LOCAL WALKS: Washington Park

Set into a chunky peninsula on the northwest corner of Fidalgo Island, Washington Park is a singularly beautiful place. I’ve been there thirty-odd times in the past couple of years and each time I return, I see something new, and I’m enchanted again. Here is a selection of photos from this favorite local haunt.

1. Winter sunset. The Olympic Mountains are low on the horizon; a gnarled, half-dead Seaside juniper tree is silhouetted on the bluff.
2. Ferries to the San Juan Islands (seen in the distance) leave from a terminal a mile away, but why leave?

3. A winter view from the park’s edge. The glacially-scraped rocks are serpentinite, from deep down in the earth’s mantle. These rocks are uncommon, and they’re around 170 million years old. This little cove has a mind-boggling variety of sea life hiding just under the water – brown and red algae, anemones, sponges, worms, chitons, snails, sea slugs, sea cucumbers, sea stars, barnacles, crabs, fish, and more have been found by inquisitive explorers.

4. Three males and a female – attractive Harlequin ducks ply the waters around the park in winter.

At 220 acres, Washington Park isn’t particularly large, but a varied habitat of saltwater shoreline, rocky bluffs and evergreen forest makes it a rewarding place to explore. From the park’s shores you might see harbor porpoises, seals, the occasional whale, oystercatchers, herons and even the elusive Marbled murrelet, which sometimes fishes near the shore. (The Marbled murrelet is an odd seabird. Back in 1974 a tree-climber found a murrelet chick high in an old tree; that was the first time Western science had found a Marbled murrelet’s nest. They may feed way out at sea and then fly up to 50 miles (80km) inland to raise their young. Their preference for old growth forests means habitat destruction is impinging on their nesting success. Foraging habits may also be negatively affected by climate change; currently the Marbled murrelet is considered endangered.)

Turning away from the water, the park’s woodlands invite scrutiny. Weather-ravaged junipers and Douglas firs command rocky headlands. Mounds of delicate, slow-growing reindeer lichens (Cladonia sp.) speckle forest openings and wildflowers that may be uncommon elsewhere bloom in the park each Spring. Deer, squirrels, and birds abound. There’s a bench by the loop road (open to walkers, bike riders and cars willing to go 10mph) with a lovely water view. It has become a favorite spot to hand-feed chickadees, sparrows, towhees and other birds. Tiny Chestnut-backed chickadees will perch on any outstretched hand with a few seeds in it; they’ve cleaned me out of nuts and seeds more than once.

6. Moisture from the Salish Sea keeps mosses green through most of the year. This photo was taken in November; in the summer there is very little rain. Plants adjust by going dormant, dropping leaves or just biding time until the rains return in September.

7. An old Seaside juniper is flanked by the evergreen leaves of several young Madrone trees. The uncommon Seaside juniper (Juniperus maritima) only grows in certain parts of southwestern British Columbia and northwestern Washington State. Scientists recognized it as a separate species in 2007. The trees favor drier, south-facing slopes on the islands and are fairly plentiful in Washington Park but are scarce to nonexistent elsewhere. Seaside juniper is vulnerable to climate change since many of the trees grow on islands. If an island’s climate becomes inhospitable, the trees cannot slowly migrate away like they might be able to do on the mainland.

8. Seaside junipers and Madrones enjoy good light on this open headland slope facing uninhabited Burrows Island. The uprooted tree will slowly decompose on a bed of moss and reindeer lichen. Leaving the log where it is allows a whole host of non-flowering plants, insects, and other creatures to live their lives, which are connected to our lives.


9. Dewdrops line up on dried grass.

10. A little Nodding onion (Allium cernuum) blooms here in June.

11. This unusual, tiny plant, a fern called Indian’s dream (Aspidotis densa) lives on serpentine soils, which tend to be inhospitable to many other plants.
12. Pretty pink Sea blush (Plectritis congesta) and white Field chickweed (Cerastium arvense) mingle on ground littered with broken, lichen-covered branches.

13. Tiger lilies (Lilium columbianum) were blooming in the forest only a few yards from the loop road, in June. What a delightful discovery!

