Tag Archives: 48 North magazine

Red-throated Loons – My 48 North story for November, 2017

This is my 48 North magazine story for November. I thought t he subtle colors of this beautiful winter bird came out fairly well. Here’s the story:

“On the Port Townsend ferry, we crossed those notorious tide rips out in Admiralty Inlet and I spied quite a group of large striking birds, all milling about and diving for dinner in the turbulence. The red-throated loons are back from the north for winter in the Salish Sea. At about 24” long, these are the smallest of the three species of loons we see here, but they are still large birds. Easy to identify in flight, they have a hunchbacked look unlike any other Salish Sea bird and appear to fly very fast. Specialized bodies with legs placed as far to the stern as possible make for fast underwater swimming as they chase down and catch small fish. As with many species, they have evolved into a very specialized and successful fishing machine.”

“They arrive here in winter plumage, basic tux black and white with a very subtle mix that would drive a painter wild trying to portray. As winter progresses, they change profiles completely and sport a dramatic red-orange front and overall soft look of doe skin. Then they’re off for the long flight to the far northern lakes to nest, and here is where it gets interesting. These birds, with legs placed so far back on their bodies, make them almost unable to walk. They cannot stand upright! So, the loons push vegetation around to create a floating nest or simply push themselves up on a low shore. How the eggs stay warm enough to hatch is a mystery to me, but somehow it works – and next November we’ll see the results here with more red-throated loons to enjoy.”

Again, here’s the link to the NEW new puzzle I talked about last week.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

This Month in 48 North Magazine

Somehow, I managed to meld together two of my favorites into one article this month in 48North magazine – nature and sailing. Here’s the story:

I’ve watched marbled murrelets for decades, learned their recognizable upturned heads as they slipped past the boat. I also remember the “big mystery” over 40 years ago; no one knew where the murrelet nested. Sure, there were birds seen in the ocean from California to Alaska and throughout the Salish Sea, but no nests were ever found even after a reward was offered. Then in 1974, a tree trimmer stumbled on a downy chick high in an old-growth Douglas-fir. Loggers had seen them, called them ‘fog larks’, but loggers and ornithologists somehow never got together to talk about all this. It turned out the murrelet liked, no, required old-growth forests. They need giant trees with big branches and mossy limbs. So, this football-shaped small 10” seabird soon became center stage in a giant battle between the tree-cutting corporations and environmentalists who realized the bird was doomed if all the big legacy trees were cut. In 1992, the murrelet was Federally listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.

While most of the old trees are now either protected or gone forever, it appears the bird’s numbers are still declining. This may be because murrelets usually produce one chick every other year. Parents trade nest-sitting duties and adults take turns flying to and from the ocean with a single fish – mostly at dusk and dawn. Youngsters molt into juvenile feathers before leaving the nest, and when the time is right, they simply step off the nest and learn to fly on the way down. If successful, they make their way, unaided, to the ocean. Now, if there was ever a single moment where a species needed a reality check, I think it might be right here. Let’s say you are a little bird the size of a robin that’s never been anywhere. You’re sitting in a tree several hundred feet off the ground. You’re in Mount Rainier National Park and you can’t even SEE the ocean – and yet one day you jump off the nest into thin air. Just saying!

Larry Eifert paints and blogs about wild places at larryeifert.com. His art can be seen in many national parks across America.

And here’s the other ‘favorite’ in my life.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

My 48 North Magazine Story for the Month – A Dancing Gull

2015-11-Dancing-Gull

After watching a little song-and-dance on the beach, I wrote this for my monthly page in 48 North magazine. You can read it online at their website too.

Here’s the text for the story:

A recent beach walk showed us something we’d never seen. Meandering along a sandy stretch that had just a gentle bit of wave action, we joined a glaucous-winged gull (the most common gull in the Salish Sea) who was walking here too. It seemed to know exactly what it was doing – looking for something right where the little waves were breaking. Soon it stopped, turned to face the incoming water and started doing a little dance. Dabble, dabble, dabble it went for about 20 seconds, turning slightly but keeping it up. As each wave came in, the gull used the rushing water to prance ever deeper into the sand – and then it looked down – and began to grab the mole crabs and other small burrowing crustaceans it had forced to the surface in the wash zone.

