Blog Posts

Featured

Cormorants: Members of the Peaceable Kingdom?

The most visible bird on any trip to Woodard Bay are the dark shapes of cormorants winging to and from their nests clustered on the far shore to the bay waters and pilings where dozens were gathered, crowding near the hauled up seals. It was difficult to know which species were mumbling and grumbling more about the state of the world, yet together they seemed rather content to soak up the sun emerging from the morning hangover of clouds. Almost the only other sound was the whirring of wings as cormorants went about their business on this late summer day.

I remembered the first time I had seen that these cormorants nested high up in trees along the shore of the bay. I had supposed they were ground nesters like many shorebirds but instead, like Great Blue Herons, as incongruous as that seemed for such large heavy birds, they built massive twiggy nests well off the ground in a kind of sky-high community in a grove of fir trees. I happily added that new information to my small store of bird lore. But on this trip, for the first time, I noticed that the nest trees were looking decidedly gray—dead or dying, in fact. My very knowledgeable companion confirmed that cormorants eventually killed their nest trees with the accumulation of droppings and from the damage inflicted by stripping branches for nest materials. The evidence of their burden, pardon the pun, was visibly adding up. Silently I wondered what would become of this beautiful shoreline forest if the cormorants moved from grove to grove leaving behind devastation. Would the process eventually reverse itself with the extra nutrients enriching the soil and regenerating the trees? I tried for the long view, but I had my doubts.

A rather dark photograph taken on a cloudy day but the dying trees with resident cormorants–the large black “dots”–are clearly outlined.

I’m far from alone with my feelings of ambivalence. Wanting to know more, I searched for information about the life and ways of cormorants. I recalled news stories about struggles down on the Columbia River where cormorants were gobbling up young salmon as they made their way around dams to reach the sea. Wildlife biologists were struggling to moderate the hungry birds’ “take” and balance one form of “Nature” with another, letting birds do what birds do and yet needing to protect endangered salmon from their seemingly voracious appetites. This is a very human-induced problem. We built the dams that decimate the salmon and, as it happens, we—as it were, represented by the Army Corps of Engineers—created an artificial island near the dam in the early 1980s called East Sand Island, now home to this thriving colony of cormorants and Caspian terns. The absolute security from predators on this island, with a guaranteed abundance of fish, have created the conditions for the largest gathering of cormorants on the continent. And now we are aghast and bringing in measures both annoying and lethal to deal with the flourishing cormorants.

Not so long ago, in 1972 the National Audubon Society listed cormorants as a species of special concern. They had been hunted relentlessly, not for meat or feathers but because they compete with us for fish, and were also vulnerable to the contamination of the environment with DDT. Since the banning of DDT and with protection of their nesting sites with the revision of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other acts to include cormorants in their provisions, the species have bounced back with a remarkable resurgence of numbers. Is this success? It seems humans can’t make up their minds about cormorants. Anywhere humans feel they are competing with the diving birds for fish there is conflict; anywhere the nesting birds appear to dominate areas and compete with other beloved birds or destroy trees there is also conflict. And where there is conflict there are attempts to get rid of cormorants. Should we be picking favorites, privileging one species over another: herons and egrets over cormorants, trees over the birds who inhabit them, fish over birds who eat them, fishermen and fish farmers struggling to make a living over the birds who just want to live?

Is there room for everybody? The seals and cormorants were able to share the haul-out logs; can we find a way to live and let live, too? What would a true balance of nature look like? In this Anthropocene epoch we’ve gone too far down the road of management to just throw up our hands; we’ve got to engage in the difficult work of sorting out what is “natural” and what could do with a little help, or acceptance, or more study.

My thoughts on cormorants were informed by reading an essay by Richard J. King, “To Kill a Cormorant,” posted on the website Natural History at https://www.naturalhistorymag.com/features/19298/to-kill-a-cormorant

And the essay by Brian S. Dorr and David G. Fielder, “The rise of double-crested cormorants: Too Much of a Good Thing?” posted on the website of The Wildlife Society at https://wildlife.org/the-rise-of-double-crested-cormorants-too-much-of-a-good-thing/

Woodard Bay can be found just north of Olympia following these instructions:
From I-5 heading south, take Exit 109 (Martin Way Exit) towards Sleater-Kinney Road, and make a right onto Sleater-Kinney Rd NE. Travel approximately 4.5 Miles and continue as it turns into 56th Ave NE For 0.4 Miles. When you reach the “T”, turn right onto Shincke Rd NE and proceed one-half mile. Turn to the left and becomes Woodard Bay Rd NE. Cross the bridge over Woodard Bay and find a parking lot on your right.
Woodard Bay was designated a Natural Resources Conservation Area in 1987, one of the first in Washington state. A Discovery Pass is required to access the trails that lead to the bay. A wonderful gift to us all!

