Sunday, July 31, 2011

Belize Is On My Mind

All packed, zipped-up, and ready to travel. A group of twelve are gathering tomorrow (almost before the day begins,) to board a southbound plane and travel to Belize.

We are scheduled to take off at 6:00 am and fly first to Houston and then to Belize City. As we depart the plane we will feel the Belize heat and humidity for the first time. Of course, it has been tropically humid in NE Ohio this summer, but the house is air conditioned and I can come in to relief as needed. As my friend, Mike Kimmel used to tell his biology students while doing field work, " you can only get so wet. Eventually you start to dry." ( He also said " you can only get so dirty, eventually you start to get clean."). Anyway. Once you get soaking wet from perspiration you don't get any wetter. Last time I ventured to Belize during the rainy season I got that wet within the first few hours of arrival. Of course, I was at the Belize Zoo and photographing tapirs, jaguars, and toucans, so I didn't notice how sweaty I was.

So with a great deal of anticipation, I wait, try to sleep, and promise to continue the story of "The Belize Twelve--2011."


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Location:Misty Ridge Dr,Concord, Ohio, United States

Friday, July 15, 2011

Off the Coast Continued

The winds have picked up a bit so I'm off the rocks for a bit.  Speaking of rocks, that's one of the highlights of our Maine Coast visit.  The rocky coast of Maine is famous.  The mountains rally do go down to the sea here.  The geology is to dream about.  Granite, schist, tilting, glaciers, extrusions, uplifting--you name it and you can find it here.

Most of the layered rock is metamorphic in nature.  The layers show how the silts and sands were laid down and then heated and compressed into the layer schist rocks shown in the pictures.   The seams of granite, an igneous rock flow through the layers of schist all along the coast.  The colors and textures are incredible and make a day on the rocks always exciting, always beautiful and always induce thoughts of formation and changes to the Earth.  It is hard not to wonder how the patterns were formed.  I know the basic geology, but it is still fun to consider the order or chronology of the formations I am climbing upon. 

The different colors come from the various minerals that were added to the melted raw materials of the granite.  Granite with medium-sized white grains of the mineral feldspar as well as larger grained igneous rocks called pegmatite can be seen.

 A very good description of these formations is on the following site:  Maine Geologic Survey of Pemaquid Area

Metamorphic Rocks

Metamorphic rocks make up the bulk of the bedrock. The thin stripes or bands on the rock surface are actually the edges of layers. Layers of different color are made up of different combinations of minerals, although the individual mineral grains are quite small (about 1/32 inch), so they may be hard to pick out with the naked eye. The medium gray layers are composed of quartz, feldspar, and black mica (biotite) grains. Layers with a greater proportion of biotite are darker colored, even black. Still other layers have a greenish color because they contain the mineral diopside in addition to the pale gray or white quartz and feldspar. Taken as a whole, metamorphic rock with this sort of layered structure is called a gneiss (pronounced "nice"). The layers were originally deep sea sediments of muddy sand and silt (the gray and black layers) or limy sand and silt (the green layers). They have been changed by heat and pressure into the metamorphic rocks we now see. This process of change (called metamorphism) occurred in the Devonian Period of geologic time, between 360 and 415 million years ago. At that time these rocks were at depth in a geologically active mountain system. The deposition of the original sediments occurred before then (in the Silurian Period), about 430 to 440 million years ago. 

The above specifics of the geology help to explain how our Earth changesThe wanderings on the rocky outcroppings help to inspire the wonder of change and the at the same time the constancy of how stable this formation seems to be.  Every year when I return to this area of Maine I am mesmerized by the beauty of its geology.  Every day I climb the rocks and ledges, and every day I find new formations, different grain patterns and a spectrum of colors.  It is why I am a naturalist at heart.

Of course, I'm not the only wanderer here.  the gulls come and sometimes even leave evidence of dinner.
I also love to find the colors of biology in and on the rocks.  the lichen reminds me that even these substantial, seemingly permanent formations are temporary.  The lichens will attach, grow, secrete and help to wear down the rocks.  Of course, I won't see these big changes, but I know they are happening.  See the world of the rocky coast of Maine is NOT static.  It is dynamic just like I started with.  The changes will come slowly, but I know they are happening.  I'll just have to come back next year to see the differences (and the sameness too!)