14. A Douglas fir needle dangles from a Red huckleberry twig by a thread of spider silk. The forest at Washington Park sometimes seems to glow green, with plant life. The high, dense canopy of evergreens reduces the light entering the forest but open water on three sides of the park reflects light that brightens dim places.

15. Branch tip of a Seaside juniper tree.

16. Three juniper cones on the ground. I’m tempted to call them berries but they are actually cones containing one or two seeds each. A number of the park’s Seaside juniper trees may be over 200 years old.

17. Tall Douglas firs are plentiful in the woods, along with Western redcedar, whose gracefully drooping leaves are to the left.
18. I guess this rock is a glacial erratic. In the forest it quietly gathers lichens, mosses and insects, producing an ever-changing palette of life on its surface, even on a gray November day.

19. The complexity of crossing branches revealed after leaves have dropped is absolutely dizzying.

20. This beauty looks like it’s covered with snow but no, those are lichens that have found a happy home on a dead evergreen. The tree may no longer be producing needles and branches, but it still plays a vital role in the forest.

21. The snow-capped Olympic Mountain range is shrouded in clouds on a quiet December afternoon. Barely visible to the left is the Burrows Island lighthouse, the oldest intact wooden lighthouse in the state. The light went into service in 1906, then it was automated in 1972. The uninhabited island can only be reached by private boat. One of the delights of Washington Park is gazing out at the Salish Sea and dreaming of “what-ifs.” You can bet I’ll keep going back as long as I can.

***


69 comments

    • The lilies were a surprise – very pretty in a wooded setting and also at risk, being close to a trail and the paved loop. There were maybe ten plants. I’ll be curious to see if the flowering is lighter, heavier or the same this year. Most of the other interesting wildflowers require stooping. πŸ™‚ I’m not feeling too horrible, but Steve (below) pointed out that I forgot to renumber the photos after one of many revisions as I slogged through putting this together. Oh well! Good to hear from you.

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  1. I’ve never seen such an enlichened tree as the one in #20.
    Though the seaside juniper grows only in WA and BC, the tree in picture #7 looks just like one of the Ashe junipers in Texas.
    Inquiring minds want to know: what happened to picture #2?

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    • Ah, #2 flew the coop during one of many revisions, then a head cold prevented me from noticing that I needed to renumber. If I do it now, the number people referred to in comments will be wrong. Maybe I’ll just stick a #2 in there. Thanks for noticing, Steve. The tree in #20 is unusual for the way it stands alone near the road as if waiting to be photographed. Trees do get completely covered like that around here, pretty regularly. Interesting about the Ashe juniper – I looked it up – yes, very similar. The juniper this species had been lumped with was J. scopulorum, the Rocky Mtn. juniper. I have really fallen for these trees and plan to do a post about them later. I must have a thousand or more photos of them – gotta love junipers!

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    • Ken, #14 was made with the Takumar 50mm f1.4, probably pretty wide open. My lens retains some yellowing, which most people get rid of, but you can see why I haven’t done that – I alwys figure I can play with the color balance in Lr if I want to but sometimes that yellowing does interesting things. Thanks!!

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      • I’m not convinced the camera/lens or LR has the best color balance. One of my first edits is usually to try to balance the way my mind’s eye sees the image. It usually doesn’t matter if it’s a correct balance (at least for my personal work). I like the ability (and freedom) to control it as I would like it to be.

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        • Yes, vision is a part of it. I’ve been involved with photography for a while now and one thing I learned early on is that processing and editing are personal choices. We all see the world through our own lens and the lenses are different for everyone. And those lenses are interchangeable and we can change day-to-day, year-to-year. Creation is an evolutionary process. It’s human nature to want to change and improve. Otherwise, we would still be driving Modle T Fords.

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  2. Another fine collection and very enjoyable walk with you, Lynn. The stars of the show? Well, the lichen covered tree really got my attention. And, of course, the sunset is lovely. I rarely see them as I am more of a sunrise guy but that’s a beauty of a day’s end. Although chaotic, which is often a good thing, I really like the sea blush image too. And while not necessarily a “pretty” picture, that little crab is adorable.