Featured

As Summer Slips Away

There is a persistent buzzing sound emanating from the tangle of rhododendron bushes that create a safe bird habitat tunnel on one side of my house. I pause and wait and am rewarded by a glimpse of something small and pert with an upright flag of a tail: a Bewick’s wren. As a novice birder I am pleased to have recognized that distinctive call that drew my attention to the otherwise small brownish gray bird nearly invisible in the thick leaves. Learning bird sounds, bit by bit, has added to my awareness and affection for these lively but elusive creatures. My ordinary-day life is made richer by these chance encounters; there is more life going on than I knew!

Birds are everywhere! As the cat follows me onto our front porch we both hear the scream of an eagle aloft in the sky as it wheels large circles above nearby Capitol Lake; we look at each other for reassurance and she elects to stay on the porch for now. I nod my agreement even though it would be fantastical if an eagle could dodge all the fences, bushes and other barriers to snatch the cat dozing by the tomatoes, but who wants to find out?

She elects to sprawl on the cushioned bench where she studiously has to ignore the frantic maneuvers of two hummingbirds squabbling over the hanging feeders. Their iridescent flashes are the lightning bolts to the thundering whirr of their wings as they chase each other through the garden. Quieter birds go about their business scratching for bugs, twittering to each other in my neighbor’s protective holly tree, and gathering in small groups on the wires above; mating and raising broods are done for the season. The only other sound comes from scrub jays pounding hazelnut shells on the roof, hopeful of the prize within.

It’s the in-taking pause of breath as one season begins its turn to the next, summer into autumn. Mornings are cooler, often misty and gray, but clearing into heat and high skies by afternoon. We awake now in darkness and clear away dinner dishes as night overtakes sunset. The birds already know all about the waning season; observing them and understanding their cycles offers us a calendar of days full of light and dark, growth and rest, the eternal round.

The Wild Without

As a child I found a touch of wilderness in a straggly line of trees edging a field. A nearby trickle of water was full of frog life, insects, and the mysterious rustlings of bulrushes and unseen possibilities. Birds twitted overhead, busy and preoccupied with their own societies. One summer a weasel family took up residence and if I sat very still, would slip into view for magical moments and then melt away. It was a small paradise within calling distance of my home.

I recall this special place to remind myself that the natural world is often close by. To my delight I can observe downy woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and Bush tits busy at my feeder outside my kitchen window as I wash dishes at the sink. Flickers come and dangle off the feeders as these outsized birds pretend that their contortions are just as dainty as the smaller birds. Juncos and Spotted Towhees work the ground beneath the feeder for all the spilled bounty. The thick bushes give cover for foraging and shelter. The scene is cozy and convivial with a lot of good-natured fluttering and turn-taking.

But yesterday, a different kind of wildness showed up. A very large hawk appeared in the spreading maple tree that fills one side of the front lawn next door. It sat very erect and attentive, partially screened by twiggy branches. It was a dark shape that exuded a silent menace, a threat to the smaller birds. Its long barred tail, scatterings of brown flecks and chest blotches suggested a Cooper’s hawk but it could also have been a Northern Goshawk that also displays a barred tail—the feature most clearly seen through the branches. Both hawks inhabit this corner of the country but Cooper’s are more often seen in neighborhoods near feeders, according to my bird guides. There was nothing convivial about its presence!

I am indebted to my neighbor for alerting me to the presence of the hawk in his tree and for the use of his photos above
and below. We had a lively discussion about what kind it might be but were not able to be sure of our identification with such an obscured view of the bird. Still, it was thrilling to realize its closeness.

It stayed for several long minutes and then silently drifted away. I caught a glimpse of it being harassed out of the neighborhood by a flock of crows. As its huge straight-winged shape disappeared from sight I felt a shiver pass through me. A touch of the wild: more wild than my friendly chickadees, untamed, inscrutable, the hawk existed truly outside my human frame of reference. It was a thrill to see it! It gave me a jolt of adrenaline.

