Lots of razor clamming on the horizon

RazorClamsThree days of coastal razor clamming have been confirmed and nearly 20 are likely next month.

That’s the word from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which today nailed down the following low-tide digs at Mocrocks:

  • March 25, Friday, 8:31 a.m.; 0.7 feet
  • March 26, Saturday, 9:06 a.m.; 0.6 feet
  • March 27, Sunday, 9:42 a.m.; 0.7 feet

Another option is Long Beach, which is currently open for digging through March 31.

The Mocrocks dig is scheduled on morning tides and ends at noon each day. The Long Beach dig switches from evening to morning tides, as shown on Fish & Wildlife’s website.

Fish & Wildlife’s list of proposed digs in April will be made official after routine marine toxin test results come back. Shellfish managers will announce a final decision on the digs before the end of this month.

Here are the proposed dig dates:

  • April 3, Sunday, 4:13 p.m.; 0.5 feet; Long Beach
  • April 4, Monday, 5:04 p.m.; 0.1 feet; Long Beach
  • April 5, Tuesday, 5:51 p.m.; 0.0 feet; Long Beach
  • April 6, Wednesday, 6:36 p.m.; 0.0 feet; Long Beach
  • April 7, Thursday, 7:07 a.m.; -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • April 8, Friday, 7:54 a.m.; -1.1 feet; Long Beach, Copalis, Mocrocks
  • April 9, Saturday, 8:42 a.m.; -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Copalis
  • April 10, Sunday, 9:32 a.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Mocrocks
  • April 11, Monday, 10:23 a.m.; -0.9 feet; Long Beach
  • April 12, Tuesday, 11:19 a.m.; -0.4 feet; Long Beach
  • April 20, Wednesday, 6:25 a.m.; 0.6 feet; Long Beach
  • April 21, Thursday, 7:01 a.m.; 0.2 feet; Long Beach
  • April 22, Friday, 7:35 a.m.; 0.0 feet; Long Beach
  • April 23, Saturday, 8:08 a.m.; -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Mocrocks
  • April 24, Sunday, 8:42 a.m.; -0.2 feet; Long Beach
  • April 25, Monday, 9:18 a.m.; -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Mocrocks
  • April 26, Tuesday, 9:56 a.m.; -0.1 feet; Long Beach, Mocrocks
  • April 27, Wednesday, 10:39 a.m.; 0.1 feet; Long Beach
  • April 28, Thursday, 11:28 a.m.; 0.3 feet; Long Beach

RazorClamMapThe proposed digs on April 9 and 10 coincide with the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival. The festival will have free razor clam digging lessons and other attractions. Find out more here.

Shellfish managers recommend that diggers hit the beach an hour or two before low tide.

Diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Basically, if you break it, you keep it. Tossing back clams you smashed with your clam gun.

Each digger’s clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older need a fishing license. Info on licenses is available here.

Top photo courtesy of Fish & Wildlife.

VIDEO: Bainbridge arborist climbs tall trees to save kitties

Climbing a towering tree is daunting enough. Toss in a scared, wet cat at the top and you have Katy Bigelow’s day job. Well, part of it. Bigelow is a Bainbridge Island arborist who specializes in high-climbing tree care.

You might remember her from my story back in 2011, when she was gearing up for a national tree climbing competition. She’s also been organizing some climb-offs on the island.

Lately, Bigelow has been offering her skills to rescue terrified cats that have climbed up trees but can’t seem to climb down.

“Cats simply won’t just come down,” Bigelow said. “Most of my rescues are cats that have been in the tree over three days.”

Arborist Katy Bigelow trains at Gideon Park on Bainbridge Island in 2011. Photo: Brad Camp.
Arborist Katy Bigelow trains at Gideon Park on Bainbridge Island in 2011. Photo: Brad Camp.

