holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Duwamish Alive! is an annual event held to bring awareness about the Duwamish River and its importance to the history and ecology of Seattle. It also provides a focus of energy, as all the different groups involved in the restoration of the Duwamish River sponsor events. This year there were more than 15 events, including a shoreline restoration challenge, a kayak clean up, and numerous native planting work parties. Sponsors included Forterra, EarthCorps, Nature Consortium, the Rose Foundation, and many others.

Cecil Moses Memorial Park

Cecil Moses Memorial Park

King County Parks held a work party in Cecil Moses Park, located at the north end of the Green River Trail, which travels along the shore of the Duwamish River for 19 miles, to the North Green River Park in Kent. Cecil Moses is located at an important transition point in the river, where tidal influences mix the fresh water of the river and the salt water of Puget Sound. Young salmon pause here on their way to the ocean to acclimate themselves to salt water. Cecil Moses is also located close to North Winds Weir, an important historical location to members of the Duwamish tribe.

The day started cool and cloudy, with just three of us and an awful lot of plants.

Tools at the ready for eager volunteers.

Tools at the ready for eager volunteers.

We kept plugging away, though, and as the day continued, the sun came out more strongly and we were soon enough joined by two families. That made the rest of the day a breeze, and we got all the plants in the ground and most of them mulched.

Left to right: Cam (red shirt), Theresa, William (white shirt), and Leslie. Theresa is giving the planting demonstration.

Left to right: Cam (red shirt), Theresa, William (white shirt), and Leslie. Theresa is giving the planting demonstration.

Left to right: Kirstie, William, Ann, and Theresa.

Left to right: Kirstie, William, Ann, and Theresa.

Cam (red shirt) and Moss (behind Cam) watch as Leslie plants a shrub.

Cam (red shirt) and Moss (behind Cam) watch as Leslie plants a shrub.

I like to see children at a restoration event. The families live near the park and regularly walk the trails together. They’ll be able to see the changes over time as the restoration progresses. That’s what it’s all about.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

By Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Illustrations by Tracy Noles-Ross
Little, Brown and Company, 2013

Crow Planet introduced me to the idea that nature and the city or built environment are intertwined in a way that we don’t usually acknowledge. Her idea is that we have to acknowledge this twining because the decisions we make here affect the entire world.

She returns to that idea in The Urban Bestiary with a different tack: writing a contemporary bestiary of the common urban creatures, many of them considered pests, which we might see on a daily basis but dismiss due to their familiarity.

The medieval bestiaries included the myth, folklore, and what passed for scientific knowledge of the day. The Urban Bestiary incorporates all those elements in three main sections: The furred, the feathered, and the branching and rooted.

The chapters of the three sections each consider one (sometimes two) subjects, looking at their ancient folklore, current scientific knowledge, and perhaps most important (and no more accurate than medieval science) contemporary folklore. Moles, because the mounds they create are unsightly to gardeners, are considered pests. But they aerate the soil, eat grubs and insects that would eat the plants, and generally improve. A mole in a garden is a sign of a healthy garden, but gardeners will go to great, expensive, and futile lengths to try to eradicate them.

Every chapter has several examples of the facts challenging contemporary folklore about an urban animal, and Haupt frequently has her own preconceptions challenged. The idea is to learn about the lives of the wild life that surrounds us, how we interact with it and how it has adapted to us. But more than just the bare facts, to share their lives – there are sidebars in every chapter on identification of tracks and scat, how to look for an animal and what to do if you find one. As we learn more, we bring these creatures closer to us.

And as we bring these creatures – the neglected, the uncharismatic, the pesty, the unseen – closer to us, we bring ourselves closer to the web that weaves among us all.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Two of the other forest stewards and I were planning 2014 (the planning was fun and we’re looking forward to the activities), and the question of plant diversity came up. How much had we increased native plant diversity in North Beach Park? We had a couple plant lists handy, and were quickly able to come up with a pretty good idea. Other than the first order (made in 2011, before I barely knew anything), we’ve concentrated on ordering plants we knew to be under- or unrepresented in the park. Once I got home, I looked through previous lists and came up with a pretty definite figure.

But first, why does increased native plant diversity matter? It’s such a mantra for forest stewards the question deserves to be asked.

