Friday, September 23, 2011

Sketching at Sough Slough

South Slough National Marine Sanctuary, Coos Bay, Oregon, USA
Fog rides above us. Except for a noisy raven family grunting and croaking, South Slough is damp and almost quiet. Farther off a crow caws. Long summer grasses are golden, just barely moving in the quiet air. I feel a sense of waiting. The changing of the seasons is coming all too soon. My last three walks at home have been strictly for exercise … getting out of the house before the days gets too hot. Today Dale and I are at Sough Slough Marine Sanctuary near Coos Bay, Oregon. I’m in the mood to just wander, pausing here and there to sketch.

My first find is a crab spider on Queen Anne’s Lace.
A little farther down the road more Queen Anne’s Lace catches my attention. Some of the blossoms have curled into tightly woven cups. Down in the interior of one I spot the bright green of a little instar which almost blends with the greens of the fading blossom. I think it will grow up to be a stink bug.
As I near the old wooden bridge that crosses Winchester Creek I upset a song sparrow. He pops out of a thick huckleberry bush and scolds. I’ve disturbed his dinner. Parts of a smashed berry stick to his bill and more berries dot the branch he sits on. Soon he is back to the business at hand – eating huckleberries.

I cross the creek on Hinch Bridge. When the tide heads out the creek becomes tiny and rushes towards the ocean. Now the creek is swollen and nearly as high as it will get. The tide is coming. It still sluggishly pushes more and more water upstream. Dale stays on the east side of the bridge studying the green pine cones scattered on the gravel road. These cones are too green to have just dropped. Sure enough! Big dark eyes peer at him at eye level. There sits a chickaree (our western version of a red squirrel), munching away on one its recently harvested cones.

Loud honking comes from down stream. A narrow grassy valley follows the creek, with dense stands of Sita spruce on either side. The geese are flying towards us, following the valley upstream. Soon twenty geese are above us; then on their way, honking as they fade off into the distance.

I wander on down the road to where trilliums bloom in the spring. I’m hoping to see what a trillium seed looks like. I read recently that these seeds have a yummy spot , an enticement for ants to pick them up and carry them off to a new location. I’d like to see one of these seeds, but I think I’m too late. I find only one trio of trillium leaves. No seeds.
One the way back Hinch Bridge catches my eye. I sit down on a log to sketch. The creek continues to lazily head inland. Still damp and gray this morning, but pleasant sitting on the log. While I sketch two egrets fly over … white against the gray sky. I’m nearly done sketching when I realize the tide has turned. Sluggish water swirls slowly, some of it heading in the direction all proper streams should flow, towards the ocean. The daily mixing of fresh and salt water yields a rich mix of nutrients, a rich ecosystem for many animals South Slough is famous for.


  1. I love taking these walks with you. So much to see and sketch!

  2. What fun, I too was looking at a crab spider walking on the floor at home and wondering where he'd come from...thank you for sharing, you're such a great writer- and the sketches are so fresh and natural.

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