November 18, 2013 by Rokman61
When heavy fog settled in on us for days on end, Norma and I decided to escape by driving up the Valley to the Weaver Creek Salmon Spawning Facility. We lucked out big time, with a beautiful sunny day and one of the best salmon shows in years.
The Weaver Facility is a purposely altered section of the creek, designed to significantly increase the amount of riverbed that is suitable for the fish to spawn. The channel may be ‘artificial’, but the salmon do their thing as they have always naturally done.
The channel winds back and forth on itself for many loops comprising a total length of nearly three kilometres, at just the right grade to provide optimum spawning conditions. The setting provides a series of pleasant walkways, flanked by salmon on both sides.
Norma’s photo shows some of the fish and also caught a bit of the action.
Three (of the five) species of Pacific salmon use the Weaver facility and were present at the time of our visit. The other two are not expected here.
The most abundant and most colourful are the famous Sockey Salmon: bright red bodies with greenish heads and tails. The first photo shows a pair, possibly getting ready to do it.
In this photo are two males – note the classic upturned snouts.
Chum Salmon are the largest of the three, purportedly much less savoury for the table, and hence also known as ‘dog’ salmon.
Pink Salmon are smaller than the other two, darker on top with white bellies. The previous photo provides a nice size comparison against the chum.
Male pinks take on an arched form to their dorsal surface, which accounts for their colloquial name ‘humpbacks’.
Spawning salmon do not eat, use up their energy resources and resistance to infections, and nearly all succumb to infestations of fungi. Some are rather sorry looking.
Of course they will never return to the ocean; their ultimate fate is to spawn and perish.
Before they reach the actual spawning channel the fish are blocked by a grating and can go no further on their own, but that does not deter them from trying.
That’s wall-to-wall fish causing the water to roil. Norma felt that this thwarting them from fulfilling their destiny was unspeakably cruel and tragic. Nature is not known for compassion.
Each year the fish are counted and a predetermined number are allowed to pass through and proceed upstream to spawn. The rest are out of luck, and will either be taken for consumption, possibly used to provide spawn for a local hatchery, or simply expire. Since this is apparently a year of more than usual abundance, some of these fish will unfortunately be considered ‘surplus’.
Pacific salmon are famous for their tenacity of purpose when on migration. Scenes of the big fish leaping up over rapids and waterfalls are an icon of west coast nature. At Weaver, there are a number of small weirs the fish must surmount to reach the spawning beds. Here are a couple of shots of the many many I tried.
As we were heading back to the car, Norma spotted this ‘chicken’ strutting casually along the track beside the channel. A real live Sooty Grouse, and here I was caught without the telephoto lens on the camera! I figured I should try to get close enough for a decent shot with my short lens. Carefully, cautiously, and stealthfully I surreptitiously crept closer and closer.
The bird payed no attention to me. At one point I leaned over to see if I could touch it, and it avoided me by mere inches, just like the neighbours’ backyard chickens of my boyhood.
At this point I was wondering if it was a ‘tame’ bird that had been imprinted on humans who might have raised it from a chick. Suddenly it blasted off straight up like a rocket and perched high in a Douglas-fir tree, just like we usually find the wild ones. Two more shots, just before and just after take-off.
For much of October our weather remained unusually dry, but eventually some serious rain fell, and the mushrooms almost exploded into view. Here are a few from our yard, none of which I could identify for certain. I also learned very quickly that photographing fungi in rainy weather is no easy challenge, as they tend to occur in rather dark conditions.
This one is a big Boletus, probably chrysenteron.
The next three images are what I am told is Shaggy Parasol, Chlorophyllum racoides. A rather classy looking fungus, whatever its identity. Purportedly good to eat, but we didn’t have the courage to try.
Now for a cocky finish – I’ll end with one that didn’t make it into Oct Part 1.