I thought of the weasels that led their secret lives so near by my childhood woodsy spot. They were unmistakably sharp-toothed, fierce and fearless, carnivorous to the core. I remembered how they thrilled me then, just as this hawk brushed me with its danger and mystery now. We crave the wild, we need the “other” to wake up our senses and remind us the world still has its sharp edges and is not made for our convenience and comfort alone. The wide gray sky that had held the imprint of the hawk’s flight was now impassive and empty but my day was transformed from the ordinary to the sensational.

Turkey Time

Happy Thanksgiving! Let me say I am so grateful for you, my readers who join me here in pondering the nature of Nature, sharing our experiences of discovery, wonder and appreciation, and stepping with me outside just to see what might be there. And in finding inspiration in the life and work of Margaret McKenny.

Thoughts of Thanksgiving….in short order, lead to thoughts about turkeys, historical and the kind running around today, or available in our grocery stores. One interesting fact I just learned was that turkeys were, of course, native to the Americas and first domesticated by the Mayans of southern Mexico, where they came to the attention of the conquering Spaniards who exported the delicious birds back to Spain. This new kind of large fowl quickly spread all over Europe—and this was the fascinating part—may have been brought back to the “new world” by the Pilgrims. The traditional telling of the story of the first Thanksgiving has been generally debunked but it may, just maybe, have been true that turkey could have been on the menu.

What is not controversial is the ubiquitousness of turkey, on groaning feast tables now and in practically every corner of the nation. And not just in meat markets but flourishing in woodlands and fields, shrub-lands and suburbs. The natural terrain for wild turkeys is highly variable; they eat everything from insects, seeds, fruit, snails, grain and your garden plants. There are three main sub-species found in Washington State, Merriam’s, Rio Grande, and eastern, with some cross-breeding to keep things interesting; some prefer a dry climate while some do better in more temperate conditions, but on the whole these are highly adaptable birds who have spread widely and successfully.

Female turkey, photograph by David Turko, Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, Macaulay Library Collection

I remember vividly the first wild turkeys I ever saw. We were driving on an uncrowded highway in upstate New York when one or two burst onto the road from the wayside and flew across our path. They were gone in a flash but the impression of great size and speed stayed with me. Since then we have seen them more closely in Walla Walla, strutting through fields, pecking and gobbling, confident in their numbers and strength, and also in the Methow Valley, equally at home, and accompanied by small crowds of brown fluffy chicks pecking at anything moving, just like their parents. They dominate any field or roadside as they pass through an area; they appear fearless and unconcerned with lesser beings such as ourselves.

Large male turkey, Photograph by Brian McKenney, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology website,
Macaulay Library Collection

Turkeys, however, are prized by hunters. That was the other thing I learned that surprised me. Turkeys did not spread across the land without concerted effort by humans. Originally, their range was more restricted, however adaptable they have proven to be. But because so many found them to be challenging to hunt and then tasty to eat, Game departments in state after state introduced turkeys everywhere they could, experimenting until they found the right sub-species for every environment in the country, except Alaska where the cold winters defeated introductory efforts. Even Hawaii.

Hawaii! Don’t they have enough issues there with introduced species creating problems no one foresaw? Are turkeys like very large starlings? All kinds of questions arise in the mind about “native vs. introduced and invasive species.”

What do we think of this success story?

Some neighborhoods rue the day turkeys arrive to settle in gardens, tree copses and open areas. Turkeys have been reported shredding lawns and flower gardens, roosting noisily on rooftops and patios, terrorizing and chasing small children and pets, leaving droppings littering every surface, and even attacking cars. Apparently they are attracted to shiny metal surfaces and have been known to vigorously peck and dent the doors out of curiosity. As their numbers grow and their boldness increases, wild turkeys become not sources of wonder but objects of vilification and fear. These are very large and aggressive birds.

A large flock foraging in some woods, Photograph by Michael J. Good
Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, Macaulay Library Collection

Ben Franklin thought they should be nominated our national bird. It might be time to have a national conversation about turkeys again, beyond “white meat or dark.” Should we really be actively encouraging and facilitating the spread of this species for reasons of recreation without much thought about the other consequences? We can all pull up to the table and discuss such knotty issues as, “What is natural? What is good stewardship? Where do turkeys belong? Who decides?” Pass the gravy!  And thanks!