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    • I’ve seen other trees that are totally covered like that, but that one isn’t surrounded on all sides by more trees, so one can actually photograph it. πŸ˜‰ With the Sea blush I was thinking I should try accenting the pinks more and quieting down the yellows a bit, and maybe it would be just a bit more coherent. So many scenes here are chaotic and I’m drawn to that but I also struggle with it. You understand. The crab and other assorted intertidal beings were found during a field trip at low tide last Spring – it was amazing – I had no idea about the richness of the intertidal lifeforms. You catch the sunrise, I’ll work on the sunsets and we’ll have it covered. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

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      • A while ago I knew a photographer from Vermont who did a lot of diving for small sea creatures and he was going to meet me at a part of Acadia to bring up anemones etc for my to shoot in tide pools. It got cancelled so I never had that chance.
        Yup, you’ve got west coast sunsets and I’ve got east coast sunrises. We’re a team. πŸ™‚

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  3. A bit late now to comment, but I will give it a try πŸ˜‰ A very nice post Lynn. I love those tiny flowers (the lillie!) and your pictures, especially those from the details, are wonderful. Nr. 9 is very poetic to me, so tender. And these different living forms from Nr. 5, what a fascinating and strange variety. #1 is so nice and the lichen tree – incredible. A christmas tree of a different kind I would say πŸ™‚ – I looked for the Marbled murrelet. What a lovely seabird! And their behaviour still seems to be a bit mysterious. A rare incidence in our well known / investigated world, right?! I heard from some ducks that are nesting in trees, but up to 15 miles inland for a seabird, that is amazing!- I am always fascinated by your woods. We live almost on the same latitude, but when I see this landscape I have to think of northern Scandinavia or the Alpes. I think, I mentioned this before. I like this kind of “old” and “gnarled” landscape. A countryside with lots of character. I hope you will find many more of this tiny flowers πŸ™‚

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    • I’m glad you liked the blade of grass with the drops on it (#9). I think it’s the kind of photo I (and you?) try to make often but it doesn’t always work well. #5 – There were many more “beings” that people found on the field trip to explore low tide that I did not get decent photographs for. There is amazing stuff living around the rocks just under the water. When there’s a very low tide and you know how/where to look, you can see many of these strange things. Yes, seabirds don’t usually nest in deep forests – it’s pretty crazy. The gnarled, weathered look of many trees here happens when they grow close to the water and are exposed to lots of weather. The junipers especially take on wild shapes; the Douglas firs too.
      As for the flowers – one is not so tiny – the lily – they’re a “normal” size. But most of the other flowers that bloom on the rocky, exposed places near the water are really small. You can guarantee I’ll be looking for them again, in April, May, and June. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your comment, I hope you’re arm is better now.

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      • So the living forms were just a clipping from shorelife. Recently I heard that in the ground from the tideland in northern Europe (and maybe elsewhere too) one can find the highest biodiversity after the rain forest. I can’t imagine it! – I like these harsh trees wind and water worked on! I wouldn’t have thought that the lilly has normal size. Nevertheless I like this flower with the narrow blossom leaves and I am looking forward to the other tiny ones you will bring to us in summertime, yeah πŸ™‚ –
        My wisdom tooth is gone πŸ™‚ and my arm is a bit better. Next week I go to PT. Thank you for your concern.

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        • That’s interesting about biodiversity. The lily – it’s not as big as one you would see in a garden or buy at a florist shop. A little smaller than that, but not a tiny little thing either. πŸ™‚ So many unpleasant things, but now you’re putting it behind you, and I hope you have a nice massage or heat treatment with the PT. (Today I walked in Washington Park again, and some birds flew over to me – not to the other people walking nearby. I had some nuts so I took them out, broke them up, and soon I had three chickadees hanging on my hand at once! It was magical!)

