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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ohop Bio survey

Saturday I experienced a new volunteer opportunity.  I joined volunteers lead by the staff of Northwest Trek in a bio survey of the Ohop Valley property owned by the Nisqually Land Trust.

I have told you about this great property and the rehab efforts underway.  The creek through this valley was reintroduced to its historic meandering bed three years ago.  Volunteers from the Land Trust, the Nisqually tribe and Northwest Trek have worked to monitor the progress and revitalization of nature in this little bit of solitude.

A bio survey attempts to note all living creatures present in the study environment.  On the large scale, you see "bioblitzes" events where experts in every conceivable field gather and attempt to survey every living thing in the environment.  It turns into a bit of a competition and all serves to further the science of the environment.  Our low key bio survey tries to characterize what and who is using the environment on a more basic level

This day we noted birds and signs of animals.  We looked for fish and frogs in the meandering creek.  For me a big star was a Magpie ( Pica pica) .  I have never seen a Magpie on the west side of the Cascades.

Magpie was attracted, along with Jays Crows and Raven by an Elk carcass, just below this post.  Personally I suspect this was a hunters leavings after dressing out the kill.  There was no skull rack or skin to be see.  Fresh bones, well stripped of meat.  All around there was scat (feces) of coyote.

We found these lovely feathers which show that a Ruffed Grouse met its end here.

Shortly after starting our survey, the weather turned very unfriendly and rain then hail slammed down.  We had some handy abandoned barns in our section so we walked about inside looking for signs of owls rodents or other creatures that might have used a shelter.  All of the birds ducked for cover and it was a good vantage point to see them emerge from the woods when the hail ended.  It was here we spotted a lone Mourning Dove.

We cut down towards the creek and found this marvelous paper wasp nest.

Photos were taken to aid the possible identification of the species that made this nest..  It looks bold and tough , but one touch lets you know it is a delicate web of tissue paper consistency.

I learned that this is Balf-face Hornet nest , Dolichovespula maculata

Dolichovespula maculataDolichovespula maculata

I love how the reeds of grass and stems of the little tree are used as foundation of the hanging nest.

near here we found a second Elk carcass.  We also found evidence of Beaver and where deer or Elk had pulled tender bark off planted trees and shrubs.  In the tall grasses we found many snails and I took pictures of two that were unlike the others.

Next weekend I will return to this place and help the land trust pull the protective tubes from around the plantings done three years ago.  I was astonished at how large some of the trees have become in such a short time.  This day there were no Salmon in the creek, like there was last year.  ON my visit last year we had a record run of Salmon through Puget Sound and they eagerly came up the new creek which had not connected to the Nisqually River in at least 75 years.  I guess 4 to 6 years from now we may expect record return of fish that hatched last year.

With just a short mornings effort, I am excited to think I have added another opportunity to experience, learn and give back to the environment.  This work was different from bird surveys as it is an opportunity to expand and stretch skills.  Having people who are knowledgeable about diverse subjects really helps in learning together.  I shared birding skills, another shared their knowledge of scat. 

As I was down south I justified the effort to finish the drive to the beach and spend the night.  I have had my mind on a sweet kite I saw last visit and I figured, I deserved it.  The wind was not favorable to fly my little boat, but I am sure the next time it will be better.

I did get to experience a fierce storm coming ashore in the night.  It sounded like a car wash.


  1. Lovely photos and an excellent post, Marti. Nice to see some new posts from you.

  2. Thanks Ron, I thought it best to get back on the pony and get back in the groove