Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SOUND WATERS One-day Conference, Feb. 5, 2011

Note: Conference is SATURDAY, FEB. 5. (Originally listed in error as Feb 6)

Plan now to attend Island County Beach Watchers' annual SOUND WATERS conference on Saturday February. 5, 2011. Held at Coupeville High School, the theme of the one-day conference this year will be: "All things Puget Sound."

Following a keynote address by Keynote address by Dr. Rick Keil, University of Washington , entitled: "Puget Sound: What's In Our Water and Why Does It Matter," 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 have attended the conference in the past and found it very informative and helpful. (Talk to Claire, Shirley, Beverly, Susan, Andrea or Quinn to find out more.)

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 7. Sign up as soon as you know you can go, to have the best choices. For descriptions of the presentations and on-line registration forms ,)
go to:

Note: the first weekend ferry (winter schedule) doesn't arrive in Anacortes until 8:40 am, which means missing the registration/social hour, and most of the keynote speech. But you can still attend all three presentations, and there is plenty of time to visit with others and view the exhibits during the lunch break. Or consider going down on Fri. and spending the night in Coupeville or Oak Harbor.

This is a really fun event! If you decide to attend, please let Shann know so we can work out some car pools.

Salmonation - January 15 - Save the Date!

Join Lopez' intrepid team of volunteer salmon researchers for an evening of food, wine, music, art on display and for sale, and an update on what they are learning about the diet and health of migrating juvenile salmon in the islands. New sampling protocols in 2010 have yielded very interesting results, with possible applications to all the MHOs in the islands. The event will be held at the Lopez Community Center, January 15, 5:30 pm. Admission by donation. Sponsored by Kwiaht. Contact Madrona Murphy for additional information.

Ways of the Whales Workshop - January 29

The annual “Ways of the Whales” Workshop sponsored by Orca Network will be held on Saturday, January 29, from 9:30 to 4:30 at the Coupeville Middle School. Open to educators, (that’s us!) researchers, and anyone who loves whales, the workshop will have a number of speakers, as well as exhibits. Contact: or call 360 678 3451 for more information. Website:

Audubon Christmas Bird Count on December 18

Since the early 1900s, the Audubon Society has sponsored a nation-wide bird count in the week before Christmas, and Beach Watchers from San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez all participated in the 2010 count held last Saturday. The Friday Harbor Labs were the center of a 15-mile circle radiating out to all the islands, and the count took place within this circle. Small groups of volunteers, led by local ornithologists or experienced birders, scanned roadsides, fields, and public parks throughout the day on Saturday, tallying every bird and species they heard or saw. Although it was a blustery, cold and occasionally damp day, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the volunteers, as they peered through binoculars and scopes and called out the number of eagles, mergansers, towhees, kinglets, and dozens of other species they were seeing. Occasional pauses for cocoa and cookies, and a lunch break to warm everyone up, kept the group going from 8:30 in the morning till mid-afternoon. The results were then tallied on each island, and Barb Jensen, birding expert and President of the San Juan Audubon chapter, will publish the results for all the islands early in January. If you haven’t ever participated in this event, make a note to sign up for it next year. It’s a lot of fun, a good way to see some areas of your island that are not normally accessible to the public, and it is very gratifying to observe the quantity and variety of birds that share our islands and are such a vital part of our eco-system.

Recent Newspaper Article about Micro-Plastics Sampling

An excellent article written by Shann Weston and 2009 Beach Watcher Marcia Spees appeared in the Dec. 15 issue of all three island newspapers! Well done, ladies! This fall's micro-plastics sampling at Odlin and Otis Perkinds on Lopez only yielded a modest quantity of plastic particles. But at Crescent beach, and especially at Indian Island, on Orcas, it was a different story. Both beaches face towards the prevailing southerly winds and have a long "fetch" (the distance waves have to build up without interruption,) -- conditions which bring in much more debris. In a 7-liter sample collected at one point from Fishing Bay, over 10,000 micro-plastic samples were found, showing, (sadly,) how prevalent and persistent plastics are in our environment.

Great New Indian Island Marine Life Field Guide!

