Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Failed at Finding a Whale?

"The water is like glass this morning. You should really go out in your kayak," my partner said Monday morning, after he returned from walking our landlady's dogs. I accepted the advice, got into my wetsuit and stacked gear in my Eliza. After all, someone saw a grey whale out by Ten Mile Point on Sunday... maybe I'd be lucky and see it too!

Rolling down to the beach was fine. Gyro Park on Cadboro Bay is a great place to launch, whether you're rolling a kayak on wheels or unloading a canoe from a car roof, or hauling a rowing dinghy on a little trailer. Any changes that Saanich Parks ever makes to this park should take small boats into consideration, and make it easier rather than harder to bring a boat to the shore. (Saanich has a survey online here until July 15. Be sure to tell them what you want for the park as future renovations are planned!)

The tide was low and still receding. Though the water wasn't quite glassy, it was a calm day. Before long I was out at Evan's Rock and looking about optimistically for a grey whale. Nope! none to be seen. Maybe it was still hanging around, but if so, it was hiding well off-shore. It would be smart not to come close to shore with the tide so low. I went along the Smuggler's Cove area over to Cadboro Point, looking at all the rocks which are normally just visible under the water.

It was a good time on the water. And even if I completely failed at seeing a whale, there were plenty of other things to see. A big eagle flew overhead. There were at least three ravens, too, and along the rocks a couple of oystercatchers were scrambling. The seal that hangs out around Flower Island seems to have a new baby this year... at least, there was a little seal head bobbing up near her head as she watched me paddle past the island. And otters! I saw three separate groups of otters out and about. Low tide is the time when the coastal buffet opens for them, and they scramble all around the rocks and through the shallow water. At one rock I saw a big white starfish among the seaweed, and a big jellyfish the colour of a poached egg.

So, no whale, but lots of other animals. That more than made up for pulling a muscle tugging my kayak up the steep ramp of soft, dry sand.

Oh, and the next morning Bernie and I walked the dogs over to Telegraph Bay and found another animal on the beach of little stones. A polychaete! In English, that's a bristly marine worm. This one looked like a big gray earthworm, like a night crawler about fourteen inches long. I found a drawing online of a polychaete. The Arenicolidae are common intertidal sandworms that look much like this one did.

The website had a page with taxonomic questions so that it was possible to figure out which particular bristly marine worm we might have found. Some of them are more bristly, others more wormy... and a few of them are freaky weird. Now, most people have less interest in marine worms than kayaks, I know. But since members of our paddle group have at different times found tube worms, fire worms, and the egg sacs of an unidentified marine worm, well, I found it interesting to look through this website. There were sketches of many families of marine worms, from the feather-duster-style tube worms to sea mice and things that are like stinging centipedes. Most of the drawings came from a book by J.H.Day, Polychaeta of Southern Africa, published in 1967 by the British Museum Natural History.

It would be nice to see a whale from my kayak, at a proper distance, but it's ok with me to see all these other animals that come out to play on a mild summer morning.

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