Treasures in the Duff

It was a dark and wet typical November weekend but the salal shone with a green intensity that celebrated the weeks of rain, the lichen decorating rocks and branches was plush with moisture, and the mushrooms—the mushrooms were holding their own gala event. In preparation for attending our first mushroom extravaganza, aptly named, we walked slowly, heads down, scanning the ground. Into the trees, slightly off the path, meandering into mossy dells and leaf-strewn hollows. And there they were, popping up, well, like mushrooms. Small delicate brown ones, startling white knobby ones, gingery-orange ones, fluted, gilled, spindly or sturdy, one at a time or in rashes of eruption. It was a treasure hunt.

We didn’t, just then, try to name them or classify them in any way. My copy of David Arora’s excellent guidebook, All That the Rain Promises, and More, was still tucked in my suitcase and my copy of Margaret’s The Savory Wild Mushroom is too fragile for field outings on such a rainy day. It didn’t matter. Our only purpose was to wander and wonder.

Later that day, when the exhibition hall opened, the mushroom hunters filled the tables with mushrooms as big as cabbages and tiny as jewels, of every color and shape imaginable and a good many beyond imagination. The experts paused, studied, sometimes conferred, and then scribbled the Latin names and common names by each specimen. Some tables featured edibles while others displayed mushrooms not suitable for the forager’s pot. Listening in, I learned that there is a not a firm line between the two groups and some risky nibbling was confessed, for the sake of scientific discovery, or boundary pushing, or anthropological experimentation. Everyone could agree and marvel at the abundant haul of one day’s search. The Earth was richly generous with mycological gifts for all who knew where to look.

The chaga tea* flowed, camaraderie filled the place with good feeling and shared curiosity, amateurs were encouraged, experts and adepts respected and admired. The talks by the guest specialists were informative and yet accessible even to rank beginners such as ourselves. We left feeling encouraged and motivated to learn more about mushrooms, these amazing life forms that are anything but ordinary.

Warming up in a nearby café, we fell into conversation with a neighbor. She talked about how mushroom hunting benefited her in another way; she said looking for mushrooms brought her peace and calm. It didn’t take many steps into a mushroom walk to slow down and free her mind of nagging thoughts, her said that her gaze cleared and became focused, and the mushrooms appeared. For her, such a walk was a form of meditation, a centering exercise, and spiritually refreshing just to see them.

November is considered cheerless and dark by many, but now it has assumed a bright new dimension: a month of celebration of mushrooms! A chance to experience the quiet pleasure of looking down—and inwards—to discover one of the wonders of the world, the fruiting of the mysterious mycelia that binds the underworld of Nature in a vast living web.

*Chaga tea is made from a Siberian mushroom and is considered by some as an immune booster and general tonic.  

Re-enchantment Underfoot

You just never know what a little mushroom study is going to reveal! This discovery on a casual walk in my neighborhood took me down the rabbit hole with Alice and out onto northern tundra with the Sami—and beyond! Hang on.

I was on a stroll admiring the fantastic leaf show we are enjoying this year when I happened to notice these almost-cartoon like mushrooms sprouting in a nearby garden. This is the first time I have found fly amanita outside of a book. This cluster all sported the bright red caps with small whitish bits, stark-white thick stems with knobby bases and the characteristic white gills. It was an exciting find!

In Margaret’s classic text on edible and non-edible mushrooms, The Savory Wild Mushroom, these beauties fall into the do-not-eat category. She writes, “This is the mushroom so often pictured in European fairy tales.” And indeed, I recognized it from a children’s book very popular in this household when fairy stories were the rage. Margaret further explains, “It is called ‘fly amanita’ because it is thought a decoction made from it kills flies. It is definitely dangerous but fortunately, it is quite easy to recognize; the bright red, orange, or yellow cap with its white warts is in itself a conspicuous warning for even the most unwary collector.”

Latin name: Amanita Muscaria
“Found growing in coniferous forests, or on their edges, sometimes in bushes near open fields.”
The Savory Wild Mushroom contains a fuller description for identification purposes.

I wasn’t thinking of picking any and certainly not sautéing any for lunch, but I was still curious about the connection with fairy stories. Mushrooms attract all kinds of lore and magical associations, no doubt because some of them do contain substances that induce visions and dreams and other shamanic experiences. A little poking around uncovered just such a link with this red-capped amanita that seemed to come out of the oldest prehistoric days but still plays a role in cultural practices of some Sami, the indigenous people of the sub- and Arctic lands of the Scandinavian countries and parts of Russia.  Sami who still maintain some of their traditional semi-nomadic ways, rely heavily on their herds of reindeer for meat, fur and sledge transportation.

