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Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Web Cams for the easily distracted

Web Cams Everywhere

Barn owl in California. Eggs have just hatched this week.


Phoebe, the Allens Hummingbird has settled another nest and has laid an egg


Monday, March 29, 2010

Escaping the Weather

Sunday I knew I wanted to get out to some new territory. I thought that Dog Mountain at the west end of Columbia Gorge was a nice prospect. Saturdays forecast for changing weather and winds eliminated that venue. I had no choice but to go where it was almost certain to be fair skies, Yakima.

Specifically the Cowiche Canyon. I had heard about this site late last year and put it on my list of places to visit. Saturday, on of my fellow field trip members mentioned that she had been to Snow Mountain Ranch the weekend before. I had not heard of this venue so I checked it out on line.

The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy http://www.cowichecanyon.org/ has two properties with about 14 miles of trails. Both are within 30 minutes of downtown Yakima.

I arrived very early to the Cowiche Canyon trail head. The trail quickly entered a narrow deep canyon of lichen covered basalt.

The footing was gravel and there were several bridges spanning the small, fast running river. Here is a beaver dam. I found freshly chewed stumps and branches.

It was fairly quiet but I did encounter folks out running or walking with their dogs. It feels like the canyon is just waking up to Spring. There was an abundance of Golden Currant blooming.

Further in the canyon where the rock walls give way to open slopes , Balsamroot is in abundance. I found few bird But was thrilled to hear Canyon Wrens high up in the cliffs. I also watched one curious Marmot keeping watch on a couple walking their dogs.

One unique feature is a spur trail leading up to the Wilridge Winery, a small organic vineyard. There are picnic areas and room to ramble. http://www.tastingroomyakima.com/ I did not venture all the way up but I will certainly put a hike and picnic on my list of must do for a pretty warm Spring day. I need to return to this canyon after a few weeks to allow the flowers and birds to wake up.

I drove further out from the canyon to Snow Mountain. This recent acquisition was a cattle ranch and there is ample evidence of cattle on the trails in the form of foot prints, pies and one interesting salt lick.

I was greeted near the parking area by a lovely row of Garry Oak and one very busy Gray Jay. Oak trees are not widely common in our state and the Gray Jays favor them above all. I am sorry this bird was so skittery I would have liked to have taken a picture of him gathering acorns. (I have a soft spot for acorns dating back to first grade.. Thank you Mrs Hamlin)

I immediately encountered a new form of Desert Parsley, Columbia Desert Parsley. Bold and purple with lush greenery.

I headed inward and upward and soon found a signboard that pointed the way. The longest loop trail is a little over 6 miles. I would have liked a bit clearer trail markers as the cattle have made quite a number of "stock trails" and navigation was challenging. I doubted that I would have enough time to take in a full 6 miles. Once I got up in elevation I knew I would not. I was at full stop taking it in.

Here there were carpets of wildflowers. Everywhere Spring Gold ( which I fist meet at Washington Park) and Sage Violets.

Happy little discoveries of Low Pussytoes,

Blue Violets ,

Cushion Phlox,

were new for the year. I even found mystery flowers that I am seeking some input on. There are far more species of flower than I have space to post pictures of. I posted them to my Flickr page. www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

The treasures on the ground were consuming my attention , but I did try to look out and appreciate the grand view all around.

Right after noon the weather clearly started to change. I decided that I best make my way back down and I choose the riparian (waterside) trail. Clearly this low wet area is still waking up as well. The little marsh was only supporting a blackbird or two. The deciduous trees are just starting to bud. It looks like it will be a good place to find a surprise or two next time I visit.

I stopped for a late lunch and as I hit the road it started sprinkling. By the time I reached Ellensburg it was pouring like I have seen in that area. The rain persisted over the pass and forecast is now for more rain and wind, along with much needed snow in the mountains.

I think I need to take a stay away weekend to do justice to Snow Mountain/Cowiche Canyon and the Umptanum Trail in the Yakima River Canyon. It is easy to have two full days in this area if I leave work Friday and drive over.

You can read more about CCC here


So many places so little time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Field Trip : Hazel Wolf Wildlife Sanctuary

I made a field trip this morning with the Washington Native Plant Society


This is a new group for me and I certainly hope to learn a lot and meet some interesting people.
There were about a dozen of us, most of the folks new each other well. The weather was perfect with no wind or rain. This allowed for leisurely rambles. Those of us afflicted with the Shutterbug quickly fell to the rear.

This area is in the middle of a rapidly developing community. The large marsh that is encircles serves as a wonderful centerpiece. The dominating trees were Western Red Cedar and Big Leaf maple. Everywhere there were small two leaved sprouts of maple. The buds were falling from the trees. They are soft and disappointingly have no scent. One woman explained to me that since maples are wind pollinated, they do not need to produce a scent to attract pollinators.

The woods were filled with many small songbirds. I heard a lot of Purple Finch and chickadees. I had a nice spotting of this female Hairy Woodpecker working of a fallen Western Red Cedar.

