Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Haematopus bachmani, Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatchers fall into the category of really easy to remember shore birds. There are so many others that are harder to distinguish for beginners or once distinguished their names get lost to memory. It takes work and review to stay up with shorebirds. But oystercatchers are easy.

I spotted this pair sunning themselves on the rocky spit south of Kala Point south of Port Townsend. I felt a bit bad disrupting their rest. So I headed up onto the upper spit and hid behind the large driftwood logs to get a around them. By the time I got even with them they were back at work seeking mussels.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Northwest Washington Iconic Mountain View

I have been fortunate to live in areas where mountains of some sort are always on the horizon. The iconic mountain of northwest Washington is Mount Baker. 

After days of clouds and rain (and some snow) we had a brief clear spell and Mount Baker welcomed me home when I headed onto the Samish Flats. After a month of heavy snow the 10,000 foot volcano mountain along with its earlier predecessor Black Buttes, an earlier eruptive center, and the sharp peaks of the Twin Sisters were heavily plastered in white. The high peaks were aglow in the last sunset rays of the day above the lower Northwest Cascade and Chuckanut ridges.   

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Foulweather Bluff Adams Apple and Track of Tornado

Foulweather Bluff is at the north end of Kitsap County. To the west of the bluff is the entrance to Hood Canal, a long inlet that extends far to the south. To the east is the continuation of Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound. 

The peninsula has an outline that suggests a head with an open mouth. I was looking into the geology of the estuary on the neck of Foulweather via the T Sheet (one of the earliest surveys) map of the area. A small hand written note next to the estuary indicates that either the mapper or someone using the map afterwards saw the peninsula as a head as well.

Click to blow up image to read the hand written notes

In addition to the "Adams Apple" note, there is a note north of the estuary stating "Track of Tornado". Some of the early T-Sheet maps emphasized a survey of the timber stands. I am skeptical that a tornado passed across the peninsula as tornadoes are very rare in western Washington; however, concentrated intense wind events do happen and it appears that a large timber blow down had taken place prior to the survey.   

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

George Bush: At Least Part of the Reason Washington State Is Not Part of Canada

A case can be made (and has been made by some historians) that what is now Washington State would have ended up part of Canada if not for George Bush (

George Washington Bush (Samuel Patrick drawing)

The specifics of his early life, including the year he was born are a bit unclear ( Based on what is known, Bush had seen some success prior to traveling to what is now Washington State from Missouri in 1844. I like the unconfirmed oral history that he worked for a time as a fur trapper including a stint with the Hudson Bay Company.

What can be ascertained is that he likely faced discrimination in Missouri and saw opportunity and more freedom traveling to what was then the disputed Oregon Country. He and his party were heading for the Willamette Valley. The American settlement in the Willamette Valley had grown enough that the Americans living there set up a provisional government within this otherwise disputed Oregon County. One of the earliest laws passed was an exclusion law against blacks.

Bush and his fellow pioneers/settlers headed north of the Columbia settling in what later became Tumwater. They were the first settlers north of the Columbia. Others followed. These early north of the Columbia settlers partially bolstered the United States claims to include the land that would become Washington State when the border through the disputed Oregon County was finally settled. By all accounts, Bush was a very generous and gracious early settler who greatly aided those that followed and he was beloved by those in his community.

Bush's legacy appears on maps of the area and a school is named after him.

This short talk on the Cowlitz Trail that Bush helped blaze is part of the local South Puget Sound and Tumwater pride and remembrance of his life and legacy.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Amtrak Bellingham to Vancouver BC

A favored way of taking the 55 mile trip from Bellingham to the big city of Vancouver is via the Amtrak rail. The train terminates very near downtown Vancouver. A modest walk or a short sky train ride takes one into the center of the city. Taking the train avoids high parking charges, sometimes very long border waits, slow traffic, and the stress of driving congested and unfamiliar city streets. 

There is also the percs. Open beer or wine, reading, or taking in scenery that is otherwise missed via driving. 

The main limitation is timing of the trains. But if the timing works, a far better way than driving. 

A few notes and images from the ride up and back  

Good views of the Cornwall Avenue Landfill in Bellingham

The end of Cornwall Avenue was used as a municipal garbage dump into the early 1970s. The garbage added to fill on the tidelands at this location from past saw mill and warehouse use that was on piers and fill. Most recently dredged sediments from a port waterway were added to the landfill and covered with a white plastic liner. Eventually this tract of landfill will be converted into a park.

Former GP paper mill site 

The former paper mill is mostly gone. Ongoing construction prep and cleanup work has been taking place. And recently mush of the mill site and port yard area has been covered with piles of logs for shipping.

Former paper mill site
Some of the old tanks from the facility are to be left as historic/legacy features

Past the transitioning blight waterfront the views do become scenic.

Old cement pier and Bellingham Bay 
Lummi Island is the main feature across the bay

Tenant Lake southeast of Ferndale
The view from the rail line is the best view of this swampy lake 

Blaine Harbor just south of the border

A favorite part of the train ride is passing through White Rock, BC. People are almost always out on the beach and always seem happy to see the passenger train. 

White Rock itself was a bit camouflaged in the snow.
The rock is painted white and is a large glacial erratic on the shoreline

White Rock pier

Another nice stretch is the estuary on the shores of Semiahmoo Bay. Lots of ducks, eagles and hawks

The rail line parallels the main highway (99) for a stretch. Felt smug seeing the cars backed up behind the snow plows while we relaxed in the observation car.

Fraser River at New Westminster

The return trip is a sunset trip depending on the time of year.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Black Panthers in Seattle

When I lived in Seattle, I would regularly see a Black Panther. He would be standing at the main entrance to the University of Washington campus collecting money for the breakfast programs run by the Black Panthers. I regularly put some money in the can.

Breakfast programs for school children are now a regular program - the schools I taught at in the 1980s had these programs. The Black Panthers had what at the time were radical ideas -- feeding kids was one of those radical ideas.

Map of Headquarters and Breakfast Centers in Seattle

I did see the movie. It is good. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Northwest Music: Typhoon - "Rorschach"

Typhoon came back to the Pacific Northwest and visited Seattle at the Crocodile. The tour is associated with their latest release, Offerings, a very ambitious and thought provoking double album. I am in the crowd at this Portland show:

Good complex music and lyrics that takes time to digest.