Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Posted By and on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Organizer Chris Johnson catching a wave. - SEAN JANSEN
  • Sean Jansen
  • Organizer Chris Johnson catching a wave.

On Saturday, Nov. 19, while some of us huddled inside and watched the rain, Humboldt surfers woke before dawn and headed out to Trinidad State Beach for the second annual Wavesgiving Surf Contest. Some 20 contestants zipped into their wetsuits and hit the water to compete for cash and salty glory. Photographer Sean Jansen was in the splash zone capturing highlights. Check out the action in the sea-battered slideshow below.
Wavesgiving 2016
Wavesgiving 2016 Wavesgiving 2016 Wavesgiving 2016 Wavesgiving 2016 Wavesgiving 2016 Wavesgiving 2016 Wavesgiving 2016 Wavesgiving 2016

Wavesgiving 2016

By Sean Jansen

Click to View 25 slides

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Close Call Leaves Mills with Lessons Learned

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 12:04 PM

Mills in cooler days. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mills in cooler days.
Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills has a PSA for would-be wave-watchers: "When they say don't go out on the jetty, don't go out on the jetty."

Mills was driving along the north jetty with his wife last Saturday when he decided to walk out on the jetty and take pictures of the large waves sweeping in due to an upper-level storm system. The National Weather Advisory had warned of 19 to 22 foot waves over the weekend, and advised people to "stay safe ... by staying farther back from the surf and off of rocks and jetties." It's a frequent warning on the North Coast, and one that sometimes goes unheeded to deadly consequence.

On Facebook, Mills quipped about his foolhardiness, "Big waves 22'+ they say. Stay off the jetty they say. I am smarter, faster and stronger than them, I say. My cellphone now sits at the bottom of the ocean along with the skin from my arms and knees. If you are trying to call or text me...sorry. Call tomorrow. For now the laughing squid who has my phone may answer."

In a phone interview today, Mills said that as an experienced surfer, he thought, like many, that he could judge the speed and trajectory of the waves and stay out of their reach, but in just a short time, "the waves got gigantic."

In seconds one crashed down on top of him, throwing him onto the cement.

"It treated me like a little tiny rag doll," he told the Journal, comparing the impact of being pushed against the rocks to a cheesegrater. "It's cement, wood, cement wood, like a cheesegrater. So, I thought, I’m going to get on top of the wall. That was a mistake. It pushed me off into the rocks. I held on my with my upper body and the next one came in and took me out."

Mills said a smaller person would definitely have been swept out to sea and killed. He managed to make it safely back onto the beach and to the car where his wife was waiting, although his phone was lost and a favorite shirt bloodied. He called the experience "humbling" and urges others to learn from his experience.

"The real thing is, compared to the power of nature, we are insignificant," he said. "Lots of lessons to be learned for Chief Mills."

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

HumBug: Fly Fishing

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 4:49 PM

A fishing lure designed to emulate a mayfly. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A fishing lure designed to emulate a mayfly.

A very long time ago I got into fly fishing. It is a highly technical method for fooling an animal with a brain smaller than a pea into thinking that bits of feathers and fluff are something good to eat. Those somethings are usually members of three orders of insects: mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies. The first books written on the subject appeared in the 1400s. A study that has been around that long has a bit of its own terminology apart from more formal entomology.

Even the names of the critters are different, based more on appearance than close family relationships.
Mayflies (order ephemenoptera) are probably the most important group to know. They start life as an egg, hatch into a tiny dark “nymph” that feeds, grows and molts several more times until it pulls itself out of the water and deploys wings and breathes air for the first time.

A mayfly (the real McCoy). - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A mayfly (the real McCoy).
That first airbreathing form has one job: to get out of the water. Shortly after that it molts again when it has a different job to do: mate. Entomologists call these phases “sub-imago" and "imago.” While fly fishers call them "duns" and "spinners.” Combined, the dun and spinner phases live only a few days. Throughout the year there are “hatches” which can fill the air with these harmless, dainty creatures. During such hatches trout will often start feeding selectively on them to the exclusion of all else. If you want to catch anything you need to present something that looks like what they’re feeding on.

Dragonfly larva. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Dragonfly larva.
Dragonfly nymph lure. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Dragonfly nymph lure.

A really dedicated angler will catch a specimen of whatever insect the fish seem to be eating and attempt to duplicate its appearance with bits of fuzz and feathers. This is called “matching the hatch.” When that doesn’t work, the fisherman may try any number of options, like flies tied to resemble bees, wasps, grasshoppers and ants.

  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A black ant.
A black ant lure. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A black ant lure.
You can tie your own flies, but many of those tiny works of art in a fly shop are not so much designed to catch fish as a fisherman’s wallet.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Flooding Possible With High Tides and Storm Surge

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 12:50 PM

  • National Weather Service
The worst of the storm that hit Humboldt County with a one-two punch is over but there is a chance of coastal flooding in low-lying areas of King Salmon and Arcata this afternoon when the storm surge and high tides meet up.

