[Tweeters] At Ray's End

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Thu Apr 7 22:54:14 PDT 2016

I was just down at the pier at Fort Worden, at day's end. Things were going on, under the sun's last ray's.
Scanning the water I saw few birds: a single Horned Grebe in breeding plumage, and also two Common Loons decked out in their fancy garb. The local Kingfisher (haven't noted an under dock nest yet Kelly), a few RB Mergansers, lots of distant Rhinos headed back to the barn ( Protection Island), and not much else. Pretty quiet.
A young Otter was galumphing around on the dock float, then dove off and disappeared.
A bit later I spotted an Otter a hundred yards out off the end of the pier, headed straight for me, resurfacing regularly and carrying something in it's mouth. First I thought it was a big crab, then as it got closer, it seemed like dinner was a fair-sized sole, or flounder. As my luck had it, the otter remained on course, and before it got to the pier I overheard some nearby folks talking about seeing an Otter, and sort of ushered them over to the pier rail in time for all of us to see the otter as it swam underwater below us.
I was sort of assuming the otter was headed to the dock float to haul out it's fish dinner. It did, and again it was right below us up on the pier. It was close enough to hear the crunching, as the critter chewed up it's catch. Getting a very good look at the fish, I realized "hey, that's a Ray!", which it was, although in the world of common names it would be more accurately called a Skate. This was the first I'd ever seen live (or almost live), and a young one - had about a 1ft wingspan - and really looked ray-like. With that whole otter thing going on this was, like, Ray's end. Ray's end at day's end.
Later, looking at my fish book at home, I figured this fish to be a small Big Skate ( I've seen a few big, and dead, one's washed up on the beach - the largest with about a 4ft 'wingspan'). Skate or Ray? Well the high-priced name for the Big Skate is Raja binoculata - Raja being sort of greek for either 'Ray', or 'Skate'. The specific name of the fish refers, of course, to binoculars. I propose the new name of Tweeters Skate. OK, I just made that last part up; binoculata actually refers to the two prominent 'eyespots' on the dorsal side of the things fins.
Anyhoo, just watching the otter tear into the fish was making me hungry. The nearby couple retrieved their teenage kid off the beach to watch the Otter show, which he also enjoyed. The dad of this crew said " We were at Tacoma Aquarium today, but this was better".
I guess I could've headlined this post as "Death at Fort Worden Skate Park" for more drama - hey, just sayin'.
Jeff Gibsonskating through the rays, inPort Townsend Wa.

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