[Tweeters] A Still Evening At Point Wilson

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign15 at gmail.com
Mon Dec 10 11:35:08 PST 2018

On Wednesday December 5th, I needed a walk so I walked up and around Fort
Worden's Artillery Hill. It was a quiet sunny late afternoon in the forest.
Few birds, but I came across one of those mixed flocks of forest birds
foraging down low in the trees and shrubs;First was a single Hutton's
Vireo, then quite a few Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglet's, three
Brown Creepers, and a Pacific Wren. Nice.

Afterwards, I toodled down to Point Wilson. It was sort of strange down
there: Not a breath of wind - even the finest blades of dune grass still as
can be. It was remarkable that the only sound (besides a bird or two) was
the quiet gurgle of the tidal current, gently lapping around the rocky
point as it slipped out to sea. The water on the Sound side of the point
was flowing like a clear mountain creek along the sandy shore, floating
driftwood and kelp going by at about the speed of a fast walk.

It was just an hour or so after high tide and 98% of Puget Sounds outflow
was flowing by; on this particular tide dropping about 10' to the nighttime
low of -1. Imagine the top ten feet of the 1,020 square miles of Puget
Sound going by in 6 hours. Well, it was off to a quiet start. I did get a
late ID on my mystery bird call that I'd heard on my last (2) night tide
patrols, as 3 Black Oystercatchers flew by several 100' offshore, one
calling - quite different sound quality than my previous Oystercatcher
hearing ( farther down this same beach) of one incredibly loud individual.

Next sighting was of a big Sea Monster! OK, so it was only a huge male
California Sea Lion, with it's blocky head, foraging very close (50' or so)
to shore, but pretty impressive so close. It foraged for quite awhile right
at the point, it's pink maw clearly visible in the low rays of the sun. I
was hard to track, as it surfaced and dove rapidly. While I was trying to
spot the big guy I managed to get my only view of a breaching Sea Lion - a
dark sleek female (or young male maybe) about 6' long. It flew clear out of
the the water in a smooth arc and blooped back in without a sound. Pretty
cool. Never saw it again.

Also, right at the point, 6 Red-Breasted Mergansers dove continuously the
whole time I was there, managing to hold together in one spot despite the
current. With the sun to my back, all the critter sightings were great.
Several Common Murre's zipped by, always nice to see, Surf Scoter's,
Pelagic and Double- crested Cormorant's. And droopy loons - some
Red-throated, some Pacific.

Back in my Anchor Pub days, I thought "THE DROOPY LOON" would make a good
bar name. I had an image for the sign: Several loons drooping over their
beers, maybe with a long pointed wing around drooped around the shoulder of
the next loon buddy at the bar. I used to be one of those birds. I'm still
kind of a droopy loon, but for different reasons.

Moving right along... As I was watching the Scene from atop the big rip-rap
boulders at the point, two Pacific Loons zoomed right below me. Flying
fast, and cutting the point pretty close, they didn't see me up there until
the last second and pulled off a very graceful dodge. I hadn't ever seen
flying loons so close before and had never noted how long and pointy their
wings are. Usually I've just seen them flying by a ways off, with their
heads and tails hanging low. Maybe it's all them solid bones they're
hauling around that make them look sort of weary, but maybe they're hangin'
low for aerodynamic reasons.

Jeff Gibson
a droopy loon in
Port Townsend Wa

PS: Forgot to mention the mountains, from Baker and Shuksan down to Rainier
all glowing pink in the late light. And the islands all fading off in the
distance. Looking down the straits I could look right through the mirage of
Spit to Neah Bay. (or to nearby Bahokus Peak, 1,400' anyhoo). It was that
clear out. Just sayin'
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