Friday, April 17, 2015

April 2015 Snow and Sea Lions

April brings the first good minus daytime tides of the season.  Beach Naturalists training on Sunday the 19th will see only a modest -1.3 ft low tide at noon.  In fact 2015 is not a great year for exceptionally low tides.  The lowest this Summer being only a minus 2.8 ft in Seattle.  Some exceptional years see a minus 4.1 ft low....not this year.  With the low tides during the day we will have a chance to access the status of sea star wasting disease on our local population of stars.  Last year saw a continued decline in the sea star population along the Pacific Coast. Some areas saw considerable numbers of juvenile stars most of which seemed healthy and it will be interesting to see if these youngsters remain disease free and begin the recovery of sea star populations.
Washington State snow pack from this winter is well below average by as much as 70% in some areas of the Cascades and Olympics.  Some late snow in mid April has helped a little but near term temperatures are headed up with 70 deg. the weekend of the 19th.  Spring rains thus far have helped fill Washington's reservoirs and it appears that a water shortage is not likely for Western Washington.  California on the other hand is still in the grip of a multi-year drought and forecasts are not looking good for an ending any time soon.
The April jump in California Sea Lion population in Puget Sound has arrived with more animals being seen in Elliott Bay now than during the winter months.  By mid May most will have left for breeding grounds south.
The North Cascade Highway and Chinook Pass in the Cascades opened earlier than usual this year due to the low snow pack.  This gave us an opportunity to check out the snow pack for ourselves and do a little bird watching.....and feeding.  We observed that Clark's Nutcrackers dominate the Gray Jays when it comes to grabbing food from a willing hand.  Clark's Nutcracker is a resident of the mountain west, while the Gray Jay ranges much farther north into Alaska and northern Canada and is only seen in the U.S. in the western mountains.

CA. and Steller Sea Lions Elliott Bay

CA and Steller Sea Lions Elliott Bay
Washington Pass Overlook

Moving the snow mover

Clark's Nutcracker

Bold Clark's Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker

Watch the birdie

Clark's Nutcracker

Gray Jay

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