November 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Snowy owls are back in Seattle and around the region, thrilling birders and kicking up a ruckus with the locals … namely the crows.
A snowy owl nobly endures the locals reacting to his presence on the rooftop of a home in Phinney. Photo by Ira Zuckerman
Some think the crows are up to more than mobbing, this might also be an educational moment for the crows, teaching more inexperienced members of the murder to avoid the dangerous new visitor. This photo was actually taken after the crows settled down. Earlier they were dive bombing the owl and raising a ruckus.
Zuckerman, a 16-year-old birder with a great eye, took these photos at his family’s home at 48th and Greenwood on Tuesday. The owl was there for about two hours, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., then flew off. The owls are being seen all over Seattle in odd places because they are newly arrived. “This will all settle down as they find their places,” said Paul Bannick, nature photographer and author of The Owl and the Woodpecker. But it sure is fun while it lasts!
Mary Bond, Ira’s mother, said she figured out something was up when she heard crows mobbing. “It was right on the top of the porch,” she said of the snowy. “The crows were mobbing it, but the owl was very mellow, it was just sitting there.
“Eventually the crows mellowed out. They sort of adjusted. Once it hit full dusk it flew ot the tops of some neighborhood trees.”
Ira first became interested in birding about eight years ago, during the last big irruption, when he got to see a snowy at Discovery Park. “It made a big impression on him, it’s sort of his totem bird,” she said of the snowy. Mother and son have been big birders ever since. And now here comes a snowy calling, right on their roof.
A snowy owl surveys the neighborhood in Phinney on Tuesday.
Photo by Ira Zuckerman
November 29, 2012 at 4:34 PM
Brian Cluer of NOAA Fisheries was part of a team of scientists investigating progress of dam removal on the Elwha earlier this month…and the photos he took of the new world unfolding on the Elwha are amazing. Here is a view looking downstream, above what is left of Glines Canyon Dam. That’s Heidi Hugunin fish technician for the National Park Service in the red jacket.
Brian Cluer of NOAA Fisheries took this photo on November 6, 2012, about 1000 feet upstream from Glines Canyon Dam. Once 210 feet tall, only about 65 feet of the dam is left as demolition continues. The dam should be completely gone by May
Scientists from NOAA, USGS, the Bureau of Reclamation and the National Park Service were taking measurements of the river channel’s outline and slope, and samples of sediment to examine the size of the particles. Their work was part of the ongoing monitoring work of tracking the erosion of sediment stuck behind Glines Canyon Dam.
The view looking downstream is deceiving. The reservoir, the former Lake Mills, is gone, and the river free flowing. But there is still a big chunk of dam invisible under the cascade pouring over it that is a total barrier to fish migration. But it will be gone by May, 2013, under the current schedule estimates.
Here is the photo Cluer took of the Elwha pouring in a great cascade over what’s left of Glines, also on November 6:
The Elwha cascades over what is left of Glines Canyon Dam.
Photo by Brian Cluer, NOAA Fisheries.
Meanwhile, here is a look at the river pumped up with high flows with the season’s first big rains. John McMillan, NOAA fisheries biologist, took these photos of the river on a recent reconnaissance of the Elwha.
The Elwha, unleashed and swollen with rain.
Photo by John McMillan
And here’s proof that you don’t need to wait for good weather to take fabulous photos in the Elwha. Here’s what John came back with from the Elwha on a classic socked in Peninsula soaker of a day.
The Elwha twines past a stump garden left behind after the reservoirs drained. John McMillan, photo
Stump garden in mist. Photo by John McMillan.
Curious to go out and see it for yourself? Read my story in this coming Sunday’s travel section of the Seattle Times with tips on where to go and what to see. It’s a new world unfolding out there. Go see.
November 27, 2012 at 1:19 PM
John McMillan, a NOAA biologist tracking Elwha fish recovery in his day job, and his father, Bill McMillan, the storied angler, will host a reading at REI’s flagship store in Seattle to celebrate their new book, May the Rivers Never Sleep. It’s a collaboration and photographic journey that celebrates the rivers of the Northwest and their wild fish.
You’ve seen some of John’s beautiful photos of fish recolonizing the Elwha here in Field Notes.
A steelhead, making its way home to a tributary of the Elwha River.
John McMillan, photo.
And then there is my personal favorite, this photograph of a dipper dining on a coho egg in an Elwha tributary. To me, this photo, snapped in just a split second before the bird swallowed the egg, documents a tiny reboot of the Elwha food web, already underway as the river’s fish begin to come back to their native waters. Elwha Dam is already out, and Glines Canyon Dam will be gone by May 2012. With the return of the fish comes the gift of marine-derived nutrients to the watershed and its wildlife. From the carcasses of spawned out salmon, to the living fish, both juvenile and adult and their eggs, salmon and steelhead offer a feast from the sea for some 22 species of wildlife in the Elwha, from eagles to ospreys to dippers, bears, otters and more.
A dipper savors a coho egg foraged in a tributary of the Elwha.
