[Tweeters] As The Bird Flies

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Jul 24 08:17:23 PDT 2016

As the Crow, or whatever, flies in Western Washington it's only 27 air miles from Port Townsend to Everett. A lot of change can happen in 27 miles around these parts.
I'm back in Everett for a week, mostly to work on boats. I can't help but snoop on nature while I'm here though. Port Townsend and Everett are wonderfully different places.
For one thing here in Mudville (as I prefer to call Everett, for ecological and political reasons) there is mud, and lots of it. You see, Mother Nature's Department of Geology ( Office of Fluvial Geomorphology) has installed a large river, the Shohomish, here in town. In the last low-gradient journey of this mighty river it washes only the finest particulate matter washes into the Sound - mud. Mud is very important for many estuary creatures.
The downside for a water snooper like me, is visibility. There is that saying "clear as mud", and often the water visibility at the mouth of the river, is only about a foot or two deep. To me anyhoo. Those with much better eyesight than myself, like Terns and Ospreys, seem to get plenty of fish despite the murk. In the marina I was able to spot Shiner Perch and Stickleback fish near the surface
In the 27 miles between Port Townsend and Mudville the annual precipitation doubles. That makes a big difference in the vegetation of the two places. Over here in Mudville, there are a lot more Hemlocks, Cedars, Alders, Salmonberry's and Elderberry's lurking about the habitat, than in dry ol' Port Townsend. Kind of an interesting change for a naturalist.
Sometimes I wish I could fly. Like when I fork out my big fat summer ferry fee to cross the Sound. It makes a big dent in my thin wallet. Oh well, that's "progress" I suppose. Some birds could make the trip in short order paying with only calories. 27 miles - what's the flight cost for that? I have no idea - I'm no scientist. I imagine a Crow on cruise control could make the trip in an hour. How about those zippy Caspian Terns?
One thing Mudville has plenty of is fast flying Caspian Terns. Apparently, Port Townsend (the body of water) has a bunch of them nesting on Rat Island ( a small cobble isle between Marrowstone and Indian island). But that's across the Port from town, and I don't hear or see too many terns in town. Rat Island, just for the record, is named for it's rat-like shape. If there were really rats out there the terns would undoubtably find a better place to nest.
Anyhoo, the Mudville waterfront is swarming with Caspian's. Having been out of town for the last few years, I haven't heard too much about the Caspian Terns nesting here since my Anchor Pub days, so I went down the drive to check out the big industrial building at the bottom of Everett Ave. where they used to nest, and found several hundred on the big flat-topped building. The westering sun lit up about a million loose tern feathers on the roof, so I imagine there are more terns using the spot than what I saw on my brief check.
Driving back to my boat job at the marina down W. Marine View Drive, I noted a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead. It was paralleling my drive for long enough for my trucks Falcon-o-meter to clock it in at a steady 40mph flight speed. Could get to PT in short order.
Back to mud. Shorebirds need that mud, and Peregrines need those shorebirds. Port Townsend has it's charms, but so does Mudville - like terns, falcons, ospreys, and masses of shorebirds. I checked on the latter a few times with no luck - missed the incoming tide. Oh well, maybe today.
Jeff Gibsonreporting fromMudville Wa

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