Naturalist (2020-09)


Watching Sound Water Stewards Class of 2020 discuss, in scientific terms, what I have loved, have always loved, can sometimes feel like a loss.

It can wrestle the lore, the myths, the intuitive knowing from the stories of my life. Stories I have learned and carried with me since my first memories of playing in the fir and cedar woods, and exploring on the sandy, rocky, saltwater beaches.

These stories grew into my body and into the times of growing up here. Times when the outdoors brought me peace, answers, spirit, and above all a sense of place. Stories helped make sense of my world and gave context to a sense of awe, wonder, and certitude that I was incredibly fortunate to have always called the land around the Salish Sea my home. 

In the midst of this vague sense of loss, I began monitoring the pigeon guillemot. Arriving weekly at 7:30AM to a stretch of beach unhindered by the touch of humans. You should know, I didn’t even know what a pigeon guillemot was until our first class on marine birds.

As I began to observe and record; while sitting still as driftwood, I fell in love with this adorable bird. Their whistles, round bodies, water landings, fishing skills, and bumblebee flight paths; their fish deliveries to their young waiting in the burrows on the bluff which one time revealed five bright red mouths as red as the guillemot’s feet. I have been drawn back week after week, bathed and warmed by the sights and sounds they bring. 

So, I will tell you a story about morning low lying marine mists, the heron ballets, Mt. Shuksan (Mt. Tahoma’s bride) rising magnificently above Port Susan Bay in the stillness of the early morning light, while the tide slips softly in and out. Yet, I will continue my efforts to become a citizen scientist, because it has brought a surprisingly deep sense of connection to the adorable pigeon guillemot. A new joy in my life I could have easily missed.

Photos above and “Changes” by Ellyn Thoreen, Class of 2020.
Photo below of guillemot with prey by Kim Nelson. 

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