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        • Oh, how wonderful!! Please send me some Chickadees πŸ˜‰ We have a rather mild winter season so far. The birds are rare at the feeder, nature is 2 weeks ahead in some places. I can see a few birds that come nearer to the house in this time of the year. I think we will get some cold, later on…

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  4. This is really an enjoyable re-entry into the blogging world you gave me here, dear Lynn, after my analog break! It is so familiar, a bit like coming home when I see your wonderful photos and hear your voice between the lines of the text.
    I find your pictures of the glacial landscape particularly impressive, their roughness contrasts so beautifully with the delicate plant pictures. I am enthusiastic about the tiger lily, which I have never seen in its wild form before, I only know it from the flower shop. How much nicer it is without the intervention of mankind who tries to optimize everything, whereby sustainable improvements do not often occur.

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    • You make such a good point about the lily! Similar species grow wild in many places in the US, and you’re exactly right, when we see them in their natural habitat, with no extra hormones or breeding programs to make them bigger and brighter, it’s a revelation. I’ve had the same thought about rhododendrons, which also grow wild here, in the woods. They bloom sparsely, just here and there, and the pink flowers are smaller, more open, more delicate. They’re incredibly beautiful, but hard to photograph. I’m very happy to see you back, and glad you enjoyed the walk. You’re smart to take an analog break, I admire that. πŸ™‚

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  5. The little cove and its occupants are real treasure ! Fascinating . I wonder did you find all these creatures in one visit ?
    You have such a keen eye Lynn .. love the tiger lily and the other fresh greens that jump off the page .. your focus is perfect in ‘all’ manner of ways .
    The references to the geology of the area made me think of an area in Cornwall – The Lizard. It is the most southerly part of the UK known along with other reasons for its Serpentinite rock . There are ruins of a factory built in the 1800’s on the coastline, and apparently Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were so taken with some of the carved decorative Serpentine rock items they saw in a museum they commissioned I guess some pieces to be shipped to one of their residences on the Isle of Wight . I knew some of this and even in the archives have some pics but not the details, wiki and other sources are just marvellous ! I googled Burrows Lighthouse naturally *smile … what a great quirky building … just a shame you have to visit by boat ….
    I love dreaming of ‘what-ifs’ too πŸ™‚

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    • It’s interesting to hear that you’re familiar with serpentine. There’s an area in Oregon where many unusual pants grow, including carnivorous plants, at least partly because of the serpentine. Apparently, it inhibits a lot of “normal” plants. And it’s pretty! πŸ˜‰
      You googled the lighthouse! There are lots of islands around here, most of them uninhabited….a boat would be a great thing to have but I’ve never really been a boat person, unfortunately.
      The creatures – there were many more….it was a field trip run by an expert in intertidal life around this area. I probably found only one creature – everyone was finding things. It was amazing. If you ever hear of a workshop or field trip to explore low tide on the shore, go for it. πŸ™‚ Enjoy your weekend!

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  6. It is nice to have a place you can return to over and over again. You get to see it in different seasons, light, and weather conditions, which lead to interesting and varied photos. I really like the top photo with the silhouette of the dead tree – it is striking. That corner of the United States is so beautiful.

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    • That’s so true, Jeff, and I’ve only bee in this location a year and a half. I’m having such a great time exploring. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, I appreciate it – have a good weekend!

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  7. A beautiful set as always, Lynn. Your eye never ceases to amaze me. There’s that (ego-)part of me that says, “Man, if I lived there…imagine the pictures I’d get!”, but then, the realistic artist in me says…”Beautiful images are all about you! Pay Attention!!!” But I still can’t help but be jealous of your neighborhood environment.

    I am particularly drawn to #3. It’s like the most delicious layer cake I ever ate in image-form. So many more colors and textures than my tongue could ever keep track of. And I love the capture of the wave droplets in mid-splash.

