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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Rare Sight

Yesterday was one of those beautiful Spring days.  All week the dreary rain and clouds made the weekend look unpromising.  I had land trust duties to attend to.  Cleaning up junk.

It may not sound like the way to spend a bright Spring morning but a small group got together and set to work on a heavily impacted unit with the Nisqually Land Trust , Wilcox Flats.

This parcel came to the Land trust at pennies on the pound.  Originally platted for over 40 homes, a series of floods quickly showed developers that this was a flood zone with great power.  These floods brought down river a mountain of tires and house debris.  They also wiped out a few houses already build.

You would not know such devastation happened 20 years ago.  Trees have grown up the land looks healed.  Close up,however it is a different story.

The soil has a thick layer of sand in many areas.  Sand is a trick soil to plant in this region but certain areas of planting are doing well.  Shore Pine is taking hold and growing well.  Elk, however are making sure the Shore Pines of a certain size must be worthy of growing to maturity.  Established trees about five to eight feet high are fine scratching posts.  The Elk rub them for grooming and territory marking.  Many of these trees have bark stripped off and branches broken.  Those which completely snap off will eventually return to the soil but others have a sort of bonsai look to them.

We tackled a mound that had litter at the base and pretty quickly established that the mound was largely household junk.  It looks like they had established a burn pile and a garbage pile and eventually pushed them together.

There were large number of toothbrushes and combs, cosmetics and medicine bottles.  Tons of broken bottles and left over stuff from a workshop.We could have kept going like mad archaeologists but since the mound was well covered over by soils we smoothed over the area we cleaned an will likely let nature hide the rest.

Over on a side channel of the river the  tires present a bigger challenge.  many of the tires that were left up on land have already bee cleared by several work parties.  Now tires which line the channel must be got at.

The shrubs, the fallen trees and the water all equal a challenging task.  Tires line this channel at all levels and we were able to get about a dozen taken out.  It was a trek out to the water from the staging area so folks had to run the tires through the woods on what can barely be called a trail.

Dig the tire out of the bank

Bring it back and up the fallen tree

Toss it down to me

I pick it up out of the water and roll it up the bank and down to the staging area for the woods runners.

You cannot complain about doing work like this with nice people.  Sunny day , singing birds and a fun discovery.

Beaver skull

Molars, not something you see everyday.

It is going to take a strong group from the military base to get at the tires that are in deeper water along the bank.  I suggested ropes tied to the tires which those on shore could haul in.  Chris said it was a good reason to finally get hip waders.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy First Day of Spring

Since it was bucketing down rain this morning I knew today was an Eastern Washington day.  I headed for the area east of Ellensburg beyond the wind farm.  It is here where I usually find blooming cactus.

This day gave proof as to why the wind farms are here.  The wind was really whipping and getting decent photos of trembling flowers was a challenge.

All the early flowers were here.

Sagebrush Violets

Bluebells snuggles low and protected around most anything.  These were next to an Elk skeleton

Yellow Bells are the flower most people mention when talking about the early Spring flower of the dry side.

Dagger-Pod only grew in the sheltered sunny hillside, well below the rough wind at the top.

Cushon Phlox is just coming on now.

The Hedgehog Cactus are just starting to make buds, so they are a week or two off.

I stopped at the Red Horse Diner for lunch and the sunny window, with no wind, was welcome.

When I come home via I-90 I usually get off at Preston and come via Fall City.  It may take a few extra minutes but it is more peaceful than the Bellevue corridor

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spring Forward?

Well it is time for the annual Spring forward for Daylight Savings Time.  For most of the country I am sure the arrival of Spring is eagerly awaited.  For the citizens of Puget Sound country we wonder what we did; right or wrong, to deserve the non-winter.

I have happy anticipation of an early and potentially brief wildflower season so I started wandering the trails up at Washington Park a few weeks ago.  Oh how I love this park.  It is so diverse that I can wander for a few hours and each time have a somewhat different experience from the time before.  The warm winter we have had appears to have given the flowers a bit of a jump start.

This is simply bad news.  Our snow pack is not going to happen this year.  The reservoirs are full enough, but I am sure we are going to hear lectures on conservation.  The agriculture areas of Eastern Washington are served largely by the Columbia River and our friends to the north have received enough snow so there should be water for most.  The very high mountains have had more snow than the lower watersheds, so that helps as well.

The Daffodil fields of the Skagit are early and the tulips are not far behind.  The beautiful sunny weekends will no doubt drive people to see the fields long before the Tulip Festival starts.  Great for the vendors in LaConnor.  That is Mt Baker aka Koma Kulshan, peeking over the foothills.

The snowiest place on earth.  This record, long held by Mt Rainier was turned over to Mt Baker several years ago.  I think the rangers at Paradise on Mt Rainier are still recovering.  They held the record for what seems forever.

The park is waking up and the most reliable early bloomer is the Red-flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum .  This plant along with Salmonberry, brings the Rufous Hummingbird.  I am not yet seeing the Salmonberry bloom and have yet to hear the zing of a Rufous.