  • It provides more food sources for the creatures that eat plants. That’s, basically, everything else. If a creature doesn’t eat plants directly, it eats things that eat plants. More insects eating plants means (we hope) more birds eating insects. Invasive plants don’t provide food for insects that eat plants, which is why native diversity is important.
  • It also increases the length of the bloom season. Particularly helpful are plants that bloom early in spring or late in summer.
  • The greater variety of food sources and extended bloom time are examples of functional redundancy. There isn’t just one plant blooming, but several, which serve different pollinators. And there isn’t just one genus of wetland plant filtering the water, but three or four.
  • It improves the soil structure with a diversity of roots. Plants taking water from the soil and releasing it through their leaves (evapotranspiration) is important to soil stabilization. And a variety of root structures will make the soil more lively, which will feedback and make the soil better for the root structures.
  • The Pacific Northwest forests need plants at every canopy level — from ground covering forbs and ferns up to the tallest Douglas fir trees. Because (see first item) there are things that eat plants at every level.
  • Many of the forest types we target in our restoration have similar plant communities and associations, with the main difference being proportions between the plants. Planting with as wide a palette as possible provides the opportunity for the plants to sort themselves out a bit.
  • Plant diversity also builds in resilience to disturbances, whether fire, flood, famine, or climate change. And given that we work in a ravine, we could well be creating a refuge for many plants to escape the worst effects of climate change.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but this is what I can think of off the top of my head.

Oh, the statistics. We — the people engaged in restoration in North Beach Park, whether EarthCorps, a crew contracted by the Parks Department, or people working with Friends of North Beach Park — have planted 63 different species of plant in the park. Of these, 39, or 62%, were unrepresented in the park. Note that these aren’t necessarily rare plants, they’re just unrepresented in North Beach Park. And I’m not saying we’ve increased the diversity by that much. That would need a complete survey of all the plants in the park, native and invasive. But it’s still a fairly good number.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

The October work party for Friends of North Beach Park featured a number of employees from Nordstrom as part of their participation in Forterra NW’s Carbon Capturing Companies program. This allows Washington based companies to reduce their carbon footprint by helping to fund the planting of native conifers in parks and natural areas — such as North Beach Park.

Donated Coffee
We also had coffee donated by Ballard Coffee Works, greatly appreciated on a chilly morning. And pastries from Larsen’s Bakery, courtesy of a generous donation from a neighbor.

Happily tagged and flagged
Here are the trees, tagged and ready to go. Mostly you see the western hemlock in this picture, of which we had 40. On the left in back are some Douglas Fir, of which we had 20.

We were ready to go by 9:10!
Here we see the folks ready to head into the woods. This picture includes Nordstrom employees, UW students, and forest stewards. (The buckets were for mulch and later for watering.)

This many people meant planting 60 trees took hardly any time at all. In fact, even after mulching and watering and a brief coffee break, we had enough time for a tour of the park. I don’t need much encouragement to lead a tour through the park, stopping every 20 feet to talk about something or other. We did make sure everyone got to see the mature hemlocks in the park.

We also found The Tire.
The Tire II.

It’s such a tradition to find at least one tire per work party, after everyone left the forest stewards were wondering what we’d do if we ever ran out. Unlikely to happen. I do remember the first several work parties we would bring up hundreds of pounds of trash as a matter of course. So a tire and a bag of bottles’n'cans is a vast improvement.

Here’s an after picture.
The weather cooperated not just by being pleasantly brisk while we planted, but the sun came out during the time on our tour when we were in the biggest gap in the canopy, allowing us to bask and enjoy it. And just before taking this picture, during an opportune moment of silence, a soft wind came through the park that was too gentle for people to sense but brought a rain of leaves down from the maples.

All in all, a great day.


Next Saturday, November 2nd, is Green Seattle Day, with planting and cleaning events in parks all over Seattle (including Golden Gardens and Carkeek Park in Ballard). On November 9th, EarthCorps returns to North Beach Park for another planting work party. And on November 26th is the last Friends of North Beach Park work party of the year.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (me meh)

James Barilla
Yale University Press, 2013

When most people think about creating backyard habitat, they probably imagine an almost Disneyfied picture of inter-species harmony and cooperation. The reality is much messier. On the one hand, the human desire to live with animals is strong; that’s why we have pets. On the other, we would like the boundaries to be distinct.

This messiness is what Barilla explores. So you want to create a backyard that’s welcoming to squirrels. What about when they’re eating your peaches? What about when rats and opossums come into this big hollow tree that’s warm and full of great nooks and crannies? You want animals close, but not too close.

