Showing posts from June, 2012

June 30, 2012

7:11 AM, Temp 58.4° F, Dew Pt 57.8° F, Barometer 29.93 in, Wind Calm, Humidity 98%, Drizzle

South Fidalgo Island woke to foggy conditions this morning with light rain.  While some parts of the U.S. swelter under triple digit temperatures, we remain cool and drizzly.  Interestingly, the weather in San Francisco  is almost exactly the same today.  This is not unusual.  The huge Pacific Ocean is the dominant influence on weather in both locations.

I read somewhere that over the near term, the global climate thing (you know, that whose name shall not be spoken) will have less impact in the coastal Pacific Northwest.  Our spring and early summer has actually been rather chilly this year.  It is predicted that our temperatures will warm, but more slowly than in other parts of the planet.  Again, our nearby ocean will have a moderating influence.

By 9:00 AM, the fog had pretty much lifted, but the day should continue with overcast and drizzle.

The July 4th holiday is expected to be partially…

Summer Tugboats

3:42 PM Temp 62.1° F, Dew Pt 48.9° F, Barometer 30.00 in Steady, Wind SW 4 mph, Humidity 62%

Our first week of summer has been classic June, a mixture of overcast, a little rain and some sunny days.  Yesterday started out quite overcast.  It's called "June Gloom" here.  It happens because we have a huge ocean just west of us.  In the afternoon, some clearing allowed the sunshine through the cloud cover.  In western Washington, summer will begin for real on the fifth of July.  That's the usual pattern.

Like many people, I enjoy watching boats, especially working boats.  I never had a yen to own one, but I do enjoy watching them.  Yesterday's sun break also brought some working boat traffic to Skagit Bay, double the pleasure for me.  A pair of tugboats sailed in with a raft of logs in tow.  That is Kiket Island across the bay connected to the smaller Flagstaff Island by a tombolo.

The lead boat was the H.N. Hodder out of Richmond, British Columbia.  According to th…

Gardening for Wildlife:  Cover

Early in the morning on the first day of summer, I stood on my porch and took a look at the garden.  It's not a classic backyard garden, but then, I didn't want it to be.  When I bought the property, it was heavily wooded with mature Douglas and Grand Firs.  A strip along the beach was more open with many native shrubs, plants and small trees.  These included Salal, Oregon Grape, Nootka Rose, Madrona and Red Currant.  Ocean Spray, Indian Plum, Sword Ferns and Snowberry were growing in the shady spots next to the road.  Having spent a childhood traipsing the woods around Gig Harbor, Washington, all these things made me feel at home here.

Typically, property like this is first logged and denuded of all vegetation to create a home site.  Then, big lawns and suburban style gardens are planted around the house.  My vision was to keep the big trees and use the wild places of the region as a pattern for creating a garden.  At the time, I hadn't even thought about wildlife.

This …

Skywatch Friday: The Longest Day

Locally, the Summer Solstice arrived yesterday at 4:09 PM (16:09) or 23:09 GMT.  This photo of Skagit Bay was shot to commemorate that moment.  Appropriately, this was also our first truly beautiful day of the season.  The high temperature for the day was 67.7° F (19.8° C), absolutely perfect in my opinion.

Today, there is a bit more overcast and it's not quite as warm, although still a nice day.  We will also have one second less daylight then yesterday.

Weather data at the time of the photo:  Temperature 64.8° F, Dew Point 53.2° F, Barometer 29.97 inHg Steady, Wind 2 mph from the West, Humidity 66%, Rain None.  We have received 1.01 in of rain so far in June which is just about average for this location.  Sunset this night will be at 9:15 PM (21:15, 04:15 GMT) but evening twilight will persist after 10:00 PM.

Are My Favorite Trees in Trouble Again?

Along the west coast of North America, one of our favorite native trees is the Pacific Madrona (Arbutus menziesii).  It has a number of unusual characteristics that make it stand out.  It is both deciduous and evergreen.  It has smooth, red bark that is more like skin.  Like a reptile, it sheds this skin every year.  Even on the warmest days, the trunk and limbs will feel cool to the touch.  It has big, shiny, dark-green leaves, and displays large clusters of white flowers in the spring.  It is every bit as beautiful and desirable in the garden as our choicest ornamental shrubs.  The story of the Port Angeles Madrona reveals the esteem that local people have for this tree.

Twenty-five years ago, I was delighted to discover that several Madronas were coming up voluntarily in my yard.  My home has been recognized by strangers as "the place with the Madrona trees."  Both sides of my driveway are lined with them.  There are currently eighteen Madronas in the yard.

In recent yea…

March's Point

09:30 AM, Temp 55° F, Dew Pt 48.9° F, Barometer 30.18 in Steady, Wind Calm, Humidity 80%

We have had variable weather for the past couple of weeks, a little rain, some clearing, breezy and chilly.  I read that other parts of the country have been sweltering, but not here.  The Pacific Ocean nearby is our year-around air conditioner.

Yesterday, the sun came out in full force.  In these parts we take advantage of that whenever possible.  I decided to see what was happening at March's Point.  The major features of this peninsula are two oil refineries.  They occupy about half the land area.  When driving onto Fidalgo Island via State Road 20, the distillation towers can be seen on the right.  At night, they are lit up and it looks like Christmas.  The sparkling light show sometimes includes flaming torches when they burn off gases.

The point is also host to a large Great Blue Heron rookery that contains around 400 nests.  This spot is protected and off-limits to visitors.  A live &qu…

Birdcam Back in Business

My two Birdcam photo stations have been shut down since mid-February.  Recall the problems I was having with Eastern Gray Squirrels and House Finches.  Too much success can be the worst dilemma of all.  I decided to give all bird feeding a cooling down period.  This week, I began setting up my Birdcam stations again.  Station No. 2 now has a brand new woodpecker feeder and I provisioned it with pepper suet.  I have been experimenting with it for a couple of months, and the Gray Squirrels have shunned it totally.

I was pleased to catch this photo of a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) on the first day out.  This is the bird that inspired me to purchase and install a Birdcam in the first place.  This is also my first photo of a female Pileated.  The black mustache and black forehead are the distinguishing marks.  Until now, I had only seen males in the yard.  Yes, friends, I am definitely back in business.

The Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) is one of our summe…

The Nest Box Trail

The spur dike at Wiley Slough on Fir Island, Washington provides a trail deep into the wetlands of the Skagit River Delta.  The first time I came here, I was blown away by the grandeur of this place.  I have returned several times and each time, I have discovered something new.  On my first visit, I noticed a couple of nest boxes for birds had been put up on some of the trees.  This was most unexpected to find in what otherwise comes close to being a wilderness.

This site is the Skagit State Wildlife Recreation Area.  It is managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Activities include public duck hunting, hiking, birding, dog training and botanizing.  Hunting season is over now so these Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) can feel safe raising their young.

On my most recent visit in late May, I noticed that there were actually several nest boxes along the trail.  The dike extends out about a mile and a half (2.4 km) towards Skagit Bay.  I discovered nest boxes along t…