Fall Equinox

Fall 2018 is arriving with a blast.

Last night the breeze began to build. Tree branches danced to and fro. It rained overnight. This last summer morning, the warm season is letting us know she is not happy to have to step aside. Her winds tell us so.

This evening fall will officially arrive. The equinox is said to yield equal number of daylight and dark hours.

But as daylight hours dwindle, we have something pleasant to witness. The earth brings out her colors.

Full Blood Moon, Buck Moon, Here Comes an Eclipse!

Today’s superstar is the full moon, and this one is being hailed as the longest lunar eclipse of the century!

That’s a lot of hype. Sadly, the eclipse won’t be visible in the United States, because it takes place during daylight here. But it should be exciting for people in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America, who should see a reddish moon.

That’s where the name Blood Moon comes in. Any moon in eclipse typically looks reddish, so it’s always called a Blood Moon.

The July full moon is also called the Buck Moon, referring to the time that deer start to shed their antlers. Other names for the July moon are Thunder Moon and Hay Moon.

Whatever we call it, our moon is deeply tied to our rhythms and cultures on earth.

Low-Low Tide

A couple weeks ago, we had some super low tides in Seattle. It’s always fun to go out and explore the exposed shoreline. This time, the vistas were amazing!

My photos were taken from the West Seattle neighborhood, which lies on a large peninsula across Elliott Bay from downtown. The tide was at -3.7.

Normally, this area is completely covered.
This little pier now allows a new view from below!

The normal view!

 

Usual view from the top of the pier.

 

Egg case of moon snail
Another egg case

Anemone
Jellyfish

Full Moon, Empty Strawberry Bowl

The June Full Moon is called the Strawberry Moon. The Algonquin tribes associated this moon with the gathering of strawberries.

The June Full Moon is also known as the Rose Moon, Honey Moon, and Mead Moon. Perhaps it is the time of collecting honey, picking roses and making mead.

I have not noticed a pink hue to the moon in the past couple days. The night before it was officially full, I gazed upon a lovely, if not ominous, moon surrounded by swirly clouds. I especially liked the way the moon was lighting up the clouds around it.

I quickly shot a bunch of hand-held photos. Not sharply in focus, they do not need to be. Think of them as atmospheric, dreamy.

On the following night of the real full moon, I looked out and saw a crystal clear white moon, with no clouds. Not as interesting, so I did not shoot it.

Strawberry moon? I have been waiting for my strawberries to ripen. They seem late and not many so far this June.

True, we have had cooler, cloudy weather, but I usually am harvesting many berries by now.

There is promise: strawberry blossoms and unripened fruit.

June Bug

It’s officially June! I found this ten-lined June bug, or June beetle, right next to my front door! That was really strange, because just minutes before I was singing a line from a Lucinda Williams song that goes “June bug versus the hurricane…”

I had only seen one of these beetles in my yard once before.

This large beetle is a member of the scarab family. The grubs live underground and feed on plant roots. the adults feed on plant foliage. There are several varieties of beetles called June bugs and they all look different. Another common one is a large green one.

I’m glad this attractive one came to visit. I discovered that they hiss!

A Pigeon by Any Other Name

We call them pigeons. Birders have called them rock doves. Apparently now, the powers that be in the bird world have declared them to be rock pigeons.

One of the most familiar birds worldwide, these chunky, multicolored birds have adapted so well that we can find them in cities and farm fields, in parks and on rocky cliffs. They are members of the Columbidae family, along with all other pigeons and doves.

Their natural diet includes seeds and fruits, but they’re excellent scavengers, loitering in places where people gather and tend to drop morsels that can be snatched. They are equally creative in using various spaces for their nests.
Pigeon skills in navigation and homing proved valuable during World Wars I and II, when they were used by the U.S. Army Signal Corps to carry messages.