Barilla looks at many different cities and how they’re coping with the encroachment of supposedly wild animals. Vervet monkeys in Dania, FL; rhesus macaques in New Delhi, India; black bears in Northampton, MA; and tamarins in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dealing with the animals is hindered by many factors. The tamarins of Rio are an invasive pest where they are — but endangered in their home range. It would seem simple to just capture them in Rio and transport them to their home range. But they’re separated by thousands of miles. Have the urban tamarins picked up new parasites or diseases that will affect the wilderness tamarins? How has their genotype altered in response to city living over the generations? Can they still survive in the wilderness? One of the reasons they do so well is the prevalence of jackfruit trees, which are themselves an invasive species.

Another reason they do so well is because people feed them. Barilla feeds a vervet monkey in Florida, and describes the experience in great detail. It’s much different than putting out a feeder for birds, or kibble for a dog. He feels a transcendent connection to the wild, to the “us and not us” of a primate.

Barilla’s depiction of his personal experiences in his research is one of the strengths of the book. I wish he’d taken a little more time to talk about the process of building a backyard habitat, but there are plenty of books on that subject. This book, as I said, explores the messier territory. The animals we invite into our backyards have their own agency, their own desires, which do not always neatly align with ours.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

Of value to people around the country is a blog and website called Ecosystem Gardening. There’s a lot of information there, including many book and online resources for specific areas.

Of interest to Seattlites are two workshops. One is next Wednesday (18th), 6:30-8 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture: Wildlife Habitat Garden Design. The cost is $25. Bring a photo of your existing garden for some suggestions and specific advice.

The Woodland Park Zoo will have a series of five classes on Backyard Habitat. The series of five classes can be taken individually for $25 each or the whole set for $100. It looks like an impressive line up of experts from the Zoo and beyond. The Woodland Park Zoo classes are at a variety of dates and times, starting September 25th (a Wednesday).

Both these links came from Sustainable Ballard.

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Ivy Forest

Aug. 1st, 2013 03:06 pm
holyoutlaw: (me meh)

The other day, doing another stream survey, I got a sense of what an ivy forest might look like.

We’ve all seen ivy on the ground, where it “should” be — the roots are shallow, the vines thin. You can easily pull up great stretches of English Ivy. This can lead to what I call “ivy madness”, as you get wrapped up in pulling a root and it leads you 10 feet or more away from where you started.

English Ivy monoculture
In an unmanaged park, ivy can establish monocultures. This photo was taken in 2011, before any work had been done in North Beach Park. The ivy has covered the ground and suppressed all native plants. It was climbing the trees and would have reached the crowns soon enough.

That’s what ivy does. It’s quite happy scampering along on the ground, growing (I’ve heard) up to 7 feet per year. It can also survive in such low-light conditions it can’t be shaded out. If it hits an obstacle, such as a tree, it grows up towards the light.

Ivy infested tree.
Once the ivy reaches the crown, it gets enough sunlight to flower and fruit — well out of reach of human intervention. Pollinators go for the nectar and birds eat the seeds. If beetles or pollinator larvae at the leaves, we might not have as much of a problem with it.

As the ivy climbs the tree, the roots thicken and develop ugly, centipede-looking root hairs that grip the tree. The ivy doesn’t parasitize the tree directly, but the weight of the mass of ivy slows tree growth, and the leaves create a great sail that can bring a tree down in winds it might otherwise have survived.

Ivy roots cut through
Here is what some ivy roots look like cut through. They are far from the thickest we’ve seen in North Beach Park. I remember when we cut through these roots they snapped with quite a loud crack.

Presenting LOG
This is one of the thickest ivy roots from North Beach Park. For scale, that’s lying on a 50 gallon lawn’n'leaf garbage bag.

But the other day I saw a new form that made me think this is what an ivy forest would look like.

I was at the base of a slope that enclosed the Headwaters Bowl (a large wetland where most of the water enters the park). There are few trees growing in the bowl itself as it’s too wet. On the slope there are old trees, but the few saplings aren’t enough for succession. But at the base of the slope, where I was, there were a number of logs that had fallen into the bowl. They were covered with thick ivy vines, still rooted into the ground. The ivy was growing out into the sun and receiving direct sunlight for most of the day; there was very little shade.

Ivy Forest
Note how smooth the vines are — no need for the centipede hairs, I guess.

Ivy leaves in sunlight
And look how different the leaves are — thick, leathery, almost completely filled in. This is what it looks like at the crown of trees.

Just as on the ground, it still twines all around and about. However, these vines are thumb-thick and thicker. They form a more solid thicket than blackberry (you can cut through blackberry with a machete, but this would take a saw). Almost as dense as holly, but less prickly.

