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Mysterious sea stack at Second Beach

09/03/07 - The Eagle and the Shark

Second Beach was hazy, gray and mysterious today. We went for a high low tide and managed to get to the sea cave but no farther. The air was thick, moist and salty, the sea silver and the tidal flats glassy. There was a bit of melodrama as if lifted from a nature documentary.

On our way south to the sea cave we noticed a small shark stranded on a sand bar. We considered helping, but were separated by a rather deep bit of water. It wasn't clear we could get to the shark without getting soaked. Besides, there had just been an article in the New York Times about a shark saved at Rockaway Beach. The shark had been "saved", but a day later it was found washed ashore, dead. Healthy sharks stay in the water.

As we returned from the cave and watched the rising tide, we saw an eagle swoop in the distance. We knew its target, the shark. The shark was still alive when we passed, but the eagle was guarding it. We kept our distance. There is no point in having a dust up with one's national emblem. While we like shark, we were willing to give him or her dibs on this one.

This sort of scene is part of nature's way. We know that, but it usually is done off camera.

The eagle and the shark

Keywords: second beach, beaches, birds, eagle

05/17/07 - Goslings on Dungeness Spit

This is the season for baby animals, and that includes ducklings and goslings. We were out at Dungeness Spit and nearly stumbled over this charming family scene. It was an hour or two after low tide, and there they were, right along the water, a family of goose, gander and goslings. They were resting on the sand when the waves came in, and they all scrambled.

Keywords: birds, dungeness spit, animals, dungeness

05/01/07 - Eagle Watching at Dungeness Spit

We took advantage of the morning low tide to explore the Dungeness Spit. It was a real low tide, with lots of beach, so we were able to walk out to the two mile marker and back mostly on nicely compacted sand.

In the winter, the tides tend to be high, so most hiking is done up at the high end of the beach near the piles of driftwood that collect there. In the warmer months, the tides tend to be lower, so we hike down towards the water, and driftwood is well up the beach.

That means that it's easy to get hypnotized by the sand and restless water, and not notice any eagles perching on the driftwood above. This time, we looked up, and there's a photo of the bald eagle we spotted on the left.

Keywords: birds, dungeness spit, dungeness, tides, winter, eagle

04/02/07 - Elwha Trail Report

Whiskey Bend Road is usually open all year round, but it has been closed for a while due to fallen trees and nasty ruts. It isn't much of a road by some standards, but it has a good solid one and a half lanes, and the dirt is pretty firmly packed and the drainage is good. In fact, it is so good that there are lots of neat waterfalls that flow down to and under the road. Just a few days ago, we noticed that the Park Service had taken Whiskey Bend off the list of roads that have been closed, and today we rode out in our trusty Honda and had a spectacular hike along the Elwha Trail.

The road itself, as we noted, is in good shape, and so is the trail. There were a number of recently sawn logs by the side of the trail, including one monster on the climb up after Humes Ranch. We only made it to the first crossing, about an hour or so hike from the parking lot. The little stream in the canyon was running full, despite two large trees which had collapsed across its path into the canyon. Our special surprise was the first trillium of the season, blooming early in the shelter of the canyon.

The first trillium of spring

Just pretty

On our way back to the car, there was a blue grouse sitting in the middle of the trail. We had been hearing the deep booming of the male birds lekking, that is, staking out good sites for their bachelor pads. We sometimes see blue grouse on Hurricane Hill, but rarely on a wooded trail like this one, but today was different. The grouse were definitely about and not one bit shy.We even saw another blue grouse crossing the Whiskey Bend Road on the drive down.

Keywords: elwha, flowers, birds, hurricane hill, spring, trillium, grouse, waterfall

Corn Lilies

08/18/06 - Corn Lilies and Blue Grouses

We were up on Hurricane Hill and spotted those strange looking plants on the left. Not the little yellow flowers on the ground, but the tall spiky plants with little white flowers on the spikes. Apparently, they are corn lilies, if our trail companions are to believed. They are blooming on the side trail that leads down to Whiskey Bend from Hurricane Hill.

We have been noticing blue grice, or perhaps grouses or grouse, alongside Hurricane Ridge Road, but it isn't safe to stop and gawk at them, so we just drive on. Now, we've spotted one on Hurricane Hill, as seen above, and we were glad to have a closer look.

Keywords: flowers, birds, high country, hurricane hill, hurricane ridge, grouse

06/22/06 - Some Kind of Dove?

We actually saw this guy on the Spruce Railroad Trail a few days ago, but have been lazy about posting our pictures. It looked a lot like a very large dove, but it wasn't inclined to fly away. Any guesses?

(Click the picture to see where we found this guy).