Numbers Declining

Though pigeons seem ubiquitous, the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) estimates that the population has declined by almost 50 percent since 1966. The survey is a long-term, large-scale cooperative effort of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

The program began in 1966, led by Chandler Robbins, a researcher at Patuxent and good friend of Rachel Carson, who penned the landmark book Silent Spring. Her book alerted the world to the effects of pesticides on bird populations, but was considered quite controversial when it was published. Robbins died in 2017, just short of his 99th birthday. He was a renowned ornithologist and often birded with Carson. You can read more about them at http://www.rachelcarson.org/mChanRobbins.aspx

The BBS continues to be an important tool in avian research and the formation of conservation programs.

The global population of pigeons is estimated at 120 million and though declining in North America, they are not currently a species of concern.

Watching pigeon behavior can be a fun past time. Recently while waiting at a bus stop in downtown Seattle, I watched a group of them ambling about. It’s fun to make your own narrative of what’s going on.

Forming a strategy
Gone to the dark side
Walking the line
Going their separate ways

On Volcanoes

Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest 11 years ago, volcanoes and earthquakes have become part of my consciousness. Not a very loud part, more of vague background noise, but always there nonetheless.

Mount Rainier

I live two hours from Mount Rainier, and three from Mount St. Helens, but their presence looms as a constant reminder of the earth’s capacity for fiery temper tantrums. We also have major oceanic plates that are subject to slipping, providing constant earthquake potential.

According to scientists, whom you may or may not trust at this point, the earth is made up of plates, which occasionally move around. This causes inconvenient episodes in human life, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. In geology class, I learned about the process of subduction, when one plate rides over and pushes down another. In my region, the Juan de Fuca Plate is subducting under the North American Plate, in the Cascadia subduction zone. Cool! I get to live in a subduction zone.

But, despite all of this, people here go about their lives without much thought to the potential catastrophes ever present, much like the residents of Hawaii, who dare to live on a dry rocky landscape that once flowed unimaginably hot from the center of the earth.

The Hawaiian islands were formed by lava spewing up, building, building, building, until there were blobs of land where there were none before. And the residents there are no different from those of my region. They are aware of the dangers, but decide that they can live with them. Nature’s beauty and all the other reasons we choose to live where we do outweigh the seemingly distant dangers.

In light of the current eruptions of Kilauea, I wanted to revisit my experiences on Hawaii, Maui and at Mount St. Helens.

Kilauea

When I visited the Big Island in 2011, half of Volcanoes National Park was closed to visitors because of toxic fumes. Though there were no swaths of red-orange glowing lava flowing at that time, sulfur dioxide is constantly being released from fissures in the earth and can be become concentrated at dangerous levels. I got a mild whiff of it and it’s not pleasant.

Today, it seems that Pele is reasserting her authority. Pele is the revered goddess, the creator of the island. People leave tributes of leaves and flowers to her at the volcano and other places.

All over half the island, you can see vast fields of blackish boulders and debris from old lava flows. Near the water, the cooled lava shows intriguing swirls and shapes.

Old lava flows seen in the ocean

 

Volcanoes National Park

Tree hole, where lava surrounded and incinerated a tree

Haleakala

On Maui, the House of the Sun, aka Haleakala, is a major attraction. At 10,000 feet, the volcano dominates the island, providing a cool, arid counter to the warm, moist palm tree-laden lowlands. I visited in February this year.

As you drive into the Upcountry region, you climb slowly and steadily, until you enter a completely different landscape. Vegetation becomes sparse and close to the earth. A rocky crust of lava covers the area. Black boulders and reddish dirt begin to appear. Finally, at the summit, there is a spectrum of red, brown and gray. Known as a shield volcano, Haleakala is thought to have last erupted in the 17th century.

Haleakala is actually a caldera, a large depression left by an erupting volcano. It is a collection of mounds and craters. The unique and beautiful Maui subspecies of silversword grows there, and there is an observatory at the top. All the white stuff in my photos are clouds, not steam.

On Volcanoes, Part 2 continues with Mount St. Helens