October 31, 2012 at 4:15 PM
A film screening and panel discussion on wolf recovery will be sponsored by Conservation Northwest, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and Woodland Park Zoo at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall on Thursday. Donny Martorello of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be on hand on the panel to answer your questions about wolf recovery in Washington. For more on the department’s wolf recovery policy, see the WDFW web site.
The panel will be moderated by KUOW Weekday host Steven Scher.
The event is free with a donation requested. The program is from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 120 Kane Hall at the University of Washington, 1410 NE Campus Parkway.
For another perspective on the recent killing by the department of the wolves in the Wedge Pack of northeastern Washington, read the recent op ed column by University of Washington biologist John Marzluff in the Seattle Times. He argues the wolves did not have to die, and we need changes in wolf recovery policy.
October 29, 2012 at 2:00 PM
With a big shot of dynamite, the last of Lake Mills drained through what’s left of Glines Canyon Dam last week. There’s still about 50 feet of the Glines Canyon Dam standing. But the last of the once 210-foot-tall structure will be gone by May.
Today the river crashes over what’s left of the dam in a waterfall. And while there is still a mixture of water and sediment that can’t get past the remaining concrete yet, there are no more reservoirs on the Elwha. “She’s all river now,” Andy Ritchie, restoration hydrologist for the National Park Service said with a big smile.
Lake Aldwell, the former reservoir above Elwha Dam, disappeared last March, along with that dam.
The pace and scope of change has been breathtaking, as this amazing pairing of aerial photos by photographer John Gussman shows. Gussman is making a documentary film about the Elwha. He got started before dam removal began, and his comprehensive documentation of the river, the dams, and the watershed as the world’s largest dam removal ever unfolds is invaluable. To see more of his work, check his website.
Here is a heck of a before and after for you:
Glines Canyon Dam and Lake Mills, before and after.
John Gussman, photos
October 25, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Residents of the J, K, and L pod of orca whales have visited local waters three times already this month, from Admiralty Inlet to the south end of Vashon Island, where they were seen last weekend.
“Any time after Oct. 1 is fair game,” said Brad Hanson, wildlife biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center of Seattle, who added that the whales are here to catch returning runs of Puget Sound chinook and chum headed to local rivers to spawn.
A new birth to J pod in the summer of 2012. There are only about 85 Southern resident killer whales, which are protected as an endangered species.
Photo courtesy Center for Whale Research
The endangered whales also will make visits to the outer coast at this time of year, but likely will be back and back again to Puget Sound. Hanson, when the weather allows, follows the whales locally to get samples of fish scales and scat to continue researching the animals’ diet.
The abundance of salmon and orcas appear to be linked, a poignant situation in which an endangered animal is depending on a threatened one — Puget Sound chinook — as food.
Orcas also will eat chum in Puget Sound waters, Hanson said, choosing them at this time of year because they are good size and far more abundant than chinook in the fall.
NOAA and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada are expected to publish a report next month on the link between orca and salmon populations. More information about their research and joint workshops on the question is online.
October 24, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Come meet the editorial team at a kickoff event today for the new online Encyclopedia of Puget Sound and hear a panel discussion about the challenge of managing and harnessing information in a complex ecosystem recovery effort, such as restoring and protecting Puget Sound.
A painted turtle, one of many images from the species library in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound
Here’s more about the encyclopedia, from Sandra Hines, news and information specialist at the University of Washington.
The event is free and open to the public and starts at 3:30 p.m. today at the UW Fishery Sciences Building.
October 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM
Since 1926, the glittering blue of Lake Mills has been a landmark — albeit an artificial one — of the Northwest landscape.
Lake Mills, the reservoir behind Glines Canyon Dam, was actually at the root of the legal case to tear down the Elwha dams: the reservoir intruded into the boundary of Olympic National Park. While it still exists on maps and in the memories of many longtime Northwesterners, Lake Mills will soon be gone from the landscape.
Photo by Steve Ringman of the Seattle Times, taken October 1, 2010
Lake Mills has been steadily dropping since dam removal began on the river in September 2011. But, depending on weather over this weekend, it will be gone by next week. The lake is only about 8 to 10 feet deep at the deepest right now — down from 180 feet before workers began taking down the 210 foot tall dam, now only about 70 feet high.