The people and reindeer have evolved together for survival in this rather harsh landscape for thousands of years, foraging for food with an intimate knowledge of their environment. The large feet of the deer allow them better purchase in the snow and enable them to dig under it in winter for their sustenance. And one of their favorite foods is—surprise—the fly amanita. They absolutely relish the fruited form of this fungi and it appears to do them no harm. Shamans seem to have taken a cue from the reindeer and also partook of this delicacy, which was said to induce visions that felt like flying while in trances. I’m not sure what to think of the free associations of the online sources that coupled red clad magical figures pulled by flying reindeer who may, or may not, have had red noses from imbibing hallucinogenic substances.

[See, for instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkCS9ePWuLU ]

But, well, where do stories of the North Pole, sleighs full of toys, and midnight rides that can magically circle the globe in one long night originate? The bright red mushroom with the bits of white “fur” trim, though definitely not for eating, is a storied fruit! If you should see it, you’ll never forget it.  And now you’ll have even more to wonder.

All specimens found clustered together in a neighboring garden.

Witnessing Indigenous People’s Day, Finding a Way to Participate

There is a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with a day—this day—honoring instead the first peoples of the land, their ways of life, wisdom stories, ceremonies, and histories.  Moving away from a celebration of “discovery” of an already well-populated land and its conquest and appropriation, towards an appreciation of the many cultures long embedded on the land, Native—as my Oxford Dictionary has it: “belonging naturally, from the very soil,”—is a shift in consciousness overdue and desperately needed. The dominant culture—the domineering culture—has lost its way. We need a new story, a new way that inspires and informs a way of living with more awareness, more care, more knowledge. This day is an opportunity and a reminder to recognize that there has always been a model of how to live well in this place if we would only pay it some attention.

In search of this wisdom, this better path, I turned to the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer. I have been slowly reading and pondering her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, dipping into its chapters and exploring its stories. I do not want to come to its end. I know I will read this book over and over, finding new messages and sinking her words deep into my heart and mind. This morning I added another dimension to my study of her work when I listened to her address a roomful of conferees at the Geography of Hope conference held in Point Reyes, California in 2015. Her posted message from that day resonates even more urgently today; we have even less time to lose!

I can only begin to tell the power of her message and her invitation to explore the “other intelligences” beyond the human who share this planet with us and to attempt to open myself to the wisdom of the plants and animals as she recommends. One thing she said—among many—that seized my attention was that we “already know” this ancient knowledge that the world is animate. The world is alive and communicating with us, ready to teach us the way. In a flash I understood that yes, we knew this as children. Then the world was enchanted; then we knew the trees and birds and wind and sun are as alive as we were. We can recover that knowledge and rebuild that relationship, reconnect in that vital way and begin again to live as if every being mattered, that there is no “us and them.” No “it” or “other” but as Robin states, all are kin. All.

This majestic Big-leaf maple tree, along with its twin now lost to demolition, was a place of magic for my children when they were very young. They could play under its embracing boughs for hours, making up stories and quietly absorbing its strong presence. I think of it now as an important “elder” in their lives, and still in mine.

As I’ve written before, I struggle to feel “native to this place” as an immigrant and as a novice to understanding Nature’s gifts in this moist and mossy land. My ancestors are from other far-away places and I can claim no deep roots to this soil. I feel an interloper in this quest. But Robin Kimmerer offers a way to honor this special day: through gratitude. We can begin to repay the debt by paying attention to what is here, the air we breathe, the ground we walk upon. We can plant ourselves here and tend the land. We can be grateful and full of wonder at the cedar trees and salmon and salal, the eagles and hummingbirds, the nuthatches and downy woodpeckers, flickers and tiny bush tits. Even as we partake, we can give back our reverence and regard as one of the family of beings.

It’s impossible to capture the entirety of this huge tree.
The weathered bark-skin, the mossy patches and small pockets between root systems created a world for imaginative play. When we eventually wandered home, everyone was calm and quiet. We had been with a great and ancient grandmother being.