I think the ground is too wet for the ivy to root, and most of the rooting happens on the slope. This might make it relatively easy to make a serious dent in this ivy, by cutting it from the logs as if we were making a horizontal survival ring.

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holyoutlaw: (me meh)

This summer I have a number of questions to answer about the seeps in North Beach Park.

The best way to answer the questions about location, size, and number is by walking the stream from where it bubbles up from the ground to the end of the main park. Maybe this is just an excuse to explore the park in a way I haven’t yet, but I think that’s the rationale for a lot of my so-called “research.”

I used a Garmin eTrex 10 for recording trail and waypoints. But, um, didn’t know how to save, so I lost all that data. The walk was still worthwhile, though, because I worked out a consistent method for data recording and what to observe.

Before I got to the head waters, I noticed something about this yew tree:
Yew (Taxus brevifolia)
This had been almost completely enclosed by a holly and laurel thicket until some of us went at it with a weed wrench. This picture was taken yesterday; compare to this picture taken in April. The angles are pretty different, but it looks to me like the yew is really spreading out towards the light. That was the good news; the bad news is that I’m also seeing more signs of herbivory.

Here is one of the places that underground water bubbles up into the park:
The headwaters

This is at the base of the slope that comes down from 24th Ave. There are a couple others that I’ll have to find. They’re all in the part of the park we call “Headwaters Bowl.”

The Headwaters Bowl is large, flat, and open, surrounded by slopes. There is very little canopy cover, and what there is comes from trees leaning over the bowl from the slopes. This makes the Headwaters Bowl a scrub/shrub wetland.

I did find this small seep:
Small Seep
and took several more picture of it. One of the questions about the seeps is their flow rate. How I’ll do that is yet to be determined. I think a more important issue might be how deep is the soil layer. For instance, because the stream has a sandy bed, the footing there is quite firm, as opposed to places with a deep, saturated soil layer.

Another seep I discovered is very large, about 200-300 square feet. I remember it from other seasons. The footing there is quite firm, which means I think that the soil on the top is being carried into the stream. If that’s the case, I’ll try slowing down the movement with either barriers or plants. If it turns out the seep is running over the glayed soil (anoxic sand), we might have to put down barriers to catch the dirt for a while. I’m reluctant to put down barriers because I think the water will find the one way through, and then channelize and move faster, when the intent is to slow down the water. Straw wattles might do the trick, allowing the water through while trapping the dirt. I’d also like to avoid staking something into the slope, as I think sometimes that just cuts away the part of the slope below the stake.

I’m going to have to start over, not least because of the GPS data not being saved. But that’s part of the fun, I think.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

This was done for ESRM 473, “Restoration of North American Biomes,” Winter 2013, Kern Ewing, professor. I was in Group 5.

Shoveler's Pond
Looking west across restoration area to Shoveler’s Pond.

For well over a decade, the students taking ESRM 473 every winter have done restoration projects in the Union Bay Natural Area. They’ve mostly been creating Garry oak savannah, a habitat that was once common before European settlement, but has been almost wiped out by agriculture, fire suppression, and degradation of the land.

Garry Oak savannahs were maintained by Native Americans and used as open grazing lands for herbivores and gardening areas for families. After the glacial retreat, the weather was warm and dry, and the prairie developed and was used by the first peoples. When the climate cooled and got wetter, Native Americans had to maintain the open prairies to prevent encroachment with Douglas-fir and other conifers. The plants have adapted to the fire regime, and need frequent cool fires for germination and fertilization of the soil.

The Union Bay Natural Area was once underwater: before western Washington’s hydrology was so drastically revised by Hiram M. Chittenden, Lake Washington was about 19 feet deeper. After the Montlake Cut opened, and Lakes Washington and Union reached a common level, the area that’s now UBNA was exposed. It was used as a landfill for many decades, then capped and filled in the 1970s (I think). More recently, restoration efforts of various types have been done there, to do a better job of creating habitat and providing ecological services. So, in one sense, this wasn’t a “restoration” project at all, because there was never a Garry Oak savannah in this particular location. But in many other senses, it is. The savannah will provide much more food and habitat for the waterfowl and other birds that live in UBNA, and will just plain be more beautiful than the lawn it’s replacing.

Shoveler's Pond
Why We Do It.

