Thursday, 19 July 2018

Starfish Report 2018

Evasterias troscheli
We had a minus-4 tide the other day and I got in an epic mile-long wade along the tidelands. The biological diversity was outstanding; next best thing to diving.

Among the prolific sea life present were three starfish, all of which presented reasons for hope, if not celebration, that the starfish plague may be slowing down, now that it's wiped out most of our sea stars.

I was first delighted to find several blood stars (Henricia leviuscula). These striking neon echinoderms have been a favourite since childhood. Seldom found intertidally – testimony to the rare opportunity of this very low tide – they were before the die-off omnipresent on mud-bottomed diving grounds.

One adult specimen I found had small scrapes on its disc. These might have been signs of incipient viral infection, or abrasions caused by being dashing about in the "surf" created by passing boats. I also found a few tiny individuals; normal for this time of year. With the exception of that first adult, none showed visible signs of disease (yet?).

Sadly, not a single sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides), of any size, in any condition, was present. It does seem this beautiful if rapacious species, a fixture in quiet northern water until very recently, has been driven to extinction.

Further proof are the leather stars (Dermasterias imbricata) that now stud the beach and shallows. Formerly thinly represented on lower Sound
Adult Henricia leviuscula
beaches, because a favourite Pycnopodia food, Dermasterias is now virtually the only star left.

That population, at any rate, enjoys a natural immunity to the horrific seastar wasting disease, and appears healthy.

Finally, good news and bad on the mottled starfish (Evasterias troscheli) front. Good, because I encountered several specimens of this similarly once characteristic species. Bad, because every one was tiny; a year old, at most.

The wasting virus tends to take a few years to locate and destroy its victims, thus the average size of this species indicates it hasn't yet been able to out-manœuver the plague.

But its presence at all on this ravaged beach suggests that a healthy breeding population exists in the deeper, colder water offshore. With luck and a bit of Darwinian cunning, it may yet return.

Thus the state of the starfish.

It's hard to express how painful all of this is. They may be "just starfish", but this attractive class has been such an integral part of my life, albeit unrecognised till they were gone. Along with most other people, it never occurred to me I might one day wake up to a North Pacific functionally bereft of seastars.

And the creeping suspicion we'll lose many more beloved habitats and life forms before we've seen the end of the Anthropocene.

Immature Henricia

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

WW: Golf pollution

(I have no idea why golfers are so avid to bat their little balls into the world's watercourses, but I wish they would stop. Here you see just four of about a dozen I encountered on the tideland a few days ago.

I once snorkelled around a small island that was within view of several waterfront houses, and collected a bucketful of balls off the bottom in the process. The presence of a few more on the littoral itself suggested someone in those houses was playing "hit the island".

Another time my nephew and I were anchored in a pretty little bay, fishing, and a householder came out and started driving at
us. His shots consistently fell short, and I suspect he knew we were out of range and meant no insult beyond a little joke, but... fishing, remember? I'd bet the bottom beneath us was already littered with those insufferable little plastic balls.

This snotty habit probably has little environmental impact beyond unsightliness, but it's still contemptuous and annoying.

Grow up, people.)

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Rock Groups 2018

Inuksuk Gardens Peggys Cove

Well, it's somehow July again, which means it's time to invert the year's box of rock groups.

As I explain each July, my unearned facility for naming rock groups has kept me hoarding same since I was a teenager. As I have no outlet for this superpower, I commend them to the world here.

The rules remain constant:

1. Anybody who wants one for their group is welcome to it. I claim no copyright, trademark, patent, or juju.

2. Be aware that sometimes my muse two-times me, so if you see something you like, vet it carefully to be sure someone hasn't already had the same idea.

3. The genre suggestions that follow some entries are my fancy alone. If a name implies a different sound to you, have at it.

4. All who assume these identities are entitled to tell interviewers they were named by a Zen hermit monk. Because that is the awesomest of rock 'n' roll backstories.

Harken therefore ye unto:

Rock Groups 2018

(A service mark of Rusty Ring® Zen hermit products. No rights reserved.)

Cobb
Logjam (Northwest country rock)
Ice Train
Elvet Velvis (courtesy of my brother Fletcher)
ASA (Canadian rock)
Blue Highways
Briar Blade
The Wadcutters
Собака
Enumclaw (that's EE-numb-claw)
Davy Jones and the MTC
Shovel
The Tank Tops
Betty Bell and the Dial-Tones
Große Straße
Danny Dillinger and the Usual Suspects
360
Zoidberg
Gila Joe and the Rattlers (rockabilly)
Syzygy
The 9 Lords of Li Ping
Whitby Manor (emo)
Stream of Conscience
Ignore Amos
Boyle
CisOp
The Whangdoodles
Steambox
The Dogs of War
Big Bill and the Fruits of Labour
Pyewacket
The New Christy Wastrels
Boiled White
Gömböc
Blank Reg (as in the short form of Reginald)
Uppish With People
Endangered Eel
Drumnadrochit (Scottish folk rock)
Pygargue (French power rock)
African Genesis (soul)
Mastodon
Brother John and the Crimonious Clarks
The Cut-Outs (ask an old person for the reference)
404
Trump T. Trump and the Indelible Stains
Los Focos
Hive
Rubber Puppies
Led Sadr and The Brass Sponge
Ouch Mouse

(Photo of inuksuks at Peggy's Cove Lighthouse courtesy of Shawn M. Kent and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

WW: Giant agate

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Forest Practice

Buddhist monk meditation As I was nearing the end of the night sit, I heard something big go bump beyond the ravine.

I blanched. A bear?

There are few things more disheartening than sitting lotus in the woods, holding mudra, back straight, in full monk mode, and something frightening happens.

Before, you were Zen Guy. Now you're just a dork.

Fortunately, I'm good at dork.



(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

WW: Anorak


(Doyenne of the offshore pirates, since gone straight but still just as cutting-edge. Hear her here.)

Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Flat Earth Koan

Paisley Abbey gargoyle 10

"Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the centre of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet.

"Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."

Agent K
Men in Black

(Photo of Paisley Abbey gargoyle courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)
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