The most visible outcome so far of the Indian Island MHO project is a very impressive 4-page, full-color field guide to the fish and invertebrates that have been seen at Indian Island. The photo here doesn't do it justice, but gives you an idea of how much excellent information it contains. The brochure was first displayed at the Indian Island event on Orcas (see the following article.) It will be for sale ($2.95) at Darvill's Bookstore for visitors to bring with them when they visit the island. Who knew there were eight different species of sea stars to look for on low-tide walks? or that nudibranchs could be so beautiful? or that there is a crab who "decorates" himself with algae and sponge as camouflage!

Indian Island Event in October

On October 28 Beach Watchers, Kwiaht and Orcas school students who are involved with the Indian Island Marine Health Observatory hosted a very successful event at the Community Center in Eastsound. Their goal: to report to the Orcas community the results of their first two years of monitoring. Here are some photos of the evening, which included displays of the work being done at Indian Island, entertaining (and environmentally-friendly) music, yummy refreshments, and a presentation by Russel Barsh showing the invertebrates that have been inventoried at the island and what interesting creatures they are. Visitors were encouraged to join the current volunteers for the 2011 season. This well-organized event was the outcome of a lot of hard work by Marcia Spees, Russel, and other Beach Watchers.

Captions for the photos: 1) Marcia Spees and Nancy Alboucq at the Registration table; 2) Kim Secunda displays micro-plastics samples collected at Indian Island; 3) Indian Island logo and display outside the Community Center; 4) from Russel's photo presentation.

No sooner had the evening ended than Kwiaht and Beach Watcher volunteers began planning for next year. How to make research methods more efficient, ways to continue outreach to the business community, and the possibility of a seminar series during the winter and spring are all under discussion. If you are interested in volunteering, contact Rusty Johnson, And be sure to mark your calendars for the first event of the 2011 season -- a night-time low-tide walk to Indian Island on Wed. Jan. 19.

Fisherman Bay Project Update

Lopez Island Beach Watchers and other volunteers, working with Russel Barsh and Kwiaht interns, have completed their first season of Fisherman Bay surveys.

Intern Anne Harmon organized several fish-seining expeditions during the summer to gather data on the species and quantity of fish at different locations in and just outside of the bay. Volunteers quickly counted, measured, and then released the fish collected in the net. While it likely that the surveying protocol will be significantly revised in the future, these preliminary outings helped volunteers to sharpen their identification skills for the different fish species, as well as to become better acquainted with different areas of the bay. Most encouraging was the realization that there were still quite a few fish in the bay, in spite of water quality issues.

The bird surveys conducted by Kelley Palmer-McCarty, (see newsletter article from earlier in the season,) continued all summer. Working with a corps of Beach Watcher volunteers, they set up the spotting scope weekly at seven locations around the perimeter of Fisherman Bay, identifying and counting the species and quantity of birds at each. It was soon evident that the more everyone learned about the behavior of the birds, the more they were also gathering information about the fish. The surveyors observed what the herons, terns, ospreys and gulls were eating, how often their attempts at catching prey were successful, and where in the bay they focused their efforts.

When Kelley returned to Western Washington U. in the fall, Amanda Wedow and Charlie Behnke took over the surveys for Kwiaht; these continue to be a weekly event on Lopez and are open to everyone. (The schedule is posted monthly on .) Charlie (2009 Beach Watcher) and Amanda are recent graduates of Evergreen College and both have a strong background in ornithology. The summer surveys had made it obvious that a better spotting scope was needed, and with help from Kwiaht and donations from a number of volunteers, a new scope was put into use in November, just in time to observe the many varieties of ducks that are regularly congregating on the bay.

A Fisherman Bay Marine Health Observatory steering committee consisting of Kwiaht staff, some Lopez Beach Watchers and other community members, has been formed to discuss the work completed so far, and to set goals and make plans for 2011. How to involve the community more in the work being done is the major focus of the group, and plans are being made for a community outreach “Day on the Bay” on April 2nd, 2011. Save the date! and watch the newsletter for more information.

Lopez Island Conservation Corps Beach Clean-up in October

A couple dozen volunteers turned out on October 30 to spend the day cleaning up Lopez beaches. This semi-annual event, sponsored by the Lopez Island Conservation Corps, is a great service to the island in the never-ending battle to remove man-made debris from our beaches. Several hours and three pick-up truck loads later, here’s the weary group surrounded by the morning's haul.