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

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Neat Neat Neat

The dry side always calls me, particularly so in its very early and brief Spring.  The dry arid countryside holds little interest for many who fly through on the freeway.  For me it is a world of wonder.  It think what draws me is that it is so different from my home.  A few short hours and I am in a different country.

The area west of Vantage, just up from the Columbia River feels ancient and timeless.  It is hard country with bare rock and swift winds.  The wind turbines are taking advantage of these winds, generating power.

From a handy parking area on the highway you can strike out over the land or along many dirt roads.  It is a popular hunting area in the Winter, but during the other seasons bird watchers and flower seekers ramble the land.  There are many fair roads and motorcycles and bikes are a handy way to get out into the open range. Most cars are not useful here in the rutted broken roads

Flowers draw me.  I come here to see the Hedgehog Cactus in bloom.  I am also on the lookout for Bitterroot.  All over the dry slopes Meadowlark sing their wonderful gurgling song.  Such shy birds, getting a picture is next to impossible.   I am sure those birds who live in town are better models for the camera. 

I did not have any particular place in mind so I struck out on one of the roads.  the slopes were covered in Lupine , Balsamroot and Desert Parsleys.

I figured I needed to go someplace I had not been before so I decided to go over and see those basalt cliffs.  I simply walked straight for them, cross country.

Not content to take the easy way up I climbed up the narrow route to the left.  I was hoping to meet something interesting in the rocks.  Nothing was about.

I found this nifty water catcher.  Just two corrugated metal panels and a fiberglass basin.  I have never seen anything like it.

I found an old water trough half filled with water and growing some kind of green duckweed.  On a stick just breaking the surface, a small butterfly was very polite and allowed me to get a few pictures.  There are many small blue butterflies; collectively called "Blues".  My tentative id of this one is Silvery Blue .

I rambled for some time keeping my eyes out for cactus.  They are predictable in their preference for rocky broken rocky areas.  Being small and close to the ground when they are young and not in bloom it is easy to mistake them for a rock.  I hate stepping on the little ones.  The bigger ones are simple to spot.

Cannot miss these.

Bitterroot seemed to be missing this day.  Perhaps I was simply in the wrong spot.  I made my way back towards the parking area into an area I knew fairly well.  It was not long before I spotted some choice blooms. 

Lewisia rediviva ; restored to life.  This, I feel, is our most beautiful native flower.  Its small buds push up through the hard soil, often from under rocks.  Easy to step on those fragile buds. 

I walked along the road with my eyes down.  Not content with just one random blossom.

Then I saw something move in front of me.  I wasn't going to make a hunt but I could not leave it be.  I quickly got my camera at the ready and got on my hands and knees  (in the wilderness no one can hear you say "oof")

I see you

A Pygmy short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglassii) aka horned toad.  It could not have been more than 3 inches long including tail.  Probably young, they top out at 5 inches

This is the good stuff.

Neat neat neat

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Tidy Tidy Tidy

Well if cleaning the beach was not enough, I met up with some folks to clean a local park. 

It was my intention to visit Sharpe Park on Fidalgo Island.  I had not been to this area before and my friend Ron told me of its open balds and some of the plants he found there.  Thinking about what else I might fine there I looked at the Geocaching map and saw that there was an event called a "CITO  ~ Cache In Trash Out".  CITO are organized as part social and part service events.  Meet and chat then set out into the territory to clean up.  This day of sprinkles and dreary weather drew in about 15 friendly members and one parks ranger.

We set off in all directions.  My intention was to clean for the two hours then return to areas I did not visit on my sweep through the park.

It was quickly evident that this park was either little visited or well attended by other groups.  I was hard pressed to find trash of any kind.  My final haul was barely half a bag.  In it was a pop can, a beer bottle, a baseball hat and some varied bits of plastic paper and foil.  When I returned to meet up with the group, others found the park pretty free of litter and spent their time with the ranger clearing bits of brush and branch that invade the trails.  I was about the only one who found any trash worth speaking of.  I guess you can say we tidied up rather than cleaned.  It all fit in the trash barrel, no semi-truck needed like at the beach.

One of the members who is a cactus hobbyist brought us cold hearty cactus to take if we like.  Here we have some of our very local Opunta fraqgilis ( brittle prickly pear )cactus.  They are found on a very small stretch of Whidbey Island at Ebby Landing,  just south of here. These are fine looking cactus.  The ones I've seen in the wild look like a string of little potatoes.  Larger classic pad cactus were also a choice.  I took a single pad cactus.  J.P. said they should do just fine outside in our chilly winter weather.

