[Tweeters] Port Townsend Midge Fest.

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Fri Aug 12 13:32:58 PDT 2016

Port Townsend is well known for it's festivals. You got your Rhody fest, Fiddle fest, Blues fest, and a bunch of other fest's that I can't remember right now ( poetry? art?). I'm not really much of a fest guy really (not big on crowds) although the fiddle concert last summer was great. But, hey, how about that Midge Fest? It's happening right now at PT's Kah Tai lagoon.

I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't heard about it, and amazed if you actually heard it - Midges are very quiet and would probably require bat echolocation to find without visual cues. You may be wondering what a Midge is, if you don't know already.

A Midge is a very tiny fly. It starts out life as an aquatic larvae that hatches out to be an aerial creature, en masse in the millions given the right circumstances. Like yesterday when I stumbled upon the fest here in PT. I was driving home from the bank when, feeling lucky, I thought I might check out the lagoon for shorebirds, inspired by recent shorebird posts on tweeters. Turning on 12th street (my street), I was heading West and the settling sun was shining right in my face when I saw an entrancing sight - Midge "columns" backlit by the sun - right along the road at the entry to Kah Tai.

While being a sort of marshy and swampy kind of guy, I'd seen plenty of Midges before, but never quite like this. What I was seeing was a series of dense columns of these tiny flies - each column was about two feet across and about fifteen feet tall (starting from about my eye level). And there were about ten of these fly columns lined up along the street. Parking my truck in the Kah Tai lot, I walked back out on the street and paced out these columns - fairly evenly spaced about 20 to 25 ft apart. A really cool sight - vibrating pillars of light. Looking back toward these columns with the sun at my back, they visually disappeared . Sometimes sighting is all in the lighting.

So, still feeling lucky I bopped down the path to the lagoon shore and was pleased to see one each of three shorebird species; a perky Lesser Yellowlegs, a peep of some sort, and a Spotted Sandpiper. The narrow fringe of mud along the lagoon is a shorebird attractant this time of year.

Well that was all so cool that this morning I walked down Castle Hill from my place on 12th street to the lagoon. At 7am it was already warm. This time lit up by the rising sun, I spotted more Midge columns, these on an even grander scale than last night. The largest column about fifty feet tall.

Snooping the lagoon shore again, I saw no shorebirds, but did hear the piggy call of a Virginia Rail. The lagoon was like watching a Total Eclipse of the Duck - I was able to parse out Mallard, Gadwall, and a Widgeon in all the obscure eclipse plumage. A patch of willows by the pond was busy with Bushtits, Cedar Waxwings, several Orange-crowned Warblers, a House Finch and a Bewicks Wren. Then there was a mysterious songbird call which remained a mystery to me. I guess if you don't have some mystery in your day, you might not be paying attention.

As to Midge Fest, I'm not sure if it has backup talent , but adult Midges only last a few days so you might wanna check it out soon before they have sex and drop dead. Just sayin'. Try for low light - morning or evening.

Jeff Gibson

Port Townsend Wa

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