Mating on Cypress Island
Shortly after pulling the dingy up to the beach, I crouched down to reset my GPS. At the familiar chirp of a bald eagle, I looked up to see three eagles flying in my directions – two adults and a juvenile. As they closed to about 50 yards away and 40 feet overhead, a fourth, adult eagle came into view. The lead eagle in the pack of three gracefully flipped over and the two eagles locked talons. They spun in three perfect circles as they slowly descended from forty feet to thirty feet above the ground, at which point they released their embrace and flew apart. This amazing aerial dance took place right over my head in the space of less than five seconds.
The eagles, as a group now, all flew down the harbor and into the trees as I stared, dumbfounded. “Did that eagle just get laid?” I asked myself, while attempting to pick my jaw up off the ground. From what I’d read, eagle mating is described as very close to what I had just witnessed, but I’d never seen it in real life. I always thought they did it much higher above the ground! Any less grace and I would have had two large, horny eagles land on my head.
Telepathic Salamanders?My mission this weekend, beyond just getting away from the dock, was to assess the state of the edible spring plants on Cypress. I wanted to know what was coming up and what wasn’t.
I was just starting to get into my hiking groove when I looked down at the last moment to avoid stepping on a salamander. I snapped a photo and continued on my way. A hundred feet later I looked down, again, just in the nick of time to avoid stepping on another, and another, and another. Salamanders littered the trail, turning up every few hundred feet.
One thing I have always wondered at is how few I step on. Despite their perfect stillness and excellent camouflage, I almost always spot them just in the nick of time. How is that?Let’s pretend for a moment that something like telepathy exists in the animal world. Now, if you were a small, slow moving creature with no obvious physical deterrence and a high risk of being stepped on, I think it would increase your evolutionary fitness to ‘telepathically’ persuade large creatures not to step on you…. or so goes my pseudo-scientific reasoning.
Funny fantasies aside, it was nice to see so many salamanders doing their thing. Amphibians are an indicator of a healthy ecosystem. When pollutants are introduced into an area or an ecosystem becomes unbalanced, amphibians are usually the first species to be effected. A healthy population is often correlated with a healthy ecosystem.
Foraging 2014I did not spend much time foraging in 2013 as last year was full of false starts and drama, but this year I plan to step up my foraging and food preservation. This will be the first year in several that I won’t have a garden. Instead, I plan to invest that time towards canning, smoking, drying, and freezing wild foods and in-season foods I can get from Anacortes’ excellent farmer’s market.
Stinging nettles are typically the first edible plant to sprout in early spring. I gathered several on my hike to have with my free-range, grain fed beef steak from Three Sisters beef farm on Whidbey Island. I also managed to catch a nice sized greenling on my way into the harbor, which made a great dinner with a side of avocado.
I plan several return trips to Cypress this spring to harvest lady fern, oyster mushrooms, cattails, maple blossoms, and various sea weeds and herbs for tea. Stay tuned!