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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

June 14, 2013 at 7:00 AM

A lesson in the value of native pollinators

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.”



May 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Spring means time for a butterfly hike

Quick, take the photo or this Mourning Cloak butterfly will fly away. (Matt Ironside/Seattle Times) 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…


Comments | Topics: butterflies, butterfly, Mourning Cloak

April 25, 2013 at 7:00 AM

An unexpected urban nature story

Harley, my cat, watching the bamboo thicket where the falcon found its prey. (Matt Ironside/The Seattle Times) Sometimes nature can wow you, often at an unexpected moment. Most outdoors lovers have a story about a surprise display of natural action on a hike, a fishing expedition or a mushroom hunt. But in the Puget Sound area, with nature…



April 18, 2013 at 11:48 AM

The mystery spider is revealed

Our mystery spider was Dysdera crocata (Matt Ironside / The Seattle Times) In my last post I challenged people to identify this unusual red-fronted spider, and many readers were familiar with it. According to Rod Crawford, the curator of arachnids at the Burke Museum, this spider is likely Dysdera crocata. It…


Comments | Topics: identification, spider, woodlouse spider

March 22, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Can you identify this spider?

It’s often the new or unique that stand out to us.  Paired with its red head and odd shape, that was certainly the case for this spider.  I found it while digging in the familiar territory of my yard garden recently and, as soon as it turned up, I knew it was something I hadn’t…


Comments | Topics: spider