You can find Robin’s keynote speech concerning Women and the Land here: https://www.humansandnature.org/videos#sb=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhQKdJHLDcw

Foraging, Guide Book in Hand

Conditions are optimal, cool but not cold, rainy but not soggy-wet. Will this be the Fall I finally go mushroom hunting? I often see mushrooms and marvel at their variety of shapes and colors: pink! Orange! Stark white! From puffballs to morels, they are fascinating and strange. As a kid, I collected bracket fungi, the kind that forms little shelves on trees, but other than appreciating their velvety touch and curious appearance, I didn’t know much about them. Exploring Margaret’s world has opened the door to a greater understanding of fungi.

Some are delicate, ephemeral….

Margaret’s first published book was an introductory text on mushrooms, written for children and adult novices. Mushrooms of Field and Wood was published in 1929, after years of her own study and joy of hunting mushrooms with friends and fellow adepts. It was then—and to some extent still is—a pursuit tinged with mystery and a hint of danger if the object of desire was culinary in nature. Margaret herself often warned readers in her local newspaper column and other publications that, “Meadow mushrooms [for instance] are good food, and it’s lots of fun to go to the meadows and gather a big basketful, but be very, very careful about gathering them. For the first few times always go with someone who knows about them scientifically.” She did all she could to educate the public through her books, Nature Notes, slide presentations, radio talks, and mushroom exhibits and shows. Her door was famously open to all who had questions about what they had found in those fields and woods.

Others are sturdier, almost “meaty,” but wonderfully formed.
Margaret writes that the word “mushroom” derives from the French word for “mossy,” [moussu]…because so many grow in deep, mossy woods. This one is a happy example.

Margaret is not here to answer knocks on the door these days, but her own book, the second one on the subject, The Savory Wild Mushroom, as well as many good field guides with hundreds of photographs displaying the colorful world of mushrooms are a place to begin. And mushrooms stand still while you flip through the pages, unlike a bird on the wing or one half hidden by bushes. Still, “hundreds” of mushrooms can be daunting. Author Annie Lamont reminds us to learn our birds, “bird by bird” and remember, we already know robins, crows and eagles, and many others. I think I’d know a morel or a chantarelle, but before I head out with a gathering basket, I’ll be tapping someone who knows them “scientifically” to lead the trip. I promise not to tell just where the treasures are to be found!

A knowledgeable friend identified these fungi as Turkey Tails and said they could be brewed as a tea to boost the immune system. We didn’t try it that day, but maybe sometime?
Mushroom hunting usually involves close study of the ground but we should also remember to look up!

Autumnal Equinox: Let’s Celebrate!

It’s solidly dark in the mornings here when we get up, and increasingly gray and overcast into the afternoons. Time to dig out the sweaters and umbrellas and woolly socks. Now that we are well beyond any kind of back-to-school schedule at our house, noticing the seasonal change has more to do with light and darkness, the flocking of birds, and watching the trees pause their summer exuberance and slip into Fall colors. I need to get outside and pick the last tomatoes, ready or not.

Putting the garden to bed is now one of my most important Fall rituals. Composting tomato and squash vines, spreading mulch, and snuggling downed leaves around tender plants gets me, as well as the yard, ready and in tune with the new season. I also compulsively pick up bright leaves to press and any good-looking acorns and chestnuts that decorate nearby sidewalks. I can’t resist palming their smooth surfaces and pocketing the best specimens; they fill bowls at home, a reminder of the bounty found everywhere this time of year.

Another Fall ritual I don’t always manage in time, is to go down to the bay and watch the returning salmon swirling in small groups, readying themselves to head upstream for spawning. Arriving from their sojourn in salt waters, they transform themselves for the swim in fresh waters; the change from silver to red being the most visible from my viewing platform above the water. I am always surprised by how big they appear. Although elated to see them again, there is poignancy in witnessing this iconic Northwest passage. They haven’t quite finished their journey, so crucial to the continued survival of this beleaguered species, but the hungry seals are circling in anticipation of a feast. I was anxious to urge them onwards.

The salmon are a little difficult to see, just reddish shapes congregating in the water.
This Great Blue Heron was concentrating on the stickleback also present in the water, but not visible to us except when the heron fished one out and swallowed it with a quick gulp. The seagull appears as a mere bystander.

Fall is full of contradictions like that: death and rebirth, loss and return, a turning inward and time of reflection. A treasury of harvest, a culmination of growth composting back to earth, a piling up of nutrient riches for another Spring. My favorite season!