12/14/2010

Weekend Rains Wash Tree Debris Into Sooke River Estuary

Although everything is calm on the Sooke River estuary today, the weekend was a different story. A record rainfall flooded the Victoria region with a deluge that put many local roads under water. Another winter day in the rain forest.

When we get these strong winter storms the Sooke River becomes Mr. Hyde to the drought seasons calm, well-mannered Dr. Jekyll. Water levels rise quickly in a big storm, and erosion muddies the normally clear water. And as the river crashes down through the forest covered hills it washes out all kinds of debris that eventually ends up in the estuary and harbour.

On the weekend the soupy water was moving fast and carrying everything from silt to single trees. Severe winter storms such as the one we had on the weekend are an exciting time to be in the rain forest, if you don't have to drive Highway 14.

All is calm today, but the new wildlife trees are evidence of the high waters
It is always fun to see the new tree debris added to the estuary. Some will wash away with the next high tide, and other large debris may be around for years or decades. However long they stay, they will add diversity to the estuary. The trees thrive with life, although not their own.

The estuary wildlife trees host an abundance of life, the most obvious of which are the birds. Eagles frequently use their favourite trees to perch on or to eat a meal of duck or sea gull. Cormorants sit on logs facing the sun with wings spread wide. Gulls like to captain logs as they float around with the currents and tides.

River otters are also regular users of wildlife trees for playing on, slumping across and sleeping in a sunbeam, or for holding a crunchy crab lunch.

Eagles hanging out on a Western red-cedar wildlife tree in the Sooke River estuary
 It is amazing to see the power of the river to deposit huge trees into Sooke Harbour during winter storms. During dry summers it might be hard to float a small branch down the meager trickle. In winter it turns into a white foam raging torrent.

The trees that the high water brings continue to add to the diversity of the coastal rain forest. In addition to the structure that they add, nutrients that the salmon brought into the forest from the sea are now being returned to the sea.

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