Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lighthouse Point

Decepton Pass from Lighthouse Point

From last winter, this is a view from Lighthouse Point in Deception Pass State Park.  The Deception Pass Bridge is in the background.  The Fidalgo headlands here are built of dunite stone revealing the island's volcanic origins.  Winter is the best time to visit the park in my opinion.  The air is the clearest for photos and the park is not crawling with tourists.  The temperature on that afternoon in February hovered around 50° F (10° C).

Despite the name, there is no lighthouse here in the classic sense.  It is a small, mechanized device, more like a ship light, located on one of the outcrops.

Monday, June 28, 2010


11:55 AM, Temp 57.0° F, Dew Point 51.9° F, Barometer 29.95 in, Wind SSW 2 mph, Humidity 83%

The Tug Boat Swinomish

This is the tugboat Swinomish out of La Conner, Washington, passing by Kiket Island.  With a raft of logs in tow, she is heading into Similk Bay.  They will spend a few hours there before traveling through Deception Pass.  This is a common site in upper Skagit Bay.  I believe they are waiting for a favorable tide before attempting transit through the Pass.  At certain times, the currents can be risky. 

The sandspit behind the tug is the Kiket Island tombolo, connecting its two parts.  I am pleased to learn that Kiket just became part of Deception Pass State Park.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Varnish Clams near Similk Bay, Washington

Most things on the beach come in shades of gray and other earth tones.  In such a setting, something glowing purple catches your eye.  These are the empty shells of the Varnish Clam (Nuttallia obscurata), a recent immigrant from Asia.  The outside of the shell is nondescript and can be seen at the larger shell's 10 o'clock position.  It does look as if it has been varnished.  They are thought to have been first introduced into the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver, B.C. in the late 1980's.  The dumping of ballast water by Asian transport ships is the probable source.  These empty shells were spotted near Similk Bay.  They are the likely victims of predation by Dungeness Crabs.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


10:37 AM, Temp 57.6° F, Dew Point 51.5° F, Barometer 30.15 in, Wind SW 4 mph, Humidity 80%

Columbian Black-tailed Deer
These are Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), no doubt stopping by to prune my Rugosas.  I believe this pair is brother and sister born two years ago.  When I see does with fawns, there are usually two youngsters.  The pairs will continue to hang out together for a couple of years.  Notice the antler buds sprouting from the gentleman on the right. 

When I purchased this property, a trail led from the road to the beach.  It turned out to be a deer trail.  After 23 years, the deer continue to follow the exact route of that trail.  This pair is right on track and probably headed to the beach for a little salt.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sole Food

On a beach hike last winter I came upon this gull struggling with his catch.  It was obviously a case of eyes bigger than stomach.  I believe he was a Glaucous-winged Gull, Larus glausescens, in his winter plumage.  He could also have been a Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) or even a hybrid of the two.

Did you know there are city gulls and country gulls?  In the town where I grew up we had city gulls.  They were noisy, aggressive, quarrelsome and frequently seen hanging out at dumpsters.  Back in the 1970's when "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" was the hot book, I never understood the appeal.

Where I live now we have country gulls, quiet and peaceable.  They will fly straight up into the air with a mussel and drop it onto the beach rocks to crack it open.  It's almost the only noise I ever hear them make.  Does that qualify as using tools?

I watched him work on that fish for about 20 minutes before moving on.  He did not seem inclined to give up, so I imagine he eventually got it down.  I went out to dinner that evening for fish and chips.  It was something I seemed to be craving.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Proof of Life

Abandoned Bird's Nest

I often find things in the yard related to the local wildlife, including crab legs and fish parts.  This morning I found this nest in the driveway.  It is evidence of another generation of young birds joining the local wildlife community.  I am guessing it was built by a sparrow, but the builder may have been a bit larger bird.  Whoever made this beautiful structure was an amazing architect.  It was well constructed of grass, twigs, leafy plants and some jute twine I recognized.  I am pleased to have provided building materials for this endeavor.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Wild Mock Orange

Low rainfall, poor soil and shade can be special problems for gardeners.  Finding plants that will tolerate all three can be a challenge.  One great solution for Pacific Northwest gardens is Wild Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii), the state flower of Idaho.  Not only is it native to the region, it is also a link to our history.  It was first described and named by Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  The variety 'Blizzard' is smaller and more upright than the wild species.  It grows to about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and wide.

