May 29, 2013 at 11:13 AM
This Memorial Day weekend passed without dreadful news such as the death of a black bear killed by a car on I-90, as occurred last year at this time. (The driver sped from the scene, unharmed.) The photo from that sad event lives online if you insist, but I am not posting it here.
Work is underway on both the over and under crossings on I-90 from Lake Kacheless to Hyak that will make the highway safer both for people and for wildlife.
Be sure to check the blasting schedule on the WSDOT website or you could get stopped for hours as crews detonate the rock face where they are working.
And as you drive the I-90 corridor through Snoqualmie Pass this summer, keep an eye out for wildlife. If you see an animal, dead or alive, in your travels through the pass, report it at I-90 Wildlife Watch.
Launched in November, 2010, the wildlife watch is a citizen-based wildlife monitoring project inviting drivers to report wildlife sightings along I-90 in the Snoqualmie Pass region. The data is intended to be used by WSDOT in monitoring how wildlife are using the I-90 corridor today, and how that might change once the crossings are in place.
The results from last year’s report are in: nearly 280 animals were reported, 85 percent of them live, including deer, elk, black bears, cougars, coyotes,foxes, wolves, otters, mice, hare, raccoons, skunks, woodrats and one cow, as well as several bird species. Raccoons were the only animals that were more often reported dead than alive. I can’t explain the cow.
As I reported in the Seattle Times, you would never guess the profusion and diversity of wildlife just beyond the whizzing maelstrom of the interstate.
May 28, 2013 at 4:20 PM
There’s a new eaglet in town. Here’s its baby picture, the original photo sourced from Union Bay Watch:
I am a huge fan of this blog, in which Larry was tracking the fate of Eva, the eagle left behind after her mate Eddie was killed by a bus in August, 2011 on the 520 bridge. Life has gone on, as it always does, and spring has brought a new eaglet. Here’s the post.
May 24, 2013 at 1:13 PM
If you haven’t made a trip to Washington’s east side yet for your spring desert wildflower treat, it is not too late.
Covering more than 100,000 acres, a trip to the state L.T. Murray wildlife area last week outside of Yakima rewarded with beauty both grand and beautiful. There are hundreds of primo desert hikes in Washington and this is surely one of them.
The toughness of the native plants that survive the blasting winds and frying heat of these canyon lands is a miracle of adaptation. A suite of strategies, working together, is what makes the elegant ecology of these plant communities sing in the wind and flower in searing sun.
It starts with a microbiotic crust that seals the soil from weeds and creates a rough surface that slows the wind to a boundary of stillness, just over the soil. That same roughness helps catch and what moisture does come to these arid lands.
The plants themselves deploy an ingenious battery of survival tactics. Stomata open only in morning and evening hours, to conserve moisture during the baking heat of the day. Stems bristle with wind baffling hairs; leaves are numerous and small, without the soft luxuriant surfaces of say, a maple tree. Here, tiny and tough is the modus operandi.
At this time of year, the fleeting beauty of flowers and soft new growth on the sage colors the canyon walls like no other time. Woven with the sound of wind and the song of meadowlark, spring bloom in the desert is one of the primo pleasures of the natural year.
On my visit last week, the balsamroot was starting to crisp, but much was still in luxuriant bloom.
May 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM
If you like the outdoors, there are a lot of reasons to like spring. One that would be near the top of my list is the fact that spring hikes often coincides with emergence of the butterflies.
The Pacific Northwest has so many. Admittedly, I’m not so good at knowing them by name, so for our readers with butterfly expertise, please feel free to chime in in the comments with common names, accounts and the Latin names if you know them.
And while my identification skills might be lacking, I sure do like seeing them flutter by as I walk. We did our best to get photos but it takes a photographer with a better set of lenses and more patience than me to catch quality images. The ones in this post come from a recent hike near Cashmere.
In terms of descriptions, I might as well start with the butterfly that is almost always first on my list in terms of being seen, the Mourning Cloak butterfly.
With chocolate brown wings edged in white, the Mourning Cloaks make up for their lack of splashy color with motion.
Despite there somber common name, my wife calls them the flamenco dancer butterfly. Wary and quick, they alternate between flapping their wings with furious rhythm and gliding and quick dramatic circles. The barely passable picture on the right marks my best of countless attempts to get one to sit still long enough for a shot.
For roughly the first three miles of our hike there was constantly at least one Mourning Cloak in view along with numerous other butterflies.
There were big bright tiger swallowtails and all sorts of medium-sized brown spotted butterflies, and occasional hordes of the small blues that always seem to cluster where water and lupines can be found together.
One dramatic butterfly we kept seeing in multiple locations and never sat still long enough for us to photograph was what I think may have been the Stella Orangetip which has cream-colored wings that appear to have been dipped in bright orange on the tips where the wing widens at the top.
There were more that flitted away too quickly to be mentioned. In all, they were a wonderful addition to the hike. So if you get a chance to get out this weekend, keep an eye out for butterflies and, if you’re lucky, maybe you can slow down long enough to just spend some time looking at them and their vast variety of color.
May 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Last week I wrote about Scotch Broom, those loathsome if lovely invasive plants glowing yellow as they peak in full bloom all over roadsides, vacant lots, and clearcuts all over Puget Sound Country and beyond right about now.
While land owners and volunteers are busily pulling, spraying, chopping down, and otherwise doing battle with this stuff to keep it from completely taking over, reader Mary Totten dropped me an email to let me know there is more than one way to manage the wiley Scotch broom. Enter Biscuit.
