Thursday, September 30, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Lifting Fog

Time: 0738

Off South Fidalgo Island, the fog lifts from Skagit Bay in this seven minute sequence.  Because of our proximity to the Pacific Ocean, early morning fog can be a year-around phenomenon here.  It usually lifts before or shortly after sunrise.  Fog is a low-lying cloud which forms from moist air when the difference between air temperature and the dew point is small.  The driftwood is probably debris from the Skagit River seeking its home on the South Fidalgo shore.

Time: 0742

Time: 0745

Skywatch Friday

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

Time 16:30, Temp 59.1° F, Dew Point 58.5° F, Barometer 29.96 inHg, Wind Calm, Humidity 98%

Skagit Bay off South Fidalgo Island

The peace of the day may be found in nature's expressions.  A light rain falls as mists wrap around the islands.  Another flock of migrating Canada Geese takes a rest stop on the beach.

Migrating Canada Geese

Migrating Canada Geese

Migrating Canada Geese

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Contrail

Contrail over Skagit Bay

Over Skagit Bay, high altitude cirrus clouds with encroaching cirrostratus predict possible rain within 48 hours.  The contrail marks the path of an aviator from N.A.S Whidbey Island.

Skywatch Friday

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Canadians: On Schedule

Time 11:50, Temp 55.8 °F, Dew Pt 53.2 °F, Barometer 29.79 inHg, Wind 2 mph WSW, Humidity 92%

Canada Geese on migration

As promised, my Canadians stopped by today for a drink of fresh water.  The cosmic clock chimed right on schedule.  After a rainy morning, the sky cleared a bit to offer a comfortable stop-over.  This has been an annual fall event in the 20+ years I have lived here.  Are those albino Canada Geese in the group or have a couple of free-spirited barnyarders joined the flock?  Our Wrangel Island Snow Geese have orange faces which rules them out.  The Snow Geese won't arrive from the arctic for another month.  Twenty minutes later, a second string of Canadians made their appearance:

Today's second group of 
migrating Canada Geese

Northwest Weather Network

Skagit Bay, December 22, 2008
December 22, 2008: Ultimately 14 inches of snow would
accumulate at Fidalgo Weather.  Icy, snow-packed
roads would shut down most of western Washington.

Fidalgo Weather has become a member station in the Northwest Weather Network.  This is an affiliation of private weather station websites in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.  Member stations contribute data which is presented in both mesomap and tabular formats at the NWWN website.  Fidalgo Weather's station data is designated "Anacortes."

Looking Towards Similk Bay,
January 18, 2010
January 18, 2010:  When an 11.1 foot tide and 42 mph
winds came together, low-lying front yards were
over-washed by the resulting storm surge.

At the present time, there are 29 regional stations in our network.  Affiliated networks are located throughout North America, South America, Africa, Europe and the Pacific.  You can visit all of the stations in the network by clicking on the links in the tables or on the map at the NWWN website.

Fidalgo Weather's 
Anemometer Mast
New Fidalgo Weather
Anemometer Mast
Fidalgo Weather 
Sensor Array
Fidalgo Weather Sensor
Array in December, 2008
Neighbor's Weather 
Neighbor's Davis Sensors
after January, 2010 Storm

Friday, September 17, 2010

Juniperus maritima

Juniperus maritima in Washington Park, Anacortes
(Nice truck!)

One of the unique pleasures of Washington Park in Anacortes is the Loop Drive.  This is a narrow, winding 2.2 mile/3.7 km drive through deep forest shared by walkers, bikes and vehicles.  Suddenly, the sky opens to a parking area at Juniper Point with an overlook to Burrows Island.  Right in the middle stands this wonderful, weathered old tree.  It has obviously experienced many windstorms on this exposed headland.  Upon inspection, I realized the tree was alive:

