[Tweeters] Galvanized

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Sep 26 09:38:16 PDT 2015

This is my last report of my last day of Summer, astronomically speaking. Oh sure, the Astronomy Department runs this planet, but sometimes ,like with a long-distance landlord , it takes some time to see any action down here. The Fall Equinox is on the calendar for September 23rd, but down here on the ground equal days and equal nights do vary a bit - it depends on where you at. And then there's equal rights - good luck with that.
Hey, yeah, whatever. I decided that September 22nd was my last day of Summer, and I'm sticking with it. My last day of my Summer was great, mostly. It started when, stopping at the gas station to tank-up, I discovered a beautiful baby rat on the pavement. Then I was off to Fort Worden for a nature snoop, and discovered very interesting tiny spiders and things.
After seeing cool spiders, I bopped down the beach to the pier of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center , to see what I could see. I really lucked out on the viewing conditions for marine life. Sometimes it's all in the lighting, like at the art museum. Things can be seen better under a certain light.
It was around 4 in the afternoon, and pretty calm. The water was very clear. The first thing I noted was an exceptional number of Shiner Perch - thousands of them- on the outside of the pier. These are a small sort of deep bodied fish quite abundant in Puget Sound. Fish watching here in Port Townsend is quite interesting. Last year (my first full year in PT) the Pacific Herring were by far the most abundant fish here in Spring and Summer. Some sort of sea change has gone on, because this Summer I've hardly seen any from the pier. But it has been a banner year here for Shiner Perch.
As I was watching the perch, all of the same school class I guess - all about 3 inches long - a Rhinoceros Auklet swam up. I was really hoping that it would dive beneath my pier view, and it did. I love seeing diving birds underwater, particularly alcids, which unlike ducks, cormorants, loons, grebes and such, don't swim with foot paddling but with their wings. A bird flying underwater- how cool is that.
Well, the large, previously evenly-spaced school of perch was galvanized into action by the Auklet - rapidly condensing into a compact mass - safety in numbers don't you know. I'm pretty sure this group behavior by fish is not inspired by any code other than wanting to save your sorry fish butt by hiding behind your neighbors. It is beautiful to watch though.
Well that was neat, and then I crossed the pier deck to view the eelgrass bed enclosed by the pier. There was a whole other fish tale going on in there- no perch, but hundreds of Sticklebacks over the eelgrass bed. Sticklebacks are fascinating fish, and one of my favorites ,for personal reasons. Under the pier, exhibited clearly in the excellently slanting afternoon light, were some Tubesnouts, a larger Stickleback relative that looks like a piece of eelgrass.
A few days before the end of astronomical Summer I witnessed another exciting fish event down at the pier, again featuring Sticklebacks. Like the perch I mentioned above, the Sticklebacks were evenly spread out in a big school when a very low flying Rock Pigeon zoomed very low over the water on it's way to an under pier perch. The Sticklebacks instantly galvanized into a compact mass, shining like metal. Lucky for them it was just a pigeon, and not the local Kingfisher!
Jeff Gibsonsnooping aroundPort Townsend Wa

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