Wednesday, December 30, 2009

There is no such thing as a Sea Gull

Marine Science Lecture Series

What, there is no such thing as a sea gull? On the evening of Tuesday, January 12 at 7:00 pm biologist and writer Thor Hanson will engage you in the interesting facts about these opportunistic birds. You might not remember all the fascinating details or identification features for the dozen or so gull species we have, but you should walk away more fond of these birds and probably will no longer make the faux pas of calling them sea gulls.

Gulls belong to the Laridae family. They will eat just about anything, from fish or small rodents to ferry French fries and potato chips and a salt excreting gland enables them to drink either fresh or salt water. They nest in large, densely packed, and noisy colonies where they lay two to three speckled eggs. Larger gull species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, while two years is more typical for small gulls. They can live to be 15 years old and some have been known to live to be over 25 years old.
The 2009/10 Marine Science Lecture Series was created to inspire the general public and to highlight the amazing fish and wildlife of our region. Lectures are free. Please park in the upper parking lot at Camp Orkila. Shuttle service from the parking lot to the talk is available before and after the lecture. The 2009/10 Marine Science Lecture Series is presented by program partners The SeaDoc Society and YMCA Camp Orkila. It is made possible through generous sponsorship by Tom Averna (Deer Harbor Charters), and The Gould Family Foundation and co-sponsorship by Barbara Brown, Eclipse Charters, The Kingfish Inn, Shearwater Sea Kayak Tours, West Sound Marina and Jim and Kathy Youngren.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

House Passes Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative Reauthorization Act

December 8, 2009
Washington, D.C. — The House of Representatives passed the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative Reauthorization Act (HR 1672), legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), by voice vote yesterday. This legislation renews the Congressional mandate for the Northwest Straits Commission, a grassroots organization that works to restore and protect marine habitat in Northwest Washington. HR 1672 has widespread support from the local community, including letters of support from elected officials in every county in which it operates.

Click link to read full article.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Another Conference: STORMING THE SOUND," La Conner, Jan 29.

"Storming the Sound" is an annual one-day conference for environmental educators and students of environmental education from North Puget Sound, including San Juan County. The event will be held at Maple Hall, La Connor, on Friday, January 29, 2010.

Keynote speaker, David Henry, who works with the Pew Charitable Trust, will speak on: "Arctic Waters - Protecting Life in the Arctic." Breakout sessions will follow on topics such as: school gardens, citizen science, rain gardens, boat-based education, and more.

Registration is free and includes lunch, but a $10 donation is requested at the door to help defray expenses. Here's their website:

SOUND WATERS One-day Conference, Feb. 6, 2010

Plan now to attend Island County Beach Watchers annual SOUND WATERS conference on Feb. 6, 2010. Held at Coupeville High School, the theme of the one-day conference this year will be: "Puget Sound Starts Here: Why Act? What Works"

Following a keynote address by Dr. Nathaniel Scholz of NOAA, entitled: "Stormwater, Salmon, and the Health of Puget Sound," there will be two sessions of presentations during the morning and one in the afternoon, with a lunch break and time to view a gymnasium full of exhibits.

Several SJC Beach Watchers attended the conference last year and found it very informative and helpful. (Talk to Claire, Shirley, Beverly, Susan, Andrea or Quinn to find out more.) We should be able to carpool so only a few people will need to drive.

Important: The most difficult part of the conference is that you can only attend one presentation per session, and it will be hard to choose. Also, the most interesting presentations fill up quickly. Registration forms are already being distributed in Island County, and will be available on line on January 4. Sign up as soon as you know you can go, to have the best choices. For descriptions of the presentations (and registration forms after January 4,) go to:

This is a really fun event! If you decide to attend, please reply as a comment to this entry, so we'll know how many will be going. Thanks.

Ways of Whales Seminar

If you want to learn more about whales, this seminar is for you. It is sponsored by Orcanet and will be held on Saturday, January 23, 2010, from 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. at the Coupeville Middle School Performing Arts Center, 501 S. Main St., Coupeville. There are great speakers and includes current information on salmon restoration as well.

Speakers will be:

Dr. Mike Ford, NOAA Fisheries, will speak on recent Southern Resident Orca DNA paternity research. Who are the fathers within the Southern Resident Orca Community? (other than Ruffles!)