Mole crabs like to bury themselves right at the tide line where food is abundant. They sense when the tide is receding and slowly follow it out, a few feet at a time. This young gull had learned the crab’s ritual and realized that just a little dance, up and down, left and right – and lunch would magically appear. We watched it long enough to realize that it was nothing but normal for this smart bird, and then wondered why all the other gulls didn’t do this too. Maybe it was evolution happening right before our eyes. Most of the time, watching nature isn’t seeing a giant whale surface or an eagle dive on a salmon, but it’s the small rewards of seeing daily lives of creatures that share our world that is normal – if you’ve smart enough to see them.


I took a couple of phone videos of this little guy dancing along at the surf line. Click to see one here on YouTube.  Sorry, it’s a bit shakey in the wind but you can still see the little guy dancing away while Nancy does commentary.

Thanks for reading this week. My big mural is coming along just fine. Next post I’ll show you how it’s going.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of beautiful photographs

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Fin Whales – My 48 North Story this Month

2015-10-Fin-Whale2

Here’s my story in 48 North magazine this month, available far and wide. I’ve been told people even get this in the boat stores in Hawaii. This story is about what was undoubtedly the biggest living creature that’s ever come so close to our little meadow here in Port Townsend!

This is the text:

In early September, the Puget Sound Express whale-watching boat crew spied a rare fin whale off Whidbey Island, the first one spotted in the Salish Sea in decades. The Fin is the second largest mammal on the planet and named for its slender, fin-backed shape. I honestly didn’t know much about them, so I did some reading – and this is such an interesting creature that I wanted to share what I found. These whales are gigantic, for sure, and can become almost 90 feet long and can weigh 165,000 pounds. How big is this? A single fin whale could produce 660,000 whale burgers, or enough for every person in Seattle with leftovers. Don’t worry, I’d be willing to bet most of us would order something else.

Like other whales, this one was hunted (and still is), and it’s reported that between 1905 and 1976, 725,000 were slaughtered in the Southern Hemisphere alone. Fins, or finbacks have been described as the greyhound of the sea for their slender body that is “built like a racing yacht … which can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship.” What caught my eye was the somewhat hidden description of the Fin’s eating style. Being a baleen whale, it filters small fish and crustaceans, shrimp and krill by simply opening its mouth wide, lunging forward and taking in whatever is in front of it – and then straining out what’s unnecessary (including about half the ocean). But it’s not just a dainty mouth! My drawings tell it all, and by this technique, a fin can consume about 4,000 pounds of food each day, probably explaining how it can grow so large in the first place.


 

And just to make a size comparison, here’s my little boat sailing along with its typical line-clutter everywhere (a quick boat has lots of strings attached). An adult fin whale would be 5 times longer than the boat and eat 6 times more than it weighs!Thriller

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of beautiful photographs

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Caspian Tern – My 48-North Story for August 2015

2015-8-Caspian-Tern

This month’s sketchbook and published story in 48 North magazine is about Caspian Terns. These few summer weeks are the only times I see these birds while I’m sailing about Port Townsend Bay. Actually, I almost always hear them first, then spot these big guys, and since I try to paint what I see, this was an easy choice for August.

Here’s the story:

This is a sound I hear often on quiet summer sails. Kaaaaarr – like a smoker attempting to clear a raspy throat. I instantly know that sound, and always turn and look up to find the hacker. Then, here it comes, flying fast and high, head down studying the water for a vague shape that indicates dinner. Seeing this, I know two things: it’s summer, and the Caspian Terns are back! I watch as the fast and effortless white bird glides past. Then, fish spotted, it goes into a corkscrew spiral, then into a dive and fully submerges – out the tern comes and quickly takes off with young salmon in mouth (unlike similarly sized gulls that are unable to truly dive).

Most Caspian Terns in Washington nest at the Columbia River estuary, and after family duties are over, both young and parents spread out to spend the summer fishing along the coast and into the Salish Sea. Their numbers are expanding, mainly due to dredged materials that offer new nesting islands, and since terns have a fondness for young salmon – well, you see the problem. Dredge the Columbia River estuary and suddenly you get more birds, the birds eat the salmon, we’re spending millions trying to save salmon. Some Caspian Terns in Washington are medium-distance migrants, wintering on the coast of California, while others travel greater distances, wintering as far south as Colombia and Venezuela. But between now and October when these elegant birds head south, I’ll enjoy them here very much indeed.