Lake Mills is nearly gone. Andy Ritchie, Elwha restoration project hydrologist for the National Park Service took this aerial photo in September, 2012.
Photo courtesy, National Park Service
Here is the same view, one month later, photographed by Ritchie on Oct. 15, 2012. He predicts the lake will be completely gone by next week.
Lake Mills is nearly gone.
Photo by Andy Ritichie, Elwha restoration project hydrologist, National Park Service.
Courtesy, National Park Service
The dam might be completely gone by May. The schedule depends on the downstream effect of the massive amount of sediment about to be unleashed into the river. Slower is safer.
Less than five percent of the material pent up behind the dams since Elwha Dam was built in 1910 has been released, said Andy Ritchie, Elwha restoration project hydrologist with the National Park Service, based in Port Angeles.
Glines always hoarded the biggest load of sediment — and the two dams together trapped an estimated 24 million cubic yards of material –gravel, sand, cobble and fines that normally would have been rinsing down from the upper watershed, and distributed throughout the Elwha’s 45-mile length all the way to the saltwater Strait of Juan de Fuca.
One of the most important aspects of the $325 million Elwha restoration project is restarting the river’s capacity to transport that material, a natural process that shapes the river and provides habitat for everything in it.
The goal is to restart the conveyor belt without doing damage downstream. To control the release of sediment in to the middle and upper watershed, the sediment management team at the Denver office of the Bureau of Reclamation and locally in Port Angeles at the National Park Service have been carefully watching the pace of dam removal, so the river can keep up with its task of eroding out the material stuck behind the dams.
With the winter storm season getting underway, things are about to get exciting. A 70-foot wall of sediment has been advancing toward what’s left of the dam, and as workers continue to take it down, that material is going to start coming out.
Any day now, cobbles and sand are about to start tumbling over the dam — and that’s not been seen before.
“We’ve just seen the leading edge of the torrent of sediment, just a whisper of what’s to come,” Ritchie said.
Elwha Dam was completely gone by last March, but it didn’t have much big stuff behind it. The lower of the two dams, it trapped mostly sand and fines. It’s a different story with Glines, where a stockpile of gravel and cobble is on the way.
“What we are seeing is an increase in both the concentration and the size of what is coming,” Ritchie said. “The sand will speed down the river, the gravel will tumble, and the cobble will bump along. One of the big parts of this experiment is how the river will respond to sediment it hasn’t seen in 80 years.
“The coarse sediment part of this experiment is about to begin.”
October 15, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Eugene Hunn is back with a beautiful new birding book, and best of all it is a detailed look at the birds right here, close to home.
Richly illustrated with photographs and maps, the book belongs in the backpack and bookshelf of nature lovers and hikers of all sorts, not just birders. It’s an accessible, useful guide to the natural wonders on the wing all around us, ready for appreciation.
Eugene Hunn has updated his classic bird reference for Seattle and King County for the first time since its initial publication in 1982.
Cover photo, savannah sparrow by Kathrine Lloyd.
Courtesy, Seattle Audubon
From the beaches of Vashon Island to the river valleys of the Green, White, Snoqualmie and Skykomish Rivers, the alpine zones of the Issaquah Alps and even tips for birding by bus, it’s all here, and written in a style inviting for amateur as well as experienced birders and outdoor enthusiasts.
Included too is a chapter on other living things — a nice touch, that draws out the rich biodiversity of a region blessed with the presence of everything from beavers to whales to dragonflies.
Hunn, Seattle author Connie Sidles notes, in 1982 wrote the first version of Birding in Seattle and King County, and in it encouraged birders to practice their appreciation closer to home. Hunn, Sidles reports, even encouraged birders to keep track of their mileage when birding to figure out a “birds per gallon” consumption.
His point, of course being that there is a lot here right at home to appreciate, and this book makes it easy to do.
A pileated woodpecker sticks its tongue into a tree to capture insects for a tasty meal.
Photo by Gregg Thompson, courtesy Seattle Audubon
“King County is pretty amazing,” said Hunn, professor emeritus in the anthropology at the University of Washington by cell phone in the middle of a birding trip in Sonoma County, Ca., where he now lives, to be closer to his children and grandchildren. “It is bigger than Rhode Island or Delaware, and goes from sea level to 8,000 feet. There are more than 265 species of birds within the city limits, and 377 in the county.”