Looking across Burrows Channel

I didn't recognize the species.  After some net surfing I discovered the tree is special and has an interesting story.  It was originally classified as Juniperus scopulorum, the Rocky Mountain Juniper.  Pojar only mentions it as such and Robson has a short entry describing J. scopulorum.  In 2007, it was determined that the local specimens are genetically distinct and they were reclassified Juniperus maritima, the Seaside or Puget Sound Juniper.  It seems to like island living as patches are found on Whidbey, Fidalgo, Skagit, the San Juans and Vancouver Island.  It also prefers dry, rocky and more alkaline soil than is usually found in the Northwest.  It must benefit from our Olympic Rain Shadow locale.  According to Adams, "the Washington Park population is the most robust with hundreds of trees."  In the direction of Flounder Bay and the Skyline neighborhood of Anacortes are younger specimens which have a shrubby appearance:

Towards Skyline and Flounder Bay

Nearby stands a beautiful Madrona with a nearly 360° curl in its main trunk.  This is another special Northwest tree.  Next to it a Douglas Fir has also borne the insult of windstorms.  Nevertheless, its cones are evidence that like the old Juniper, it is adapted to survive such injury and to continue producing offspring.  This, after all, is the purpose of all living things.

Madrona and Douglas Fir are abundant 
in Washington Park

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Autumn Arrives

Autumn arrives on Skagit Bay

Whitecaps, cloud cover and blustery winds portend the arrival of autumn on South Fidalgo Island.  The sun has dropped below the clouds to light the islands in Skagit Bay.  On this day, the Jet Stream moved over us guiding in a low pressure system.  With the wheat harvest underway, the same system brought dust storms to eastern Washington.

Skywatch Friday

Monday, September 13, 2010

Apple Polishing

Apple iPod Touch
I have always been a PC guy.  In fact, when the IBM PC was released in 1981, I bought one of the first available in western Washington.  It had two 160 K diskette drives and 128 K of upgraded memory.  I still recall the thrill of setting up that first one.  With that machine, I was doing things at work no one else could even imagine.  I had an instinct that this was the right move and never looked back.

Moving ahead almost 30 years, we use PDA's now at work for portable access to drug information databases.  They were getting to be old-timers and needed replacement.  To this end, we acquired an iPod Touch for evaluation.

Apple machines have been like a parallel universe for me, a place known to exist, yet forbidden to enter.  Then I got my hands on that iPod for the first time.  I felt the same thrill I experienced with my first PC.  The user interface is amazing.  I knew immediately, I had to have one of my own.  My good friend Amazon was more than willing to help.

So, what does a nature geek do with an iPod Touch?  Among the first things discovered with an iPod or an iPhone are the "apps."  There are apps, both free and paid, for almost anything you can imagine.  Want to train your dog in Swedish?  There's an app for that.  One of the first apps I acquired was iBird West.  This is a nifty portable reference and database for birders.

iBird Explorer Western Edition
iBird Species Search
iBird Identification Search

iBird covers all of North America and comes in several versions, including one that is free.  I chose the iBird West edition, covering the western states.  It has a searchable database, range maps, facts, photos and lists of similar species.  If WiFi is in range it links to Birdipedia.  One of the features I enjoy is the list of terms for groups of birds.  When I get a half dozen Northern Flickers at the feeders, I know I am observing a guttering, menorah or a Peterson of flickers.  Also useful are sections on how to distinguish a bird from similar species in the area.  I have spent a lot of time searching the net for a good bird identification database and never found one.  This app fulfills that need.

I have found several other useful apps:  TideGraph keeps track of local tides, an essential tool for beachcombers.  GoodReader is a PDF reader that allows me to carry my camera manual in my pocket.  AccuWeather is my favorite weather app and Pocket Universe reveals what I am seeing in the sky at the moment.  For geography, FactBook, Google Earth and National Geographic World Atlas are $0.99, free and $1.99 respectively.  IFeltThat reveals local earthquakes, large and small.  For the right-brain, and we all have one, Haiku Time is fun for nature lovers.  For blogging, I use WordBook, a $1.99 searchable dictionary and thesaurus.  Also useful are Terminology Ph and WolframAlpha which is a kind of almanac and math engine.  I think WordBook might predict the future for traditional books.  It is certainly easier to use.  Finally, when you can't drag the laptop along, there are apps for your email, Twitter, Facebook, Kindle and Barnes&Noble eReader accounts.  I have found the iPod to be a competent reader.  Music?  It does music?

