June 26, 2013 at 11:23 AM
As the symphony of spring birds begins to fade with the breeding season wrapping up, Puget Sound birders can take solace in Cedar waxwings.
These beautiful native birds are the sounds of our summer days. Give them a listen, here on Seattle Audubon’s BirdWeb.
Especially come August, when most of the other locals have quieted down, the waxwings continue their sweet, high pitched sound. Flute-like, a bit melancholy, their song is the soundtrack of a quiet summer afternoon in the lowlands of Puget Sound.
While their s-reee song is subtle — no wren aria here — their beauty is outlandish. With a flash of red on the tips of their wings, brilliant yellow on the ends of the tail, a deep soft buff breast and jaunty mask — what style.
Abundant and seen everywhere from city parks to roadsides, waxwings love to feast on ripe fruit and nest later than other local birds to take advantage of ripening berries. Here is a lovely piece on BirdNote about their penchant for fruit.
Waxwings are communal feeders, and make their soft sounds mostly to keep track of each other in the flock. Watching them on a branch, passing fruit back and forth, bill to bill, is one of of summer’s pleasures.
June 24, 2013 at 3:01 PM
Once hunted for subsistence by the Makah tribe and then heavily targeted by non-Indian commercial hunters in the 1900s, humpback whales took a beating. By the 1960s the animals were still being hunted in U.S. waters, with the great mammals slain for pet food. But today, humpbacks are making a comeback.
It’s no accident. Commercial whaling was banned in 1966. The animals have also been protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972. And in 1994, the waters off the northern Washington Coast were protected in the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary.
The results are plain: Cetaceans in Washington waters have rebounded. Grays whales are back. And humpbacks are booming.
Commercial hunting had reduced populations from an estimated 15,000 prior to 1905 to only 1,200 to 1,400 animals due to whaling. Today, ship surveys turn up humpbacks in abundance off the northern Washington coast. Researchers reported humpbacks as the most common species seen, with 232 sightings of 402 animals during ship surveys from 1995-2002 in the waters off northern Washington.
John Calambokidis, biologist at the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia and other researchers put the numbers of humpback in the North Pacific at more than 20,000 today, with their populations healthy and growing at the rate of 5 to 7 percent per year.
June 21, 2013 at 1:00 PM
What is it about a campfire that makes us slow down as we should more often, to notice the beauty around us? Including the native plants.
At our campsite in the Teanaway last weekend I found myself awake in the early dawn light, and instead of trying to go back to sleep, got up with the song of the Swainson’s thrush. I put on the coffee in the French press lit a campfire, and settled in with a book I had long been wanting to read: Theordore C. Frye’s Ferns of the Northwest, a slim, lovely, old volume too long on the bedside table and waiting for a read. Published in 1934 by the Metropolitan Press in Portland, Oregon, it is written with the stately cadence of deep observation.
The pages are yellowed, the illustrations black and white. And the descriptions of our native ferns delicious. The chapter on bracken fern, one of our Northwest standards, alone was worth getting up early for.
June 20, 2013 at 10:14 AM
Summer arrives in Seattle today at 10:04 p.m. Why not celebrate the delicious long summer days ahead with a bird walk?
Eastside Audubon is offering birding tours at Marymoor Park in Redmond. Birdsong continues for hours on the long summer nights. Enjoy it with Eastside Audubon president and master birder Andy McCormick on a level, two mile walk, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The walk begins at parking lot D and will end at 9 p.lm., or when the birds call it a night. Parking is $1. Bring binoculars and a snack. All ages are welcome, but kids 17 and younger should come with an adult.
June 14, 2013 at 7:00 AM
The moment I found the hive, I had a hunch. And while I’ll never really have conclusive proof, I still have my suspicions and some interesting new natives in my backyard.
The story goes like this:
I have several plum trees, and they have flowered for several years now, but each year the number of plums the trees produced was a pittance. On our best year, I think we got four. The same goes for my cherry tree.
All of a sudden this year I noticed that the trees have scads of small plums hanging on most every branch. I thought the reason was that the trees had matured to the point where they were able to produce fruit, but I was mowing the lawn and came up with another possible answer.
I was mowing beside a birdhouse that hangs on my fence. I turned off the mower and to my surprise I could hear the birdhouse humming.
My instant reaction was, “Oh no.”
I looked in the hole on the front of the birdfeeder and saw what looked like little bumblebees, but a little more than half the size of the ones I grew up with in the Midwest. They had coloration fairly typical for a bumblebee with one striking difference, their butts were deep orange.
With some help from the Internet and Scott Black, Executive Director at The Xerces Society, my “Oh no” turned into “Excellent.”
June 11, 2013 at 10:25 AM
This post will be short and hopefully sweet, just like this little frog.