Larry Eifert paints and writes about wild places. His work is in many national parks across America – and at larryeifert.com.

Direct link to the article

Larry

Thanks for reading this week. Send this to someone who might appreciate what I’m painting and tell them to sign up. An email will work.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of beautiful photographs

And Click here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Northwestern Crows Published

2015-7-Northwestern-Crow

This was published last month in 48 North magazine for my monthly contribution. We have a pair of these guys nesting in our woods, so it seems appropriate.

Here’s the story: And just why is this guy doing a crow page in a sailing magazine? Because they’re not just crows, a common bird that everyone knows, but a Northwestern crow. Yes, we have our own crow species! Looks exactly the same but smaller, ‘KAWWW’ sounds the same but deeper and hoarser voiced. If you’re on or around salt water in the Salish Sea and north all the way to Alaska, likely the all-black beach bird you’re looking at is a Northwestern crow. Problem is, you can’t be sure because in urban areas they now mingle, mix and interbred – but once you get to the Olympic Peninsula, you can be fairly confident you’re seeing one of these guys.crow-feather

By far, the best trait you can look for are their clamming skills. Browsing the shoreline wrack for anything edible, they’ll often pick up a live cockle or clam, fly straight up to about 30 feet, change course to level off – and drop the shell to the rocks below. Most of the time the shell breaks on the first try and down they go for lunch. Evidently they level off to see where the shell lands so they can grab it before a gull does. Normal American crows don’t seem to do this, just Northwestern crows. On some beaches, I’d have to say that of birds on the beaches, there may be more Northwestern crows than gulls.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web.  And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of beautiful photographs

And Click here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Anemones – A 48 North published story

2015-2-Fish-Anemones

This was my 48 North magazine story recently. Below is the text that went with this ‘sketchbook’ image. Almost forgot to post it! Too much art coming out of here.

Like a scene straight out of ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ the brilliant red and yellow flower unfolds, over 100 petals waving in the current, a strawberry red delight for a passing perch to nibble on. A young perch moves closer, then closer still, and suddenly receives a stunning jolt that renders it useless. Through the haze, the fish vaguely sees those beautiful petals reach out and pull it towards the flower’s center, where once a flat pad was, now a mouth opens. A delight it’s not, but a splendid sea-predator whose tentacles first sting small fish, shrimp and even crabs, and then entirely consumes them in one slow-motion swallow. Fish go in tail first, and they can turn a crab around so claws are facing away before proceeding.

 

It gets better. The fish-eating anemone can switch between being male and female – and may live to be 100-plus years of age. Sure they look like beautiful flowers, are related to coral and jellyfishes, but at 10 inches across, these hunters are some of the Salish Sea’s largest anemones. But everyone has a softer side, and the fish-eating anemone may also play host to small fish, allowing six-inch painted greenlings a safe harbor. Leaving the protection of the anemone by day, at night the greenling sleeps without harm right over the anemone’s mouth on the central oral disc. The fish are safe here because anemones use their tentacles for defense against predators like sea stars or snails.

 

Thanks for reading this week. Send this to someone who might appreciate what I’m painting and tell them to sign up. I’m trying to expand my list. An email will work.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web.And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of beautiful photographs

And Click here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Hooded Merganser study

2015-3-Hooded-Margansers

“Stick it on the paper, hard and fast, as fast as your brain can move the pencil and brush. Don’t think about this, just do it!”

 

Today, a little watercolor that isn’t for sale, but is part of another project – and I liked it enough to show it around. If art is simply reflecting life, this little male Hooded Merganser could have been painted several times this past month. We’ve been seeing several courting pairs in the Port Townsend Boat Haven marina on hikes through town, and we watch as each male is circling, rearing back, showing off his Mohawk to a potential lady-love. Later, they’ll find a nest hole up one of our local wilderness rivers like the Dungeness and set up house.

Not so many lines, a dash of color, and you get a Hooded Merganser.

Thanks for reading this week. Send this to someone who might appreciate what I’m painting and tell them to sign up. I’m trying to expand my list. An email will work.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web.And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of beautiful photographs

And Click here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

A Nice Published Collaboration with Nancy

2015-1-Lady-Washington

Click on the image – it gets a lot bigger.

