February 28, 2023 | By:

Elwha Nearshore Update, January 2023

Update from Anne Shaffer, PhD of the Coastal Watershed Institute on tracking Elwha nearshore ecosystem restoration post-dam removal. 

A few notes on the nearshore January 2023…

First, a novel spin on king tide photos. Shorebirds depend on the nearshore for critical winter food resources. In the photos below, shorebirds (sanderlings in winter plumage ) use the king high tide to feed on invertebrate (and maybe forage fish eggs!) flushed up into the shallow sand of the upper intertidal zone. It's a rigorous process-look how far into the sand they burrow! Sand lance spawning is occurring now–but these shorelines haven't been documented (yet). Herring should be spawning along these shorelines within a few weeks, so these small birds are well situated to rest and fatten a bit before they head to the Arctic in May. Another indicator of how important these undisturbed zones, processes, and seasons are. If you're walking on a shoreline keep an eye out for these quiet beautiful beings and keep those dogs on leash... **Thank you to Mike Morrell for the bird ID intel!**

For our January 2023 monthly seining in nearshore? It was a field of coho and steelhead smolts, trout fry, and juvenile herring in the Elwha and Salt Creek nearshore this Friday morning. Trout fry behavior is very different from salmon of this same size. They are very vigorous and active and do NOT like being looked at. Salmon this size? In general really don't care. It's amazing that, after sampling for literally decades, we recognize pretty quickly who we are (or aren't) looking at even when the fish are tiny (the rulers in the photos are in cm) and coloration is tricky/nondescript. The river and creek were both high and running fast so we kept the seining to only a couple sites. A beautiful day and a good-willed hard working crew that make this work possible. A good way to start the new year!

Spring is just around the corner. Stay tuned…

Click any photo to enlarge. All photos © Coastal Watershed Institute.

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