Just 40 miles from downtown Seattle, the Middle Fork of the Snoquamle River offers sheer rock faces and deep forests; and even in the heart of the city, recovered habitats, such as the former airstrip at Magnuson Park, now a complex of man-made wetland ponds, and the Montlake Fill, a former garbage dump, are a birder’s paradise.
“The Montlake Fill is an old landfill, a city dump on University property, I remember when it was just a muddy mess, you took your life in your hands walking out there with little methane flames jetting out,” Hunn rememebred. “Now it is an open, marshy environment that is quite rare and valuable.”
He credits too the farmland preservation effort in the Kent Valley for preserving open fields birds need, and the city’s grand green spaces, such as Discovery Park, that provide large refuges of habitat of many types, from saltwater shoreline to upland native forests and grasslands.
“There is tremendous diversity, right in the city,” Hunn said.
Hunn started birding in 1967, and his book includes a section on the sweeping changes in Seattle and King County in bird species just since his first edition was compiled, using graph paper and hand tallies, in 1982. His second edition notes 70 new species added to the lists of birds seen here, Hunn notes.
Birds now common that were rarely seen back then include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, merlins, and brown pelicans. Ospreys are nesting on cell towers and trumpeter swans, once rare, now carpet farm fields in winter.
Climate change may be playing a role in the presence of some species here now year round, but rarely seen in the 1980s, Hunn noted, including scrub jays, once seen in Oregon but not Washington, but now common here, and Anna’s hummingbirds. Once a California species, Anna’s hummingbirds today are year round residents frequenting feeders and ornamental plantings right in Seattle’s urban neighborhoods.
An American dipper feeds its young. Dippers are the only aquatic songbird.
Photo by Gregg Thompson, courtesy, Seattle Audubon
Hunn urges a deeper exploration of all that is right here to enjoy. “Who can go all around looking for parrots of the world, when in our own back yard we have tremendous diversity? With the concern about green house gas emissions and fossil fuel burning it makes more sense than ever to focus at home. You can get to know every little nook and cranny,” Hunn said.
Call it green birding if you will. Beyond its ecological good sense, birding right here at home is also of course a lot more affordable.
Over his decades of local birding, Hunn has noted losses too, notably purple finches, now exiled mostly to the far fringes of the suburbs, screech owls, once common at Seward Park but now rare, spotted owls, and wintering sea birds, such as western grebes and white wing scoters.
But in all, he finds himself optimistic as to the future of the region’s biodiversity. “I am not a doomsday guy,” Hunn said.
“My final take is don’t despair. Be sure to save the good diversity of habitat we have, and get out there and enjoy it. The more people are interested in what they can find and learn about and enjoy close to home, the more likely they are to protect it for the long term.”
The book retails for $21.95 and is 252 pages long, and illustrated with full color photographs and more than 30 maps.
It is available at booksellers around the area, or at the Seattle Audubon Nature Shop at 8050 35th Ave. NE in Seattle. The book may also be purchased from the nature shop by phone, by calling 206-523-4483 or online.
Hunn will be making a presentation his book to the Washington Ornithological Society at the Center for Urban Horticulture on November 5. There will be a reception at 6:30 and Hunn’s presentation begins at 7 p.m.
The brilliant colors of a a male lazuli bunting live up to its name.
Photo by Doug Parrot, courtesy, Seattle Audubon
October 12, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Now is our time when salmon are returning to the watersheds of Puget Sound. Even urban streams are showing the benefit of restoration work, with fish returning to their home waters.
A chum salmon returns to Piper’s Creek at Carkeek Park.
Photo by Alan Berner of The Seattle Times.
This weekend, celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act at Carkeek Park, with talks at the environmental learning center on water quality.
From 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Saturday there will be tours of the facility, Seattle’s first Gold LEED rated building, an opportunity to try your hand at water testing, and a children’s activity table.
Beginning at noon Saturday, a scientific panel on water quality problems and solutions at Piper’s Creek will be held until 2 p.m., with brainstorming on solutions invited from the audience.
The environmental learning center is at 950 NW Carkeek Park Road. For more information, call 206-363-4116
The 15th Annual Cedar River Salmon Journey also opens this weekend, at five sites along the lower Cedar River. More than 90 trained naturalists will be a designated observation spots along the river to answer questions every Saturday and Sunday in October from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More than 145,000 sockeye were counted at the Ballard Locks this summer, and now is your chance to see them swimming upriver. You may even see chinook.
