Monday, April 27, 2009

Protection Island: I am not a Crazy Birder

This weekend Andy and I had another road trip!  This time it was a birthday present for me, a few weeks early because it's still off-season to travel in April, plus with a certain bridge closing the first of May, a trip would have taken a whole lot longer next month.  So we drove up to Port Townsend to go on a little cruise set up by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, they charter a boat a few times a year to travel around Protection Island, a wildlife sanctuary that many marine birds nest at each year.

So we set off early Saturday morning.  Me with my camera always handy!

Across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge with the sunroof open.

The chartered boat was a 65-foot yacht called the Glacier Spirit.  It was packed, so many people it was a full cruise.  Because it was crowded, and because I get antsy being inside on boats, Andy and I both went out to sit at the bow, even though it was cold and windy.

You can't tell in this photo of Andy, but he's freezing.  I was too.  The only people other than us that were crazy enough to stay outside the entire three hour ride were the crazy, crazy birders.

Luckily, the water was fairly calm and the sun came out after a while, but you could certainly tell where tidal forces made the waves choppy.

Protection Island was only about a half hour ride from the Port Townsend marina, and then the boat slowed and took a leisurely circle about the island.  Other than a few nesting Double-crested Cormorants, there weren't any actively nesting birds, which was a little disappointing.  Apparently it was too early for nesting birds, and an off time for migrating ones.  I was hoping to see a lot of new birds to add to my list, but at least I got one! A White-Winged Scoter.

Birds we saw were:

  • White-Winged Scoters

  • Surf Scoters

  • Pigeon Guillemots

  • Harlequin Ducks

  • Oldsquaw

  • Double-Crested Cormorants

  • Pelagic Cormorants

  • Horned Grebes

  • Rhinoceros Auklets

  • Bonaparte's Gulls

  • Heerman's Gull

  • Lots and lots of other gulls

Other birders at the front of the boat were freaking out every time there was a new bird, and arguing with the naturalists that tried to strike up conversations, and this one lady insisted she had seen this super rare bird.  Even though it was probably a common bird still in winter plumage. She. Saw. That. Bird. And you could not tell her otherwise.

Andy said to me, "You know, I've figured something out about you."

"What's that?"

"You are a solitary birder."

Crazy birders are crazy.  I just like birds a whole lot.  I don't have to be right!

So after that, we settled into Colette's B&B where we stayed the night, and went out to dinner at the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim.  They have the most amazing food.  They do everything organic, seasonal, and local.  I had their mussels and halibut special, and it was the best halibut I've ever had.

I could never be a food photographer, I always forget to take pictures before I eat it all.

In the morning, the sun was shining on the gardens at Colette's, and everything was beautiful.

There were songbirds everywhere, and one that perched outside that I tried to capture using a pair of binoculars.

After an awesome breakfast we went out to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge to walk out on the spit.  The trees on the coast are all shaped by wind, and it was so sunny out.

It's fun to drive on coast highways!  This picture also shows Andy's late sunglasses, which tragically broke in half...

And were quickly replaced by a cheap pair from a QFC that hides his eyebrows and half his face.

By the time we got home we were both pretty pooped.  It was a very fun weekend!  When we got home, Andy needed a nap.  Rothko sat on him to keep him from leaving.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

All Work, Some Play

So I've been busy with work and home and family and such and I feel bad about not posting with all of the neato pictures I've taken. I've been at Nautilus for over two years now, and along the way I've been collecting pictures of cool stuff I've run into there.  I get to do tests on different aquatic creatures from fish to shrimp to mussels to worms, and since work takes up most of my time, I figured I should share some of the pictures of what I spend so much time on.

Here's one of the most fun things to do. Mussel spawning! We take a bunch of mussels and warm them up to a certain temperature to get them to spawn, and then put males and females in separate cups to collect their gametes for later testing.

I always keep my camera with me for occasions when the stars align and we get the equivalent of seeing Lincoln on a piece of burnt toast.  Maybe not so spectacular, but a smiley face on our stir plate?

And this one is from counting vials under an inverted microscope.  Often in these test vials there's bits of debris, and like clouds in the sky sometimes you see shapes in them.  Maybe just me, but I see a frog run over by a car.

There's also some strange, often smelly things that happen. Like! Biofoam.  This is what happens when you aerate a tank full of herring eggs attached to kelp.

Sometimes when we're doing tests we run into creatures that have tagged along.  Especially in sediment tests.  We get sediment to test from many different places, and sometimes there are surprises from those places.  Like a dobsonfly larvae!

Or, sometimes, we get worms.  Frightening, wriggly, red, many many many legged. Worms.  Polychaetes to be exact.  Neanthes nereis is the species name... Be glad I didn't post a video to show you their nightmarish nature.

Every day we write on our white boards the different tasks of the day.  There's dilutions to be made, tests to be checked, to be renewed, to be set up, to be ended... And sometimes there are bonus tasks.

Rothko is unimpressed, and enjoying the sun.  This is what he does all day while Andy and I are at work earning his catfood.