Dr. Fred Sharpe, Alaska Whale Foundation, will entertain with stories and photos of his amazing research on the feeding habits of humpbacks in SE Alaska, including cooperative bubble net feeding.

Howard Garrett, Orca Network, will present an update on the status of the Southern Resident orcas, and a quick "Orca 101" to set the stage for the day.

The day will be end with Another Dam Panel, with Michael Garrity, Washington State Conservation Director for American Rivers, and Robert Elofson, River Restoration Director for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, to discuss the important issues of dams, salmon restoration, and keeping our Resident orcas fed.

Workshop cost is $25. Lunch will be available on-site (lunch price & choices on the sign up form). Contact Orca Network at 360-678-3451 or Orca Network ( ) for more information.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Report on local salmon research

A presentation will be given by KWIAHT at the Lopez Center for Community and the Arts.

Saturday January 9th
4:00 pm
Admission: By Donation
Food and drink appropriate for the occasion, and salmon related art!

Hundreds of thousands of juvenile salmon spend each summer on the south end of Lopez. Kwiaht and Lopez volunteers are studying what they eat, how long they stay, where do they come from, and what can we do to improve their chances of survival. It`s been a year since Lopez volunteers reported their initial findings to the community: juvenile salmon come here from every major watershed in western Washington and BC. And much of what salmon were eating was insects! This summer local volunteers caught five times as many juvenile salmon, and have learned much much more about their diet, behavior, and needs. Be among the first to find out what new has been learned! Listen, enjoy some food with us, and join the adventure.

Indian Island night time low tide beach walk

On December 1st Russel and Madrona led a few brave souls around Indian Island on a low tide at 8:30PM. It was a clear beautiful night, full moon and 38 degrees. We saw some amazing marine life. Here a a few pictures that Madrona took.

The first is a panorama of some of our team working their way along the rocky edge of Indian Island with headlamps to guide them.

A young Black-Clawed Crab, one of the relatively rare crab species in our waters; it is a member of the brightly colored Xanthid family of crabs. Adults can be orange to neon blue in color, and tend to be very aggressive if disturbed. These crabs prey on clams, snails, and barnacles, crushing their shells in the crab’s strong claws.

The Frosted Dirona, a delicate milky nudibranch or “sea slug” of the rocky inter-tidal zone that feasts on small snails and bryozoans, is a year-round resident of Indian Island.

Melibe leoninus is a free-swimming nudibranch that captures its prey—small crustaceans such as shrimp—by throwing its tentacled hood over them. Melibes appear to migrate into East Sound in September and lay their eggs on eelgrass beds around Indian Island. As this night walk demonstrated, many stay until winter!

We also saw kelp crabs mating; and a very large number of sunflower stars hunting for clams in some of the sandier patches around the island. “A good time was had by all,” with a clear sky and full moon directly overhead!

Port of Friday Harbor Monitoring Project

The Port of Friday Harbor has officially approved the monitoring project. Russel Barsh of Kwiaht, Shann and Beach Watchers have been busy planning for the start of the project in January. So far we have “walked the docks” to find suitable sampling locations, identified equipment we will use, and began putting together species field guides and checklists for all volunteers to use. Our next meeting will be on January 13 at 1 p.m. We will meet at the top of the docks near the Port offices spending an hour or so there then head to the FH Labs for discussion and maybe some work in the shop.

This is a large and important project, so we need as many BWs as we can get. It is also going to be a lot of fun—plus you will become a pro at identifying marine life. If you have not let Russel know that you are interested in the project, please email him at
Looking forward to see you on the 13th.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sign Up for SeaDoc's E-Course on Ecological Principles

SeaDoc's free Top Ten Principles e-course will cover the key ecological principles for designing healthy coastal ecosystems. You'll get an informative email every three days, each covering one of the ten ecological principles that provide a big picture view of how to create and safeguard a healthy ecosystem. You’ll also be able to use on-line forums to discuss with other educators how to most effectively teach these principles. These principles can serve as a foundation for educating the public and for designing a healthy Salish Sea and other coastal ecosystems for future generations.

The 10-part e-course will delivered by email every three days, starting January 4, 2010.

For more information or to sign up, visit