I am no specialist on fish (or any other wildlife for that matter) so, if I have got this wrong, please feel free to correct me in the comments. I was down at Juanita Bay seeing what wildlife was out an about. I was on one of the boardwalks and looking in to the water to see if there was anything in there. I saw a black mass seeming to pulse and move. I was confused as to what it might be but the long lens gave me a clearer view of things. It was a massive amount of baby fish.
My previous disclaimer comes in to effect here. I think they were catfish based on the shape of the mouth and the barbs but that could be totally wrong. Let’s assume for now that they were. There was hundreds of them, if not thousands. They were moving around furiously but staying closely packed together for safety. The group would gradually move around and migrate through the plant life. Occasionally, a group would split off into a second section and then later they would somehow find each other again and regroup. They looked almost alien as they swirled and moved. I did take stills, as you can clearly see, but video seemed like the better way to convey the impression that they left.
If you stand by Juanita Bay for a few minutes, you will see fish leaping out of the water periodically. The carp are spawning and they leap out all the time. Getting a shot of a leaping fish seems like it would be almost impossible since you couldn’t know where they would be leaping next and getting lined up would not be possible in the tiny instant that they are out of the water even if you did see them immediately. However, there is some hope.
For some reason, the fish will often leap twice in roughly the same place. However, they only seem to do it when you are not training your camera on the spot where they last came out. I will watch with the camera down and see them jump again and again. Bring the camera up and they don’t play ball – normally. However, I did get lucky on one occasion. I got a second leap as I pointed the camera at the location of the previous ripples.
I had an even better chance on a later date. I was staring down into the water and could see the shape of a carp as it swam just below the surface. I didn’t know whether it would be possible to get a clear shot of it in the water but started tracking it anyway. Then it turned and came out of the water right below me. I couldn’t have been better placed to get the shot. I’ll take a good dose of luck any time.
This winter, the area around Shilshole Bay in Seattle has had some new residents. It is not unusual for sea lions to be in the area at this time of year but this year they have taken to hanging out on the floating docks around the bay. One favorite spot for them is the barrier alongside Ray’s Boathouse. This barrier has a flat top to it but is based on cylindrical tanks. Consequently, while a bunch of sea lions might be on top of it, another one climbing on or one jumping off can cause the whole thing to rotate and, if they are not careful, they can get dumped in the water.
A lot of people have been coming down to watch them hanging out. A bunch will be on the floats, some asleep and others barking at each other or the sea lions trying to get on. More can be seen swimming around in the surrounding area. It was fun to watch them for a while but it was pretty chilly the day we were there so we didn’t hang around for too long!
Eastsound is the main town on Orcas Island. As you head out of the town center towards the eastern side of the island, you go along the shoreline of a wide bay. The tide was out as we drove over that way and there were some frames set in to a section of the beach. Clearly this is an area which would be submerged at high tide so I assume it is used to farm something. Shellfish of some sort were what I assumed but I don’t know for sure. If anyone has any suggestions as to what they might be, please let me know in the comments.
The title is not intended to catch you out, but it probably will. These photos are in Washington rather than Hawaii. Cape Disappointment has a small beach tucked under the cliffs and it goes by the name of Waikiki. At the tail end of my trip there, I saw that a group of surfers had gone in to the water and were making the best of the waves which, since they were a lot smaller than what I would have hoped for, we probably ideal for them.
Not being a surfer, I am not a good judge of what the right techniques are when surfing but, even so, you can usually quickly work out who has got a better feel for the waves and who hasn’t. Picking the right one to go for and getting up to speed to make it on to the wave seems to be a bigger deal than staying up for some of the people. As I say, I’m not a surfer so this is all uninformed commentary.
Two things are of interest when photographing surfers. Having them coming in your direction so you can see their face while they are carving across the wave or watching them wipe out in style. The latter is probably not what they want me to be focused on but you take what you can get when shooting this stuff!
When out looking for wildlife, it pays to keep your head swiveling. There are the things you are expecting to see but also the odd one you weren’t. It was close to high tide as I walked far out on the boardwalk at Nisqually but the tide had turned and the water was starting to flow out. As I glanced across, I saw three shapes in the water. Some seals were drifting out with the tide. Two of them were swimming along but one had stopped close to me and was staring directly at me. Consequently, he got photographed. We stared at each other for about a minute and then he disappeared under the surface and I didn’t see him again. The other two were long gone so I assume he was chasing to catch up with them.
It’s not unusual to see seals along the shoreline at Mukilteo. The creation of the new ferry terminal seems to have provided them something new to explore. It also provides an elevated location from which to see them which is great since photographing seals when you are close to water level makes for difficult conditions and less than inspiring photos.
I don’t know how much the base of the ferry terminal provides for good food supply for the seals but they seemed to be hanging around for a while. Maybe it was curiosity or maybe the food was good. I was just glad to see them!
Lime Kiln Point is a popular spot for watching whales. A humpback was not far offshore but a Steller’s sea lion came swimming up along the shore. It was very close in and headed past the lighthouse and to the north. We went back to watching for the whale. A little while later, a snort came from our right with a spray of water. The Steller’s was back and was bobbing in the water right in front of us. It hung around long enough to take a couple of shots and then it went back north. I think it was jealous of the attention the whale was getting!
A trip to the Chittenden Locks in Ballard in the fall is a good time to see salmon making their way up through the fish ladder en route to their spawning grounds. If we know the salmon are there, so do their predators. On this day, it was seals. Seals and sea lions are both common at the locks when hunting for salmon. A pair of seals were playing around in the waters near the locks, no doubt choosing their moment for a snack. Another pair of seals had been a bit more aggressive in their thinking. They had made their way into the fish ladder itself.
There are gates on the entrance to the ladder that are intended to allow the fish through and not the larger predators but I guess on this day, the gates had been left open. Our first glimpse on one of the seals was as it was chomping its way through a salmon it had already caught. It was making swift work of it. A while later we saw them again. They would haul themselves out on to the walls of the ladder for a break before diving back in to search for the next snack!
The salmon head to spawn in phases with the three different breeds coming at slightly different times. They head through the ladder at the locks in Ballard in the fall but, before they head into Lake Washington, they pause in the approach area. The transition from salt water to fresh is something that they have to adjust to and the area just by the locks where the fresh water is spilling out provides a good place for them to get adjusted. They can stay for a couple of weeks or more. The result was that we saw a lot of salmon swimming around in the waters by the dam. This was not a risk free occupation as shall be covered in a future post.