UPDATE 06/20/2007 - According to online informant EF, this is most likely a juvenile Band Tailed Pigeon. This seems quite likely. Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the bird, and their picture shows the distinctive tail band and the neck band.

Dove on the Spruce Railroad Trail

Keywords: birds, spruce railroad

Stewing Hen

06/17/06 - Dry Creek Farm Stewing Hens

While we were buying eggs at the Port Angeles Farmers' Market, Harley informed us that Dry Creek Farm will be selling stewing hens this coming Friday, June 23rd Monday, June 26th, after 3PM at the farm on Rife Road. These are tough old birds, literally, but properly braised they are amazingly flavorful. They also make wonderful chicken stock, so get one while you can.

Keywords: birds, farms, dry creek farm, food, port angeles, farmers' market

Three Turkeys in Port Angeles

11/22/05 - Too Many Turkeys

You may remember our quandary last year with regard to a surfeit of oysters closely followed by a surfeit of poultry. Well, it's that time of year again. We now officially have a surfeit of turkeys.

We innocently ordered one, make a note of that, one, large heritage breed turkey from Heritage Food USA. We were eagerly waiting in our doorway when the Federal Express truck arrived. We accepted our turkey in its white shipping carton and thanked the delivery man for getting us our bird. We were all set to sign off, but he told us that he wasn't done yet. We had three boxes.

Indeed, we had three turkeys, each in its own white shipping carton. There was a 21 pounder and two 18 pounders. That's 57 pounds of turkey for two people. Even we have to draw the line somewhere. We officially declared a surfeit, and scrambled madly for freezer space. One bird is for Thanksgiving, but, as you might expect, we have plans for the other two.


Keywords: birds, food, port angeles, oysters

Mural in the lobby of the General Administration Building

11/17/05 - On The Wall In Olympia

The above mural is in the lobby of the General Administration Building in Olympia, Washington. It represents the great economic output of the state. You can see Paul Bunyan standing in for forestry, the air control tower for Boeing and aerospace, an apple tree and a ladder for the orchards, cattle, deer, streamlined trains, and unfortunately, a symbol representing the pre-quantum theory model of the atom, presumably representing the atomic facilities at Hanford. These murals are wonderful, but they are a thing of the past.

What would the modern version of this mural contain? A cup of coffee for Starbucks, books, and perhaps delivery trucks, for Borders and Amazon. What about Microsoft? Perhaps it could show a personal computer or a security patch download. Medical research at the Hutch and elsewhere should be easy. It could still have a test tube and stethoscope, but the doctor might be a woman. Who knows what real research gear looks like today? Probably it looks like a bunch of computers, sans 1960s tape drives, with tubes coming out of it. How does one portray insurance? What is the instantly recognizable symbol for a web farm?

There is still ship work, and aerospace, and timber. There are still farms out there, and deer and birds. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any artists producing more modern versions of this type of mural. In the 1930s, Fortune magazine was full of this type of art, representing resources and industry. Nowadays, fewer people think this kind of thing is interesting. This is sad because it is still important to think about where things come from, and not leaving such knowledge to a handful of presumed experts.

Keywords: art, birds, farms, fortune

11/07/05 - Eggs, Poultry and the Plague

We were out at one of the local farms the other day to buy some eggs, and since this was a chicken farm, we also learned something about about the H5N1 virus. It was odd to consider something as mundane as buying eggs put as at the public health frontier right. It was almost something out of The Microbe Hunters. We've been buying chickens and eggs, actually first eggs, then chickens, from this farm for years, and all the while we've been taking certain things for granted. It turns out that chicken farmers are first responders, and our local chicken farmer was concerned enough to contact the State of Washington to ask them what they are doing about the risk of an epidemic and, more importantly, what he should be doing.

Washington State does have a program to test for H5N1 in eggs and poultry, so now he is awaiting instructions for sending in egg samples as part of a program to catch any H5N1 invasion early. Unlike many government programs these days, this one has money for testing, and there are plans for controlling the virus if and when it appears. Being a first responder, he asked what to do if one of his chickens dies of a respiratory ailment, and was told that they would want some samples from the dear departed. Apparently, it isn't always obvious when a chicken has a cold, or the flu. They don't sneeze the way people or dogs do. It takes a bit of watching, we were told, to realize that chickens with head colds keep their heads pitched back, most likely because this makes it easier for them to breathe.

Most of the chickens we see are in the pot, but it is nice to know that people in the State of Washington are keeping there eyes open and watching for any signs of H5N1. The first signs of West Nile virus in New York City a few years back were dead birds discovered at the Bronx Zoo. We civilians can afford to ignore a few dead birds, but with the H5N1 virus out there, it's nice to know that someone is watching out for us.