There you have it.  A PC guy and nature lover can find a comfortable place in the Apple World too.  I would enjoy hearing about great apps others have discovered for the iPhone or iPod Touch.
Photos:  Apple Computer

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Seagulls Standing on Rocks

Gull at Fidalgo Weather
Fidalgo Weather, September, 2010

I have noticed that seagulls seem to like to stand on rocks and ponder their surroundings.  When I notice patterns like this it gets me wondering why it is happening.  One reason could be because they can't perch in trees.  Their webbed feet are not built for grasping a branch.  Perching birds have a tendon structure in their feet designed for grasping.  It requires some effort to unclench.  A seagull's foot lacks this anatomy and so they are limited to perching on flat surfaces.  This is one reason they have been successful living around humans and our horizontal structures.

Robins do the same thing.  I have a small Japanese temple in the garden, and I see a robin perched on it quite often.  Robins can be territorial, so this may be a way of announcing, "this is my place in the world."  Robins, of course, have feet that allow them to perch anywhere they choose.

The gulls in this are area are probably Glaucous-winged Gulls.  They are the most common species in the Pacific Northwest.  Here is more evidence of the rock-perching habit I have observed:

Gull at Washington Park
Washington Park,  September, 2010

Gull at Dewey Beach
Dewey Beach, January, 2010
Gull at Dewey Beach
Dewey Beach, October, 2009

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It's About the Weather

Davis Vantage Pro2 Station Console

This website is first and foremost a blog about weather, and things that are influenced by it.  In some fashion, gardening, nature, climate, seasons and wildlife are all related to the weather in a particular location.  Because of weather, you won't find alligators in Alaska and most rhododendrons wouldn't survive an Iowa winter.  Since weather is the primary theme here, I have upgraded the data presentation on the Current Weather page.  The page has been reorganized with new information added.  The goal was to make it useful, relevant and interesting.

Davis Sensor Array
First, a bit about how this works.  The Davis Vantage Pro2™ wireless weather station has two main components, a sensor array and station console.  The sensor array measures wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity and rainfall.  These data are transmitted to the station console every 2.5 seconds.  The array is powered by a battery kept charged with a small solar collector.  The console adds barometric pressure, latitude, longitude, date and time and communicates them to the PC via a USB connection.  Davis' Weatherlink™ software receives and processes these data and uploads them to the net using the File Transfer Protocol (FTP).  The web page that is created is then embedded here on the blog.

Getting all this to work pushes the envelope of my computer literacy.  First, a web page must be built and the data tags specified by Davis are inserted into the code.  This page is then used as a template for the upload.  Next, a number of FTP settings and pathways must be designated in the software.  After much trial-and-error, once it is working, the rule is "don't touch a thing."  There are services and software available that will do most of this for you.  I needed something tailored to fit in with the blog, and this necessitated a custom approach.

The first section of the new page presents information for the current 10-minute period.  The Station Forecast is derived from three hours of data and while a bit vague, tends to be accurate for this location.  If it is raining beyond a light drizzle, this will be revealed by a Rain Rate figure.  The next sections provide historical data for the day, month-to-date and year for specific measurements.  This information offers a snapshot of our local weather conditions over time.  "Living in the weather..." is the tag line for this blog.  The Current Weather page reveals the weather in which we live.  For more detailed information, NOAA Annual Climatological Summaries may be downloaded from the Climate pagePhotos: Davis Instruments

Friday, September 10, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Rain in Everett

Rain clouds over Everett, Washington

From Skagit Bay, the setting sun catches rain clouds over Everett, Washington about 35 miles away.  Everett marks the approximate location of the "Puget Sound Convergence."  Pacific weather systems split by the Olympic Mountains recombine in this area, creating a band of precipitation.