Wild Mock Orange

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jedo Jima

Iris ensata 'Jedo Jima'

'Jedo Jima' is the name of this variety of Japanese Iris (Iris ensata).  This one is growing in a pot partially submerged in a pond, which it seems to like.  Many Irises enjoy slightly boggy conditions.  It was planted last year, and this is the first time I have seen it bloom.  I am not disappointed.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Visitors to Deception Pass State Park, Washington are always impressed by the old-growth forests, bays, beaches, islands, headlands and, of course, the bridge.  These features provide some great views and photo ops.  A visitor may also notice intriguing little close-ups.  A collage is a composition of small objects pasted together for their symbolic or suggestive effect.  The attentive hiker along the trails at Bowman Bay will discover collages created by nature.  The elements here include plants, stone, lichens, bark, moss and plant litter. 



HagakureMizu No OtoSamurai 
Top:  Tsunami
Above:  Karesansui, Nishikigoi, Ikebana, Hagakure, Mizu No Oto, Samurai

Posted with Windows Live Writer and adapted from an article originally published at Windows Live Spaces

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Already Showing Color

Time 10:20 am, Temp 63.9° F, Dew Pt 55.1° F, Barometer 30.07 in, Wind SSW 4 mph, Humidity 73%

Vine Maple (Acer circinatum)

Our native Vine Maples (Acer circinatum) can produce a spectacular color display in the fall.  These are very nice small scale trees for the naturalized or woodland landscape.  They fill the same garden niche as Japanese Maples or Full Moon Maples.  In full shade, they will take on their "viney" nature.  In the sun, they will become symmetrical trees or shrubs, depending on how they are pruned.  Young spring leaves appearing on new growth give us a hint to what is in store for the fall.  We are told that the reds, oranges and yellows are the true colors of deciduous leaves.  These colors are masked by chlorophyll which the tree quits producing as fall arrives.  As they mature in a few days, and chlorophyll production kicks in, these new leaves will become a velvety apple green color.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Skagit Bay Panorama

Skagit Bay Panorama

Even spring can bring blustery days and whitecaps around here.  This is the result when Pacific lows move inland north of us.  Such a day provided the opportunity to experiment with Canon’s “PhotoStitch” software.  I also used the “Stitch-Assist” camera setting.  Try saying “Stitch-Assist” three times fast.  This photo is a blending of four images taken from a single position on South Fidalgo Island.  It turned out surprisingly well, although the beach has assumed an odd boomerang shape.  The islands in the distance also look farther away than they really are.
The islands in the background from left are Fidalgo extending halfway across the background; closer are Kiket in two parts connected by a tombolo, Skagit, Hope (behind Skagit and the taller fir) and Whidbey on the right.
Posted with Windows Live Writer

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Lem's Cameo The rhododendron display was never better than it was this year.  Especially nice were the “yaks.”  The parent, Rhododendron yakushimanum comes from Yakushima Island in Japan, a World Heritage site.  My hybrids include Kristin, Yaku Princess, Silver Skies, Aloha and Ken Janeck. 

Another great rhododendron family was created by the famous Seattle hybridizer Halfdan Lem.  Lem’s Cameo is probably my most beautiful shrub.  When fully opened, the apricot and mahogany flower trusses stand almost a foot tall.  I also have a Point Defiance and hope to add a Lem’s Monarch if I can find a spot big enough to accommodate it.

Rhododendron catawbiense is an American native that grows wild in the Appalachian Mountains.  My ‘Album’ thrives and blooms reliably in almost total shade.  Ramapo, Dora Amateis, Nova Zembla and Anah Kruschke are also tough, dependable and easy to grow.  Finally, the lemon yellow Hotei, which bloomed partially for the first time last year, opened with a full display.  I moved it twice and waited almost ten years for this.  Now that it has found its spot, I will leave it alone.

Except for a few late bloomers, they are now entering their “second season” and sprouting bright new growth.  Throughout the year, these are beautiful plants for the understory of a woodland garden.  Here’s a taste of this year’s crop which should reveal why these great shrubs are among my favorites.

Rhododendron yakushimanum Yaku Princess Lem's Cameo
Kristin Dora Amateus Kristin
Ramapo Hotei Rhododendron yakushimanum
Nova Zembla R. catawbiense 'Album' Anah Kruschke

Posted with Windows Live Writer

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The Northwest has always been know for being green.  Washington’s nickname is the “Evergreen State.”  In my experience, however, I have never seen things greener than they have been this year.  After a relatively dry and calm winter, the spring has been unusually wet.  May alone delivered 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) of rain at my weather station.  The average here is 1.63 inches (4.14 cm).

