Spring has arrived on the coast, sprinkling it with a potpourri of weather, kids on spring school break, does leaping through new grass with swinging bellies burdened with new fawns, bears, fish and more fish. And, of course birds.
Since it is bird month, better get your reservation in for any of the nine field trips or seminars during the April 26-28, 18th Annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival headquartered at the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge booth at Hoquiam High School. While the field trips and speakers are via fee admittance, there are plenty of freebies, including a shuttle bus that will take you from the high school to the birding trail at Bowerman Basin for a donation. Saturday the shuttle will operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 to 5.
The spring migration attracts global media attention and brings visitors to view the thousands of birds who feed in the estuary and along the North and South Beaches. Homecoming local snowbirds are arriving about the same time and are pretty proud of their travel mileage, but many species of the incoming birds have them beat all hollow, making round trips of over 15,000 miles.
Many of the old timers on the beach kinda wish they still called the spring celebration the “Peep Show.” It sorta appealed to the earthy local humor, but the city folk thought the new name was more dignified!
The beacher’s favorite birder, Dianna Moore, again solved a “What is that?” mystery for local folks talking about Ruby-crowned Kinglets arriving. Those little feathered critters with their short neck and round, fat, yellow, bellies look like a made-up decorative ornament. Their arrival coincided with the bursting of green on the willow branches.
The hooha over snowy owls is abating somewhat. There is a sad side to their appearance as British Columbia bird rehabilitation groups say many of the owls are starving. The Mountainair Avian Rescue Society explained that by the time the owls reach BC they are half to one-fourth of their normal weight. Those Snowys reaching the North Grays Harbor beaches are even more underweight.
Maj Birch from the Society has been concerned that camera buffs are not giving the photogenic birds enough space. He says the thick plumage hides the fact that underneath all the feathers, they’re little more than “bone racks.” By approaching too close, causing the Snowys to take flight, the birds expend the last of the remaining energy they have trying to avoid the photogs.
OLDEST WILD BIRD
Although it isn’t local, there is a good bird story courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Refuge System that should appeal to the coffee drinkers’ conversation. A Laysan albatross named Wisdom is the world’s oldest-known wild bird. They should have named her Sarah, after Abraham’s wife, because she laid an egg last November at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge at the age of 62.
She and her mate took turns incubating it and Feb. 3 her chick was hatched — one of more than 30 chicks she has produced. Wisdom was first banded by US Geological Survey scientist Chandler Robbins in 1956 when she was incubating an egg. She has made regular appearances since then.
The ducks are literally swarming in places this spring. The mallard drakes are flapping their wings, chasing away marauding boudoir poachers from prospective nesting areas and the hens are looking over the best possible places to set up a nursery.
In residential ditches, the mallards are even checking out the bird feeders to see if there is any corn dropping off the trays. Apparently they don’t know the crows scoop up every kernel when they check out feeders. But, all those ducks everywhere makes one wonder just what new duck decoy Ralph Larson has added to his gorgeous collection.
It also makes one wonder if anyone has a good story on the politically incorrect “Old Squaw” ducks.
FISH, FISH AND MORE FISH
Ducks bring to mind fish. And boy, do these potpourri days bring in a collection of fish news. Sturgeon is still news with the new two-fish annual catch limit that went into effect April 1. WDFW said the change will re-establish the Oregon/Washington concurrent fish regs. for white sturgeon in waters sharing the bi-state boundary.
The Quinault Indian Nation is pretty happy over the recent federal judge’s decision ordering the state to fix culverts that block salmon from reaching their habitat. Fish enhancement efforts have reduced the number of improperly installed or failing culverts in private forestlands, but state lands have been cited for failure to do the same. The state must fix culverts on recreation lands by 2016 and within 17 years must provide fish passage through Transportation Division culverts. Fawn Sharp, QIN President, said the nation will be meeting with state officials on implementation of the culvert program.
The Northwest Indian Fishing Commission has reported on several Quinault programs, including a great photo of Jeffery Kalama, hatchery tech, fishing for steelhead for the tribe’s hatchery program.
Another fisheries tech, Jay Thomas, was featured pulling a male sockeye from a net on Big River. The adult fish will be used as brood stock to supplement the Quinault blueback (Sockeye) population.
The peninsula bears are out early this year. It is a good time to remember that new state laws went into effect last year that prohibit food or food waste where it can attract bears and other carnivores. Intentional feeding can bring a fine of up to $1,000 or $87 for unintentional feeding.
Last year state Wildlife officials responded to 444 bear situations ranging from raids on garbage cans and birdfeeders to confrontations with pets. Besides maintaining tight-lidded garbage cans, folks are reminded to clean their outdoor grills after each use. That burned-on meat fat smells pretty darn good to a hungry bear.
One critter the North Beach doesn’t have to worry about is the brown bat that eats its weight in mosquitoes every day. But, in eastern parts of Canada and the US, the population of the little brown myotis, northern myotis and tri-colored bats are being decimated by an invasive fungi.
ROYAL MOLECATCHER, ANYONE?
Another critter some of the beachers are using strong logger language on are the moles digging like maniacs in yards and along roadways. Instead of cussing, why doesn’t someone get up a pool of money to import the Molecatcher to the King, who happens to be Jerome Dormion, the official royal molecatcher at Chateau de Versailles in France. It has been over two centuries since King Louis XVI hated the little buggars so much he created the official role of molecatcher.
Dormion feels the beacher’s pain. He tried poison for a while but he went back to the mole trap invented in the 1600s that he says resembles, oddly enough, a guillotine. Moles have been around for some 40 million years, so mankind should just give over and let them tunnel. How in the heck is it that a myopic, near deaf, worm-eater that can die of stress if it goes above ground can outwit mankind? But they do.
But, like any red-blooded, and/or red-necked beacher, Dormion smiles happily when he recalls his “best catch,” a mole that had outsmarted his traps for three months. It eventually succumbed to laziness and Dormion got it.
So, rejoice in this spring season potpourri. If you can’t be a royal mole catcher, at least you can try. If you don’t succeed, go fishing.
Gene Woodwick is available at firstname.lastname@example.org