A small group of us got side tracked when we heard a Virginia Rail in the reeds near the marsh. The bird carried on and we knew we were about three to five feet from it, but we never saw it. Rails like to live in marshy areas and camouflage well in the reeds. They can move about without disturbing the rushes and giving away their spot. Even though there were four of us looking and the bird continued to give its distinctive clapping call, we never spotted the bird.

I was thrilled to find twinberry in bloom. Last summer I found the end point, a stunning red bracketed black berry that I spotted in my binoculars from across a meadow. The starting point for this honeysuckle family member is quite different. You can tell it is a honeysuckle...

Then you get delicate yellow flowers.

At the end of the season you get this bold black berry in red bracts. This photo from the north trail at Esmeralda Basin last August.

Everyone seemed to have a different area of expertise. One gentleman was an expert on sedge , rushes and grasses an area I know almost nothing about. It is overwhelming but every nugget of knowledge helps.

I observed a couple brushing the dead leaves under a sword fern. I asked them what they were looking for (thinking mushrooms) and the replied Salamanders! We didn't see any but I did find this Pacific Tree Frog. Everyone got a good look as the little fellow was surrounded by tiny flying bugs. It looked like a good feeding spot. The light was perfect for some pictures. He was pretty patient with us.

Along the way we found Trillium, always one of my favorites. These flowers will gradually turn to deep purple as they age. Ants will carry off the seeds, which have a sweet oily coating. The Coastal Natives said if you picked Trillium it would cause the rain to come. I suspect that was a good bet on the Pacific coast where 200+ inches per year is the norm. By the end of April many of the Trillium will be past. Bridle Trails SP in Kirkland is a place you can find stunning carpets of very mature, large Trillium.

Despite one gruff senior member saying ( with a wink) binoculars (thus bird watching) were "forbidden" on his trips. I reminded him that there were many plant and bird interactions to be happily observed. I later told him we had been observing the interaction of Reed Canary Grass and Virginia Rail.

The sugary scent of Cottonwood is quite obvious now. One member said a friend of hers sometimes picks up buds from the trees and keeps them in his wallet for the scent. We looked at each other and said "STICKY!" They are Oh so sticky. But you have to love a nature nut!

I was thrilled to find this Tall Oregon Grape just starting to bud. The colors and the form make an interesting picture

Witches butter, a fungus. This was certainly one of the biggest lumps I have ever seen. Yellow is a challenging color to photograph, that is for sure. This fungus isn't slimy ( wet) but is is pretty soft.

Hazel Wolf was a dynamic force to be reckoned with. Her legacy of caring for people and the environment will live on. I will return to this special place and enjoy it through the seasons.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

10:32 am

I knew I wanted to be in a favorite place when the moment came, so I forced myself out at 7am and made for Washington Park, yet again.

There is nothing better than getting to know a place and making discoveries. My last visit was a week ago and today, there is so much change.

Arriving early, the loop road was open only to walkers. There were obviously a large number of people who live in the neighborhood out walking. Everyone seemed on friendly first name basis, which is a refreshing thing to feel.

I was so busy looking at the beautiful greenery in the woods that I failed to truly appreciate the beautiful Puget Sound vistas.

At Green Point, Shootingstars are just springing to life. I have found very few elsewhere in the park. These are right at the edge of the open area, in rocks that surely get splashed by salt water on a rough day.

I found a lot more Fairyslipper orchids in bloom, including this nice little cluster.

The new flower of the day was White Fawn Lily. They favored an area that was carpeted in moss, so the effect was quite enchanting.

I found Common Camas finally springing open and as expected, Meadow Death-Camas was intermixed.

Common Camas
Meadow Death-Camas. While you would never mistake the flowers, the bulbs are quite indistinguishable from Common Camas. Common Camas was a common staple of native diets.

Sea Blush is more common now. This well placed Douglas Fir cone shows how small these blooms are.

So many rock outcroppings support little gardens of mixed flowers , grasses and mosses. They would be the envy of anyone striving to make a rock garden at home. The Small Flowered Blue-eyed Mary really showed off.

I captured this Spotted Towhee singing, right after the change of season.

Happy Spring everyone.

Friday Getaway

I needed an escape and took advantage of the quiet before the storm at work to grab a day off. With the new season there are so many places to get to as they wake up. I headed for one of the most isolated, seldom visited areas of the state.


Not really Hanford, inside the loop of the Columbia River. That place with reactors and cores and armed guards and security checks. I have had the privilege of visiting inside the reservation proper as well as the ALE, Arid Lands Ecology unit to the immediate west. I also once made a wrong turn and wound up at one of the sentry gates.

No I visited the wildlife areas to the north; Saddle Mountain and White Cliffs both part of the Wahluke Slope National Wildlife Area part of the Hanford Reach NWR.

This is desert sage brush country. The Hanford reservation, in some spots, gets less than 10 inches of rain per year

It was lovely. There was very little wind, characteristic of other parts of the eastern Washington region. The temperature was just perfect and of course the day was perfect and blue.

