[Tweeters] Out of Africa

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Jun 18 16:15:15 PDT 2016

While I've never been to Africa ( and not real likely to go), I did pull off a short safari here in Port Townsend yesterday. AKA going to work.
You see, I'm working a landscape job out at Cape George, just outside of town and didn't have to blow all that airfare to actual Africa - Africa came to me. Kinda. Sorta. Let me explain.
First of all my job site has a panoramic view of Protection island just offshore, which has dramatically changed from its winter-green tone into savannah tans and browns. Kind of a neat seasonal change. The island is beautiful right now. And swarming with herds of Rhinos. That would be the Rhinoceros Auklet - the island is riddled with tens of thousands of their burrows, and the waters off Port Townsend often has plenty of the 'horned' things fishing about. Rhino central.
Doing landscape work has been a great opportunity for me over the years, whether in Snohomish County, or here in PT, to connect with nature. Luckily my present job is a great spot for that as it's very birdy. For one thing , the place is loaded with big beautiful Eurasian Collared Doves. Yeah, I know they're an "Invasive Species", but that's like the pot calling the kettle black, since us humans are major perps in overall environmental change.
Anyhoo, these big doves are beautiful, edible, and provide interesting sounds. If you've been in their neighborhood, how could you not help hearing their loud three-part coo's. However they do produce another great sound, which was the whole inspiration for this whole Africa idea. When in gliding flight, or whatever, they can make a loud, sort of unusual call described variously as a "loud hwaah", or "a harsh mewing nasal call". When I first heard it a few days ago, I had no idea what it was - didn't sound like anything I'd ever heard before- but yes, I did witness it as two big beige doves glided over in tandem.
My immediate impression was that it sounded like an abbreviated Elephant trumpet (it is a loud striking call). I have only experienced Africa on the Tee Vee set,or on video, where I've heard plenty of Elephants. So I could understand the "nasal" quality (from Audubon website) - because what is more nasal than an Elephant! Lucky us that we have eyes and ears, because describing colors in words is difficult, but sounds even more so. Anyhoo, it's a cool sound.
Then on to "Mount Kilamanjaro" (the famed tallest mountain in Africa). OK what it really is, is a pile of 5 cubic yards of sand piled at my landscape job. But it could've been a mountain to the numbers of Sand Wasps that have colonized it in the month it's been sitting there. How they found it is a good question, since I imagine the nearest native sand is at least a quarter mile away, down over the beach bluff.
I've written about Sand Wasps before on Tweeters. I think they're interesting. Unlike yer Paper Wasp nest, the Sand Wasps are diggers - I find it entertaining to watch them dig away at their burrows like a dog at the beach digging for some stinky thing. They dig a hole, then catch a fly, or some other insect that they've paralyzed with their waspy poison, then haul it down the hole, and lay a single egg on it. Then repeat as necessary - dig a hole, lay an egg in whomever.
So ol' "Kilamanjaro" is currently full of the holes of busy Sand Wasps. But soon, one of the big ugly Minor Gods of Geology, (Jeff Gibson, Landscraper Division) is gonna disappear the mountain, and wheelbarrow all that sand into a hole. Sorry wasps. Out of Africa, back to Port Townsend.
Just Sayin'Jeff Gibson, in Port Townsend Wa

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