Each group got $150 to order plants and seeds. We selected food plants as much as possible, including things like nodding onion, camass, broad-petaled strawberry, and others. We also ordered all seeds, partly by accident. Each group also got a number of starts of idaho fescue and blue wild rye to supplement our selection. Finally, a large cache of seeds was discovered in the lab and was divided among the groups. This included more fescue and wild rye and some tufted hairgrass.

Plants and tools
The blue wild rye (Elymus glaucus) is the taller, broader-leaved grass along the edge of the cart; idaho fescue is the smaller, more delicate grass next to the rakes.

Various delays put the work parties very late into the quarter, and late in the planting season. It took a while for the area to be plowed, and then when it was plowed, they uncovered some artifacts that lead the powers that be to decide to cap the plowed area with two feet of soil. Another delay, but helpful. Sunday, March 10, was the day that several groups were going to be working, throughout the day.

Group 5 Site, before planting
This is what we found. The groups on either side of our plot had already done their work.

The soil felt pretty low quality — very gravelly, a lot of silt and clay. It was also very difficult to work with. But still, we put the plants into the soil.

Three Garry Oaks
Three Garry Oak bareroots, surrounded by Idaho fescue.

The work took a very short time for us, partly because we only had seeds. What we did for the most part was jab a shovel into the ground repeatedly, to break up the soil and create a large number of mini-trenches. Then we broadcast the seeds over the prepared area, and raked them over and stepped on them to get them into the ground. The last step was planting the starts of wild rye between the different plants. As we were finishing, a light rain was just beginning, perfect! And it stayed light enough not to bother the groups that were just getting started. It should be rainy for the next several days as well. (wotta surprise.)

The "after" Picture
Group Five, the after picture. Left to right, me, Andy, Keenan, Tarranum, and Christine (photo by Andrew F., the TA).

All in all, it was a fun project, and I think we all worked well together.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

How To Naturescape

A thorough-looking guide to the how and whys of naturescaping, as opposed to landscaping. For one thing, using locally native plants increases the texture and ecological services of a landscape. As they point out, using the industrial plants of large commercial nurseries results in landscape looking the same around the country.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

The work party at North Beach Park on the 24th was directed to planting. We had 148 plants to get into the ground, in three different locations, and in a number of microenvironments, from perennial wetland (wet all the time) to upland slopes.

Slough Sedge Plugs
25 Slough Sedge plugs ready to go into the wetlands.

Each year, Green Seattle Partnership gives every park under its auspices 200 plants. This year, we concentrated the order on wetland plants and upland shrubs. There are a lot of seeps in the park, and although the water moves slowly most of the year, it doesn’t stop. This year, which went from record drought to record rainfall, change is noticeable on a weekly basis. Over the years, the seeps have carried away quite a bit of the park.

We had 12 participants at the work party, which turned out to be just enough for the work we had. I had been worried that we wouldn’t get all the plants in the ground, but in fact, we were able to wrap up and have all the tools wiped down and back in the Jobox by noon. Getting the work done was vastly aided by a couple prep sessions with Drexie, tagging the plants at the Carkeek nursery, and then transporting them to the park and putting them in place to begin work.

We also had a few brand-new tools, courtesy of a microgrant from Groundswell NW. Here are some of them, artfully displayed on a pile of mulch:
Tools purchased with the grant money from Groundswell NW

A couple of the co-stewards mentioned that they felt like this was the first “real” planting. We know the park better than last year, we knew where diversity was needed, and we knew how to plant them. The plants are healthy and they’re going in at the perfect time of year for native plants. Their roots will establish over the winter, and when they leaf out in the spring, they’ll be much better prepared to survive the dry spell. (Many of the plants we planted last year survived the drought, but it’s still unclear whether they had enough energy to make good buds for next spring. We’ll find out.)

It was a great experience of everyone working together, the weather cooperating, plans changing in good ways, and nobody getting hurt (always a plus!)

At the Wheelbarrow
Here are a few of us late in the work party, getting mulch into a bucket. You can see I’m not shy about getting dirty. Left to right, foreground: Clint, Luke, Alan, Morrie, Julie. Left to right, background: Selena, Drexie, Sam, Genie. Photo by Tad Anderson.

Here’s a group shot:
Group Shot
Left to right: Selena, Drexie, Luke, Julie, Morrie, Sam, Tad, Clint, Alan, Genie. Not pictured: Loren and David. All the pink flagging tape in the lower left corner is attached to just-planted plants. Photo by Keelan Currin.

This is the same group of folks, but the wider angle gives a good sense of the park:
Group Shot
Photo by Keelan Currin.

