Spartina

Spartina anglica

Common Cordgrass, Spartina anglica, is one of the aquatic scourges of Puget Sound. One of three species of Spartina that have been introduced to the west coast, it aggressively alters its habitat by trapping sediment and raising the shoreline. As a result, productive mudflats disappear, invertebrates die, and the birds that depend on them have no food source.

Fortunately, there is a major program underway in Washington to wipe out the Spartina invasion. There has been major progress in the past four or five years, primarily through a combination of herbicide spraying and mowing. Spartina spreads both by floating seeds that can travel long distances and rhizomatous roots.

Last Saturday a group of us kayakers joined in a shoreline survey along Deadman and Little Deadman Islands in Skagit Bay south of Snee-oosh Point looking for Spartina. We really hoped we wouldn’t find any, but our group located several small clumps. Each one was only about a meter across and they were widely dispersed. We recorded the locations with GPS coordinates, which will be passed along to an erdication crew that will come in and spray. We surveyed by kayak on a rising tide so we could get close to the shore, travel slowly, and make careful observations. In a couple of cases we thought we saw clumps of Spartina that turned out upon closer observation to be good native plants.

For further information about Spartina visit Common Cordgrass on the Washington Noxious Weed Control Board website.

Sunshine on Mt. Baker

The low winter light on Mt. Baker this afternoon was as nice as I’ve ever seen it as I bicycled east on Slater Road. There’s lots of fresh snow on the mountain, and the Black Buttes cast long shadows on the side of the peak, accentuating the volcano’s shape and texture. It would have been picture perfect except for the uninteresting strip of clouds hanging over the summit.

I wasn’t in a position to do any photography anyway. I’d been working furiously preparing high-res files for a stock agency and just had to get out of the office and burn off some energy, so I went for a brisk but relatively short bike ride in the afternoon sun. I only rode a little under 17 miles today, cruising along the flatlands near the Nooksack in a loop that took me out Marine Drive, up Ferndale Road, east on Slater, and then back to town on Northwest.

Wednesday afternoon I also took off for a ride, but with more hills and an inevitably slower pace. It’s nice to be able to get out and ride during the winter months to keep my blood circulating and general fitness level up.

I’ve also put in a couple of days of kayaking since Thanksgiving. The first was about 10 miles on Lake Shannon near Concrete, with glorious views of both Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. It was a gloriously sunny day with heavy frost on the ground when we launched. The second kayak outing was on Saturday on the Samish River, paddling upstream from the mouth at Edison. It was a cold and snowy day, although we didn’t get snowed on as heavily as we thought we would. There were numerous bald eagles and other raptors perched in the bare trees along the river and several blue herons at the water’s edge. We also saw lots of coots and smaller numbers of other waterfowl. Upstream of the tidal influence the current was about 1 mph, just enough to notice but not enough to cause a lot of extra work.

The Mt. Baker ski area opened on November 27 and I went up for opening day. The snow was cold, the sky blue, and the skiing great. I ran out of legs before I ran out of daylight.

We’ve got so many recreational opportunities around here that it’s sometime hard to decide just how to go out and play. That’s a blessing.

Paddling to Chuckanut Island

Friday afternoon was warm and sunny — perfect for skipping out of the office and going for an afternoon paddle along the shore south of Bellingham. I put a note on the WAKE kayak group listserv and got a prompt response from Ed Alm. We agreed that a 3 pm put-in at Marine Park gave us enough time to get ready.

It turned out that we put in at low tide, in fact a little lower than minus 2 feet. Since there’s not much current along the shore, the tide didn’t matter and neither of us had checked it in advance.  The benefit of going out on the low tide was that more of the shoreline rocks were exposed.

Chuckanut Rock

We paddled quickly south from Marine Park, hitting 5.5 mph according to Ed’s GPS. Once we reached the interesting rock formations along the shore of Clark’s Point we slowed to a very leisurely pace and paddled very close to the cliffs to see what was hanging around.  There were dozens of ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) in almost every crack, as well as a couple of marine invertebrates we couldn’t identify — something rather long, orange, and tube-like. Continue reading