklets, regular here, having pretty good luck catching Sandlance (or similar thin silvery fish). The cool thing was was how easy it was to spot a successful auklet because the sun was catching the silvery fish just so - they shined like beacons, making even nearly invisible distant auklets easy to locate on the dark water.
Also glowing in the low sunlight were the beaks of the Heerman's Gulls which were a brilliant touch of incandescent red in the seascape. One Heerman's landed near a floating Glaucous-winged gull and brazenly stole the larger gull's dinner, the little klepto! There are increasing numbers of these interesting gulls around PT these days.
Going out to the Point itself I flushed a single Killdeer, and Barn Swallows cruising low, were flaming with color in the low slanting light. Up off the beach a bit, right on the very point, I found the mother lode of very interesting plant - the California Broomrape, a very interesting little relative of the Naked Broomrape, which I posted about before.
While the Naked Broomrape (found on nearby Kah Tai Prairie) is a pretty snapdragon- like little flower on a delicate single stem, the California Broomrape is a weird congested blob of many flowers, like a wine/purple blooming golf ball erupting from the sandy gravel. Both these plants are root parasites, and as I only found the California in and around that interesting sand-loving perennial Ambrosia chamissonis, I presume that's it's host plant. Up close the individual flowers are pretty in an unusual way.
Anyhoo, the California Broomrape was a new plant for me. This spot has plenty of 'em waiting out there for you, if wanna see one. I didn't see any on loose sand, only more compacted areas.
Walking back to the truck, past the lighthouse and the sunset, I felt like I was walking through an Edward Hopper painting. Along the road, overlooking the dunes, I spotted many Ten-lined Scarab beetles flying around. I was amusingly thinking of how bikers should wear helmets and keep their mouths shut when riding in the vicinity of these big ( up to an inch and a half long) flyers, when one narrowly missed my head and crash landed on my shoulder where I couldn't see it. "Eeek, don't crawl down my shirt collar!" I thought.I remember Rob Sandelin writing about how, if you pick up one of these beetles they can make little squeaky noises, so felt around for the big guy, but it was gone.
Jeff Gibsonreporting from Pt. Wilson Port Townsend Wa

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