Up the Beach — April showers bring more than May flowers

April showers may bring May flowers, but the best thing the showers bring are Canada goose and Mallard duck pairs. Now, that gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling, since they are symbolic of long lasting, faithful, loyal loving.

Along the beach, who has not seen one mourning over the body of its mate that has been hit by a car? Their protection and hovering over the body to prevent anyone coming near is both heart rending and heartwarming.

Who hasn’t seen a drake Mallard patiently pacing behind his hen as she scouts out a nesting place to her liking and then just as patiently following behind her as she selects nesting materials?

What examples of loving kindness.

Shorebird Festival

The 19th annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival begins on Friday, continuing through Sunday. Information on the festival can be found on-line at www.shorebirdfestival.com and copies of the 2014 festival brochure have been mailed or can be obtained at local libraries or at the Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. tourism office at Simpson Avenue and Duffy Street.

The birds are returning to the Harbor to fill their tanks with the necessary creatures to give them the calories to continue their northward journey to their breeding grounds in the North.

The Grays Harbor Audubon Society has a great group of volunteers who will do their utmost to show you the birds as they stop near the boardwalk, or if you choose, you could reserve a seat one of their tours that are guided by some of the area’s best birders. The tour prices are quite reasonable and are timed to give you the best views when the tide brings them closest to the viewing sites.

The sightings from last year’s field trips and from the refuge boardwalk can be downloaded from http://www.shorebirdfestival.com/GH%20 Shorebird%20Festival%20Field%20Trip%20 Birds%202010%20-%20now.pdf as an aid to deciding on which field trips on you would like to reserve a seat.

Why watch the Shorebird Festival on TV news when it is right in our back yard? Since we run on beach time, we all have a tendency to think, “Ah, heck. I’ll do it next time.” Think maybe this is your year for the ‘next time’?

Road kill for eagles

The beachers’ favorite bird person, Dianna Moore, has a great spring-cleaning tip in her Sandpiper column. “… Or maybe in your spring cleaning of the freezer you will find some unknown piece of meat, fish or fowl that you know has seen better days … donate it to your local eagles.”

She got the idea after seeing a freshly thawed turkey, right out of the supermarket packaging, lying out on the beach. “Pretty weird, huh? I saw it at a distance as a very white blob on the sand and wondered what it could be, then got up close and saw what it was and it made me laugh. But it also started a thought; drag the road kill out to the beach! Keep a stock of heavy-duty plastic bags in your car or truck, and next time you see a possum by the side of the road, scoop that thing up and dump it on the beach if you can get it there, or out in a field or clear-cut where it can do some good. You may be saving an eagle from starving to death!” said Moore.

Moore reports that on the last raptor survey, they counted 23 eagles, 15 immature birds and 8 adults. These 15 immature birds need to eat, and there are only so many dead birds on the beach, and dead seals, sea lions, and dolphins on the beach.

She is a bit worried we don’t have enough food for this large population of youngsters. So, now don’t say the beachers are not up to par with the rest of the world in recycling.

Recycling salmon

Speaking of recycling … For close to 30 years, Grays Harbor has been in the business of recycling salmon through a volunteer program under the old Grays Harbor Enhancement Task force now called the Chehalis Basin Fisheries Task Force. When the whole salmon decline kerfuffle broke out, the Grays Harbor rivers, thanks to those volunteers, were among the healthiest rivers in the Columbia-Snake River watershed.

Farm-grown salmon concerns

Therefore, there is a great deal of interest in the present situation in Canada where Aqua Bounty Technologies has applied to the Health Canada regulatory agency to sell genetically engineered, farm-grown, Atlantic salmon in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Chili and China once the regulators approve the plan.

The fish grow twice as fast as conventional salmon. The company is already selling modified eggs for export to Panama. The biggest concern is containment of the modified fish. For the folks who have spent years keeping Grays Harbor runs healthy, this concern is not a small one. However, on the plus side, Safeway, Kroger and Whole Foods have already said they would not sell the genetically modified salmon.

Tsunami radiation checks

In other ocean news, the recent declaration by scientists that radiation from the 2010 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor will reach our coast sometime this month has the Quinault Nation checking on the debris coming ashore. Tribal scientists are taking occasional water and air samples to check radiation levels. Thus far, neither the federal or state agencies are doing so. Quinault members have been asked to report any debris that seems to be from Japan to Quinault Emergency Management Coordinator John Preston at 360-590-1856.

Canadian volunteer organizations have already been collecting water samples, especially around Torfino, BC, where radioactive metal from the power plant has been found. The reference benchmark being used for comparisons is Cesium 137 levels in whales. The model suggests those levels will exceed the Canadian guidelines of 1,000 Becquerels per kilogram for the consumption of seafood by humans — 10 times the Japanese guidelines.

Radiation was already found near the mouth of Harrison River in November 2013. Chinook, sockeye and chum spawning sampling is being analyzed for evidence of radiation. Plans are underway to test soils from Burnaby Mountain near Vancouver. Evidence has been found of Iodine 131, which has a half-life of eight days in rainwater and seaweeds in British Columbia off Vancouver Island.

Endangered killer whales are of concern as an 11,023-pound (5,000 kg) killer whale can eat five percent of its body weight in fish per day. While the additional impact of Cesium 137 is not known, it may negatively impact the immune or endocrine system.

Results of forthcoming studies are of great concern to Native American and First Nation communities, whose diet is based on seafood.

Cesium studies

Studies on Cesium 137 are not all new. There remain low background levels due to the dumping of radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean from nuclear submarines and reactors dating back to the 1960s.

The Quinaults have always been great beachcombers, so it will be interesting what changes in radiation levels will be found by John Preston.

Enjoy April’s reminder of patience

But, as in all of life, there is wondrous beauty and love to be found. So go out, take a drive along the waterways and enjoy April’s reminder of patience, love and loyalty in the pairs of Mallards and Canada geese happily waddling along in blissful love. If that doesn’t cheer you up — well — perhaps you need an attitude adjustment.

Gene Woodwick may be reached at 360-289-2805 or genewoodwick@coastaccess.com.


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