I typically walk the park in a counter-clockwise loop.  It is bad of me to ignore the inner part of the peninsula with its deep woods, but I am drawn by the wildflowers that lurk on the stony edges,overlooking  the Salish Sea.

Today I had a darn lucky hit.  I can out of some trees and looked down at the water.  I noted a splash and revved up my camera.  Another splash and I took aim.  A third and I fired...

I was way up there and they way down.  Harbour Porpoise, Phocoena phocoena.  I took down my camera and they were gone, beyond that tree , around the point.

The moss woods along my favorite little trail is filled with promise of Calypso Orchids and Fawn Lily.  I am seeing the leaves but no sign of buds yet.  They are a few weeks off. perhaps.

A scientist interested in moss could spend a few hours counting species here.

Out on the south facing slopes the early flowers are here.  They are not bountiful but you never know what you are going to find.  These slopes are braided with trails that wander along.  Years of people following trails blazed by the likes of these little darlings

The tiny Small-flowered Blue Eyed Mary , Collinsia parviflora is always first to appear.

Another figwort, Yellow Monkey-flower Mimulus guttatus is just getting started.  It almost feels too dry for them.  They seem to like a soggy ground.

I found a few Gold Star, Crocidium multicaule and was happy to catch a busy fly on this one

The cooler woods still have a surprise.  I love mushrooms in all their detail and was very happy with these pictures.

Some day I would love to learn to stalk the savory mushroom.  For now I leave them for the Douglas Squirrels.

Speaking of stalking

He was watching Harbor Seals probably hoping for some leftovers.  The Harbor Seals were probably enjoying smelt, which are running now.  Yum smelt.....  I have not made smelt is such a long time.

I am sure I will be up here almost every week waiting for the orchids and lily to appear.  I need to think about when to tackle the slopes of eastern Washington.  They have much colder nights, but warmer days and in a week or two it may be time to travel back to Snow Mountain ranch near Yakima.  Last time I went I was caught in a snow and hail shower.

Might have to wait for real Spring for that trip.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Beach Clean; Critters Galore

Time for the January Long Beach clean.  The local community of Long Beach has a well organized volunteer group which makes every effort to care for the worlds longest beach.  Some members of the community walk their portion of the 28 mile beach every day.  Every January during the period of highest tides there is a call for a big community wide clean.  This effort is repeated every April during Earth Day weekend and on the 5th of July.

In years past I have worked the beach strip in Long Beach proper.  Other years I did the beach near my lodgings; Cranberry Approach.  This year I opted to work on one of the more isolated areas.

The drive down was wet and rainy.  It never let up.  The radio promised weather in the 50s and possibly 60 by Sunday.

Hard to believe this weather is going to turn into 55+.  Waiting for a train in the rain.

I was happy to see the little Thai restaurant open after the owners long vacation.  These women present the best food with a real charm.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas  they were enjoying a trip to their homeland.

Saturday morning dawned as usual.  It was not raining so that was a bonus.  I elected to wear my windbreaker pants and coat and a fleece hat.  No thermal layers, no waterproofs.

The fog was settled and this was about as good as it got all day.

This gentleman and his dog walk the beach every day and pick.  He was the only citizen aside from me for the first half hour.  Eventually we were joined by others and some of the neighbors who live on the beach were seen coming down from their property and work around the front of their properties.  My fleece hat was soon in my pouch and the coat undone.  I could feel the warm.  There was no wind at all.

It is a worthy effort.  Tons of debris comes ashore each year and tons are removed by volunteers.  A majority of the debris these days are bite-sized plastics.  Caps, broken shards of plastic junk.  Several years ago it was tsunami debris; line, floats, household goods.  This line has likely been at sea for some time.  That is a small Goosneck Barnacle.

Very rare was the large debris like plastic bags or bottles.

I did find this little treasure

Picked two bags which were left for pickup and decanted 1/2 bag to the pickup truck and carried out 1/2 bag for a total of three bags.  Almost all of it plastic.  It is easy to spot.  Bright blue dominates.  Anything perfectly symmetrical or evenly colored is likely man-made.

The beach changes every day.  Tides roll in and out giving and taking.  The winds can cover over debris and treasures overnight.  Sometimes you can spot something just by the way the sand in mounded.

This winter has been hard on the sea-life.  In December it was noted that seabirds were being found dead of starvation in the hundreds.  The persistent warm front in the NE Pacific may have driven their food out of reach  They are still being found.  I easily found 20 small petrels, two gulls and what I think is a shearwater.

  These gulls are gathered around what appears to be a young Elephant Seal.  These seals are known to stray north from California and perhaps the warm systems led it astray as well.  The Ravens and gulls were feasting.

A Merlin falcon flew up off the beach as I worked.  This was its handwork.

The day never cleared and I went in search of a bookstore and lunch.  After recharging, another short walk on the beach with bag in tow.

This morning it was sunshine all the way home and the promised 60 degree weather overdid itself.  I note that it was 73 degrees near the Willapa Bay NWR and 64 at the beach.