There are five Renton and Maple Valley sites, and it’s even a chance to see Landsburg Dam, which is usually closed to the public. You can also learn about the new sockeye hatchery that opened on the Cedar in 2011.
To see the map of the sites, go online. To learn more, contact Friends of the Cedar River Watershed, at 206-297-8141.
October 10, 2012 at 7:00 AM
From tattoos to Coast Salish art, nature is a source of imagery and inspiration for the human imagination.
An exploration on capturing nature in art and other media will be offered Monday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle, where ten experts from the University of Washington and beyond have six minutes and 20 slides to discuss everything from imagery of the Hubble Space Telescope to cave paintings.
A dogfish tattoo, inspired by nature
Photo courtesy of the Burke Museum of History and Culture
Here is a complete list of speakers and more information about the program.
Katie Bunn-Marcuse, Assistant Director of the Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art Burke Museum, said that in some cultures a person of high rank and status would not be considered complete in their public presentation without adornment of their body with piercings and tattoos, the designs of which often came from nature.
Photo courtesy of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.
Nature also was the source for the dyes used in tattooing, from burned blueberry bushes used in Coast Salish tattooing, to certain types of nuts in the Hawaiian Islands, Bunn-Marcuse notes.
And yet, in the instance of the dogfish tattoo, used to depict a family crest, the tattoo is about human identity, defining a person’s place and kinship in a social setting. So while the design is inspired by nature, the statement is a profoundly social one, Marcuse notes.
Just one of the sorts of observations that will be on tap in an evening of reflection on nature as a source of inspiration for the human spirit.
October 5, 2012 at 7:00 AM
A senior adviser to Oceana, Cousteau said she learned to dive in the Mediterranean from her grandfather when she was about 7 years old — in places that today look nothing like they did then, in terms of the abundance of sea life.
Her grandfather was the first to bring to the general public the world beneath the surface of the sea. She hopes that by bringing images of the sea floor to the surface, people will care about the delicate lives carrying on at depth.
“Hopefully awareness leads to sensitivity, to help people make different choices and understand the connectivity between species, which is key,” she said by phone from Washington, D.C.
The new film explores that connectivity between orca whales and the food chain that supports them … all the way to the bottom of the sea.
Still photographs taken along with the film show the colorful life on the sea floor of the San Juan Islands.
An anenome on the sea floor of the San Juan Islands. Who knew such colorful life reposes at depth?
Photo courtesy of Oceana
A crab picks its way across the sea floor in the San Juan Islands.
Photo courtesy, Oceana
The delicacy of sea floor life belies the tough conditions at depth in the San Juan Islands.
Photo courtesy, Oceana
October 2, 2012 at 5:20 PM
Friends of Green Lake have blown the whistle on potentially toxic algae bloom in the lake, leading to a closure of the lake to some uses.
Gayle Garman, president of Friends of Green Lake notes that it was monitoring of the lake’s water quality by the group that first alerted Seattle Parks and Recreation to the situation. The group demonstrated within 10 hours of the bloom’s appearance that the algae toxin, microcystin A, was at greater than 3 parts per billion, leading the parks department to call for the partial closure.
Water quality monitoring by Friends of Green Lake lead to detection of toxic algae bloom at the lake, leading to a partial closure for some recreational uses.
Photo taken of the bloom by Gayle Garman on Oct. 1
The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department today announced a partial closure of the lake to wading, swimming and boating, and other activities in which people are likely to get wet, such as sailboarding. Dog owners also are cautioned against letting their dogs drink from Green Lake.
The lake remains open to fishing and other forms of boating.
The closure is in effect until the algae bloom completes its life cycle, which could take weeks, or months, if weather remains warm.
Warm, dry weather promotes the continuation of the bloom. The toxin was found in an algae scum accumulation above the state recommended recreational guideline. The lake has been closed in 1999, 2002 and 2003 for toxic algae blooms. Intense blooms in the lake have been recorded since at least 1916.
Treating the lake with alum helps suppress the bloom, which can cause flu-like symptoms, diarrhea and vomiting. Anyone with such symptoms after ingesting lake water should consult a doctor.
For more on alum treatments and toxic algae blooms and Green Lake see my stories in The Seattle Times.
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