John McMillan photo
These are the sorts of images that will be shared along with a chance to take your questions about the health and status of fish in Northwest rivers — and how John and Bill got some of those amazing photos.
Here is a link with more about the reading.
It will be held Dec. 7, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Seattle REI North Meeting Room, at 222 Yale Avenue North. The event is free and open to the public.
November 19, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Is this little fist-sized piece of concrete.
Tom O’Keefe of American Whitewater shot this photo of the last hunk of Condit Dam.
For O’Keefe and other whitewater paddlers, the White Salmon River is now open and they are savoring every splash.
Here’s a link for more photos from O’Keefe’s celebratory paddle on the White Salmon. Dammed for 100 years, it’s now free flowing all the way to its confluence with the Columbia River. Salmon aren’t the only ones taking notice.
November 15, 2012 at 1:00 PM
The former lakebed of the reservoir behind Aldwell Dam has just passed its first summer, and what a difference a season makes. From this…
A brave willow shoot sprouts on the bed of the former Lake Aldwell in March 2012.
Photo by Lynda Mapes
Lush swaths of new growth are already taking root along the riverbank in the former Lake Aldwell.
Photo by Julie Titone.
The pace of change on the Elwha is breathtaking.
Julie Titone, a former Spokesman-Review environmental reporter, took these photos while visiting the Elwha for the first time since the dams came out.
Like many Northwesterners, Julie has followed the Elwha story for decades, writing about dam removal on the Elwha for the Spokesman-Review back in the 1990s when (to some) it still seemed like a crazy idea that would (and should) never happen. As she explored the Elwha after a nice fall soaker she was treated to this amazing sight, of stumps of the Elwha’s former riparian forest, cut before Lake Aldwell was filled for Elwha Dam:
Stumps steaming in the morning sun. Get out and see the Elwha for yourself, it is a landscape transformed, before your very eyes.
Photo by Julie Titone
November 14, 2012 at 12:00 PM
We all know Snake River sockeye face the longest, most arduous journey of any sockeye in the world.
But our friends at The Onion have discovered a whole new challenge for this already put-out fish, climbing 6,500 feet of elevation and crossing a time zone, for Pete’s sake, to reach their Idaho spawning grounds.
From The Onion’s sockeye spoof
With apology for some of the language, we couldn’t resist.
November 13, 2012 at 7:00 AM
The chum run is on at Carkeek Park and what a sight it is, as the fish make their way up Piper’s Creek to the applause of falling autumn leaves.
Chum are returning home to Piper’s Creek at Carkeek Park.
Photo by Ken Lambert, the Seattle Times
Through Dec. 9, Salmon Stewards will be on hand at the park each Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to talk to visitors about the life cycle of the salmon. The volunteer stewards recorded more than 145 chum and 17 coho returned to the park as of last week.
The annual Pipers Creek Salmon Celebration will take place on Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be treats, warm drinks, music and kid activities, and hopefully, plenty of fish to see.
I was at the park recently, and the fish were a wonder, making their determined way upstream, right here in our midst, just outside the city. The sound of their tails splashing and sight of the males chasing around, vying for mates, and females digging their nests is arresting. The glowing red fish by the way are male coho.
Piper’s Creek is an embattled urban creek. The creation of the park in 1929 helped save its life, after all the virgin timber was stripped off the watershed, and the Great Northern Railroad built its line right across the estuary where the creek meets Puget Sound. For more on the history, here’s a good link.
The native runs died off in the creek, but salmon persist today thanks to gifts of hatchery fish and eggs from the Suquamish Tribe, and a program in which kids at 25 elementary school raise salmon eggs, later releasing salmon to an imprint pond at the park as part of the Salmon in the Classroom Program in cooperation with Seattle Public Utilities.
Volunteers started the program in 1980 as part of the Carkeek Watershed Community Action Project.
November 9, 2012 at 7:00 AM
PacifiCorp announced this week it has lifted all access restrictions on the White Salmon River, after having fully completed its removal of Condit Dam and its restoration of the area.
White Salmon river, looking upstream toward former Condit Dam site.
The restoration got under way just more than a year ago, when the utility detonated a hole in the bottom of the dam. The reservoir drained within hours. Since then, the utility has been removing the dam.
The last remnants of the structure are gone, and access to the river is open, with all restrictions lifted, but for a few riverbank locations recently replanted with native vegetation.
Revegetation work is still underway, and the equipment and work zones for the job are being demobilized. But the river is already back. So are the fish.
Steelhead jumping at BZ Falls, upstream of breached Condit
Credit: Jeanette Burkhardt, Yakama Nation Fisheries
Condit was the third-largest dam removal ever, after Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams on the Elwha River. The 125-foot high, 471-foot long dam was built 3.3 miles upstream from the Columbia River and lacked fish passage. Taking it down opens 33 miles of new spawning and rearing grounds for steelhead, and 14 miles for salmon in the White Salmon River basin.