Bio Wandering Off the Coast Of Maine

Well here it is, mid-July, and finally I have the inclination to add to my story, to add to the bio-wanderings of an itinerant biology teacher.  How can I keep secret all the biology going on around me?  Well, it seems it is easier to go out to look at the world around me than to share it's beauty with everyone. But with that sort of apology said, here is what I've been seeing.

As you can see from the embedded 360 degree view above I am on the coast of Maine.  Sometimes we see the world as a picture.  Static, often beautiful, but still a snapshot of what is really happening.  As I look out the windows of the the Artist's Cottage perched on the rugged rocky coast of Mid-coast Maine, the world is anything but static.  If I were to sit here on the granite and schist outcroppings for a full 24 hours (I'm tempted, but rocks are hard and 24hours is a long time,) I would see the changing tides, the passing clouds, the constant but varied waves and swells of the water that seems to surround our small haven on the cliff.  I can look out at the seal rocks that come and go twice a day.  I watch the distant Eastern Egg Rock disappear as the fog moves shoreward and then mystically (or is that mistically?) reappear on the horizon.  I continually look out at Eastern Egg Rock to catch site of the bird blinds that show against the distant horizon.  I'm really desperately looking for the Puffin parents that are making their continual foraging flights to bring food back to this summer's nestlings.  Of course, I don't see the Puffins from the shore, they are too small and the island is too far away, but I constantly try.  I do see the Cormorants, Great Blackback Gulls, Black Guillemots, Eider Ducks, Ospreys, Laughing Gulls, Herring Gulls and Blue Herons, but to see the Puffins you have to take a ride out to the island aboard one of the Puffin cruise boats that operate from New Harbor and Port Clyde.  I have done this in the past, but I want to have one land next to me on the rocks.  It didn't happen yet.    I watch the zones appear and disappear as the tides proceed and recede on their "published" schedules. 

Sometimes at low tide I see the mussels and the long leafy brown algae and kelp.  But I know in a few hours all of this will be submerged.  Lost to sight.  The critters depend on this.  They can only take the dryness of low tide for a short period of time.  They have evolved "strategies for survival" though.  Actually this sounds like they changed in order to survive as if they knew something.  We know that the changes came about and the changes allowed survival, but it is easy to fall into the understanding that things  change so that they can then survive.  Sometimes I think about this.  This "evolutionary thinking."  Sometimes I just look out hoping to see the stray whale or two.  We have seen small whales from the cottage in the past, but this year I have only spotted a dolphin wandering across my windows on the coastal world.  (Of course, dolphins ARE small whales, but I want the big ones to appear--you know, like the Puffin on the rocks.)  

This year we have been treated to a magnificent "dynamic wonder of nature."  The full moon of July has slowly grown for us.  Each night we have hoped for clear skyes and low humidity so the moon could light up the night sky and glisten off the ocean for a few hours.  So far we have been treated to a wonderful scene for two nights (one night it wasn't quite full, but still wonderful.)
Seeing the dynamic world is not the only way to sense that it is constantly changing.  The beauty of being able to stay on the edge of the ocean on a cliff overlooking the tides and rocks of the coast is the sounds that come along for the ride.  The rocks are washed with big waves, small waves, tumultuous waves and crashing waves all day and all night long.  Each "style of wave" has its own sounds.  Crashing and crushing, wafting and slapping. They constantly change and yet are constantly there.  It is a sound I recorded, but will not be able to appreciate until I return to the rocky coast.  Add to the constant waves, the occasional song of the Song Sparrow that visits throughout the day and the 'laughing' of the gulls as they light upon the rocks, and the dynamics are changed again.  As I try to photograph the Song Sparrow I listen to his call.  I stop noticing the crashing waves.  We all have selective hearing.  Today the waves are always there.  Hard to notice.  Tomorrow as we pack up and move west toward the mountains I will surely hear the waves and will certainly miss them next week.  They are constant, but short lived in my changing world.  Waves here, now, almost ignored.  A great memory next week as my ears are filled with the sounds of my own woods, my own back yard.  But now I'm still on the coast and have only a few hours to hear, and see and smell (did I mention the smells?  WOW!)  So off I go to take in the coastal world around me for a few hours more .