Thank you to everyone who participated and helped! It was great fun and very successful.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

Saturday, November 24, 9 a.m. to 12 Noon
Meet at the main entrance to the park, 90th St. and 24th Ave. NW
Parking along 24th, N. of 90th; and along 90th, E. of 24th.

Bring water and snacks. Wear sturdy shoes (or muckboots for wetland work) and weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty. We’ll provide tools, gloves, and guidance. All ages and skill levels welcome, but children must be under the supervision of their parent/guardian at all times. Email lukemcguff@yahoo.com for more information. Or register on line.

Take a break from Thanksgiving weekend and work off those calories with some community gardening. And we can be thankful we live in a place where the city and nature are so intertwined. As a special treat, 14 lucky participants will get a water bottle from Green Seattle Day.

We have nearly 200 native plants and shrubs to go into various areas of the parks, from the wetlands up the slopes. These plants will restore food sources and habitat for wildlife and will also help stabilize the slopes. Here are a few snapshots of the plants in their temporary home at the Carkeek Nursery.

We also will debut several new planting spades, gloves, and other tools purchased with the Groundswell NW microgrant. Thank you Groundswell NW!

We would also like to thank the many other organizations without whom this work would not be possible: Seattle Parks Foundation, for providing fiscal sponsorship. Green Seattle Partnership, for providing tools, training, and logistics coordination between volunteers and the Parks Department. Seattle Parks and Recreation, for providing all these lovely plants. And of course, the many volunteers who have given, in some cases, hundreds of hours to restoration work in North Beach Nature Area and other Seattle parks.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support the work of North Beach volunteers, please click here. Select “Friends of North Beach Park” from the drop-down list. Any money received will be used to hire a Natural Area Crew to work in the steeper parts of the park.

Thank you for all your support! We look forward to seeing you Saturday the 24th.

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holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

Julie and I took a late afternoon trip to North Beach and Carkeek Parks Monday to look for salmon. Well, we stopped at North Beach Park on the way, so I could see how things are going.

The alders were still blocking the trail. But we did see some gorgeous fall color.

Fall Color

Big leaf maple leaves cover the path in North Beach Park.

In fact, I thought the park was particularly beautiful. The cloud cover wasn’t too thick, and the colors were very warm. Where the path wasn’t covered in maple leaves, it was covered in alder leaves.

The park was also very wet. It’s gone from the driest I’ve ever seen it (in September) where just walking along a trail would cause it to crumble; to the wettest I’ve ever seen it, where you’re in constant danger of slipping, and leaves might cover mud a couple inches thick.

Pileated woodpecker on a snag in North Beach Park

Pileated woodpecker on a snag in North Beach Park

We also saw a pileated woodpecker, working its way up a snag. (It’s kind of small, click on the image for a slightly bigger version.) I saw a pileated woodpecker in 2010, I think, or maybe 2009. It was good to see one again.

It worked its way up the snag, its feet spread very wide to hold onto the snag. It pecked here and there, but didn’t have to knock the wood for quite a while. There were two flickers above it, working the same snag, but as it approached, they each flew away without saying anything.

After that, it was back up the trail and over to Piper’s Creek.

We started at the beach, as always. So far, there are only a couple dozen wigeons there regularly. But we also saw a cormorant off in the waters. (Later in the winter, there will be many more types of birds.) Besides the usual crows’n'gulls, I mean, who were enjoying the salmon buffet (that is, the fish that didn’t make it). Looking through the binoculars I saw about five different gulls eating at different salmon. Here is a picture of one that was picked clean.

Then it was back and over the bridge and up to Piper’s Creek. There were lots of salmon in the creek this time, resting in the pools, splashing upstream or over the rocks and logs.

Splashing Salmon

Salmon splashing in Piper’s Creek, Carkeek Park. The curved line in the upper right quadrant is the back of the salmon.

I think we were up and down the various viewpoints of the creek for about an hour, talking to people and listening to their own observations. There are always a few families with young kids.

I’m sure we’ll go again. It’s always interesting to see them swimming around, and it’s exciting when one tries to make it over a little waterfall. No bears, and none of the giant waterfalls of rivers in Alaska. But raccoons, who will spread the fish carcasses around the woods.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

On Sunday, Julie and I took a walk in two of our favorite parks: North Beach Park (you were surprised?) and Carkeek.

I wanted to go to North Beach to make some notes about the work done on Saturday, and to make some plans for the planting work parties (November 24! Save the date!)

