Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not quite empty

If I hadn't been so out of shape, we would have missed them. The salmon, that is.

Maybe it would be better to begin at the beginning. This summer has been difficult at times, and we have been forced to stick to easy walking spots, no steep hills nor difficult rock scrambles. But we've been hankering for the cliffs, and finally decided, on Wednesday, that we could handle some stairs. A couple of hundred of them, and then a steep, slippery trail ending in a crawl over rip-rap, to the rocky shore at Kwomais Point.

My legs weren't quite ready for it. By the time we were at the bottom, my knees were wobbly, and I stumbled on the loose rocks at water's edge.

It had been sunny when we set out, but by the time we'd parked at the top of the trail, a heavy mist was rolling in over the sea. At the second lookout, a rock just above the lower treetops, all there was to see was a horizon line dividing grey from blue-grey.

Plus a couple of birds in the distance

Below, we were entranced by the light over the water; the islands in the distance had disappeared, and we took photo after photo of nothing at all, trying to catch the subtle changes of wave and sky.

But the sea wasn't quite empty; as we reached the shore, a flock of surf scoters surfaced. A minute later, they all went under again, fishing. They moved further out, but occasionally we saw them, a sprinkling of black dots, sometimes showing a flash of the white on the back of the head before they vanished again.

And on a rock nearby, a couple of harlequin ducks rested. Near them a few more were diving for supper.

Three female harlequins

Pair of harlequins, male and female.

A distant loon, one of three or four.

And here's where being out of shape comes in. We had a long hike ahead of us, straight up that hill. And my knees were still shaky. I found a handy rock and sat down to rest up, to be ready for the climb. (Not my usual style, at all; there's always another rock I want to turn over, another tidepool to examine.) After a while Laurie joined me, and we sat, looking at the almost empty water.

And then a fish jumped. A big salmon. Another. Another, and another, all in the same small area. They kept it up, leaping high into the air, sometimes straight up, then coming straight down, tail first. Others belly-flopped, sending up great splashes of water.

Something must have been fishing under there, something big. A sea lion, probably. We watched closely. A couple of times I saw something roll partway out of the water, and down again, like the coil of a mythical sea-serpent. No heads of sea lions appeared, though.

We had to get a photo of this! We both sat there on the rock until we were chilled, peering through the viewfinders with the cameras focussed, waiting. We took photos of places where the salmon had jumped a second ago. We were waiting when the salmon jumped off to our left or right. Laurie gave up. I waited for one more. And missed, but not completely.

Salmon splash.

Enough; I was rested, and we climbed up the rocks, the trail, the steps again. At least it's easier on old knees going up.

As soon as my legs stop aching, we'll do it again.

A Skywatch post.


  1. It's been awhile since I saw a pair of harlequins. I loved the photos of the grey, misty day by the water. There's always something to see...and you almost got that salmon, with your patience!

    Hope your knees feel better!

  2. Nice shot of the splashing salmon...better than my attempts a few weeks back.

    So it's because of predators in the water, eh? I also contemplated why they would jump out of the water too.

  3. You know, I didn't need to see the splash because your words allowed me to picture it so well.

    Lovely post.

  4. not a sunny, but interesting sky

  5. Thanks, Marion, yes, my knees are recovering nicely.

    PSYL, That's what I've been told. Makes sense; it gives the salmon a half-second of safety, and disorients the predator.

    Thanks, Roberta!


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!