According to the National Weather Service, tides are expected to peak between 8.5 and 8.9 feet at the North Spit gauge between noon and 2 p.m. The evening could see another one-tenth to one-quarter of an inch of rain along the coast.

Troy Nicolini, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Eureka office, said the storm brought local rain totals to more than 700 percent of normal for this time of year — with 6.29 inches since July compared to a normal total of .85 inches.

The system unloaded 3.94 inches of rain on Eureka over the last three days — while portions of Del Norte County saw 10 inches — along with some thunder and lightning that was unusual this early in the season, Nicolini said. 

"It was a pretty darn wet storm," he said.
Sunny skies are forecast to return by Wednesday with temperatures hitting a high of 66 along the coast and inland areas seeing top numbers on Thursday, with Willow Creek slated to reach 78 and Garberville topping out at 80. The warmer weather is expected to continue through the weekend.

Coastal flood advisory from the National Weather Service:





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Sunday, October 9, 2016

HumBug: Seasons Change

Posted By on Sun, Oct 9, 2016 at 3:00 PM

Tiny acmon blue butterfly. Each wing about the size of your little fingernail. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Tiny acmon blue butterfly. Each wing about the size of your little fingernail.

Seasons change, and with them the insects we see. Headed toward winter now, there are fewer dragonflies. It seems the big common green darners are all gone now, migrated elsewhere. But on a recent stroll along the Van Duzen, I saw several others. A solitary dusty, old-looking western river cruiser and a couple too far off to identify.

Mylitta crescent butterfly, Each wing about as big as my thumbnail. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Mylitta crescent butterfly, Each wing about as big as my thumbnail.

I saw several California sister butterflies. They all looked worn and tired, with faded and shredded wings. There were several small Mylitta crescent butterflies (Phyciodes mylitta), a few tiny gray (with a line of square orange dots) Acomon blues (Plebejus acmon). Interestingly enough this species may have several broods throughout the year and the colors vary from brilliant blue in spring, to dark gray later in the year. Their larvae form symbiotic relations with certain species of ant wherein the ants provide protection and the caterpillar secretes honeydew, which the ants consume.

Blazing star, about 4 inches across. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Blazing star, about 4 inches across.

As there is every year, there was a single blazing star plant (Mentzelia laevicaulis) blooming on the river bar. Funny thing is that I see only a single one of this plant every year but in different places on the river bar.

Finally, near the end of my stroll, I noted one of the mosaic darner family of dragonflies patrolling a tiny sheltered side stream of the river. It never ceased its flight, only occasionally hovering for a few seconds. I don't know how long I spent trying all the tricks I know to get a good shot of it. When I posted it in an entomological site, I got a quick response that it was a shadow darner (Aeshna umbrosa). This large dragonfly is one of the most cold tolerant and is common throughout North America. It can often be seen late in the season patrolling along brushy riverbanks.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Grants Bring Bay Trail Closer to Completion

Posted By on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 12:14 PM

An artist's rendition of a portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail. - COURTESY OF THE CITY OF ARCATA
  • Courtesy of the City of Arcata
  • An artist's rendition of a portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail.
Efforts to link a series of trails to create a 13-mile-long recreational waterfront corridor between Eureka and Arcata took two steps forward this week with nearly $1 million in grants being awarded to the cities.

In the works for years, the $550,000 California State Coastal Conservancy grant awarded to Arcata on Thursday, coupled with the announcement of a $323,000 grant for Eureka from the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund earlier this week, moves the long-anticipated trail closer to completion.

While the Humboldt Bay Trail will provide a continuous route between Eureka and Arcata away from cars, the pathway will also serve a larger purpose as a critical connection with the California Coastal Trail.

Press release from the city of Arcata:
The City of Arcata’s Humboldt Bay Trail North (HBTN) project was awarded a $550,000 grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy at a meeting held at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka on Thursday September 29.
This project will construct a multi-use trail from Samoa Boulevard through the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary and then integrate with the railroad and Highway 101 corridors along the shoreline of the bay to an endpoint north of Bracut Industrial Park.
The southern-end point will transition onto the shoulder of Highway 101 south of Bayside Cutoff, as a temporary condition until the remaining segment of the Humboldt Bay Trail is constructed.
The Coastal Conservancy’s grant provides the final funding needed to construct the northern three-mile section of the planned 13-mile long Humboldt Bay Trail which will be the backbone of Humboldt County’s envisioned regional trail system and will provide a safe, Class I, ADA-accessible trail between Humboldt County’s two largest cities.
The Trail is also part of the California Coastal Trail, a network of public trails for walkers, bikers, equestrians, wheelchair riders and others along the 1200-mile California coastline, which is currently more than half complete.
At the same meeting, the Conservancy adopted California Environmental Quality Act findings and a mitigation monitoring and reporting program for the project, important aspects of a construction project located close to Humboldt Bay.
The total construction cost for the HBTN project is $4.6 Million. Other funding for the HBTN comes from the Active Transportation Program and matching local funds.
The trail has long been firmly established by the local community as the region’s highest transportation priority. The County of Humboldt is leading the development of the Humboldt Bay Trail South segment, which will provide the interconnecting link between Arcata’s HBTN project and the City of Eureka’s Waterfront Trail.
Development of the Humboldt Bay Trail South project is still in the initial stages and a target construction date has not been determined.

