Spillway

//Spillway

Spillway

Taken during a recent visit in the Seattle area.

At the Ballard Locks, there’s a mist that hangs over the spillway, the meeting of nature and machine, sending and suspending droplets across the sky and onto my camera lens. There’s the beeping red alert of an opening lock, the smell of fish and salt, and the clatter of gulls overhead, swarming across the canal that connects Lake Union to Puget Sound. Under the turmoil of seawater and storm, the silent passage of the big guys . . . the Coho and Chinook who swim next to glass on their ladder . . . and the flat fish, flounders and sole, seen and unseen by diving birds and fishing filament.

Ballard Lockish: The Photos

Part of the 235-foot spillway at the Ballard Locks (aka Hiram M. Chittenden Locks). The spillway controls water levels in the canal, which runs between Puget Sound and Lake Union in Seattle. (Shot at 1/4 sec to smooth the falling water.)

Ballard Locks spillway

Spillway - ©ingridtaylar


Ballard Locks Spillway - ©ingridtaylar

A Double-crested Cormorant dives into the canal, and comes up in the foam below the spillway, holding a flatfish that he swallows whole — and fast.

Cormorant Diving

Cormorant Dive - ©ingridtaylar

cormorant fishing at ballard locks

Luck at the Locks - ©ingridtaylar

Underneath the churning, a Coho or Chinook (I can’t tell yet, I need time) stops for a viewing while using the famous fish ladder.

salmon ladder at ballard locks

Coho Communique


Salmon Chart - ©ingridtaylar

At night, the eyes play tricks at Salmon Waves, where LED lights create figments of smolt swimming across the sculpture.

Salmon Waves

Salmon Waves Sculpture by Paul Sorey

Salmon Waves by Paul Sorey - ©ingridtaylar

By | 2010-10-22T01:58:32+00:00 October 22nd, 2010|Birds, Blog|6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Ellis October 22, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Nice silky spill-water! Always one of my fav spots when I’m in town!

  2. Dan Kent October 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Beautiful photos! The rush of the spillway, the capture of the cormorant, and I especially like the composition of the photos of the sculpture. Love those cormorants and anhingas!

  3. ingrid October 24, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Thanks very much Ellis and Dan. The cormorant capture was pretty lucky in that he (she?) fished the entire time but only caught the one while we were there. I love the cormorants, too. Piercing eyes, agile moves.

  4. […] and smolt flumes at the confluence of salt and fresh — that brackish transition known as the Ballard Locks. The installation was a joint effort by BNSF, Seattle City Light, Seattle Parks and the Washington […]

  5. Kyle November 3, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Great captures and story! I initially noticed your “cormorant vs flatfish” shots. So did the bird really manage to gulp down that huge fish? Does the poor prey get swallowed basically alive if so as well?!

    • ingrid November 7, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Hi, Kyle, thanks so much for the comment. I’ve retired this blog but have kept comments open on the older posts, so I appreciate your kind interest. On the prey — no matter how many times I see these actions, it’s still tough for me to witness since I do empathize with the animals. And yes, the cormorant eventually swallowed the flat fish but it looked as though it managed to kill the fish first. With fish, I’ve seen herons kill large fish before swallowing, but with fish-eating birds like herons and cormorants, that’s not always the case. My understanding is that the fish would die very quickly after being swallowed (if they are still alive), but I’m not 100 percent sure.

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