[Tweeters] Clear Seeing

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Nov 1 15:01:21 PDT 2014

Yesterday, and today, I was again reminded of a poem I like:
"Each time I go outside the worldis different. This has happenedall my life."
(from 'Braided Creek: a conversation in poetry' by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser).

This year in Port Townsend I've developed some naturalist habits, like going to the same places over and over. I like doing that, and of course, everyday is different.
Yesterday, after spending too much time buried in my "snoopervisor" job of herding the elderly (snoopervising is like supervising, for safety reasons, without getting caught at it).This being a voluntary position, enabled me to temporarily fire myself and head to the beach.
"The beach" is most often at Fort Worden for me, these past months. And yesterday, on ol' Halloween, I had some nice treats, after a long day of performing my job of tricks. A day of rain, mostly, the sun poked out toward afternoon's end.
Along with the late afternoon sun, came calm. After a day of rain, the sky was scrubbed clean, giving everything an especially sharp look. First treat was a great Alcid show at the Marine Science Center pier.
Just getting out to the end of the pier, I spotted two Marbled Murrelets close in - sharply dressed in their black and white winter wear. They both dove, never to be seen (by me) again. With barely enough time to soak in that sight, a Common Murre surfaced right below me, offering the clearest and closest view of this marine bird I've ever had, before it winged it underwater, in that alcid way. Next, two Rhinoceros Auklets surfaced nearby, also allowing for clear close-up views. Neato.
Fairly quiet birdwise after that, a few DC and Pelagic Cormorants about. But the last light was magnificent - lighting the vast Ebey bluffs on Whidbey to reveal every detail of relief on those dissected glacial deposits, and showing the new furze of fall green coming on to those summer dried slopes.
Also clearly visible were the Grand Firs of Whidbey. The Grand Fir (Abies grandis) is a native conifer that gives itself away at a distance - even from four miles away( with binoculars) the distinctive congested blob of foliage atop the tree is easily spotted. Something fun to note on your next road trip. I've seen thousands of 'em, yet still like to pick them out from the conifer crowd with that little recognition trick.
Well, after seeing all these old friends with fresh clarity, I met a new creature - this one beneath the waves. Inside the surrounding pier, I noted two big jellyfish of a species I haven't seen before, the Pacific Sea Nettle (Chrysaora fuscescens). With a "bell" about 8" in diameter, the jellies hauled intricate white petticoats behind them, the translucent tan bell fringed by long maroon tentacles (several feet long) that can sting you (that's the nettle part). If Dale Chihuly worked in moving jello instead of glass, maybe he could come up with something as beautiful. Maybe not.
Apparently, these are one of those jellyfish species taking advantage of warming sea temperatures, and other changes, and exhibiting huge population booms. Maybe we'll be seeing more of 'em, for better or worse.
This morning, at the pier again, things were different - low clouds, and a cold breeze. To the south of the pier was a big raft of Mergansers. I presumed they would be Red-breasted, which I saw several days ago, but nope, they were all Commons, and out of about 70 to 80 of them, only one male was in breeding plumage.
I was sort of surprised when most of this merganser raft bailed ashore, and waddled onto the beach. As I watched them, three full-grown River Otters galumphed up the beach toward the ducks. Rather than going after the mergs, the otters stopped, rolled around in the sand for awhile before heading past the driftwood line into the shrubbery. Whenever I see more than one Otter (or Raccoon) together, It always looks to me like they're up to something - and I suppose they are. Who knows what.
Jeff Gibsonsnooping aroundPort Townsend Wa

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