Press release from Congressman Jared Huffman’s office on Tuesday:
WASHINGTON­— Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today announced a $323,000 grant from the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund to Eureka for ongoing work on a waterfront trail through a once-blighted area.
“This grant means that more Californians will be able to enjoy and appreciate Eureka’s special place on Humboldt Bay,” said Rep. Huffman. “Improving Eureka’s waterfront and creating trails and a clean place for the public to recreate around the Bay demonstrates the value of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in our communities.”
“Through the hard work of city staff and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Local Assistance Office, the former mill buildings can be removed and one of the most picturesque areas of Eureka’s waterfront can be opened up for our community to enjoy a wide variety of nature viewing and recreational opportunities,” said Eureka Mayor Frank Jager.
This grant will go toward the removal of four former mill buildings, which will be replaced by a new park featuring a multi-use trail, nature play area, as well as interpretive viewing platforms and benches adjacent to Humboldt Bay.
For more than 50 years, the National Park Service has provided grants through the LWCF. Its State & Local Assistance Program focuses on helping protect a "seamless system of parks" by providing matching grants for local and state parks outside of National Park boundaries, such as this grant to the City of Eureka.
Phase A of this project is expected to be completed in November.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

HumBug: False Scorpions

Posted By on Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 3:31 PM

Pseudoscorpion on 1/8-inch ruled graph paper. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Pseudoscorpion on 1/8-inch ruled graph paper.

A little over 20 years ago, after moving to the country, I noticed a tiny, dark critter, no bigger than a newsprint letter “o” scurry across my counter. I scooped it up and checked it out with a hand lens. It was an animal I had only read about, a book scorpion or pseudoscorpion. After looking a bit I let it go outside. I've been on the lookout for them ever since.

When I got my new “super macro” lens, I went around snapping pictures of every little thing. When I downloaded some images of a tiny spider, I saw it was in the process of eating one of the strange little beasts. It made for a couple of dramatic and interesting photos but what I really wanted was the pseudoscorpion itself.
Running crab spider devouring pseudoscorpion. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Running crab spider devouring pseudoscorpion.
The other night at the light trap I noted a tiny dot on the old bedsheet I use as a reflective backdrop. I was surprised to see one of the tiny creatures. This time I took a lot of photos, captured it and took some more before letting it go.
Pseudoscorpion on the white sheet of my light trap.  The weave should give you an idea how small they are. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Pseudoscorpion on the white sheet of my light trap. The weave should give you an idea how small they are.
I don't think it was attracted to the lights. They are active hunters so I think it was just exploring.
While they are seldom seen, I suspect they're pretty common, feeding on tiny animals among leaf litter. Although they lack their larger cousin's tail and stinger, their claws (pedipalps) have tiny venomous bristles on their “thumbs,” so the prey gets crushed, pierced and poisoned in one swift move. They pose zero threat to humans and are considered beneficial since they eat mites, carpet beetles, carpet moth larvae and just about anything else small enough for them to attack. Many species of these little arachnids are known to hitch rides on insects and even birds. I really like these little guys.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

HumBug: Uninvited Guests

Posted By on Sun, Sep 18, 2016 at 3:02 PM

The dramatically named phantom hemlock looper moth (Nepytia phantasmaria) or a close relative. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The dramatically named phantom hemlock looper moth (Nepytia phantasmaria) or a close relative.

The black lights of my “light trap” don't make for a regular trap; the insects are free to come and go as they please. That's the trick, though — the lights are irresistible.

Moths, of course, come by the dozens, but there are others. An opportunistic praying mantis seeks an easy dinner. A burying beetle shows up and a really big California prionus (Prionus californicus). And this time of year, the termites.

A burying beetle with a mite on its back. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A burying beetle with a mite on its back.

A California Priornus Beetle, one of the largest beetles in our area. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A California Priornus Beetle, one of the largest beetles in our area.
These are the flying reproductives on their nuptial flight. Their script, dictated by millions of years of evolution is this: Leave the nest, fly, drop to the ground, meet up, shed wings and seek a crevice in the ground to found a new dynasty. But they are drawn like sailors to a siren's song, although it's not the lights that will kill them, but the bats.

