Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Anyone who has been watching the Weather Channel lately knows all about the big Nor'easter dumping lots of snow in the NE.  The story here in Seattle gets very little play but is just as amazing weather wise.
The temperature at night over Western Washington at 5,000 feet is higher than the average July temperature at the same altitude.  Seattle temperature on Monday reached 65 degrees.  I took advantage of this June in January weather for a trip up to the Skagit Delta to see the winter birds.
We searched high and low for Snow Geese but only observed on large flock in the air south of the delta.  Trumpeter Swans were more abundant that I've ever seen on the Skagit, and a few dozen Tundra Swans were present.  The most unusual sighting was a Long-eared Owl. being observed by a couple dozen bird watchers.
This warm weather (which is predicted to remain for the rest of winter) bodes badly for the snowpack in both the Cascade and Olympic mountains...and for water this Summer.  What is even more disastrous is the drought in California which has worsened this winter.  This is a much bigger story than a short time snow storm in New England.
Well....at least it was a good day for photography....

Long-eared Owl

Mt. Baker

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Trumpeter Swan

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Trumpeter Swan

Long-eared Owl
Skagit Delta bird watchers at Long-eared Owl roost

Sunday, January 25, 2015


The body of a California Gray Whale was located under the Colman Ferry Terminal dock on Seattle's Waterfront this week.  The whale was a female approximately 2-3 years old an in excellent health prior to being struck by the ships propeller.  There were 6 deep gashes in the whale that were determined by scientists to have been the cause of death. 
The California Gray Whale population is considered healthy and not endangered.  Whales die of natural causes and wash ashore occasionally on Puget Sound beaches.  It is sad however to see a healthy whale killed due to contact with humans.  It is unlikely that the ship ever saw the whale or even knew it had hit it.
The whale had likely been dead only a few days or less before being discovered under the Colman Ferry Terminal dock so was likely hit by a ship near Seattle.
California Gray Whales migrate between Baja California and the Arctic each year.  Calves are born on the winter grounds in Baja lagoons and make the first trip north with their mothers.  After feeding in Arctic waters during the Summer ice free months the whales make the return journey to Baja California lagoons for another season of mating and birthing.
California Gray Whales are not uncommon seasonally in Puget Sound and small numbers are found every year feeding on ghost shrimp in the Everett area during the Spring months. 
While uncommon the rest of the year in Puget Sound Gray Whales have been seen in the Sound every month of the year.
For more information on this whale and images of the necropsy click on the link below:


Below are some images of the Gray Whale including a few of a necropsy conducted on a whale that died near Tacoma WA in 1991.

California Gray Whale

California Gray Whale blow

California Gray Whale head - paired blowholes

California Gray Whales in Baja California lagoon

California Gray Whale approaching boat

Amphipods - main food of Gray Whales in Arctic waters


New born Gray Whale in Baja California
Gray Whale baleen (1991)

Gray Whale testes (1991)

39 foot Gray Whale from Tacoma (1991)

Gray Whale intestines (1991)

Sand in Gray Whale stomach (1991)

Gray Whale necropsy (1991)

Gray Whale necropsy (1991)

Gray Whale blubber and skin (1991)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


I noticed that this week of Jan 4th 2015 will bring another Arctic blast down on much of the country with even Atlanta, GA forecasting below zero temp.
Meanwhile Western Washington has made the news with massive flooding on many rivers,  With flooded down towns, mud slides, road washouts....all thanks to that Pineapple Express weather system from Hawaii.  Our low temps this week will be in the mid 40's with highs in the 50's...quite warm even for our marine climate.  Much of our snow pack has been washed away and many ski areas are closed.  It was happening just as forecast....warmer winter due to moderate El Nino and the huge blob of warm water in the NE Pacific Ocean.
But while Western Washington was taking it in the shorts with extremely heavy rains Seattle was sitting in a tiny (city size) rain shadow provided by the Olympic Mountains.  This happens whenever the rain and clouds come directly from the west rather than the more common pattern from the southwest.  To get some idea of how strange this rain pattern can be in Western Washington you only have to look at a radar image.....Blue is rain, Green is heavier rain, Yellow is heavy rain....White is dry.
This radar image is from January 4th but is the same on January 5th.

Stay Warm,