Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Land of the Moon Snails

On Sunday Tina and I ventured over to Carkeek Park for low-tide fun.

Last month we explored low tide at Richmond Beach, where we saw mostly anemones, crabs, sea cucumbers, and clams.

The Carkeek Park beach had something different.  When I spotted this from a distance, it looked like broken pottery:

But then I saw dozens and dozens of them littering the beach, and they were thin and flexible:

I asked one of the naturalists who educate folks there during low tides, and learned they were egg cases of a creature called a Moon Snail.

The naturalist found an actual, living Moon Snail!

A handy child provided a sense of scale:

That was by far the coolest thing we saw there.

We saw very few anemones -- this was the best one we found:

Meanwhile, the birds were busy plucking up fish:

This gull attracted the unwanted attention of its neighbors:

It tried to fly away with its catch:

After a couple of hours of beachcombing, I took a lunch break on a piece of driftwood which had this lovely view:

Naturally, I had my sketchbook along.

It was a lovely morning for exploring.  For the next low tide we hope to get to Golden Gardens beach to see what might be different there.

Monday, July 24, 2017

More Fun at the Fill

On Saturday morning Truman and I headed down to the Montlake Fill to join Connie on her weekly shorebird survey.  I didn't actually see any shorebirds (migration is pretty much over, leaving just a handful of resident Killdeer, who apparently were hiding).

I did see this bee on a coneflower:

We sat by the main pond for a while, where the Mallards were bold enough to feed right by our feet.

Then we checked on the Osprey family.

The parents continue to add sticks to build up the nest as the chicks grow bigger.

I did two quick landscape sketches.  This is the view of Lake Washington and the 520 bridge -- if there were no clouds, Mt. Rainier would be in the background.

And this is what you see of the UW campus buildings from the Fill.

On the way home we stopped at Magnuson Park so Truman could cool off a bit.

Coming tomorrow:  Moon Snails!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Our Own Private Beach (Almost)

Yesterday I decided to make the long, annoying drive to Discovery Park so I could sketch the lighthouse on the beach.  Although it was a weekday, I wanted to get there early, as it was sunny and warm and summertime, so I figured it would be crowded.  You can't park at the beach unless you are old (62+ so I count!) or have small children who can't walk far, or have a disability, and there are only eight parking spaces.  The next nearest parking lot is a mile or so away.

I got there right at 8:30am when the park office opens and the parking passes are available.  I drove to the beach, where I found an empty parking lot and no one about.

I strolled around looking at the lighthouse from all angles.

And then settled down to the view that I always draw, because it truly is the best one.

Just as I finished up, three elderly gentlemen and their lovely Springer Spaniel arrived to walk around the lighthouse.  They paused to admire my sketch.

Truman and I walked around a little with them (their dog's name was Bullet) and we chatted about art for a bit and about dogs for a while and then they turned to go back to their car and we had the place to ourselves again.

We did have gulls and one Great Blue Heron for company.

I spent nearly two hours sketching and strolling in wonderful solitude.

When we returned to the parking lot, two cars pulled up, so we timed our visit just right!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This and That

On Sunday morning I decided to tootle over to a small community garden in Shoreline that I'd sketched before.  It's next door to a church which I'd also planned to draw, but they were hosting a homeless encampment in their parking lot and I couldn't get a good view of the building.

So I just drew the tool shed at the garden:

Next, Truman and I headed to neighboring Lake Forest Park for their weekly Farmer's Market.

They were also having a special craft fair.

The craft fair included a booth of alpaca wool items -- and they brought along the alpacas, too!

Truman was more interested in the free treats handed out at the booth for his favorite pet supply store.

Meanwhile, a juvenile Bald Eagle soared overhead, so I even got a little birding in.

On Monday I borrowed Winston and Chloe and let them hang out at Dog End all day.

Truman has been missing his little foster friend, and he hadn't seen his buddy Winston for ages, as his family was on vacation.

He was delighted to have doggie company again.

I may have to get him another foster friend!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Saving the Birds One Chick at a Time

I had an exciting morning at the Montlake Fill this past Saturday.  On Saturday mornings, Connie Who Practically Lives There conducts a four-hour shorebird survey as part of a citizen science project to document how the recent mitigation and restoration effort affects shorebird populations at the Fill.

I never manage to get there as early as she does, because ever since I retired, I've been sleeping in until six a.m.  Sometimes even seven.   Goodness.  This past Saturday I arrived at the Fill a little after seven and found Connie sitting at the Main Pond with Scott, a biology professor (and keen birder) from Alabama here on a one-year sabbatical.  They were watching this Long-billed Dowitcher:

We also had a few Least Sandpipers fly in to forage for a bit, like this one:

On the far bank there were a whole lot of Mallards, plus a bonus heron:

The most exciting bird, though, was a juvenile Virginia Rail which actually came out of the reeds (rails normally stay well hidden).

Next we got to briefly admire a lovely Lazuli Bunting, an uncommon visitor (and too brief for a photo).  Then a Merlin zipped past overhead.  Meanwhile, Truman got a little bored.

There were plenty of the resident Killdeer about, along with several chicks.

When Connie and I moved on down the trail, the real excitement began--we heard a frantic peeping, and spotted this poor Killdeer chick ramming itself over and over into this fencing, trying to reach its parent and siblings who were on the other side:

There was a big gap ten feet down, and Connie suggested I flush the little chick towards it.  I was making good progress until the chick caught one of its stubby wings on a blackberry vine, and began flailing wildly.  I quickly disentangled it, and for one second, I held this tiny fluffball in the palm of my hand--it weighed practically nothing--like holding a cotton ball!

Once freed, it quickly scurried the rest of the way to the gap to be reunited with its family.  Whew!

There was more family fun at the Osprey platform -- the chicks were finally large enough to see over the nest.  At least two have been spotted thus far (last year they had three).

Things settled down after that (well, seriously, how could anything top the rescue of the Killdeer chick?).  Connie and I continued working our way around the Loop Trail, stopping to sit here and there, mostly chatting and occasionally spotting a bird or two.

Meanwhile, Truman got a little bored.

A very fine morning indeed!