    Again, I am surprised (shocked, even?) by like-mindedness. The marbled murrelet actually plays a central role in a rather large (for me) and complex poem that I wrote a number of years ago. I was looking specifically for an image/metaphor to encompass a certain feeling I was having about the story I was trying to tell and I went hunting on the internet and found myself led to the very same (I believe) story you mention about the tree-climber and the murrelet nesting so far from open water. It spoke to me of a kind of loss that cannot be fixed and your images helped me to re-examine this story.

    https://aprayerlikegravity.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/love-lost-you-across-a-bloody-ocean-a-sestina/

    Thank you for that–
    J

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    • It’s true, if you lived here you’d make some amazing images, I’m sure. Note that I am jealous of what you can find in St. Louis. I think there’s a certain atmosphere in older eastern and midwestern cities that is very lacking in the west. And one downside of being in the midst of so much great scenery is that one’s photographs can tend to look like cliches or picture postcards. I’m not complaining though. #3 is a layer cake, yes! That’s so interesting that you zeroed in on the Marbled murrelet. The bird has become a rallying point for some logging controversies, like the better-known Spotted owl. I’ll check the link now.

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  8. We have no doubt that this is a place for Lynn visit often!
    In addition to the beautiful photos that touch any look, the description about the local flora and animal life is really magnificent and leave us with a certain “envy” of being so far.
    But, anywhere in the world, nature has details of great beauty, depending on our interest to discover and explore these pearls with open eyes. Often they are very close to us …
    Thank young and have a nice weekend!

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    • πŸ™‚ Yes, it’s a place I like to visit often, for sure. I was there again today, and some birds flew up to me. I had some peanuts so I held them out in my hand and the birds took them. At one point, three little chickadees (Poecile rufescens) were on my hand. Magic. Your thoughts are appreciated, and you’re right, we can find pearls of beauty just about anywhere…closer than we might think. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. πŸ™‚

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  9. It feels as though you’re developing a deep love for your location. I am so very happy to see that. It’s a pleasure to see all the latest discoveries you’re finding. I’m thinking about Ule’s analog break… I suppose I’ve been doing that here and there, but then I try to catch up on everyone I’ve missed and it gets a bit disconcerting. I’m loving your views from the neighborhood. Each and every one.

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  10. Great to have found a day field trip for your visit. I’ll bear it in mind πŸ˜‰ not sure we’d have such interesting creatures but once you start looking …
    Happy weekend to you too Lynn !

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  11. That’s a lovely spot to go wandering around. It’s the sort of place people would travel thousands of miles to see (even if it takes ’em a few years to get there. πŸ˜‰ )

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  12. I think we should notify Trip Advisor and let them know about your virtual tours! If one cannot get out in nature, this is a very close ‘second’ option! It’s always a joy to roam your world, which you share with your sensitive photos and narratives!

    Last time on line this page loaded, and I read it at home. Intending to ‘open this image’ in a new tab – to view when back online, the computer did a strange thing. It was not online, and I suppose was a bit confused, so it automatically downloaded the image instead! Go figure. Now on line, it opened the new window as instructed.

    Which image? This one, so very pastoral and poetic:

    z

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    • You certainly have done that for Ecuador – I feel like I have a sense of the country, thanks to you. I’m happy to know you got a poetic feeling from that image…it wouldn’t win any awards but it’s very characteristic of this area, with the fallen tree, the moss and lichens, and the water and forests beyond. And there are (maybe) my favorite local trees – the Seaside juniper (ridged gray bark) and the Madrone (smooth reddish bark) hanging out together. There are chickadees in that park that are habituated to being fed by hand and I’ve been having fun with them. Magic. πŸ™‚ Thanks for being here, amiga. πŸ™‚

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      • I loved that part of your post when you mentioned the chickadees eating from your hand.. Such a lovely and tender connection to nature – one that would soften an ogre’s heart!

        Am at the museo, which closes at 3. After visiting the gallinules at the nearby park, I found zero restaurants open and mentioned this to the guards at the museo. “I think I’ll open a restaurant called ‘Domingos’ – open from 6 in the morning til 6 in the afternoon and closed the rest of the week!’ we laughed, and I went downstairs to paint and use the internet. Half an hour later the guard brought me lunch, comps of his wife who brought his (Encebollado oh so delicious!)

        Enjoy your afternoon and ditto for you being there for me as well!

