Category Archives: Recreation

Amusing Monday: Rare moments frozen in winning wildlife photos

Celebrating the power and beauty of nature, the National Wildlife Federation attracted more than 23,000 photographic entries to its annual photo contest.

Baby Animals category, second place, by Loi Nguyen
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

Winners in the prestigious contest came from seven states — Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon and West Virginia. They represented six nations — Canada, England, Hungary, Kenya and Kuwait as well as the U.S.

“Whether lifelong professionals or avid amateurs, all winners display a love of wildlife and an appreciation of how photography can help bring nature to life in a way that inspires others to take action and protect it, both at home and abroad,” states a news release announcing the winners last Thursday.

Mammals category, first place, by Eric Guth
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

The images feature both the quiet beauty of the natural world along with life-and-death struggles between predator and prey that can interrupt nature’s silence in a heartbeat. The grand prize winner, David Turko of Florida, combined experience, patience and luck to grab an extremely rare image of a stealthy bobcat escaping from a pond with a flapping bird in its jaws (bottom photo on this page).

In addition to a grand prize, first- and second-place awards are given in seven categories: Mammals, Baby Animals, Birds, Other Wildlife, Backyard Habitats, People in Nature, and Landscapes and Plants.

Other Wildlife, first place, by Deborah Albert
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

Organizers say they hope that the photos bring nature to life for viewers, who may be inspired to protect nature — from their own property to organized preservation efforts throughout the world. Entry fees and donated images help the National Wildlife Federation with its ongoing conservation work.

The full slate of winning photos can be seen on the website of “National Wildlife” magazine. Here are descriptions for the photos shown on this page:

POLAR BEARS: Loi Nguyen of Thousand Oaks, Calif., was awarded second place in the Baby Animals category. Two years of planning were awarded when Nguyen was granted a permit to photograph polar bears in Canada’s Wapusk National Park. After long days of waiting, Nguyen’s group spotted a mother polar bear and her two cubs sleeping together in a ball. When they awoke, the cubs nursed, nuzzled and played. “There is such tenderness between mother and cubs,” said Nguyen. “It melts me.”

People in Nature, second place, Kyler Badten
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

SEALS UNDER ICE: Eric Guth of Portland, Ore., took first place in the Mammals category when he dipped his camera into the sea off the coast of Brown Bluff in Antarctica. His goal was to capture an over-under shot of a massive iceberg when a group of crabeater seals swam into the frame. “I feel calm and at peace when I look at this,” Guth said. “The seals give it life.”

CROCODILE: Deborah Albert of Charleston, W.V., was recognized with a first place award in the Other Wildlife category for her powerful photo taken on a sandbank along Tanzania’s Rufiji River. Working from a small boat, Albert spotted the massive Nile crocodile as it plunged down the bank and vanished in the river. Her reactions were quick enough to capture the brief but magical moment. “It was a bit intimidating,” she admits, but one cannot deny the prehistoric majesty of the beast. “Talk about wildlife perfection,” she added.

Grand Prize winner by David Turko
Photo courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

WHALE SHARK: Kyler Badten of Coatesville, Ind., was the second-place winner in the People in Nature category. Hovering in water 30 feet deep off the coast of Isla Mujeres in Mexico, Badten watched as a whale shark passed overhead. The animal swam just below fellow diver Akira Biondo, who seems to be reaching out and touching the animal. “I call this ‘Coexist,’” says Badten, who hopes his photos call attention to the worldwide plight of sharks and “inspire others to help protect them.”

BOBCAT: While photographing migratory birds in Mexico’s Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, photographer David Turko of Melbourne, Fla., followed his hunch and turned down a backroad where he encountered a pond and spotted a bobcat catching a coot. Because of the bird’s flapping wings, the cat never saw Turko get out of his car and begin shooting. When the bobcat spotted him, it “increased its pace to a full sprint, then just made this leap,” Turko recalls. “It was surreal. I still get goose bumps thinking of it. This was the shot of a lifetime.”

Environmental volunteers needed in Kitsap County

I thought I would offer a quick note on some volunteer opportunities in Kitsap County, based on an email from WSU Kitsap County Extension. By the way, Kitsap and King county governments are among the best in connecting people with opportunities where they can spent quality time together while helping their community. Check out Kitsap County Volunteer Services and King County volunteer calendar and opportunities.

Port Gamble Heritage Park: Volunteers are needed to help with trail maintenance, plantings, platforms and interpretive signs Saturday, Oct. 27, from 9 a.m. to noon. Registration is required, since lunch is provided. Sign up online with Great Peninsula Conservancy or get information by calling 360-373-3500.

Poulsbo Fish Park: Work party, including planting native plants, Friday, Oct. 26, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Just show up. Those who would like to salvage plants for the park can call (360) 697-3053 or email gardenmentor@yahoo.com.

Kitsap County heritage parks: Dates are to be determined for future tree plantings in November and December at Port Gamble, Coulter Creek and South Kitsap regional parks. Most work will be done Saturdays with occasional weekday mornings. To express interest, fill out the online sign-up form.