In the summer of 2011 fish biologists moved more than 500 salmon upstream of the dam, which spawned in their new habitat that fall. Outmigrating juveniles, and returning adults already have been seen utilizing the new habitat.
Whitewater paddlers will be next: “The restoration of a free-flowing river is an exciting event for the whitewater boating community,” said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest stewardship director for American Whitewater. “Paddling the restored reach will be a treasured, yet challenging experience.”
See what their excitement is about on this video. Thanks Tom O’Keefe, for providing.
Dam removal on the White Salmon was the work of many people, through a settlement agreement undertaken instead of seeking to re-license the dam. The settlement agreement was signed in 1999, and involved a diverse group, from long time volunteers in the local community to the Yakama Indian Nation, recreational and wildlife and conservation and fisheries groups, and state and federal agencies.
November 8, 2012 at 5:30 PM
Dylan Mayer, the octopus hunter who sparked an outrage when he took one of the charismatic animals at Cove 2, a popular dive site in West Seattle, was the first voice for a ban on hunting in the cove at a public hearing before the state Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Olympia Thursday.
“I didn’t know they were so beloved, or I wouldn’t have done it,” he told the commission, according to a news release issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Thursday.
As I reported in the paper Sunday, Mayer, 19, of Maple Valley, said he didn’t realize the cove was regarded informally as a park by divers and that people would be upset if he took one of the octopus that divers flock to the cove to see.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife director Phil Anderson said the department will consider new rules to preserve the population of giant Pacific octopus at Seacrest Park near Alki Point, ranging from designating the park a marine protected area to prohibiting hunting giant Pacific octopus anywhere in the state.
GPO, as divers call them, are the largest octopus species in the world. All of the divers who spoke at the commission meeting supported new restrictions. An online petition calling for a ban on hunting at the park garnered 5,000 signatures in five days.
Dylan Mayer holding the octopus he hunted last week at Cove 2. The hunt sparked widespread outrage.
Photo by Mark Saiget.
Scott Lundy, a photographer and diver, was at the cove when Mayer surfaced and was seen punching the octopus. He said about 30 to 40 people showed up in Olympia for an early morning hearing Thursday to voice their opinion that hunting should not occur in the cove.
Today giant Pacific octopus can be hunted year round with a state shellfish license. The limit is one per day. Some think that is way too many, in a place like Cove 2 with just a few known giant Pacific octopus that people come from all over the nation and even the world to see, Lundy said.
While many of the divers called for an immediate ban on hunting at the park, that’s not done unless there is a conservation issue at stake, and octopus populations are regarded to be healthy. However, Anderson noted that if another octopus is taken from the area, the department may consider emergency measures. Otherwise, it will follow its usual process of analysis which could take months.
November 8, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Jill Zarzeczny of Olympic National Park recently checked in with the following information about how to help volunteer to help out with the revegetation project on the Elwha, part of the $325 million restoration of the Elwha River and its watershed:
Spores boldly sprout on some of the 800 acres of bald sediment in need of revegetation on the former reservoir lake beds on the Elwha.
Photo by Steve Ringman, The Seattle Times
Here’s what she says on how to help out, starting this month:
“It’s that time of year: the rain has returned and the Elwha revegetation crews are preparing to put 47,000 native plants into ground in (former) Lake Mills and former Lake Aldwell. From November to March, Olympic National Park staff, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe staff and two Washington Conservation Corps crews will be tromping around and revegetating the dewatered reservoirs — rain or shine.
In November, January, February and March, there will be opportunities for small groups of four to five volunteers to join in on the fun of planting in the muck. We will meet in Port Angeles around 8:45 a.m. and depart from the reservoir at 3 p.m. Tools, planting gloves and transportation from Port Angeles to the reservoir will be provided. The work party will always begin with a project and site orientation, a safety talk and a planting demonstration. Volunteers should come prepared with water, lunch, sun protection, rain gear, warm layers (non-cotton is best), sturdy boots (muck or hiking), and a readiness to get dirty!
Replanting is necessary to jump start native plants on bare sediment where invaders, such as this forget me not, will otherwise crowd the new ground.
Photo by Steve Ringman of The Seattle Times.
The minimum age for volunteering with the project is 14. Volunteers must be able to travel over uneven and slippery terrain, kneel for extended periods of time, wield hands tools (shovels, hand hoes, etc) and work in the rain.
At the beginning of each month, I will announce work party opportunities and register volunteers on a first-come basis. Below you will find four November opportunities. Please respond with preferred date(s). For those attending, I will reply with details and electronic copies of forms that need to be completed/returned on the day of the work party.
- Thursday, November 8th
- Thursday, November 15th
- Tuesday, November 20th
- Tuesday, November 27th
While space is limited, there will be ongoing opportunities to help plant this season (through mid-March) and for the next several years. Additionally, there are always opportunities to help at our native plant nursery. Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. are drop-in days — come help us pack and prep the plants for their return to the Elwha.”
Here is how to contact Jill for more info:
Elwha Revegetation Project
Olympic National Park
For more on the revegetation effort, read my stories in The Seattle Times.
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