Some people might think that there is little life out here. It was a quiet day, I will admit but when you get out and start looking closely, you quickly figure out that a lot of life out here is very small.

Driving east on I-90 you take a right after the bridge at Vantage and very soon are at the town of Mattawa. Here there has been a real boom in fruit and grape cultivation. The apple trees are just starting to bud.

Most of the land here, however is harsh. Many sand dunes form off the west and south face of the Saddle Mountains. The area north of the Saddle mountains, which rise about 2000 feet from the surrounding land, is highly irrigated and under cultivation.

South of the mountains all the area for about as far as the naked eye can see is the Hanford Reservation. The Hanford Reach has recently been put under further federal protection as it is the last of the free flowing Columbia River. In the picture below you can just see some of the buildings of the Hanford site. All of the area to the left of the river is the high security restricted area.

Arriving at the Wahluke Wildlife Area, this Horned Lark could not be bothered to stop singing from the entry sign.

The road would steadily uphill for about 4 miles. I caught a quick glimpse of a Chucker and I could hear Meadowlarks singing all about.

At the top there are no formal trails. You are just able to ramble all over the upper slopes. The south slope is covered in grasses and rocks. Many of the rocks have extensive populations of lichens.

The north face of the mountains show the effects of the Bretz Floods and they are sheer rock face scoured off as the mountain range channeled the massive floods at the end of the last Ice Age.

I was a bit dismayed at first, thinking that there was little in the way on new Spring growth but I found many Woolly-pod Milk Vetch patches.

Further down slope the Balsamroot was starting to bloom. I was delighted as Balsamroot attracts so many bugs.

It is a bug eat bug world!

I drive back down to Hwy 24 and east a little way then entered onto the Hanford reservation proper. White Bluffs is a wonderful spot along the Columbia River as the face of the hills is old sand dune , rather than the more familiar basalt and other rock face to the north and south. The road ends at the old historic village of White Bluffs. The only remaining structure is a shack that was said to be the blacksmiths building. A stunning, stark area. You can easily ramble for miles and you will likely see no one once you are beyond the parking area.

Here Spring has not quite arrived. I did find some Yellow Bells which seemed to love the sandy dry soil. They were quite a surprise in this harsh environment.

I look forward to getting back here in a month and see how the Spring is progressing. The season is short as soon the lack of moisture and the brutal heat will take its toll.

The Hanford Reservation and the Yakima Military Reservation immediately to the north form two of the largest protected ecology areas in the state. The rare and sensitive sage and upland areas are home to species that exist no where else in the state. We are fortunate that there is ongoing efforts to protect these sensitive areas.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hummingbird cam


I know it is not Washington State. I tried finding one for here but it is perhaps a bit early for most.

Allen Hummingbird nest web cam. As of today it looks as if the eggs are pipping , just starting the hatch. This may take a day or two. One egg was noted yesterday to have pipped.

The site has an excellent history of this little bird and her many nests.

Rufous Hummingbird should be arriving now. I read an article yesterday saying that these birds were dwindling in Washington state and may be listed as species of concern. That is stunning news as they have always been bountiful in my eyes.

I need to get the feeder at the barn cleaned and ready to go.

March 17 update

A lizard has visited the nest and taken the egg that was hatching. This cam and the female has a long history so it is likely that the future nestings will be followed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Big Prize

is actually very little, no more than 1 inch long

Fairyslipper Orchid at Washington Park.

I knew I would find one and this is it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mystery solved

I was able to get some positive identification of my mystery flowers from Sunday. A member of the Flickr "Washington Wildflower" group gave the positive identifications.

Here is the view of Burrows Channel from the south slope where all the flowers are found.

I knew this was a Saxifrage , based on its flower shape and structures, but I could not figure out which one. This is Early Saxifrage

These few plants were the only ones I found

This is a very early bud of Camas. It is the only one I found this day. There should be a bounty of them before long, I say many of the leaves already up. Camas was a staple food . The root is a starchy tuber. According to the Lewis and Clark diaries, the Camas caused a fair amount of digestive upset to the men.

Perhaps an acquired tolerance was needed. Though it is my understanding that the men liked dog meat more than salmon.

This cute little yellow composite is Gold Star

And this is an annoying variation of Gold Star. The same species about 3/4 inch across the top. So sweet.

Things like this keep it challenging.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I could not resist a return to Washington Park in Anacortes. I caught some of the flowers already fading. They were not in bloom when I visited three weeks ago!!

Serpentine soil supports these dainty flowers

Small flowered Woodland Star

Field Chickweed

Few-flowered Shooting Star

Small Flowered Blue-eyed Mary, carpets and carpets of them

One of my favorites for today, a dewy macro of the Blue-eyed Mary. Plus pretty mosses.

Douglas' Blue-eyed Grass, in the meadows above Burrows Channel, Many flowers, some were already wilting.

How they grow on the slope

blossom detail

A Bumble Bee on Red Flowering Current. Hummingbirds love this plant.

I have more but they are currently mystery flowers under puzzlement. I am sure I will find myself at the park again next weekend.