[Tweeters] The Ides of September

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Sep 17 17:08:28 PDT 2014

I spent the Ides of September on a day trip to Sequim.
For somebody like me, who hasn't traveled too far too often in the past several decades, going to weird ol' Sequim was a real thrill. I haven't been anywhere west of Port Townsend for about 10 years! Tempus fugit, and all that.
Yup, Sequim is sort of weird - a dry spot in a wet area (in the rainshadow of the Olympics). A real change of scene for a Puget Sounder - with the big views of the Strait, and the different perspective of the dry-ish northern Olympics splayed out to the south - real interesting.
After doing an errand in Sequim, I bopped out to Dungeness Spit to check out the scene. It was almost hot, and nearly dead calm, sort of unusual for such a windswept place - the evidence of that nicely shown by wind sculpted spruce and fir on the headlands. Lots of Olympic-sized driftwood laying around. What ever water birds there were to be seen - not many- could be spotted from a long way off because the Strait was like a bathtub. Few gulls (Heerman's and Glaucous-winged), some ducks too far out to ID. It was nice to see two Common Loons up close to shore, and a few Red-necked Grebes.
I was gladdened to see Oregon Tiger Beetles all over the beach because I find the zippy things beautiful and interesting. Since they don't allow a close approach, generally, close-focusing binoculars are handy for getting closer looks at their iridescent colors. Tiger beetles are often noted as an "indicator species" for various reasons, one being their penchant for specific habitats - these are bugs with standards. A place with Tiger beetles is usually an interesting place for a naturalist, or so I've found.
One thing that has puzzled me all spring and summer, is the dearth of Tiger Beetles on the dunes and sandy shores of Pt. Wilson in Port Townsend - I've been looking for them for months now in that seemingly great Tiger Beetle habitat. Nada. Wonder what that indicates? Another nature mystery.
Walking the beach west of the spit, for the first time, I reveled in the quiet loons, zippy beetles, and zippy geology. The secret to the spit's success (it is pretty big as spit's go) is a long stretch of highly unstable sandy/gravelly bluffs nearly as long as the spit itself. This was geology on the move. Geology for the impatient.
Walking down the beach below these bluffs for about a half mile, I was entertained by many mini landslides in process - dust clouds wafting from active falling sediments, and steadily building alluvial fans and cones - like watching a series of hourglasses measuring geologic time in a hurry. It was pretty cool - watching the whole slope in the process of hitting the beach.
Ain't nature grand: here was a totally elemental mining operation - no explosives, trucks, machinery - just weather, gravity, and a conveyor belt of nearshore currents to create a wonderful spit.
Only a real bird-brain would walk closely under these decaying slopes - and one did, a brightly plumaged Savannah Sparrow that was nabbing bugs in the shadows of a steep crumbling spot. "Better be careful buddy" I thought, "geological time is flying!"
Driving back through Sequim I kept my eyes peeled for Garry Oaks, as I'd heard there were some around here - and I did spot a nice grove of 'em right near downtown, along with a few single specimens. Always nice to see a native oak around. Sometime I'll come back for a better look.
Jeff GibsonIn the Rainshadow,Sequim Wa

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