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    • The tide pools are quite amazing – I’ve barely scratched the surface there. It seems that the really low tides tend to be in mid-summer, which certainly makes for more comfortable exploring. πŸ˜‰ And yes, rugged it is, no doubt about it. What’s interesting about this particular park is that a one-way road loops through it so it does get a lot of traffic (even at 10mph top speed) and it’s a city park. But still, it retains that rugged feeling.

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      • I’m surprised to hear about the road traffic, given your photos. I usually check the tide charts to see when the really low, lows will be — full or new moon– and hope that my dates on the rocky coast coincide. Thanks again for sharing your views! I always enjoy seeing what you’re looking at.

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  13. Another wonderful homage to your nature walks, Lynn. Are those slug/worms the ones that I read were littering the beaches recently? I forget what they were called. Your landscapes are a delight- especially the shot with the rocks in the foreground, the criss-crossing branches and the stunning Tiger Lily. I love how you celebrate the small nature scenes with your camera. Thanks for my morning moment of zen. πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks, Jane. We didn’t have the issue you’re talking about with the sea slugs – or whatever they are. This one lives under rocks mostly, I think, and the only thing that washes up a lot here, I’d say, is plant life and a few shells. But then we’re far from the ocean and maybe that makes a difference. The rocks around here are impressive, but I’d probably say that most anyplace I went. πŸ˜‰ Since posting this, I’ve gone to Washington Park twice to feed chickadees and nuthatches from my hand – talk about celebrating small nature scenes – it’s magical. But very hard to photograph. πŸ˜‰

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  14. I was glad to read in your comments that the chickadees you found already had been habituated to hand-feeding. I’ve seen others posting their experiences with it recently, and I wondered how they managed it. I do have chickadees coming to my new feeder now, so in time we may become friendly enough for that to happen. I am glad to know you didn’t just walk up and say “Here, chickadee!” and have them flock to you!

    I especially enjoyed the photo of the serpentine, and the variety of marine creatures. Here again, your spot in the world nurtures forms of life we just don’t see. Our extended coastline is so smooth and flat, most of the time there aren’t even shells to be found. They get caught on bars some distance from shore, and only the ground and tumbled remains make it to land.

    You’re right about the juniper cones, of course, but everyone I know calls our Ashe juniper fruit ‘berries.’ The trees themselves go by a variety of names: most of them not fit for proper company thanks to the pollen they produce. Despite it all, they’re one of my favorites, and certainly something I look forward to seeing when I go to the hill country.

    In #11, is the color of the Indian’s dream mostly true? On my monitor, it’s so green, and looks quite odd next to the moss (?) In fact, it’s the color of many plastic plants I’ve seen sold in places like the Dollar Store. Our environment may be degraded in some ways, but I’m pretty sure that’s not plastic!

    I wanted to show you this, too, from Whidby Island. When I saw it I thought it might be the sort of place you’d enjoy living in.

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    • πŸ™‚ Yes, someone before me tamed the chickadees. Last time (a few days ago) I was able to get a nuthatch or two to take seeds – actually peanut pieces, they seem to prefer those – from my hand. I tried at home and had a little success there, too. The seed feeder was empty so instead of filling it, I stood next to it with the seeds in my hand. I had two chickadees but they were a lot less comfortable than the birds in the park.
      I think I’ve seen shorelines like what you describe, with sand bars offshore. There’s great beauty in the spaciousness of that kind of beach. The beaches around here tend to be rocky, with intermittent sandy spots. The intertidal and marine life is very rich in the Pacific Northwest; I’m not sure exactly why.
      I always called the cones berries too – only learned they are cones in the last few years, after reading about this juniper. Junipers are really beautiful – I always loved seeing them in the desert and was so surprised when I saw them here, right by the water.
      The greens around here get very intense, very saturated. I’ve seen Indian’s Dream dried up and brown, and I’ve seen it green, of course, and I think it’s quite bright. Some mosses here are yellow-green, some are brownish, some are bright green, etc. I just looked at all the photos I have of that plant and now I think this one is too blue-green. It’s bright green but the bluish cast seems off. I should fix it but….
      Anyway, there are times when I have to tone down the greens – and the oranges too – in my photos. This is a very saturated place, in several ways. πŸ™‚

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