Her dog had a penchant for tug of war.
And that came in mighty handy when it came to battling Scotch broom, which he loved to pull on … until it came right out of the ground. But Biscuit’s joy in the task wasn’t just tug of war play. A true companion, he knew Mary’s love of yard work, and wanted to join in.
“He taught himself to be of help,” Mary wrote in an email, “and only when I indicated which ones to pull out, by kicking the stump.”
Biscuit has since gone on to his great reward. But not before defending Washington’s landscape from the ever-encroaching Scotch broom. Go, Biscuit.
May 16, 2013 at 2:30 PM
With the warm spring sunshine, a familiar sight is back in Puget Sound: red algae blooms.
While experts at the state Department of Ecology could not confirm it without testing, this bloom, spotted by photographer Mark Harrison off the Edmonds ferry dock Thursday morning, is probably Noctiluca, said Sandy Howard, spokeswoman for the state Department of Ecology.
Noctiluca is a harmless bloom, rather than the so-called red tide that refers to paralytic shell fish poisoning.
Noctiluca is a harmless single-celled micro-organism that bioluminesces and occurs normally at this time of year. This kind of plankton does not photosynthesize, but gets its red color from the phytoplankton it eats.
This type of bloom shows up as large, red-brown, even orange tomato-soup-like streaks along current and tidal convergence lines, according to the state Department of Ecology.
The bloom can also accumulate along shores and beaches.
Noctiluca is often seen in Puget Sound as the sun warms the water, and the water stratifies, floating and holding the tiny plankton near the warmer surface water, where it flourishes.
If you see red, brown or orange water in Puget Sound, it is likely this bloom. However, Ecology staff urge caution: It could be a toxic algae bloom that is poisonous to humans and animals.
May 6, 2013 at 3:45 PM
We arrived by boat, puttering along through the jade swell of Puget Sound to Hope Island, part of Deception Pass State Park. And there we met the enemy: Scot’s broom.
A pernicious invasive weed, there it was, waving its cheery yellow blooms. We volunteers had convened for a little mano a mano with the mighty broom. Our mission: dig, cut, pull and otherwise destroy as much of it as we could in our time on the island.
Captaining our brave little skiff loaded down with loppers, clippers, and choppers of every sort, was Jack Hartt, manager for Deception Pass State Park. The busiest in the state, it was no small matter for him to take a day from the rest of his duties to ferry us out to the island. But this was critical work.
Ten years ago, the meadows that dot the south end of this lovely natural preserve were overrun with Scot’s broom, also called Scotch broom. “It was old growth,” Hartt said, noting it stood higher than his head, and had completely smothered any native wild flowers that should be in the meadow.
What a difference devoted work by volunteers makes. When we arrived Saturday, sure, there was still plenty of Scot’s broom. But in the meadow we tackled, it was mostly small, and we made a good dent in it, pulling the stuff out by the roots, chopping it off at ground level, doing whatever it took to prevent it from setting another round of seeds.
Those seeds are part of the broom’s incredibly effective endurance strategy. The seeds can remain viable for decades. Not only that, but in the summer heat, the plant’s seed pods (it is in the legume family) burst open, throwing the seeds far and wide.
But persistence can win the battle. As we worked, we were surrounded by the nodding blooms of chocolate lily, the creamy white blossoms of death camas, deep blue of camas, and bright pink of sea blush. The meadow’s native grasses were lush and green, giving way to views of the blue waters of Puget Sound beyond.
An eagle circled us, then swooped out over the water. Below, cruising just at the surface of the water, a seal swam gracefully, just looking around a bit, before diving and disappearing into the green depths.
Hope Island has never been developed, and a trip to this park is a good way to reset the visual baseline of what West Side forests used to look like in Puget Sound. While it was logged in places, stands of old growth fir abide. The bark on these massive firs, 400 years old and more, is thick as armor.
Yet the outside world manages to intrude. Seeds of invasive weeds arrive on the boots of hikers, and are carried by birds and the wind. But pull the weeds and the native plants do come back.
The island could use more volunteer work parties. If you’ve got a boat and an interest, head on out. The island even has five campsites, if you get motivated to dig in, so to speak. Better yet, take some friends and make a day of it.
Don’t forget your Discover Pass and if you want to camp, make a reservation.
May 2, 2013 at 12:05 PM
In reflections on the remarkable life of Fran James, the master Lummi weaver who passed away this week, her friends and family and admirers noted her connection with nature and its cycles, through her mastery of weaving.
As I talked to museum curators who admired her work, and fellow weavers for Mrs. James’ obituary today in the Seattle Times, I learned that weavers, perhaps singly among artists, come to know the natural world of their homeland through the necessity of gathering materials for their work.
Che top ie, her Indian name, knew the surroundings of her home on the Lummi reservation intimately, having grown up on Portage Island and learning the art of weaving and gathering from her grandmother.
With her son, traditional chief Bill James, she would lead gathering trips for materials, remembered Becky Blanchard, co-director at the Stonington Gallery in Seattle, which exhibits and sells Mrs. James’ work.
“The weavers hold such a special base of knowledge for the culture, they are collectors of the materials, the husbandry of materials, when do you go out and get cedar bark, maidenhair fern, beargrass, the weavers are totally in tune with that,” Blanchard said.
Selected Northwest animal webcams
Trending with readers