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November musings by Ken Wilson

November is our best ‘Blue Hole’ month on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, when oftentimes overhead is a rainshadow enclave of blue surrounded by cloud. November is also our windiest month. November rainfall elsewhere on the Peninsula is generally two to four times greater than here. How frequent the weather forecast says rain, and all we see is blue! This month averages only four or five degrees warmer than December and January, so combine a moderate wind and cooler air temp, and the windchill makes for a wintery day.


Indifferent to the storms, seabirds are in abundance and a variety fly a thousand and more miles from the Arctic and subarctic to spend the winter here. Meanwhile, bird and mammal species prepare for winter: some of our summer birds fly south; eagles concentrate at salmon spawning streams; squirrels store food in clever hiding places; other species build up fat reserves; many insects survive as dormant eggs and larvae; miniscule shrews eat a lot every single day – even every single hour – sort of like we do. Evergreen trees are still photosynthesizing but more slowly. Deer antlers scar tree trunks. Mammals leave their tracks on muddy trails. 


Autumn mushrooms arise with a great diversity in size, shape, and color. Though unpredictable from year to year, there’s a mushroom plenitude sandwiched between heavy rains and killing frosts. Look for Chlorociboria aeruginosa (Turquoise Elf Cup) growing on rotting, barkless wood on the forest floor. There’s a photo in the attached newsletter.

When strong tidal currents and strong wind oppose each other, don’t plan a ferry ride to Whidbey unless you have a motel room reserved over there. But it’s a great time to watch the turmoil from the beach at the Point Wilson lighthouse. And finally, despite short days, plan outside time for the serene days (and nights) that do commonly intervene between November’s storms. 

The Return of the Salmon

By Chris Jones

The most iconic natural history event in the Pacific Northwest is the return of the salmon. In spite of all the cultural and demographic changes that have occurred in the last century, many salmon still return to their natal rivers and streams after two, three, four, or even five years in the Pacific Ocean. At its essence, this is a natural event that connects our region across cultural lines, a spiritual link inspired by the remarkable life cycle of our salmon.

Chum Salmon at the Illahee

So, get out there and be a witness to this almost miraculous event that peaks in September through November every year.  A web search for “Salmon viewing locations in Jefferson County” should bring you to a Jefferson Land Trust map with lots of information on salmon.  Look for Chum (dog) salmon spawning in the lower reaches of streams, and expect to see Coho (silvers) moving to the upper watershed. Kings (chinooks) and Steelhead are sighted less frequently but do occur in larger rivers. Pink salmon spawn in abundance in many of our streams in odd numbered years, 2021 included.  Look for them just upstream from where the river meets salt water.

Other viewing options are the Dungeness River Center and Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim; the Big Quilcene River bridge on Linger Longer Road in Quilcene; and, if you want to travel a bit, the “Sol Duc River Salmon Cascades,” a popular spot to view athletic Coho salmon leaping up a waterfall in their existential quest to return to their home waters. The viewing site is located on Sol Duc Hotsprings Road about 7.1 miles from the turnoff from Highway 101. It’s about a two hour drive from Port Townsend.

What to Look for in September

Ken Wilson

September is one of our three dry months, averaging about an inch of
rainfall, barely more than July or August. With this summer’s drought,
alder trees began dropping leaves in August. Daylength is 3-1/2
minutes less each day. Just a few more minutes of this decrease guide
migratory songbirds; many will be in Central America by month’s end.
Some salmon begin swimming upstream. Sea lions are arriving from
California; snowberries are in abundance (but don’t eat them!);
blackberries ripen (eat them!); frosts on clear nights in the high
Olympics are highlighted by meadows of huckleberry bushes turning red;
dragonflies enjoy their back-and-forth sprints in defense of
territories; spiders and their webs become especially visible when dew
drops sparkle on calm mornings. And look for the nearly all-dark Bald
Eagles, hatched this spring, and still learning to hunt; the fortunate
ones will survive into a second year. Sorry, but virtually no
mushrooms for a month or longer!

Guillemot Cove and Rosario Beach

It’s a beautiful summer! Although the Natural History Society still
isn’t leading outings, we do have some recommendations for places to
go that might be new to you. We welcome suggestions for September from
our readers!

Guillemot Cove:
https://www.kitsapgov.com/parks/Pages/GuillemotCove.aspx

Rosario Beach:
https://www.outdoorproject.com/united-states/washington/rosario-beach-deception-pass-state-park

If you’re staying closer to home, here’s a spectacular four-minute
video of the beauty of pollination by hummingbirds, bees, bats, and
butterflies:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQiszdkOwuU

May 2020 Book Selection

Natural History writings by Bernd Heinrich

Rather than focusing on just one book, this month we ask our readers to select any text by acclaimed naturalist Bernd Heinrich. Two books, Mind of the Raven and Life Everlasting: the Animal Way of Death, have been on our suggested reading list for several years. He has written twenty others, including The Homing Instinct about animal migration, and even one about ultra-running called Why We Run. We’ll discuss what it takes to be a serious naturalist, and what you learned from the book you chose to read by this author. You can find a list of his books on Wikipedia.

If the stars align, we may meet at Illahee Preserve where we can practice social distancing and enjoy being outdoors together. The back-up plan will be to have a Zoom meeting sponsored by PT Library. Either way, we’ll meet up on May 25th at 3:30-5:00 p.m. to discuss the book .