Bigelow shared one of her most recent rescues in the helmet cam video above. In it, she climbs a huge cedar in Marysville to rescue a 20-pounder named Dutch, aka “Baby Pancake.” He had spent a very rainy and windy night in the tree. You can hear the misery in his voice. Bigelow pets him and talks him through the process before slipping him into a sack for a safe trip back to the ground.

Dutch gets ready for his descent. Courtesy of Katy Bigelow.
Dutch gets ready for his descent.

“He wasn’t making a sound until I was nearly to him and boy was he in an uncomfortable position, and let me know I was taking my sweet time getting him out,” Bigelow said. “Though he wasn’t too excited about going into a bag, we quickly got to the ground safely and silently, back to his grateful family.”

In another video from last month, Bigelow rescues “Mama” atop a 100-foot-tall Douglas fir in Poulsbo. Mama had been in the tree for nearly a week.

A key cat rescue strategy Bigelow follows is to get her climbing gear ready for the descent before she starts interacting with the cat.

“I am a sucker for kitties in trees, so I do like to give them a little love before the descent, but often their claws come out when you try to stop hugging them,” she wrote on her blog. “Hence, (I make) sure my safety is first before getting us both in trouble.”

Bigelow doesn’t charge a fee for cat rescues but will accept donations.

Her website is here.

Work begins on Poulsbo pump track


The first load of dirt has been dropped. By summer, an old ball field on Little Valley Road will be transformed into what may very well be the largest outdoor pump track in the state.

The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s West Sound chapter has begun work on a looping trail system that’ll be filled with berms, banks and jumps. It should be done by August.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.02.05 PM

“Beginners can ride it but experts can get more speed and transition from one area to another,” said Brian Kilpatrick, the chapter’s president. “We’re also designing it so we can hold competitions or races.”

Brian said the track will be the largest in the state – that is, if one of the several others in development aren’t finished first.

“We’re shooting for the biggest, but they continue to be made all over, so we might not get that title,” he said.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.06.08 PM

The track is being built on a 1.8-acre property the city of Poulsbo acquired from the Kitsap County Parks Department. Formerly known as Little Valley Ball Field, the property wasn’t being cared for by the county and was placed on its ‘surplus’ parks list in 2014.

Evergreen West Sound is paying the $13,000 to develop the track. They’ll leverage their money with volunteer labor and donated materials.

Another pump track in Kitsap has been proposed on Bainbridge Island. Rachel Anne Seymour has more on that here.

Why two pump tracks in Kitsap?

“We have soccer fields in Poulsbo,” Kilpatrick said in Rachel’s story. “We still need them in other places.”

Still not quite sure what a pump track is? Read my first post about the Poulsbo pump track proposal.

Top photo by Brian Kilpatrick.

High tides and winds combine to flood Bainbridge park

DSC_1362Fay Bainbridge Park was turned into a water park this morning.

An already high tide was pushed across the north Bainbridge Island park’s waterfront by  high winds. Campgrounds were flooded, as were picnic areas, a shelter, a volleyball court and most of the parking lot.

DSC_1444About a foot of standing water didn’t dissuade some adventurous kids, who used rubber boots and piggyback rides to get to the partially-submerged playground. That’s Amare Clark, 10, crossing the monkey bars.

DSC_1460Milo McIntosh, 9, ponders sliding into the shallow lake that formed around the park’s playground. Continue reading

Hurricane Ridge open this weekend, but no ski lift


The managers of the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area plan to be open this Saturday and Sunday, with rope tows, tubing park and terrain park operating.

The Poma lift will remain closed after it malfunctioned last weekend.

The ski lifts were inspected earlier this season, as they are every winter, and will undergo another review this week.

“The review will include a another thorough inspection by an outside ski lift engineering and inspection firm,” Greg Halberg, president of the Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club, said in a statement.

The ridge’s visitor center, snack bar and ski shop are scheduled to be open. For more information, visit Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge website. Details about the privately-managed Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area are available here.

Photo: Sledders hike up a hill at Hurricane Ridge in January. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

EVENT: Presentation on kayaking BC lakes


Local kayak adventurer John Kuntz will give a free presentation tomorrow evening on Bainbridge Island about his recent trip through the wilderness lakes of central British Columbia.