Heading out again I visited the large bald to the south end of the park and took time to enjoy and photograph.  All over the trails Calypso orchids were in bloom.  There is something in the ecology of Fidalgo and Whidbey Island that these flowers love. 

Where there are calypso there are often Fawn Lily.  Not many were here but I was astonished by the robust size of those that were.  Never have I seen such large flowers and strong color.

This park has a little marsh in its center.  Not something I have found in other parks along this rocky strip of land.  This day the Marsh Wrens were chattering away.  I was disappointed that I was not able to capture one close at had, they are great photography subjects.  This fellow is up on the cattail chattering his heart out.

On the north bluff the land gave way to a sheer cliff-face and I was thrilled that two Pigeon Guillemots were feeding close in.  Those red legs and feet turn this from a black and white bird into quite a showstopper.

The woods on the north half of the park were filled with rock faces and ledges covered in mosses.  Succulents ferns orchids and lily love these areas.  I need to be sure to return earlier in the Spring next year to see what bounty is there

The southern half of the park is more woodsy.  There are many small narrow trails and I always enjoy the adventure of meandering around twisty trails, newly blazed.  Some of these trails go up slopes and make use of the roots of the trees themselves to form a staircase.  You can see there is not much soil covering the rocks.

The moss and ferns love this rock-face.

Once at the top of the balds you get great views out to the Salish Sea and the islands and islets of the San Juans.

The slope of grasses and mosses supports a whole new group of flowers, much like the south slope of Washington Park.  Here the Camas was just coming to bloom

What a fine way to spend a sprinkly morning.  I found a new place to enjoy and envy those who live so close and can enjoy its solitude.  On the way out I noted that a garbage can shows that this park has been adopted by a Starbucks store.  Store 468 is in Puyallup, quite a distance from here.  I assumed that it was the local store in Anacortes.  Perhaps they all work together to help make this lovely little place

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Clean Clean Clean

April 20th is West Coast Beach Clean.  All along the west coast of the US groups organize beach clean up as part of Earth Day celebrations.  Last year I trekked to Shi Shi beach on our northern-,most coast.  It was a sad task as the beach was filled with tons of debris, including tsunami debris.  The two mile hike to and from the beach made hauling out garbage filled sacks quite a chore.

This year I chose soft duty and went to Long Beach.  I tried a new place to stay and it was a real treat.  Lighthouse Oceanfront Resort.   http://www.lighthouseresort.net  These rows of condos all had a complete kitchen and little view of the surf and were blissfully clean and quiet.  Just the thing for me.  It was a short walk thorough the dunes to the beach.

The dunes were filled with Coastal Strawberry , Fragaria chiliensis.  I am not sure if the bring good fruit but they are certainly pretty to see in the grasses.

I got to the beach after putting in four hours at work just in time to head to my favorite café for dinner.  On Saturday morning beach clean started at 930.  Much like my last clean at the beach, the debris was mostly small plastics and broken down pieces of bead Styrofoam.  The Styrofoam had become trapped in the dune grasses.

There were plenty of people out cleaning and no matter where you went you easily found something to pick up.  Debris blends into the sand and is often covered, making a sharp eye a good thing.  The weather was gray and thankfully there was little wind.  I found this strip of rubber that had clearly been floating at sea for some time.  It was encrusted with Gooseneck barnacles

As you filled your bags you tied them off and left them at the high water mark.  Volunteers in pick-up trucks patrolled the beach and collected what was found and might provide extra bags.  This day  I didn't find enough to fill all my bags but two bags full was good for a few hours work.

After a community soup lunch I returned to the beach with a bag to collect on my own.  I found plenty more and enjoyed the other sights as I went along.

This fortress would soon be getting its moat filled.

This couple had the CD player blasting (Johnny Cash) and were dancing and smooching

Sunday morning was threatening rain.  With it came a bit of wind so I grabbed a kite and went for a walk on the early morning beach.  There were a lot of gulls and crows sitting in one spot near the waterline and I recognized the reason.  I could clearly see a flipper sticking up.  I walked over and found a small, dead Harbor Porpoise.  It is a sad thing, but the birds would have their breakfast.  Heading down the beach I found this Bald Eagle sitting watch over the clan at the shoreline.

Yesterdays sandcastle was washed away and I noted new debris brought in by the overnight tides.  The beach was pretty quiet, though.   Only early morning surf fishermen seemed to be down this way.

Trails to the properties behind the dunes are marked so that visitors can easily find their way home.  The place next door had a little whale.

We had a lighthouse, of course

This place is perfect and I am sure I could find any old reason to return in the Fall and Winter