A Rhododendron and friends thrive in the shade garden

Hostas thrive in wet weather.

The shade garden is flourishing in the rain and the Hostas have never looked better.  They attract slugs and snails like magnets, but the little critters have been oddly MIA this spring.  I am not complaining.  Perhaps the dry winter is an explanation, but I am sure they will catch up soon.

Japanese Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)

Oregon Oxalis (Oxalis oregana)

Shade, acid and moisture loving groundcovers like Japanese Pachysandra and Oregon Oxalis look terrific in the Douglas Fir understory.  They make great companions for rhododendrons.

Native Lupines (Lupinus polyphillus)

Japanese Iris (Iris ensata) like wet feet

Our native Lupines are also thriving in the damp weather.  They provide more temptations for slugs and snails, but having been left alone this year, they are destined to reach four feet tall.  Japanese Iris like to keep their feet wet.  If you plant them at the edge of a pond or partially submerge their pot, they’ll be happy as clams.  Literally. 

A robin's favorite perch with varieties of Thyme and Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata)

Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)

This little temple lantern is surrounded by a “lawn” of  Thyme, which looks like green velvet this year.  As you can see, the temple is one particular robin’s favorite perch.  The Western Sword Fern is indigenous.  I have a special passion for native plants, as you will come to know.  The sandy soil under one of my decks seems to be a Sword Fern nursery.  When they get big enough, I move them to new locations in the yard.  They are surprisingly drought tolerant.

Wallich's Wood Fern (Dryopteris wallichiana)

Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

The Wallich’s Wood Fern is a new plant for me.  They are slow growing, but eventually get large, 3-4 feet tall.  This one is keeping company with some ‘Pink Pewter’ Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum).  This is a showy groundcover for shady spots, but keep it watered.  The Lady Fern is another indigenous “weed” that comes up all over my yard.  I generally leave them where they are.  They are beautiful, but very delicate.  The fronds will break at the slightest nudge.

Back in mid-April, the yard was so dry, I had to turn on my sprinklers.  I have a lot of new plants that are not quite settled in.  Since the rains of May, however, I have been able to leave them switched off.  We’ll see how long that lasts.  As June moves into July, I am sure our Rain Shadow summer drought will set in once again. 
Posted with Windows Live Writer

Saturday, June 12, 2010

BP Spills Coffee

Our hearts are broken by the catastrophe in the Gulf and our rage is unbounded.  This nation is under assault by a vile and grossly incompetent cabal of corporations, BP, Halliburton and Transocean.

BP has a history of outrageous behavior.  It was formerly the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. In cahoots with the CIA in 1953, it orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadeq, to protect its oil interests.  This set in motion a chain of events that bring us to the situation we find ourselves today in the Middle East.

Do not allow the corporate news media, in league with BP and their advertising dollars, to rebrand this event the “Gulf Oil Spill.”  It is the BP Oil Spill, or if you prefer, the BP/Halliburton/Transocean Oil Spill.

Please do not misinterpret the humor of this video produced by the Upright Citizens Brigade.  This parody does not dishonor the eleven men who died in the initial event.  Neither is it an insult to the thousands along the Gulf Coast whose lives may be permanently destroyed.  Even those gentle, bewildered pelicans are not further harmed by it.  It is intended solely to dishonor BP.  Period.  Can you believe, there is now speculation that this company will file for bankruptcy protection and skip town?  This could become the worst environmental disaster since the K-T boundary event.  If the oil reaches the Gulf Stream, is it possible to find it eventually washing up on the shores of Iceland, Cornwall or the Hebrides?

This was my last post at Windows Live Spaces.  I thought it fitting to make it one of my first ones here as a transition

Friday, June 11, 2010


Rhododendron 'Blue Ensign'

Welcome to Fidalgo Island Crossings.  This posting marks the relaunch of a blog formerly hosted at Windows Live Spaces.  Using the “Pages” option here, I am also incorporating my Fidalgo Weather website as a part of this blog.  Eventually, I may take down the site and move the domain name here.  Thus, I am able to manage both the blog and website using a single platform.  Nifty!

This blog will focus on living in the natural world on and around Fidalgo Island, Washington.  I will be exploring nature in local parks, beaches, woods and in my back yard. Weather, wildlife and gardening will be central themes, but once in a while, I will wander into other subjects.

I look forward to meeting new people here and sharing my thoughts.  I invite others to join me in this new adventure.