Kuntz, who owns Olympic Outdoor Center in Port Gamble, explored Bowron Lake Park by kayak last year. The park is known for rugged, glacier-capped mountains, deep lakes, waterfalls and abundant moose and other wildlife.

The park’s  main attraction is the 72-mile canoe and kayak circuit through the Cariboo Mountains, which follows lakes, rivers, and short portages between waterways.

Kuntz’s presentation will feature a slide show and videos, as well as logistical tips on planning, gear and permits so you can do the trip yourself.

The presentation is from 7 to 9 p.m. at Seabold Hall, 14450 Komedal Road, just off Highway 305 on the island’s north end.

Photos: Bowron Lake Park, courtesy of John Kuntz.

Elwha Valley access restored

Elwha River Valley, Olympic National Park. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Olympic National Park has restored access to some of the Elwha Valley’s most popular trail routes.

A temporary trail bypasses the washout on Olympic Hot Springs Road and links to the Boulder Creek trailhead, Glines Canyon overlook, and the Whiskey Bend Road and its trailhead.

Olympic Hot Springs Road was hit hard by high water last fall before a full washout in mid-November.

he temporary trail will be removed once the road is repaired in early summer.

Conditions remain muddy and slippery on the new trail and other parts of the valley, park officials warned.

While all the Elwha Valley trails are now open, both campgrounds remain closed. Overnight wilderness camping permits are available for self-registration at the Elwha Ranger Station bulletin board. Park entrance fees can be paid there, too.

More info here: http://www.nps.gov/olym/learn/news/elwha-valley-pedestrian-access-route-now-available.htm

Elwha Valley. Source: Olympic National Park.
Elwha Valley. Source: Olympic National Park.





Parkland Profiles: Sinclair Inlet Wildlife Viewing Area

DSC_1382Hundreds of drivers whiz by a large waterfront park at the head of Sinclair Inlet, but few know it’s there, and even fewer stop for a visit.

Sinclair Inlet Wildlife Viewing Area (SIWVA) is, according to a mildewed sign, “one of the largest undeveloped wintering area(s) in Kitsap County for many waterfowl.” Widgeons, mergansers and other migratory marine birds spend the winter feeding from the area’s expansive mudflats, the sign explains.

Located between Elandan Gardens and the Mattress Ranch, the park has an abandoned feel. Its welcome sign – large but not easily seen from nearby Highway 16 – is weathered and peeling. Nests of tarps and trash hint that this is a spot where you won’t be told to move along if you need a place to hide out for few nights.

Park entrance sign.
Billboard overlooking Highway 16 and the park's gravel parking lot.
Billboard overlooking Highway 16 and the park’s gravel parking lot.

Nowhere in the park can you escape the highway noise. A billboard aimed at westbound drivers looms over the ponds of standing water in the SIWVA’s gravel parking lot.

SIWVA’s owner, the Kitsap County Parks Department, doesn’t have much information on the property. The department’s list of parks puts SIWVA at 17.5 acres. County property records list it as a much smaller 6.75 acres.

It was purchased by the county for $128,000 in 1993, according to property records. Continue reading

Record year for national park visitation, but not quite for Olympic

Families take turns enjoying the busy sledding hill at Olympic National Park's Hurricane Ridge on Saturday. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun
Families take turns enjoying the busy sledding hill at Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge on Saturday. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Last year was a record-breaker for national parks.

About 305 million people swarmed Yellowstone, Yosemite, Acadia and other federal parklands. That’s a 4 percent increase over 2014, which set the previous record with 293 million visitors.

Olympic National Park had a very good year, too, but it wasn’t a record. ONP had 3.26 million visitors last year. The park’s record year was 2002, when more than 3.69 million people visited.

Below is an interactive graph I put together showing the park’s visitation over the last 80 years. Hover your cursor over a bar to see the year and precise visitation number.