While we were there, something started happening in a tree above us. We couldn’t see it, but we could sure hear it: A large murder of crows, cawing loudly and repeatedly. Julie thought they were mobbing a raptor sitting in the tree. As we watched, more crows joined every few seconds, and the cawing got louder and louder. Eventually there were so many crows that it became a chant, phasing in and out of unison. I felt like I was at the invention of song. We watched for several minutes, as the noise and chaos increased. It was still going when we finally turned away. Whatever was causing it, we’ll never know.

Carkeek — Puget Sound, rather — also had something in store for us. We went to look for salmon in Piper’s creek, missing them by about one day. On our way back up from the beach to the car, though, we noticed some people at the top of the bridge to the beach looking a lot more avid and engaged. We asked what they were looking for.

“Orcas are coming,” a woman told us. A man said that he had seen them off Alki, and that the J pod and K pod were swimming together. Hearing that news, we weren’t going anywhere. It didn’t matter how long it took.

Orca watchers

It did take some time for us to see the orcas, but it was worth it. Even though they were so far across the Sound that even with binoculars they were very tiny. But we could see their dorsal fins rising and falling above the water level. We saw breaches and tail flaps. Even at that distance, it felt so much more impressive and real than seeing a close-up on television.

But what I particularly liked was the loose community that developed. One woman had her phone out, and was passing on tweets from the Orca Network. Another woman, once we started seeing the whales, would comment on the behavior: “There’s a tail flap. There’s a breach.” If she hadn’t, we wouldn’t have known what was happening. There was some sharing of binoculars, and people constantly describing where they saw the orcas. We stood there at least an hour watching.

It was sharing the experience among ourselves that made this a uniquely urban experience. The way we came together, some people intentionally, some (like us) by accident, would never have happened anywhere else. On a whale watch cruise, we’d have been closer, but the community around the experience wouldn’t have felt as organic (mind you, if I have the opportunity, I’ll go on a whale watch cruise, now more than before). This was a pretty simple experience, after all, but with all the news about conflict and individualism and every man for himself, it was great to have.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

Every park that is an official Green Seattle Partnership site gets to order 200 plants a year. This works out really well for 10 acre North Beach Park, with only about half an acre under active restoration (although we plant throughout the park). 200+ acre Carkeek, not as well. (But Carkeek also has other programs for getting plants and trees.)

Here are the plants we ordered for North Beach Park:

Wetland Plants and Shrubs
Wetland plants and shrubs.
The wetland plants are, in no particular order, Black Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii), Oregon Ash (Fraxinus latifolia), Pacific crabapple (Malus fusca), Small-fruited bullrush (Scirpus microscarpus), and hardhack (Spirea douglasii). These will go into the headwaters bowl, the wetland area we cleared of blackberry during the drought. The bullrush will go in the wettest part of the wetland, the shrubs and trees along the perimeter.

Upland Plants and Shrubs
Upland plants for 2012
Including: Vine Maple (Acer circinatum), Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), Tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium), Mock Orange (Philadelphia lewisii), Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorous) and Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum).

The main planting party will be on Saturday, November 24. Work off those Thanksgiving calories and have fun getting dirty. For more information, and to volunteer, please click here.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

For the presentation at Antioch, I made up a resource list of organizations working to clean up Seattle’s parks and forests and a “further reading” list. Then I forgot to hand them out. So you get them now, with the added benefit that the various links are live. (Also, explanatory verbiage.) Tomorrow will be the further reading list.

Organizations working to restore Seattle’s forested parks.

Green Seattle Partnership
GSP provides training for forest stewards, coordinates logistics on a city-wide basis, and has a great calendar of events. The Green Seattle Partnership model is being developed in other cities — Green Kirkland Partnership, Green Tacoma Partnership, and Green Everett Partnership among them.
Earthcorp’s motto is “Local Restoration, Global Leadership.” The sponsor events around the city and the Sound. They have a summer program that brings youth from around the world to work in this area, who then go home to share their knowledge.
ForTerra used to be called the Cascade Land Conservancy, but as the importance of the work they do with Green Seattle Partnership has risen, they changed their name. ForTerra provides the manpower for much of the GSP work.
Seattle Parks Foundation
Among other things, the Seattle Parks Foundation provides fiscal sponsorship for parks seeking grants or donations. Go here, fill out the form, and select “Friends of North Beach” from the Designation drop-down list.

More information about native plants.

Washington Native Plant Society
They have chapters all around the state — Seattle’s chapter is the “Central Sound” chapter. They’ve done much research into what is and isn’t a “native” plant, where they live and so on.