A little brown bat. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A little brown bat.
In flight, the termites are clumsy, fluttering creatures, unlike the swift, agile, mammalian hunters, who have learned over the last few weeks that the place where I set up my trap is a target-rich environment. So, early in the evening, the termites come, followed all too swiftly by the little brown bats and maybe others. It is a slaughter. By the time the “flutter mice” leave, there might be one or two termites that aren't flying, but hugging the fabric. If you're quick, you might get a glimpse of the hunter. Photographing them is a different matter altogether. They are so small and quick, my best camera can't pick them up, autofocus, adjust light levels, initiate exposure and initiate flash before they're gone. Yet they aren't big enough to trigger my game camera. So I set the focus to manual, pick a likely spot and wait. I rarely guess right, and my reflexes are seldom good enough to get get a shot. Usually what I get is a dark photo of the forest around me, but once in a rare while I get it right. And that makes me grin in the darkness.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Ballet of the Fog and the Stars (Video)

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 3:46 PM

Like this picture? Check out the video below. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Like this picture? Check out the video below.

Work week got you down? Or maybe it’s Humboldt’s seemingly endless feed of grisly news? Whatever it is that’s conspiring against you this Wednesday, push it aside and take a moment to appreciate this beautiful place we call home. Heck, thanks to Eureka’s David Wilson, you won’t even have to get out of your chair.

Wilson spent much of a recent night perched on a ridge line between the south and north forks of the Eel River with his camera.

“My hope was to create a time lapse that successfully spanned the sunset-to-night transition and caught the star-lit valley filling with fog as the Milky Way and star field slid across the sky,” he wrote in an email to the Journal. “I started shooting still photographs for this time lapse at 7:24 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2016, to catch the sunlight disappearing. It wasn’t until about 9:30 p.m. that the fog first came into the view far down the valley. It rolled up both river valleys simultaneously. … It flowed like fluid, billowing, advancing and retreating as it filled the valleys and washed over the hills. It spotted like a wildfire, with puffs appearing here and there ahead of it. The Milky Way slid across the frame above.”

Wilson's perch. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Wilson's perch.

Wilson kept shooting at regular intervals until the fog overtook him and he could no longer keep his camera dry, snapping his last frame at 2:34 a.m.

Check out the video below, which is scored by Wilson’s son, Jarren, a marine biology major at Humboldt State University who has studied music since his days at Freshwater School. The elder Wilson is a Humboldt County native and HSU alum, who teaches Photoshop and digital media at College of the Redwoods. He’s obviously also a photographer with a thing for time lapse videos, as his YouTube page will attest.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

HumBug: Like Moths to a Black Light

Posted By on Sun, Sep 11, 2016 at 3:00 PM

The aptly named pale beauty. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The aptly named pale beauty.

Last week I wrote about setting up a light trap in my backyard with only limited success. At the suggestion of some folks in an entomological chat room, I tried it with black compact fluorescent lights rather than Coleman lanterns. The old gas lanterns give off a great deal of heat and frequencies in the lower end of the spectrum but not much in the high end.
A light trap fit for an insect rave. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A light trap fit for an insect rave.
In his research Karl Von Frisch noted that bees couldn't discern between red (low frequency) light and black paper, while they can see farther into the ultraviolet than we can. It is not much of a stretch to figure that other species might be more attracted to higher energy light. I substituted three black light CFLs for the lanterns. It made a significant difference.
Cerambycid Beetle, a yellow Douglas fir borer (Centrodera spruces). - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Cerambycid Beetle, a yellow Douglas fir borer (Centrodera spruces).
Where I had seen about three to five insects attracted to the lanterns each night, now I attracted 30 or more from several different orders, not to mention species. I was able to capture photos of varieties I've been wanting to talk about but had no photos of. For example, in the past I've posted photos of caddisfly larvae, but had no adult forms to include. Several (not of the species of which I have baby pictures) came to my lights last night. The green “pale beauty” (Campaea perlata), and its tan cousin the omnivorous looper (Subulodes aegrotata) have put in appearances.
A trio of caddisflies, all grown up. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A trio of caddisflies, all grown up.
Having said all of that, I remember many more insects that came to the Coleman lanterns when I was a kid. Sadly, back then I did not have any black lights.

I will probably be running these lights every night until the weather gets too wet. I am still hoping for a giant waterbug, giant cranefly, or a ceanothus moth.

And by the way, after my most recent post the co-author of Insects of the Pacific Northwest, Peter Haggard was kind enough to do an identification of the giant lacewing I included in my post. It is Polystoechotes punctate.

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