Skywatch Friday

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Blogger Stats Update: Much Ado About Astilbe

Astilbe x arendsii 'Diamond'
Astilbe x arendsii 'Diamond'

What is going on in Europe?  There seems to be a continent-wide interest in this photo, originally published here on July 4, 2010.  I picked a white flower to go with my red, white and blue theme for that day.  Over the last few weeks, I have received multiple hits from Germany, France, Poland, Sweden and the U.K.  They are all due to image searches for Astilbe.  I know this because of the "Referring URL's" listed in my Blogger Stats.  I have posted many flower images here, but only this one has received such interest.  I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows why this flower has been uniquely special to Europeans.

On July 1, Blogger in Draft announced Blogger Stats and I promptly signed up.  It became a daily habit to visit the Stats pages.  I am always interested in how visitors find the site.  A pattern of hits on this image was immediately apparent.  Blogger Stats has now gone system wide so everyone can enjoy this valuable tool.  My experience with this photo should illustrate what an important tool it is.  Windows Live Spaces, are you listening?

Since we aim to please, here are a few more white Astilbe photos.  Live it up, Europe.

Astilbe x arendsii 'Diamond'
Astilbe x arendsii 'Diamond'

Astilbe x arendsii 'Diamond'

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mes Canadiens

Mes Canadiens

September is when my Canadians come to visit.  I expect to see them in about a week.  I refer to them as "mine" because they always stop and spend time on my beach.  A small wetland across the road drains into the bay and they stop here for a drink of fresh water.

Stopping by for a drink

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are year-around residents here according to Birdweb, but I only see them in September.  This tells me these birds are on migration, snowbirds heading for winter homes in California and Mexico.  I am reminded of a scene in the remarkable film Winged Migration in which Canada Geese are seen catching a drink in Monument Valley, Utah.

Crusin' to Mexico

After getting a drink, they will sometimes sleep in the sun with heads tucked under wings. This is a pleasant site, and I am glad they feel comfortable here.  I have been observing their annual arrivals for more than twenty years.  They are so predictable, their visits can be used to set the cosmic clock.

See ya next year

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Blogging Tips: Photo Watermarking

February Sunrise

I am not a blogging expert, by any means.  I want to clarify this up front.  Between here and Windows Live Spaces, however, I have a couple of years under my belt.  I think I am starting to get the hang of it.  Whenever I discover a useful trick or tool, I seem compelled to share it.

People put photos on the internet for various reasons.  Here, I use them to illustrate postings.  Watermarking a photo to identify its source is a basic function when publishing to the net.  I have been using a photo editor to add text but this was time consuming with poor results.  I have begun posting photo albums to the weather station Facebook page.  Using the photo editor was laborious, to say the least.

Over the rainy Labor Day weekend, I spent some time looking at free and low cost watermarking software.  I wanted something with a bit of style which was fast and easy.  I tried out freeware of three programs, Alamoon, ByteScout and one called Fast Watermark.  For quality, speed and user friendliness, ByteScout was the clear choice for me.  I have now purchased the "Standard" version (it also comes in a "Pro" version) and the photos here are examples.  The features added by the Standard Version include:
  • All of the Windows fonts and styles
  • Symbols such as ©
  • Transparency adjustments
  • Watermarking with logo images or logo plus text
  • Additional watermarking patterns and styles
  • Batch processing of multiple photos
  • Resizing and watermarking in one step
Now I can resize and watermark one photo or a batch with four clicks and there was virtually no learning curve.  To download and try out the freeware 'Lite' version, find the link below the features table on the ByteScout site.  Happy blogging.

February Sunrise

Sunday, September 5, 2010

More Autumn Augury

Vine Maple

A Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) begins to show its fall colors.  This Northwest native doesn't get much respect, but it is a versatile addition to the landscape.  It can be a small-scale tree or a shrub and will be attractive year-around.  Team it up with ferns, small Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Evergreen Huckleberry and some big stones for a Northwest look.  Meanwhile, a Japanese Maple (A. palmatum 'Osakazuki') is decorated with clusters of winged seeds called samaras.

Osakazuki Japanese Maple

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dinosaur Tracks

If visiting the beach this holiday weekend, beware of dinosaurs.  The raptors will be out stalking their pray...

Volcanic forces are creating new land on the primordial earth...

Primitive life forms colonize the new land in the intertidal zones...

...and evidence of life can be found everywhere on this prehistoric world.