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An ebb tide photodiary for your Daily Bucket today. As always, share your own observations of the natural world around you in the comments. Welcome!

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
November 10, 2013
Cattle Pass, Salish Sea
Pacific Northwest

Just by happenstance, our late afternoon walk out to this special spot coincided with a maximum-speed ebb tide moment. Cool! I hadn't checked the tide table, so it was a wonderful surprise.

A few watery late autumn beams of sunlight had broken through the bank of overcast that afternoon and I knew it would feel good to be out on that west-facing bluff on this calm balmy afternoon. Once we hiked through the woods and emerged into the light, we could hear the roar of water flowing.

This pass is only a mile wide between here and San Juan Island across the way, and a lot of water moves through with every tidal exchange. Those rocks just offshore funnel the passing water even faster.

Some sea creatures thrive in these boiling currents. A brilliantly patterned and colored duck gazes out at the rushing water. Who is he?


He turns, revealing himself as a Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus that a great name or what?). I've never seen these ducks except out in rough water. They are winter ducks for us.

Once we climb out onto the bluff across from Deadman Rocks, we can see the Strait of Juan de Fuca off to the south, where the water is emptying. It looks just like someone pulled the plug. The Bull Kelp along the edge of the cliff is securely anchored in the racing water.
The tide is literally pouring over the shallow rocks, like a waterfall. That was the roaring sound we were hearing.
Usually birds and seals are swimming and feeding in this narrow stretch of water, but they were mostly hanging out on the rocks just now. Double Crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) groom up where it's high and dry. A few gulls too.
One cormorant was fishing below the cliff where we stood. Cormorants are strong swimmers, with their legs attached near the rear of their body: streamlined and powerful underwater.
I was frankly mesmerized by the swirling water, everchanging whirlpools and eddies. With no wind, the surface was otherwise smooth of wind chop, not even a riffle. That's very unusual. The boiling up of hidden currents is causing all the motion visible from here.
One seal surfed along in the current, and then swung around behind a shallow rock that was just emerging from the water as the tide was going down.
These shallow rocks are where the seals usually haul out, but the extreme high tide had made them inaccessible until now. He hoisted himself up onto the rock and assumed the "banana pose".
I could have watched that swirling roiling water endlessly...surging up from below, wrenched around hidden rocks. The late afternoon sunlight on the pearly coiling surface just hinted at the underwater forces.
The sun dropped low in the western early at this time of year. One last look at the rushing waters, beginning to quieten as the ebb tide slowed.

What's happening in your backyard on this late autumn day?

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