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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.
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.
April 26, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Author Eric Dinerstein will talk about his new book at Town Hall April 29.
The Kingdom of Rarities, new from Island Press, is Dinerstein’s magnum tour of rare species around the world, and he will offer thoughts in his talk about why some species are rare and what we can do to prevent more from sliding into the oblivion of extinction.
Lead scientist and vice president for conservation science at the World Wildlife Fund, Dinerstein actually has local roots, as a Western grad.The talk starts at 7:30 p.m. and costs $5.
April 23, 2013 at 7:00 AM
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will protect two desert plants under the Endangered Species Act, the agency announced Monday.
Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod have two things in common. Both have a sunny yellow color bright as the desert environment they inhabit. And both are rare, occupying a narrow band of the bluffs above and on opposite sides of the Columbia River along the Hanford Reach in Eastern Washington.
The decision includes designation of more than 3,000 acres of critical habitat in Benton and Franklin Counties — on land already protected within the Hanford Reach National Monument, the only place where the plants are found.
The buckwheat is a low-growing wood plant that astonishingly can live up to 150 years. It lives only on a weathered basalt outcrop on the very top edge of the Umtanum Ridge in Benton County. Among the biggest threats to it are fire, invasive species and stray cattle.
The bladderpod is the looker of the two, with its pretty yellow bloom. One of the biggest threats to it is landslides created by seepage from agricultural irrigation on the lands above it.
Now that the plants are listed, the service will begin the process of crafting a recovery plan.
April 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM
We’ve waited, and now we get our reward: Wildflowers are just coming into bloom. Need some sun and flowers? Head to the Columbia River Gorge to enjoy the spectacular bloom now underway. I met up with long time native plant activist Rob Cavanaugh of Olympia last week at his camp in the Klickitat, where he has enjoyed the spring bloom every year for some 35 years.
He very often takes his paints along for a little en plein air appreciation. This time, he kept it simple and just showed up with Ceasar, his terrier, and his camping gear. He was planning to stay several weeks, just to enjoy the flowers, and whatever might come with each day. Perhaps the call of a great horned owl, or mid-air ballet by pairs of courting ravens.
April 21, 2013 at 7:40 AM
KCTS 9 will air a special at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the threat of stormwater to the waters of Puget Sound. The special includes underwater footage shot by local diver Laura James.
For more, check out this link.
April 18, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Here are some more amazing shots of the red goo phenom on the Elwha River, from Anna Torrance and Heidi Hugunin, fish techs for the National Park Service. They are out on the Elwha all the time, monitoring the river’s response as the dams come down, and have documented their observations extensively.
Including the red goo art made by the river.
And here is another:
Anyone visiting the Elwha river at the former Elwha Dam site and Lake Aldwell has probably scratched their head at this sight: Gloppy, oozy, red gunk on the bottoms of feeder streams to the river and pools along it.
Red staining of the same color also is on river rocks. On roots. On anything that is in the sand and gravel along the banks in some places. What’s causing it?
I invited Andy Ritchie, Elwha Restoration Project Hydrologist of the National Park Service to weigh in with an explanation, and did he ever. Here’s Andy:
April 16, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Something new for your hikes: a wildflower app, designed in consultation with local native plant experts.
The Herbarium at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, authors of Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest and High Country Apps have partnered to produce the new Washington Wildflowers identification app for iOS and Android mobile devices.
With images, species descriptions, range maps, bloom time and more, covering some 850 species of common wildflowers, shrubs and vines, the app covers most of what will catch your eye in Washington and neighboring territory in B.C., Idaho and Oregon.
It’s also a great tool for learning more about plant communities and getting familiar with botanical terms and plant-identification techniques.
Native species are the focus, but introduced species common to the area are also included. The app, once downloaded, doesn’t need an internet connection to run, so it will be useful in the most remote locale.
Selected Northwest animal webcams
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