Keywords: birds, food, farms, new york city, washington state

Quail and Chicks

07/01/05 - Quail on the Run

In addition to weeds, our backyard is also being overrun by baby quail.  They seem to like the rock garden, and they are bouncing all over the place.

Keywords: birds

Stewing Hen Page

03/01/05 - Stewing Hen

We've mentioned Dry Creek Farms and there wonderful eggs on our website before. And, we've mentioned our recent acquisition of three of their hens in our column on Too Much Poultry.

You can think of this column as a follow up to our Too Much Poultry column. We were talking with Harley at the Port Angeles Farmers' Market the other day, and he mentioned that he had sold a good number of his hens. We were telling him how delicious they were, and he recounted that one of his customers had found the bird to be too tough.

"How did they cook it?", we asked.

"They roasted it.", he replied.

"Well that explains it. Old hens are stewing hens. You have to braise or stew them for hours to get them tender. We cooked one of ours in red wine and it was stupendous."

We promised to provide him with a recipe or two, and we've posted our favorite online. Check out our Stewing Hen page for a great coq au vin recipe, perfect for the chicken of a certain age.

Keywords: food, farms, birds, port angeles, wine, farmers' market, recipe

12/21/04 - Too Much Poultry

Well, it has happened again. You may remember our special Kaleberg report, Too Many Oysters. We had too many oysters. Our challenge now is that we have too much poultry. How did we get into this predicament?  It wasn't easy, but it seems that like calls to like. To understand how this principle applies to our current fowl state, read our new special Kaleberg report, Too Much Poultry.

Keywords: food, birds, oysters, kale

11/26/04 - Best Turkey Ever

Thanksgiving Update - The best turkey ever. We just feasted on our Heritage American Bronze bird from Heritage Foods, and it was spectactular. This is what turkey is supposed to taste like. The American Bronze breed is an old fashioned breed before they went nuts producing an infinite supply of white breast meat at the expense of flavor, texture and species viability.

We admit that this picture does not do the bird justice. In truth it LOOKS like just about any other bird, but the taste, the moistness, the texture, and the scent all outdid ANY commercial or organic bird we have tasted in years. No more woolen turkeys for Thanksgiving. Heritage birds forever.

Heritage American Bronze Turkey

Keywords: food, birds

Girl Grouse

08/29/04 - Blue Grouse at Hurricane Hill

The blue grouse are all over Hurricane Hill lately. If you want to tell the boys from the girls, check out the lady on the left and the lad on the right. He's the one with the golden eye and yellow feet.

The best spotting is towards the final third of the ascent with its "hanging gardens". There are just a few flowers left, but the high mountain foliage is starting to turn, and the grasses are in seed. Bring a rain coat in case a cloud drifts by, but it is not too late to enjoy the high country.
Boy Grouse

Keywords: birds, flowers, high country, hurricane hill, grouse

08/15/04 - Blue Grouse Chicks

We were up at Hurricane Ridge today. The temperature was in the 80s, but the air was dry. Most of the flowers have passed. There was one bunch of lupines, but the rest were harebells, yarrow and a few other late season bloomers.

We did see a number of blue grouse (or is it grice)? We even got a picture of a grouse and chick. You have to look carefully to spot them. They hide easily in the grass.

We thought we had seen a marmot, but it was just an ochre rock.

As for the snow. There is still a bit, sort of southwest of the Hurricane Hill summit. Don't expect to do much skiing.

The hike is still well worth taking. The plants are still green and loaded with seed pods including the white fluffy ones, the pea pods on the lupines, and the brown prickly ones.

Blue Grouse and Chick

Keywords: birds, high country, flowers, hurricane hill, hurricane ridge, grouse

07/20/04 - Rialto Beach and Second Beach

Rialto Beach is one of the most accessible of the West End beaches. You can even park right at the beach and climb over some driftwood to get at the waves. They even have a wheelchair accessible picnic area.

Since we like to get some exercise, we usually head out to Second Beach which is just across the Quillayute River. There is some satisfaction with the 3/4 mile rain forest walk you have to take to the surf, but Rialto beach offers instant gratification.

Of course, if you do get a mile or two north of the parking lot, you'll find a nice little headland climb if you want to continue. We usually just turn around and check out the sea stacks again.

Rialto Beach
Aside from sea stacks, like the one shown below, and nice walking beach, you can also see pelicans, seals, cormorants, and bald eagles. They were near extinction back in the 1960s, thanks to DDT, but now they have made a comeback.  We  often find them high on the tall trees just beyond the driftwood line on the beach.

Sea Stack at Rialto Beach

Keywords: second beach, beaches, birds, rialto beach, eagle

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