King County Native Plant Guide
Photos, planting and landscaping guides, common and scientific name listings — just about everything you can use to find out about growing native plants.

More information about weeds and invasive plants.

A handy little website produced by the WNPS. There is a page listing ivy-free nurseries.

King County Noxious Weeds
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, browsing this page will cheer you right up.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

That sounds pretty dry, but the evidence is dramatic. Per Square Mile examines the question of whether urban canopy can predict wealth by looking at wealthy and poor neighborhoods in cities around the world.

Here is Seattle’s version:
South Park

Aerial view of South Park neighborhood in Seattle. Via Google Maps.

The Highlands

Aerial view of The Highlands, one of Seattle’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Via Google Maps.

Here’s more information about the correlation of wealth and urban canopy cover.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.

Crow Planet

Aug. 3rd, 2012 11:33 am
holyoutlaw: (picture icon iv)

Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness
By Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Little, Brown and Company
New York, 2009

I read Crow Planet in December, 2010, during my first quarter break at Antioch. It resonated deeply with me, articulating ideas I had only half-thought out: about the city, nature, the interconnections between them, and our connectedness to them. It opened a doorway to other authors and influenced the direction of my studies.

Rereading it now, two years later and at the end of my BA, a circle has been completed. I’ve taken in some ideas of this book so deeply they feel natural, as if I’ve always had them. I remember individual turns of phrases, eloquent aphorisms. But I’ve also forgotten important lessons it offers about observing nature in the city, which in many cases is the study of the very obvious – crows, moss, weeds.

Crows’ intelligence and omnivorous diet has allowed them to prosper from human disruption of the environment. Their problem solving ability has been well documented, and so has their ability to recognize individual humans. It’s also likely that you’ve seen them play in high winds, swooping and diving. They’ve been observed sitting with a dying crow in a crow hospice and mourning the dead. They eat French fries as avidly as they eat roadkill. It’s pretty likely that crows will adapt to whatever humans do to the planet.

Which brings us to one of the main points of Crow Planet: their wildness and proximity can allow us to draw a connection between our cities and nature, a connection that for whatever reason we ignore. As Haupt points out, global warming means there is no place on the world unaffected by humanity. Conversely, there is no place where nature does not intrude; there is no crack in the asphalt that doesn’t have a weed growing through it.

This is a very important time to reacquaint ourselves with the connection between us and the world. Haupt explains that there are two Greek words for time: chronos, which means the regular succession of time (as in “chronology). There is also kairos, “‘the appointed time,’ an opportune moment, even a time of crisis, that creates an opportunity for, and in fact demands, a human response. … We live in such a time now, when our collective actions over the next several years will decide whether earthly life will continue its descent into ecological ruin and death or flourish in beauty and diversity.” (7)

Crows provide the opportunity to see the wildness and wild life that abounds in the city – that the city, in fact, is a zoöpolis, a meeting of zoo and polis, and is far from tame. This wild life might be thinner than in old growth forests, but it is inescapable. And it’s not only that nature and the built environment are entwined, but that the borders are permeable – from mud tracked into the house or a fly that came in through a window, to a hurricane flooding a city. “We are incapable of isolation. Every time we sip wine, feed the cat, order pizza, watch Survivor, every time we do anything, anything at all, we are brushing, however surreptitiously, however beneath our awareness –however, even, against our will – a wilder, natural world. Such awareness is simultaneously daunting and beautiful. It means that everything we do matters, and matters wondrously. More than we thought, more than we can even know.” (122-123)

It’s impossible to be isolated from nature, even in the densest urban environment: On a recent tour of the NuCor steel plant (West Seattle) I saw a scraggly bodleia bush, dusty blooms hanging heavily (I thought it was beautiful). It’s also impossible to be isolated from people, even in the most remote environment. Who made the 3 ounce tent you sleep in? Who made the freeze dried food you eat? Who made the water purifiers?

Haupt says this connectedness can be a mystical experience, and I agree with her. It can truly take you out of your skin and into something bigger, something wholly other, uncaring but containing everything. Being aware of this connectedness, and how much damage we’ve done to it, can bring one to a sense of deep despair. But this isn’t just a time of doom and gloom, this is also a time of kairos.

This opportune moment can lead to great despair – I’ve felt it. It carries an awful weight, as the doom’n’gloom scenarios become increasingly relentless. But Haupt chooses to dwell in possibility, to make room for it, to see her contributions as valuable. And that’s the path Crow Planet has inspired me to walk as well, however well or poorly I might.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


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