Kitsap County parks: Many parks have stewardship groups that help preserve, protect and restore natural and cultural resources. For information, visit the Volunteers in Parks website or contact the parks department, (360) 337-5353 or parks@co.kitsap.wa.us.

Sea Discovery Center, Poulsbo: Volunteers are needed to help with operations at the marine educational center. Positions include docents, educational assistants, facility maintenance and fish feeders. Also needed are people skills such as carpentry, photography, artistry, graphics techniques, fundraising and specimen collections. For information and applications, visit the organization’s Volunteer website or email SEAvolunteer@wwu.edu.

Beach naturalists, Stream stewards, salmon docents: For information about training programs and opportunities through WSU Kitsap County Extension, download the brochure “Who’s Who and What’s What?” (PDF 352 kb).

Salmon enhancement: Check out the website of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group or the Mid Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group.

Clear Creek Trail: Review the website of the Clear Creek Task Force.

Efforts continue to retrieve orca Lolita, despite legal setback

Although the Endangered Species Act may encourage extraordinary efforts to save Puget Sound’s killer whales from extinction, it cannot be used to bring home the last Puget Sound orca still in captivity, a court has ruled.

A 51-year-old killer whale named Lolita, otherwise called Tokitae, has been living in Miami Seaquarium since shortly after her capture in 1970. Her clan — the Southern Resident killer whales — were listed as endangered in 2005, but the federal listing specifically excluded captive killer whales.

In 2013, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) successfully petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to have Lolita included among the endangered whales. But the endangered listing has done nothing to help those who hoped Lolita’s owners would be forced to allow a transition of the whale back into Puget Sound.

This week, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reiterated its earlier finding that Lolita has not been injured or harassed to the point that her captivity at the Miami Seaquarium violates the federal Endangered Species Act, or ESA.

Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who has been trying for years to offer Lolita a “retirement home” in Puget Sound (where her family still roams), said it appears that proponents of Lolita’s return have exhausted their options under the ESA.

Howie told me that the court system may be caught in a quandary, because if the ruling went another way, someone would need to be in charge of returning Lolita to the wild. Howie actually has a plan to do just that, first by bringing her to an enclosed cove in Puget Sound. But the 22-foot-long whale’s situation is like no other — which is something that the appeals court acknowledges in its latest ruling denying reconsideration (PDF 46 kb):

“As an initial matter, Lolita presents a unique case, because she:

  • “(1) is of advanced age at 51, having surpassed the median life expectancy for wild, female Southern Resident Killer Whales;
  • “(2) has received medical care for approximately 48 years and continues to receive medical care;
  • “(3) has already been subject to an unsuccessful federal challenge to the conditions of her captivity; and
  • “(4) has no realistic means for returning to the wild without being harmed.”

As in the appeals court’s first ruling (PDF 81 kb), the finding was that the Endangered Species Act has to do with protecting species from extinction, and a lawsuit could be successful only if plaintiffs can show that an individual whale is at risk of serious harm — or “take” as the law calls it. “The term ‘take’ means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, kill, trap, capture or collect,” the law states.

PETA’s lawsuit lists 13 injuries — including physiological and psychological issues related to living in a small tank with Pacific white-sided dolphins and blisters caused by excessive sun exposure — but none of them rise to the level of “take” defined in the law, the court states. See also the blog post in Water Ways from June 8, 2016, regarding the original judge’s ruling in the matter.

The welfare of animals in captivity is actually governed by the Animal Welfare Act, the court said. In a second series of legal actions, PETA has been trying to convince the courts that Miami Seaquarium is violating the AWA with an undersized tank for a killer whale, a lack of suitable companionship for Lolita and the excessive sun exposure on her skin.

PETA has appealed a district court ruling that went against the organization.

Meanwhile, supporters of Lolita’s return are putting some hope in efforts by the Lummi Nation, an Indian tribe near Bellingham, which claims that Lolita’s capture was essentially a kidnapping. Some say the tribe may assert legal rights established by Indian treaties in the 1850s. See Water Ways, March 14.

“We have a lot of faith in the Lummis,” Howie said, declining to discuss a specific course of action. “There is a lot of planning and fact-finding and strategizing, and it’s in midstream right now.”

I tried unsuccessfully today to reach the project manager who represents the Lummi Tribe in the matter of Lolita.

Amusing Monday: What would your day be like without water?

Wednesday of this week is a national day of action in which people are asked to “Imagine a Day Without Water.” The annual event was launched in 2015 to increase appreciation for the water we enjoy in our everyday lives.

It’s a serious subject, but one that can be approached with a sense of humor, as you can see from the videos I’ve tracked down.

In the event’s initial year, participants included nearly 200 organizations, from water and wastewater providers to public officials, business leaders, environmental organizations, schools and more.

City councils passed resolutions; water and wastewater utilities offered tours; and school teachers asked their students to find ways they could imagine a day without water. The initial event was declared a success, and by last year the number of participants had grown to 750 organizations.

I didn’t attempt to count the number of participants who have signed up so far this year — the fourth year of the event — but the list is long and still growing. Check out the list of those involved on the participant webpage, or join the celebration by filling out a form on the sign-up webpage.