I’m now teaming up with Nancy and her photography for a new 48 North magazine story page. This is the Seattle sailing magazine I write for with my own work, but now we’ve turned it into a bit of a game with her fine photography and a second page. She tosses me a photo, I make up the rest – weave a tale about wooden boats,  their history, legacy and how they work. For those who know, I have a very long history of sailing old wooden boats – built one when I was 12, sailed to Alaska and later Mexico, pounded more caulk and spread more varnish than I care to think about.

 

 

This is the first issue for January 2015. And here’s the text:


Lots of boaty stuff was, and still is, not just learned from a book, or Google, or even at school. For centuries, boats were built by guys who knew what worked and passed it down to the next shipwright. It seems a lost art, but it’s not, and this page is an attempt to toss out some wooden boat knowledge about our Northwest sailing heritage. So, here’s a bit of what you might need to know beyond the names of the two dinky sails most of us have. Lady Washington, launched in 1989 and home ported in Aberdeen, Washington, is Washington State’s official tall ship. For most small-boat sailors, her rigging looks like a rat’s nest of tangles, her sails a white laundry line, but nothing is there that is without a purpose – every line, sail and stick evolved because it worked – and made the ship go.

 

Take those six sails in the photo. Most are named for what they’re attached to. From bow to stern, the Fore Topmast Staysail (that little jib in the bow) is named because it’s attached to the forward topmast. Staysails are really jibs and help the ship tack up into the wind. Easy? The foremast also has a Top Gallant Sail flying on top (makes sense) then a Top Sail below that. Not flying in the photo, the bottom sail is the Fore Main (like your boat). All these sails are made small enough to handle individually in a blow, and each can be set to fit current conditions which is why there are so many of them. They’re good sails for downwind sailing, but not for tacking upwind. So let’s try the main mast: oh, same thing, it’s the Main Top Gallant Sail on top, then the Main Top Sail below and Main Sail on the bottom. Finally, she has her Main Sail up on the stern, probably just like your boat, except it has four corners instead of three – which makes it about a third bigger. This helps balance the boat against the downwind tug of that Fore Staysail. That’s it for now, and don’t worry, there won’t be a test!

 


 

 

Photography by Nancy Cherry Eifert – text by Larry Eifert. See more at nancycherryeifert.com

Larry Eifert

Thanks for reading this week. Send this to someone who might appreciate what I’m painting and tell them to sign up. I’m trying to expand my list. An email will work.

Here’s the blog on the web.And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of beautiful photographs

And Click here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Oystercatchers – Published January 2015

2015-1-Oystercatchers

Here is my 48 North story for January, 2015 – saw a pair of these guys along the beach in town, so, art copies life. And here’s the text that went with it. 

With orange eye, darker eye-ring and astonishing red-orange bill, black oystercatchers might be described as a bird in a Halloween outfit. And then there are those fleshy legs and feet. When we recently saw two on beach rocks, we both stopped and said the same thing: whowee! There are around 400 oystercatchers in the Puget Sound area, and they tend to nest on grassy beaches without trees nearby (think predators overhead). Oystercatchers don’t migrate, but in winter might form loose flocks. It’s reported that all the San Juan oystercatchers get together in a sort of winter confab. Listen for their loud, piercing whistle, which to me implies wild rocky coasts like no other sound.

 

If you notice that orange bill, it’s not just long, but strangely-shaped like a sideways chisel. It begins as a triangle at the skull, but immediately slims down to a vertical pry bar all the way out to the blunt tip.  Why? Because these birds make their living prying shells off rocks. With one stab of that bill on a partially-open shell’s adductor muscle, it’s toast, and with the mussel open the oystercatcher can pull out the contents – dinner on the half-shell. This is often accomplished in the wave zone because wet mussels are already open a tad to filter water. I’ve watched oystercatchers working limpet beds with a quick: pry off and stab, pry and stab – gulp, gulp. Pure proficiency.

 

Larry Eifert paints and writes about wild places. His work is in many national parks across America – and at larryeifert.com.


 

Thanks for reading this week. Send this to someone who might appreciate what I’m painting and tell them to sign up. I’m trying to expand my list. An email will work.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web.And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of beautiful photographs

And Click here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.