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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

January 31, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Sea otter pup milestones: first swim, grooming, clams

Aniak’s pup, the new baby sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium, is thriving. The pup has nearly doubled her weight to 6.3 pounds from her birth weight of 3.4 pounds on Jan. 17. The pup also has over the past several days begun some self grooming of her rear flippers and face using her…



January 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Coming up: wild food foraging in the city

The Neptune Theatre at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 is hosting an evening of presentations on food, from foraging tips in the city to Dumpster diving, a history of the potato in Washington State, and several presentation on traditional foods, their gathering and use. Short Takes: What the World Eats is a presentation of the Burke…



January 27, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Glines goes boom: Major progress on the Elwha

Seen this? Documentary filmmaker John Gussman just posted this spectacular footage on his website documenting the deconstruction work underway on both dams on the Elwha River. Glines got a major dose of dynamite and Gussman was there to record the action. Meanwhile the blog put up by the National Park Service also shows both dams…



January 26, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Constance: the perfect name for Montlake Fill’s Connie Sidles

You’ll see her there in any weather, in her trademark blue hat, likely as not perched on her folding camp seat, binoculars up. “Look, there’s a redhead duck,” she said softly as I walked past on a recently blustery January morning. Once again, Connie Sidles had enriched a visitor’s experience of this special place. Constance is the right name for her, a day in and day out presence at the Montlake Fill, one of the most prized birding venues in Seattle.

If you haven’t sampled her blog, do. It’s a diary of the fill, a special place, full of special birds, observed by Sidles with loving attention. Outstanding photographs contributed by wildlife photographers and nature lovers are a treat as well.

Right in the heart of the city, the fill, also called the Union Bay Natural Area, offers a chance to enjoy birds in every season, from swooping swallows in the spring to hummingbirds, to flotillas of ducks. On my recent walk through, goldeneye and teal floated serenely in the ponds and that redhead duck was quite the show.

Sidles is the bard of this place, writing not one, but now a second book about her observations there. Beautifully illustrated with photographs, the book offers a look into one woman’s long-running relationship with one place, over many seasons.


A Cedar waxwing graces the cover of Connie Sidles’ new book, Second Nature. Photo by Tim Kuhn

The fill is just that: a former landfill, enjoying a second life as a wildlife preserve, under a restoration program that has brought flocks of species to this urban place.


Killdeer chicks grace the shoreline at the Montlake Fill. Photo by Doug Parrott



January 24, 2012 at 4:30 PM

It’s a girl! Baby otter doing great at Seattle Aquarium

This just in from the Seattle Aquarium, which had all kinds of news to report on the baby otter after HER first vet exam Tuesday. Yes, she’s a girl, as we reported yesterday, but here is the video of the exam that confirmed it:

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“Through positive reinforcement Aniak has been allowing us to weigh the pup and do some minimal handling the last few days. So this morning, our veterinarian, Lesanna, was able to do a physical examination on the pup poolside and confirmed it is indeed a girl. Her current weight as of (Tuesday) is 4.78 lbs (right on target!)” spokesman Tim Kuniholm writes.


Aniak last week, with her baby, born Jan. 14. The Seattle Aquarium’s vet has determined the baby is a girl. Photo courtesy Seattle Aquarium.

The fact the baby is female means we get to keep her. If the baby had been a male, he would probably need to be moved to another facility, to avoid conflict with Adaa, the other male at the Aquarium (and the baby’s father, presently on, shall we say, parental leave, at the Oregon Zoo.)

For some Seattle Times video posted Tuesday, click here.

Here’s a video from the Seattle Aquarium:

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No details yet on a name… but for now, here are some cool sea otter facts Kuniholm passed along, gathered by the Seattle Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium:



January 23, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Salish Bounty: traditional foods exhibit at the Burke Museum

Native people of the Salish Sea have lived off the bounty of this place for thousands of years. A new exhibit at The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington campus, created in collaboration with area tribes, explores and explains the indigenous foods of the region as well as their gathering and use.

Salish Bounty: Traditional Native American Foods of Puget Sound focuses on the revival of traditional food gathering and use in the region, but also provides an intimate look into the past. From herring rakes to gathering baskets, the tools for gathering nature’s bounty adorn the exhibit and are a feast for the imagination. Even everyday things surprise: the name Tukwila, it turns out, comes from the Chinook jargon trade name for hazelnuts. gathered from the trees that used to thrive in that now paved-over place.

Showing the resilience and survival of traditional food ways, the exhibit also includes videos and audio interviews with tribal members about the meaning of traditional food and the culture that informs their gathering and use.

The exhibit kicks off with an opening celebration Saturday, January 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is part of a larger exhibit Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, at the Burke from Jan. 28 to June 10.

Along the way will be a series of special events for the public, including a teach-in on March 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on traditional Northwest native foods and diets.

Teachers from the Northwest Indian College will join members of local tribes to present activities, food walks and talks about the renaissance of interest in traditional foods. Demonstrations and discussions about traditional foods, plant medicines, basketry, cordage, netting and tool making, as well as recipes for wild green salad, acorn bread, and crab apple butter will be presented. There also will be a chance to learn how traditional foods were gathered, stored and prepared, and discussion of traditional foods as a healthy alternative to the conventional mainstream American diet. The session is included free with museum admission fee.

For a complete list of events, which are still in the making, go online to the exhibit’s website.

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Making kelp pickles. Photo courtesy of Elise Krohn.



January 20, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Baby sea otter at Seattle Aquarium up to nearly 4 pounds

Here’s the latest on the baby otter at the Seattle Aquarium. Reports Tim Kuniholm from the aquarium: “Mom and pup doing well and loving the snow. Pup weighs 3.89 lbs as of this AM and gender is still unknown for sure.” Mom Aniak and her pup are quite the contented pair, have a look: Mom and…



January 17, 2012 at 11:34 AM

Snow place like home for sea otter pup at Seattle Aquarium

Creatures of the north, the sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium are right at home with the snow dusting their abode at the Seattle Aquarium. Northern sea otter Aniak’s newborn pup, who arrived about 5 a.m. Saturday, is wearing a baby blanket of white as she floats about with her mom Tuesday morning. The new…



January 15, 2012 at 10:30 AM

It’s … an otter! Baby otter doing just fine at Seattle Aquarium

Well the baby ottter at the Seattle Aquarium is now one day old and looking, well, “cute” doesn’t begin to say it. Mother Aniak with her baby on board at the Seattle Aquarium. Photo courtesy Seattle Aquarium The pup was born just about 5 a.m. Saturday. It’s so fluffy, biologists don’t yet know its gender. Pups…



January 12, 2012 at 7:00 AM

A walk in the (state) park, for free

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has scheduled ten free days at the parks for 2012, and the first opportunities to enjoy any state park without a Discover Pass is coming right up, on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday three-day weekend Jan. 14-16, The freshness of a winter walk on the beach is…