With so much being written in recent years about the decline of frog populations both around the region and around the world, I was just happy to see this Pacific treefrog, Pseudacris regilla, on a recent hike.
There is nothing quite like watching a spring sunset while listening to the sweet song of the male Pacifics as they attempt to serenade a mate. It’s my guess that this was likely a female based on the fact that she was more than an inch and half long, on the bigger side for Pacifics.
She was fairly patient with me, letting me get close enough to get a decent photo. Despite being called a tree frog, you usually find them on or near the ground.
In a world where scientists occasional question the survival of some amphibians, the numbers on Pacific treefrog populations are mostly good news. It’s listed as having a stable population, and that bodes well for forest diversity and future sunsets.
June 6, 2013 at 6:04 PM
The Lummi Nation rocked the house last week with a sold-out performance at Bellingham High School of What About Those Promises? an original historical stageplay about the tribe’s way of life and connection to nature, and how both were disrupted by promises broken in the Treaty of Point Elliott, signed in 1855.
More than 800 people packed the high school auditorium the evening of June 1 and the tickets, at $10 a piece to benefit the Lummi Youth Academy, sold out. Who says the public doesn’t care about history?
Nationally renowned law professor Charles Wilkinson provided the history of the treaty made, and the promises broken, including the incredible story of the tribe’s refusal to take the paltry settlement offered by the U.S. Government in a long-running dispute over lands promised in the treaty, but left out of the Lummi reservation.
Elder Tom Sampson set the tone with a creation story that explains how the tribe is inseparable from the natural world that sustains its spiritual and cultural life. Listeners of course knew where all this is headed, if they know any history at all, yet the play is powerfully affecting.
Traditional songs by the Crab Bay Singers and a wolf dance transport the listener to a distinctly native sensibility, as do the sounds of the tribe’s language, in soliloquies by native speakers.
Just as affecting are the members of the cast playing the roles of clam digger, fishermen, sea lion hunter and berry picker, and their pleas to Gov. Isaac Stevens, as he pushes the tribe to sign the treaty, to understand the importance of the animals, the plants, the clams and the land to the people’s way of life. All the while, a desperate Chief Seattle urges the tribesmen gathered at the treaty council grounds not to sign…but they do.
Produced by tribal council member Darrell Hillaire and directed by Dennis Catrell, the production is based on an original stage play by the late Joseph Hillaire. Historical images from the tribal archives and other sources, projected on a large screen behind the players, add to the production’s power.
The tribe has agreed to put the play on again to conclude its annual Stommish Water Festival, June 13-16.
What About Those Promises? will be be performed at 7 p.m. at the Event Center at the Silver Reef Casino on Sunday, June 16.
The casino is on Haxton Road, reached from exit 260 off I-5, outside Bellingham.
June 4, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Peak spring snowmelt flows will hit the Elwha soon, notes Andy Ritchie, restoration hydrologist for the Olympic National Park. And that means a whole lot of sediment coming out of the Elwha River, where one dam has been removed, and the other, Glines Canyon Dam, about 8.6 miles upriver, is in the bulls eye.
Dam removal on the Elwha is on hold while repairs are made to a water plant needed to manage increase sediment loads. But meanwhile, the Elwha is busily chewing away at the sediment already unleashed by the dam removal so far.
In all scientists estimate 34 million cubic yards of sediment will be mobilized by dam removal on the Elwha. About 40 percent of it is expected to stay behind in the watershed, in stepped down terraces along the valley walls.
But the rest is expected to be eroded out by the river to the nearshore environment and beyond, where it is already building up bars and beaches at the river mouth
Here’s a recent photo from Tom Roorda, pilot at Port Angeles, who took this photo last week:
But just how much is 34 million cubic yards, anyway? I have never been able to imagine it … but Ritchie gave it some thought, and came up with these calculations:
“In terms of football fields, including the end zone, it looks like it would fill an American football field 3 miles high.
June 3, 2013 at 6:03 PM
What is to be the long term conservation strategy for marbled murrelets? The secretive seabird that nests in old growth trees has been managed under an interim policy on state timber lands since 1997. But hearings start this week on a long term strategy being crafted by the state Department of Natural Resources.
The first hearing is Wednesday in Olympia from 5 to 7 p.m. in room 175 of the Natural Resources Building. It’s the only hearing in the central Puget Sound region, the others are in Forks, Sedro Woolley, and South Bend, Pacific County.
At stake is striking the right balance between logging revenues and the preservation of a federally threatened species that continues to decline in population by as much as eight percent per year.
More information, including a full hearing schedule and comprehensive science report is on the DNR website.
I’ll have more on the issue this week in The Seattle Times.
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