Cranberry bog in the morning.

Next trip for beach clean is in April for Earth Day.  It will probably snow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

There Was No Partridge

I spent the morning with the Nisqually Land Trust working on the historic Van Eaton property in Eatonville.  This property borders the Mashel River and consists of the old farm barn and pond along with forest and tiers of land which run down to the river.  The Land Trust donated the historic barn and pond to the town.

Today we had a great turn-out.  A group from Edmonds Community College was with us.  These students were not traveling during the holiday break and had the option to do community service and have experiences related to their school work.  They were staying up the road at Pack Forest and had already done a full days work there.

We have visited this property several times over the last few years focusing on Scots Broom.  My partner and I were assigned the clearing where major work had been done before.  We were to scout for new growth and grab up as many as possible.

It was challenging work as the grass is well grown up and finding the green growth within the tall grass meant we did a lot of slow walking back and forth, scanning for unwanteds

My shoulders ache

As I was prowling along I found this shiny brown object.

At first glance I thought it was a mushroom of some kind but looking closely I tipped up the chewed on side..

It is a pear.  A very large very substantial pear.  Around this area I found more, some were just skins with all the flesh eaten out.

These wonderful trees ringing the opening are the remainders of the original orchard.  Most likely these moss and lichen covered pear trees are at least 100 years old.

If you look very closely at the top of that right arching branch you can see one pear hanging on.  I bet they would make great cider.

After gleaning the meadow we moved on to tackle the blackberry that has invaded the shoreline and backwater areas on the river.

Saw plenty of evidence of deer, Elk and Coyote in the meadow...

but not a single Partridge.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Live Stakes

Saturday I returned to a project area I talked about last Spring.  We had spent a fine Spring morning burlapping to supress Reed Canary grass.

Now is the time to get native plants placed in this area.  Fast growing plants to fill in this open side channel will help to further choke down the Reed Canary grass.  The cold, crisp weather continues and I ventured a look at the Mesonet weather report for the area.  Seventeen degrees Fahrenheit with no wind (thank goodness).  This is a terrific site and for planning a day out it cannot be beat.  Temperature Wind High/Low rainfall all in one handy place.


Didn't need the Mesonet to tell me what my car window could.  Armed with a nice cup of coffee in my thermos mug I drove down to Yelm, enjoying a lovely clear blue sunrise.  I was early, as usual and wandered around the meeting area.

You know it is DARN cold out when a glacier fed river is warmer than the surrounding area and sending up wisps of warmer vapors.

The ground is covered in Big-leaf Maple leaves and samaras.

This one is a science experiment in the making as the seed is down in a hole in this post.  The surrounding moss guarantees that it will stay insulated and moist.  I wonder if it will sprout?

Today's group included 20 gentlemen from McChord AFB.  Young troops and their leaders, these helpers from the base are always eager to work and work hard.  One was from El Paso Texas and had never experienced woodlands like we have here.

The backwater area still has burlap in place and the grasses were tamed down.  The beavers who contributed to some of this side-channels construction appear to have moved out of the area in the last season.  They left behind an empoundment deeper in the woods that made out usual woodland trail no longer available.  We hiked about 1/2 mile along a service road to access the property area.

Today we are driving live stakes of three native Salix willow species; Pacific Sitka and Scoulers. These stakes were cut from growing plants.  The beveled end is plunged into the ground half the length of the stick, which was about 2 feet long.  Nodes that make contact with the moist soil will sprout roots, above ground the nodes will send out branches.

The ground is soft here and there are hardly any stones.  A drive bar starts a hole and you simply plunge it in.  A few good whacks with the mallet and the live stake is planted.  Charlie and I placed the stakes on the steep portions of the creek bank.

Charlies neoprene hip-waders made this pretty comfortable duty.

Others working in teams of 4 or 5 placed the willows along the top of meandering bank.  There are hidden pitfalls in this area thanks to the handy work of the beavers and the coverage of the Reed Canary grass.  Occasional jeering and hoots were heard from the troops when someone came afoul of a slippery place.  Happy to say there was only one soggy leg and I believe it was that of an officer which no doubt delighted the younger airmen.

The live stakes were driven then protected with the usual tubes and wooden stakes.  This keeps rodents from chewing and enjoying.  A further application of latex paint mixed with sand followed. This can be a good beaver deterrent.

It took about 2 hours to plant over 450 stakes.  What a treat to have such a good turn out of help on such a cold day.  No one really felt the cold, the sun and activity once again made this a pleasure.

Added bonus is that it is a pretty peaceful place.  It is going to be fun to watch this area quickly transform into a more complete habitat.  Willows grow fast and they are wonderful habitat for many of our native songbirds like warblers and flycatchers.  We will be returning in a few months to place transition plants like Salmonberry and roses as well as some tree species.

Within a few years this place is going to be totally transformed.

Back in my car, the thermos mug did its job and my morning coffee is still warm.  Isn't technology grand.