Spring break for the birds

This is Protection Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca between Discovery and Sequim Bays. It’s just far enough from shore that it doesn’t lend itself to a good, clear shot. But it’s an interesting place. This is Puget Sound’s location for the avian version of spring break.

Protection Island is a 364-acre national wildlife refuge closed humans but it’s a hotspot for Washington state birds. An estimated 70% of the nesting seabird populations of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca come here. It’s home to one of the largest nesting colonies of rhinocerous auklets in the world and one of the last two nesting colonies of tufted puffins in the Puget Sound area.

There is a 200 yard buffer zone around the island so taking closeups of the feathered visitors is off the table.

Obituary for the Four Season Trees

In 2011 and 2012 I posted a series of shots of what I called the “Four Season Trees,” a long line of lombardi poplars that bordered Kitchen-Dick Road. Summer, autumn, winter, and spring shots showed the trees in their seasonal cloaks. In January, a long row of these trees were taken down by the local Public Utility District. Reaching the end of their expected lifespans, branches of the trees had been responsible for a significant power outage in the area and the trees were showing signs of age and decay. Though the run of Four Season Trees were not taken down in January, the reprieve was brief. They’re now gone.

The view has certainly opened up. I had guessed that the trees were a windbreak. Further north along this road their job description included blocking windborne seeds from being blown into a tree farm that grows seed conifers. To date the sawn trees remain stacked as they’re shown in the top shot.

There yesterday, gone today

If you’ve followed this blog for any time you may remember that I did a series of seasonal views of a line of windbreak poplar trees along the west side Kitchen Dick Road. There had been a long row of them that ran north to south for easily a full mile, broken in roughly the middle by Old Olympic Highway. As the picture above testifies, for the most part, they are no more.

We discovered them gone on Tuesday afternoon as crews from the Public Utility District wrapped up their work, leaving the trees in a tidy pile where they’d once stood. The trees I photographed still stand, a line of them perhaps 3/4 of a mile long.

Here’s the view looking south. Notice the power lines? Tree meets power line is not a popular pairing and the poplars were apparently close enough to cause concern. They were large and mature. I’m no expert, but they may have been reaching an age where branches get brittle and arborists start to worry. We saw dark heartwood in the stumps of many of the trees and I’m guessing that wasn’t a sign of good health. I hate to see them go but suspect some proactive logging has prevented potentially big headaches for the neighborhood power consumers.

And if you’re giggling at the road name, Kitchen Dick, like many others around here it’s named for two pioneer families who lived along the road. Drive it a couple dozen times and you forget to snicker.

The new trail

A few months ago I posted photos of the bluff trail at Dungeness Recreation Area here under the title “There goes the neighborhood” because it was, quite literally, sliding into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s an ongoing challenge to keep access to the bluff trails open because the sandy cliffs are so battered by natural erosion. This is a view of the newly-revised trail at the bluff after it was recently shifted further inland. Although it looks – and is – tidy and clear, this shift required removing at least four or five feet of thick shrubbery that previously edged the trail to allow it to tiptoe back from the ever-creeping ledge. The fence you see in this view is not so far from the previous inland side of the trail.

This view shows some of the erosion that has eaten into what once was the trail.

Trail crews did a beautiful job on this and other parts of the bluff trail. I wish I could applaud and say “Your work is finished!” But I think it’s just another chapter in an ongoing saga. They’ll be back.