The National Park Service credits its system-wide success on the National Park Foundation’s “Find Your Park” media campaign. The campaign sparked visitation from neighboring and nearby communities, as well as state tourism agencies and Congress. Late last year, Congress approved a 9 percent funding increase for the park service.

That funding boost will help tackle the problems that come with increased visitation.

Line at Yosemite's Half Dome. By Bonzo McGrue/Flickr
Line at Yosemite’s Half Dome. By Bonzo McGrue/Flickr

NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis said in recent remarks that park managers are scrambling to make sure they have sufficient staff for interpretive programs, restroom and campground cleaning and other basic services, such as answering all the questions those hundreds of millions of visitors have when they arrive.

Crowding is becoming a common complaint at national parks. In response, the NPS is trying to spread the wealth of visitors across the calendar. Park officials are urging visitors to come in the spring and fall, or stop by early in the morning or late in the day. Simply getting yourself a few hundred yards out on a trail means you’ll probably be far from the glut of visitors, according to Jarvis. Apparently, a lot of visitors are sticking to cars, tour buses, visitor centers and gift shops.

“Even with record breaking visitation, visitors can still find quiet places in the parks…,” Jarvis said in a statement. “I can take you to Yosemite Valley on the Fourth of July and within five minutes get you to a place where you are all alone.”

Olympic also noted an uptick in auto traffic, with “to-capacity parking lots in several areas,” said the park’s spokeswoman, Barb Maynes.

The park’s visitation numbers might have been larger were it not from some bad weather. Parts of the park were closed due to road washouts, landslide dangers and the risks posed by falling trees.

“Windstorms, floods and resulting park closures like we experienced in late August and again in the fall can have big impacts on the numbers,” Maynes said.

Time for a little (bird) house cleaning


Spring cleaning doesn’t stop with your own house. If you’ve got a bird house on your property, state wildlife managers say it’s important to clean it out to stop the spread of disease and improve the survival rate of newborn birds.

Bluebirds, swallows, wrens and other migrating birds use bird houses, bird boxes and other cavities for nesting. They’ll be returning next month, so the state Department of Fish & Wildlife is urging owners to remove any old nesting material and insects that might be inside.

Purple martin. Photo: Meegan M. Reid
Purple martin. Photo: Meegan M. Reid/Kitsap Sun

I learned a bit about this issue last year when I wrote a story about the Kitsap Audubon Society’s efforts to help the purple martin, a variety of swallow that has suffered population declines for more than 50 years. Martins are now almost entirely dependent on humans for nesting sites, making them “arguably the most intensively managed migratory bird in North America,” according to a report by the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

Martins depend largely on amateur bird enthusiasts who install and maintain nesting containers, including a few at the Brownsville Marina (photos above). Read my story here: kitsapsun.com/outdoors/can-birders-save-purple-martins

Mites, lice, fleas, flies and hornets are relatively harmless to birds, but in larger numbers these pests can injure or kill baby birds.

Photo: WDFW
Image: WDFW

According to Fish & Wildlife, not all birds are diligent about removing old nesting material, and may simply build on top of an old nest. The pileup of material can raise the nest dangerously close to the entrance hole, where predators can more easily pluck out an egg or young bird.

It’s dirty work, so use protective gloves and a mask if you have one. You might run across a dead nestling or old eggs. These, of course, should be tossed out.

Also check for loose screws and clogged drainage holes.

If a bird house or nest box is getting no use, or if you keep finding dead nestlings and infertile eggs, consider relocating it. It might be in the wrong habitat or in an area with too much competition or too many predators.

A quick improvement that can make a big difference is to remove any perch posts on the front of a bird house or nest box. Washington’s native cavity-nesting birds don’t need these perches. More often, they’re used by starlings and other aggressive non-native birds to harass nesting birds.

For more info from Fish & Wildlife about bird houses and nesting boxes, head over here.

Top photos: Kitsap Audubon Society volunteers clean purple martin nesting boxes at Brownsville Marina in March. By Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun