[Tweeters] Aware the Ides of March!

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Tue Mar 15 21:34:58 PDT 2016

"Beware the Ides of March" is the famous line in William Shakespeare's play 'Julius Caesar' - a soothsayers warning to the well known Roman big shot. Caesar did happen to have a real bad day on March 15 44 BC after all. Oh well.
Two thousand and sixty years later now, and I had a good afternoon visit at Fort Worden, here in Port Townsend. As far as I know, there wasn't anything to beware of, but some cool things to be aware of. It was just about this time last year when I saw a lot of Tubesnouts - one of my favorite marine fishes, down at the PT Marine Science Center pier. So, feeling lucky, I went down there today to check it out.
And I was lucky because after days of murk-creating storms, the water had settled down and cleared up again. Plus it was a low tide (a zero) which made viewing of marine creatures easier. And furthermore, the low slanting light at 430 lit the water just right for some good viewing. Kinda quiet bird wise- some Crows, Eagles, and some Com. Goldeneyes. Etc.
An Otter was crunching a big crab up, at one end of the floating dock, and I snuck down the stairs at the other end to snoop the water with my binoculars. Under the ramp and under the overhanging pier, many thousands of Mysid shrimp were swarming just below the surface. These are a small shrimp ( one inch or less long) that swim like a fish - in fact the swarms of these little guys looked like schools of tiny fish, until one got a closer look ( like with my close-focusing binoculars). Then one could see the shrimpy features of these largely transparent creatures - on a sunny day with the sun just right, you can see the shadows these little swimmers cast on the sand, but you can't see the source of the shadows, which is sort of uncanny. Aware the Ides of March!
In the just so slanting light under the pier I did notice the transparent bodies had rows of brilliantly irridescent spots down their length. And seen with backlighting, their big eyes glowed green. A tiny, yet wonderful , light show. As I watched the Mysid swarms, I noticed larger, darker, forms moving below them.
Tubesnout's! While the Tubesnout is a small slinky fish about 6 inches long, and shaped like a piece of eelgrass, these seemed like big Barracuda's, or maybe even Dolphins, compared to the schools of little shrimp - which the Tubesnouts were eating up with quick darting movements. A real Tubesnout feast. Mysids, beware the Ides of March.
Since a zero tide exposes a little cobble "reef" on North Beach (just down from the campground), I bopped over there it check that out. Still a bit cool out, and the waters there were not exactly swarming with stuff, I did note that the Surf grass was starting to grow. Like their relative, Eelgrass, these marine "grasses" are actually flowering plants. Unlike terrestrial lawns that fry to near death every dry PT summer, these sea-lawns thrive only during times of the most sunlight - it takes some high-angle sun to penetrate the water enough to kick off some photosynthesis. Did you know that all those other "seaweeds" various kelps and whatnot, are not even considered plants? Algae is not a plant anymore - what it actually is - well, ask a taxonomist, they're working on it.
Meanwhile, back at the pier, saw even more thousands of Mysids swarming. Mysids eat plankton, so the plankton must be getting warmed up once again. March on!
Jeff GibsonMarching inPort Townsend Wa

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