[Tweeters] The Storm on the outer coast-2 Dec.

Andy Stepniewski steppie at nwinfo.net
Thu Dec 6 14:38:34 PST 2007



Ellen and I ventured out to the outer coast Sunday. The weather forecast was
grim with predictions of high winds and heavy rain. These came true. We
started at Westport at the observation platform near the gangway to the
fishing pier. It was too windy and wet to scope Grays Harbor from the
platform so we set up in the lee of the public restrooms. Much better!
NORTHERN FULMARS were plying about seeming not to mind the gale. We counted
about 20 fulmars, 2/3 light birds. Twice a SHEARWATER flew by. The one I
studied in flight seemed a bit smaller than a Sooty and seemed to fly a
little more choppily than a Sooty, both features suggesting Short-tailed
Shearwater. In the end we decided not to name these birds except "shearwater
sp.," though we "needed" Short-tailed. Out in mid channel we watched a few
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES gracefully maneuver in the winds.

A few hundred yards west towards the observation tower, we enjoyed a very
brief lull in the storm and clambered above the jetty and watched ROCK
SANDPIPERS, SURFBIRDS, and BLACK TURNSTONESclambering on the rocks below.

South, at Midway Beach, we noticed the winds had quickly escalated. In the
wild tempest we watched Least Sandpipers (at ¾ of an ounce, the world's
smallest shorebirds) struggling with their toes to grip the beach wrack but
were literally blown away to the north, disappearing from sight into the
beachgrass. We too quickly fled this scene of utter wildness.

At Cape Shoalwater near North Cove, an exposed eminence, we evidently hit
the storms rage at its height. We set up our scopes under our vehicles
hinged tailgate and were able to scope the few gulls out on the beach.
Sanderlings struggled here to remain upright and earthbound, as on Midway
Beach. The scene here was of indescribable fury. Peering out to the
wind-whipped waves reminded me of films we've seen of the Southern Ocean in
a storm. We could not determine the height of the waves but the weather
discussion today talks of 35-40 footers. Behind us, across US-101, the gale
was ripping through the coastal forest of Sitka Spruce, howling so we could
not hear each other. We did not linger here long either.

Just south of South Bend we noticed large flocks of geese and ducks grazing
in the pastures beside US-101. Again we set up our scopes under the tailgate
American and EURASIAN WIGEONS, Northern Pintails) birds. A WA State Patrol
officer stopped and approached us "You're not doing anything illegal but I
just want to say this is a very powerful storm. This is my day off but I've
been called in for duty.if you want to stay out in it that is your choice."
I gathered this officer had not read John Muir's passages where he reveled
in the wild Sierra storms which"seldom set in before the end of November."
John writes of setting out to climb tall firs in Yosemite Valley "to see
what I could learn."

On returning home, we read of maximum winds at Hoquiam reaching 81 mph at
about the same time we were at Cape Shoalwater.

Andy Stepniewski

Wapato WA

steppie at nwinfo.net

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