[Tweeters] Mud Matters

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Mar 16 12:35:38 PDT 2014

Temporarily here in Port Townsend, I've been reveling in the clear waters, and solid beaches of this place. But there's one thing ol' Port Townsend ain't got much of - Mud.

That's right folks, Mud. They must have some stored around here somewhere, but mostly, with that big ol' Admiralty Inlet current and all, mud just get's washed away, leaving only sand and cobbles. You need kind of a backwater for mud. A backwater like Everett Wa.

Yes, my current hometown, Everett, is such a backwater, in many ways. I often refer to it as Mudville, which I believe is a more politically, and environmentally correct name, but really, Mudville is a habitat. There is Mudville any place that there's Mud. For example the estuaries of the Snohomish, Stillaguamish, and Skagit rivers, amongst other places, have their Mudville's.

Mud is a very rich habitat. Recently Bill and Bob (recently retired barstool anchors at the former Anchor Pub), were down on the Maulsby Mudflats on the Everett waterfront as Investigative Reporters on the Environment, for the Everett Hairball newspaper ( "all the news the Herald don't cough up").

"Well, Bob, what the heck are we here for?" Bill inquired.

" We're here "cause our bighead Editor told us to check out this big Biofilm industry goin' on down here" , says Bob.

"Gee", Bill said, "lights, camera, action - I just don't see 'em. And where's David Attenborough?"

" Oh no, it's not some BBC nature film, it's this stuff right here!" Bob said as he pointed to some nearby muck.

" Hell, I don't see anything" Bill said as he walked closer to where Bob was pointing.

" No, don't !" Bob blurted, but it was too late, Bill had sunk halfway to his knee in goo.

" Crap!" Bill yelled.

"No, that's not crap, that's Mud" Bob say's, " but while you're there check out that Biofilm, the greenish stuff on top of the mud. Sure,it just looks sorta like pond scum, but really it's a whole community of various microorganisms held together with an extracellular mass, Aka, slime. Very nutritious".

"You actually eat this stuff?" Bill asked.

"No, not me, Goofy!" Bob replied, "Birds eat the stuff. Our editor told me all about after reading about it on that bird-brain website Tweeters. I guess some bird scientists found that those little Western Sandpipers out there get a big chunk of their energy from that gunk, when they're not eatin' bigger things, and Dunlin maybe too. So that scuzz is pretty important to those little guy's"

"Well, I'll be darned" Bill say's.

Leaving Bill and Bob alone for a bit, I might mention that Mud does more than provide a substrate for little tiny, yet nutritious organisms that sandpeepers eat. It also provides life support for Everett's largest migrant- the Gray Whale.

The Everett Herald itself actually reported on this recently. I guess that every year, for quite a few years now, around a dozen Gray Whales peel off the main bunch of Gray Whales headed to Alaska, and head to the shores of Mudville for a big Shrimp dinner. That would be Ghost Shrimp, along with other Mudville creatures, that the big mammals scoop up like giant front end loaders from the bottom - filtering out the food items from the mud with their baleen.

I watched this once, off the north end of Gedney (Hat) Island , off Everett. It was a big whale, scooping right along the beach. We were out on a boat, and watching people on the beach near the whale with one of those retriever dogs that you typically couldn't keep out of the water if you tried. The dog ran about as far as it could away from the water, when it stopped, turned around, and kept an eye on that whale. " Eeeek!! A Sea monster!" I imagine it saying.

Bill and Bob also pointed out a video on Heraldnet.com from last year (type in "Gray Whales- up close", in their search box), which shows a couple of Gray's coming up under, then right in front of two kayakers just off Mission Beach.

"You know" Bill said, "If I was one of those kayakers, I think I might've had to wash my underwear separate when I got home, If you know what I mean". After seeing the video, I think I do.

I could go on and on about how Mud matters - to the Ospreys and flounders, giant Sturgeon, the other shorebirds and all. Mud matters to a lot of creatures - like me.

Jeff Gibson
Everett Hairball

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