“Imagine a Day Without Water” is affiliated with the Value of Water Campaign and the US Water Alliance, which was formed to advance policies and programs for a sustainable future with water.

A recent survey (PDF 2 mb) conducted for the Value of Water Campaign found that nearly nine in ten Americans support increasing federal funding for water infrastructure, including piping networks, water storage systems and treatment plants. Other reports and fact sheets can be found on the resource webpage of the Value of Water Campaign.

The videos on this page get right to the heart of the issue when it comes to the things we value in our everyday use of water. I have a hard time getting off to a good start in the morning without a shower, and it should come as no surprise that I am enjoying a cup of coffee as I write these lines.

On the serious side, you might not want to know what happens to your body if you don’t drink water for seven days. It isn’t very pleasant, but you can check out the video on the Bright Side Channel. An average person drinks about 264 gallons of water a year, according to the video, but the physiological effects begin in the first day without water.

A video by the US Water Alliance outlines some of the major water issues facing this country.

Beginning in 2016, the water utility in Kansas City, Mo., started asking individuals involved in public and private enterprises about their use of water. Their answers provide an interesting and informative mosaic about what Kansas City would lose if it didn’t have water:

Ongoing lack of rainfall raises concerns for chum, coho salmon

We’ve just gone through one of the driest five-month periods on record in Kitsap County, yet the total precipitation for entire water year was fairly close to average.

Water year 2018, which ended Sunday, offers a superb example of the extreme differences in precipitation from one part of the Kitsap Peninsula to another:

  • In Hansville — at the north end of the peninsula — the total rainfall for the year reached 35.2 inches, about 3.5 inches above average.
  • In Silverdale — about midway from north to south — the total rainfall was recorded as 43.1 inches, about 5 inches below average.
  • In Holly — near the south end — the total rainfall came in at 82 inches, about 3.3 inches above average.

The graphs of precipitation for the three areas show how this year’s rainfall tracked with the average rainfall through the entire year. The orange line depicts accumulated rainfall for water year 2018, while the pink line represents the average. Click on the images to enlarge and get a better view.

Continue reading

New film celebrates the history of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and I was pleased to see that producer/director Shane Anderson and Pacific Rivers are allowing the documentary “Run Wild Run Free” to be shown online for three days before the film goes back into limited showings.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: Sea otters often play a key role in kelp forests

Last week was National Sea Otter Awareness Week, recognized by many aquariums, marine educators and environmental groups across the country. Although I was on vacation last week, I thought I could still bring up some interesting facts about these amusing and ecologically important creatures.

I guess I should mention first that sea otters are rarely spotted in Puget Sound. If you do see an otter — whether in saltwater or freshwater — it is most likely a river otter. I’ll outline some differences between the two further on in this blog post.

Occasionally, sea otters have been sighted in Puget Sound as far south as Olympia, but their historical range is described as the outer coast from Alaska to California — including the Strait of Juan de Fuca west of Port Angeles, according to a new report (PDF 1.4 mb) by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: Stories of surf dogs and their human companions

Some dogs take to the water more than others, but it’s always great to see the stories behind dogs who excel at surfing — or other feats of athletic skill, agility or mental competence.

One such story involves a surfer dog named Sugar and her human companion Ryan Rustan, who says his dog changed his life in many positive ways. In the first video on this page, Ryan talks about being a surfer who was always quick to anger, an attitude that held him back in school and other endeavors. Things changed for Ryan when he found a hungry dog on the street in need of help. Ryan rescued Sugar, who in turn rescued him.

Continue reading

Amusing Monday: This southern lady has a funny story for everyone

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Get out and enjoy the cool rivers in our region.” It was during the heat of the summer, and I was thinking back to some past rafting trips. I related what I called the “feelings of calm while traveling across flat water, followed by the invigoration of roiling rapids.”

Humorist Jeanne Robertson has her own memories of a rafting adventure but with an entirely different frame of mind. Jeanne’s way of telling stories — with colorful details and surprising twists — kept me laughing through her eight-minute video titled, “Don’t go rafting without a Baptist in the boat.” Check out the first video on this page.

The sequel to the story comes from the sleeping arrangements on her rafting trip, as you can see in the second video, called “Don’t get frisky in a tent.”

Continue reading

Less boater pollution allows more shellfish harvesting near marinas

State health officials have reduced shellfish-closure areas around 20 marinas in Puget Sound, allowing more commercial shellfish harvesting while inching toward a goal of upgrading 10,800 acres of shellfish beds by 2020.

In all, 661 acres of shellfish beds were removed from a long-standing “prohibited” classification that has been applied around marinas, based on assumptions about the dumping of sewage from boats confined to small areas.

Poulsbo Marina // Photo: Nick Hoke via Wikimedia

“We have seen pretty significant changes in boat-waste management,” said Scott Berbells, shellfish growing area manager for the Washington Department of Health, explaining how the upgrades came about.

New calculations of discharges from boats in marinas and the resulting risks of eating nearby shellfish have allowed health authorities to reduce, but not eliminate, the closure zones around the marinas.

Continue reading