Sunday, November 30, 2008


Several weeks ago, the first of the fall storm cycles came in from the Pacific.

The winds skirt around the Olympic Mountains, taking the less obstructive way via the Strait of Juan de Fuca, through the San Juan Islands and into Samish, Chuckanut and Bellingham Bays.  

Old Big Leaf Maples, Acer macrophyllum, limbs wrapped with epiphytic mosses and lichens, shed their canopy of leaves. The air explodes into a riot of swirling, spinning yellow that quickly blankets the hillsides and ferns surrounding Oyster Creek.

The rains that follow fill the shallows of the creek. 

Chum salmon, Oncorhynchus keta, patiently waiting out in Samish Bay, swim inland and end their long journey through the north Pacific,  150 yards from the salt water that had been home for the last three years.

Eggs, laid in redds by the worn down hens and fertilized by the grizzled, tattered males settle into the gravel or drift into quiet pools and eddies.  

An American dipper, Cinclus mexicanus, the only North American songbird that swims underwater, swims by clutching a salmon egg in its beak. It emerges onto a mid-stream rock, swallows the egg and breaks into its melodious call.

Carcasses of dead and dying salmon litter the shallows, their bodies providing nutrients to the stream community, the oyster beds in the bay, and future generations of salmon.

Other salmon carcasses, pulled from the stream to the adjacent forest floor by small mammals, gulls and eagles decompose providing essential nitrogen to the forest.

Frost further breaks down the leaves into duff.

And the cycle comes full circle. From death emerges life.  

From detritus, growth.

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