The Lonely Stars

Seeing as I haven’t blogged since January, it seems prime time to write something. This is the first weekend since that last post in which I didn’t feel buried by projects and class. It’s kinda tough finding precisely where to draw that “line in the sand” between personal time and work time when it’s all at home. Especially when you have a really driven husband who says “You just keep working ’til you’re done. That’s when you can stop.”  Gee…thanks! ;)

Anyway, enough about me. There are sea stars feeling LONELY out therein the Pacific!

High and Dry

High and Dry

Joking aside, they are indeed sparsely dispersed. Yesterday, I saw around 7. None of which were touching a neighbor. They were all separated by tens of feet. Maybe they are now avoiding contact with each other for fear of spreading cooties. (Can’t you tell I’ve been inside way too much?! We now return you to your regularly scheduled seriousness. Because, this is actually serious.)

The ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) are suffering from what has been labeled Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. ‘Syndrome’ because for a long time, scientists couldn’t figure out what was causing the disintegration of living sea stars. For some gruesome photos of the chronology of symptoms, click over to the University of California, Santa Cruz’s page.

Just last summer, they pinned down a likely culprit, a densovirus in the large Parvoviridae family, that has been present since 1942. Now, the elusive details are the variables that allow this virus to run rampant through various sea star and sea urchin populations.

While it’s tempting to shrug and say they are just sea stars, just like us, they are keystone species. They are capable of influencing the population sizes of other animals, of who lives where. Mussels serve as their primary prey. Keeping those numbers in check, other, more squishy-bodied animals, like the colonial anemones present in both the below photos, can have a chance at clinging to prime rocky real estate.

Sea Stars with their Mussel Prey

Ochre Sea Stars with their Mussel Prey

Ochre Stars between Mussels and Anemones

Ochre Stars between Mussels and Anemones

While scientists know the population crash is going to have rippling effects, what is unknown is what’s in store for the future. What else will ride in on the tides of change? Here’s likely a sneak peak of things to come: warm water this winter brought us these wandering beauties.

Lonely Sea Star 1

Lonely Sea Star 1

Lonely Sea Star 2

Lonely Sea Star 2

Solitude, but Not Alone

Solitude, but Not Alone

Trying out a new way to post blogs, since I have so much trouble with the wordpress formatter. It will be interesting to see how it pans out with regard to SEO. To me, this manner lets me add more of a personal touch that I can tailor according to how much time I have. Hope you enjoy!

2014-3-29 Houda Point Post

Here They Come!

Here They Come!

Perhaps you’ve been watching the amazing Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Cosmos television series? Last night, he touched on the fact that stars have long been used as a calendar, indicating when new seasons are around the bend [get planting, you!]. Certain constellations are tightly tied with seasons–such as Orion and Winter.

Less than 45 miles from Indianapolis, Brown County State Park is flooded with light pollution.

Less than 45 miles from Indianapolis, Brown County State Park is flooded with light pollution.

This winter, I’d been fussing about how slowly Orion moves. He’d climb over the eastern mountains, dangle over the Golden Gate Bridge [from the Marin Headlands, of course], and all and all, be a slow poke about his waltz across the sky. My impatience, stemming from the fact that I don’t usually look at the winter night sky, kept growing. It’s so difficult to live in a place where the temperature is mild year round [Ha! But I don’t ever feel warm.]. We made several trips up to Kneeland, a patch of human-created prairie where the astronomy club meets, this winter to stand in a forest of telescopes and gawk with like-minded folks and only encountered nippy conditions, but no frostbite.  To me, looking at the stars says very loudly SUMMER! My brain, in that warm, wind-swept prairie of South Dakota-mode, wondered why long underwear was necessary, and why the stars weren’t as familiar. Sirius? Isn’t that some form of radio?? Aldebaran? Don’t you mean Altair? And who is this Orion fellow anyway? Hercules! Hercules! [In my defense, my star gazing occurs between the hours of 9 and 12 pm–no early morning viewings for me, hence the missing the “other” part of the sky.]

So last night, after what feels like a long winter [probably since there was hardly any rain–hardly a winter!], the Big Dipper pointed to two bright stars [and one planet] creeping over the eastern mountains–Arcturus and Spica [and Mars–that’s a story for another day]! Summer stars, the stars I’m most familiar with, were shining and climbing. Soon they will be directly overhead, crowning the night skies of summer. Good Bye Orion! Good Bye Stars of Winter!

Orion sinks into the Pacific [center left], Sirius, the brightest star we see, glows in foggy conditions [left]. Taurus and the Pleiades follow to the right. All of these are topped by the Milky Way running horizontally across the top of the photo.  The orange glow of Eureka competes with the blue light from the Trinidad Head Lighthouse [on right].

Even with some light pollution but less-densely populated, we are lucky to live in such a dark area. Orion sinks into the Pacific [center left], Sirius, the brightest star we see, glows in foggy conditions [left]. Taurus and the Pleiades follow to the right. All of these are topped by the Milky Way running horizontally across the top of the photo. The orange glow of Eureka competes with the blue light from the Trinidad Head Lighthouse [on right].

Waves, Finally!

Waves -picking you up
Pushing you down
They’re always around
Waves-just like a dream
Silver and green
We live in between
They can carry you all the way to me
They can pull you out to the deep blue sea

– Blondfire Waves

There’s not one single wave in that music video, by the way.  This post, on the other hand…

As a result of a large storm system slamming the Oregon and Washington coast, our coast finally witnessed some of the largest waves it’s seen in nearly a year or more. Wave-watching, along with agate-hunting, is a sport around here, as documented by our local newspaper: http://photos.times-standard.com/2014/01/12/photos-breaking-waves-on-north-jetty/

Our group opted to head north to Elk Head above Trinidad.  The ground shook as we gathered in the parking lot. We missed the biggest waves that came during the cover of darkness, but it was a show nonetheless.

Waves, Breakers, Storm Waves

Waves, Ocean, Rock, Sea Stack

Waves, Breakers, Sea Foam,

Waves, Breakers, Ocean, Sea

Waves, Rock, Ocean, Pacific

Sea Gull, Waves, Breakers, Ocean, Sea, Pacific

Waves, Ocean, Rock, Pacific

Due to the fog, lighting, and sea spray, most of the photos did not have a lot of contrast. To get that low key, dramatic effect you expect in wave shots, some post processing is required [like most photos, fyi! Rarely do photos come straight out of the camera perfectly, just as negatives never came out of the darkroom untouched.] If your processing software can do it, tone curves are a good way to get contrasty results. That also means you might see more wave photos coming in the next few posts, since I didn’t have time to get to all of them in this round of editing!

 

November Flowers

Interesting little scene we happened upon in a creek that spills out into the Pacific. Someone had made a little fairyland out of the invasive flowers and washed-up bull kelp.

Queen Anne’s Lace gone to seed along side a Sitka spruce cone with a bull kelp aqueduct.

Some tiny [tiny!] flowers I managed to not get a great shot of. I’m not sure if they are currently flowering, or just dried from the salt spray.

Unknown micro flowers

Mimulus guttatus, sometimes referred to as the common or seep monkey flower, craves consistent water it would seem. Apparently this species can be found in many different sizes, and extensive genetic studies have been done on it. It can grow upright, or like this one, dangle upside down off the side of cliffs and rock faces. It needs only 13 cm of soil. Recently, it has been found to grow in old copper mines, tolerating what would normally be considered a toxic level of metal for anything else. Crazy little flowers!

Mimulus guttatus

According to Calflora, flowering occurs from April to July…since this little guy is a beach hermit, it probably never saw that memo. November is as good as any to bloom around here.