Thursday, July 29, 2010

Combining Blogs

I'm going to be combining all my blogs into one place for the time being.  I have imported the posts from this blog to This Northwest Life.  That's where I'll be putting everything for now.  I have a great fondness of this blog layout and title, so I won't be deleting it, in case eventually I want or need to separate things out again in the future.  In the mean time, visit me at This Northwest Life.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Hermit Crab

A few months back, while exploring on the beach with one of my nephews, I was teaching him to leave the whole shells that could become hermit crab homes.  He caught on really quick and only collected the broken shells to give to his Grammy.  Every time he found a whole shell he would carry it to the waters edge to leave it for hermit crabs to find.  I was pleased with the success of that lesson.

Today, the Hermit Crab taught me a lesson.  I was on the beach at Discovery Park leading a Tot Walk.  I had seven toddlers, their adults and even a couple infants along for adventure.  We had already seen a lot of hermit crabs, some big, some small, some who liked to hide and others who wanted to make a dash for it as fast as they could.  In one of the little pools I picked up a small broken Dogwinkle shell, to move it out of the way.  When surprise of surprises, there inside the little cup of the broken shell, a space not even a quarter inch in diameter was the tiniest hermit crab I'd ever seen.  In a broken shell.  Well, darn.  Time to change that lesson, maybe.  Tiny hermit crabs need homes too, I guess.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lessons from the Birds

Sometimes I have to remember that my observations of the natural world need not go beyond my own yard.  Like the pair of crows that I've been getting to know since moving in last fall.  Though there are plenty of other crows around, this pair seems to have claimed the area closest to my home, one was even peaking in a window yesterday.  Would it seem odd that I can recognize this individual pair - I mean crows all look the same, don't they?  Well, at a casual glance, perhaps, but upon closer examination they do have individual characteristics.  But it's not the physical aspects that make this pair easy to identify for me.  It's their distinctive personalities.  Yes, crows have individual personalities.  Honest.  The way this pair interact with me has made them stick out of the crowd.  That coupled with the fact that we're neighbors, so to speak, and over time we are just getting to know each other much like human neighbors who don't speak the same language might get to know each other.  I've even started to wonder if this fine feathered couple will be nesting nearby and if I'll get a chance to meet their offspring later this summer.

I had this happen several years back at another house in another city and with another species.  This time it was a pair of chickadees among all the other chickadees that visited the feeder in my yard and this time I had more  help with identifying the individuals.  One of the pair was partially leucistic, off white where most chickadees would be black to dark grey.  It stood out from the beginning and I got to know its feeding habits, the way it interacted with other chickadees and its overall personality.  When it showed up one day and started showing off to the chickadee that had showed up with it, I caught on that this leucistic bird was a male and he was showing off his miraculous food supply.  She must have been impressed because they both became more scarce, the male's visits to my yard were focused and quick, go straight to the feeder, grab some seeds and fly off, repeat.  Until one day they showed up looking a bit worn around the edges and with a full brood of fluffy chickadee chicks just fledged from the nest.  This time the male patiently, well sort of patiently, tried to show the chicks how to feed at the feeder on their own between giving in to their incessant chatter and wing flapping.  The female flew from the feeder to one gaping mouth to the feeder and back to another gaping mouth.

I watched the chicks grow up, lose their fluffiness and blend into the crowd of chickadees that frequented my feeder.  All except for one.  One of those chicks had managed to fly into the back door one day and I had spent quite a while holding it in my palm keeping watch over it while it waited for the world to stop spinning and the ability to see straight to come back.  Have you ever seen a chickadee with crossed eyes?  I have.  Eventually it shook itself out, tested its wings and flew up to a nearby branch that hung close to the back porch.  From there it looked around at the world and back at me briefly before setting off for a longer flight.  I often wondered if this chickadee was the same one who so bravely flew in to eat seed from my palm without a bit of hesitancy not long after that.  One bird would fly right in, light gently on my hand, grab a seed, take the time to get it just right in its beak and then fly a short distance to a branch to work the heart out of the shell.  Other chickadees saw this and did their best to be brave, but they were always more hesitant and far quicker to grab the seed and run.

The leucistic male continued to show up and even brought another brood to the feeder the next year.  Eventually he didn't show up and it was obvious he was missing.  His bright feathers among his darker fellows, the way he would dance around on the branches seeming to show off to his mate and young - his presence was missed and I still remember him and his offspring with fondness.

These little relationships we form if even for a short time with these wild creatures around us can leave our hearts touched.  It can help us to realize that these birds are intelligent individuals with distinct personalities that stand out if only you take the time to notice, to get to know them.  It can help us to see how important they are to the world around us and that can help inspire us to live in a manner that gives back to the earth just as much or more than we take.  That is a lesson I willingly learn from my feathered friends for as long as they will grace me with their presence.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wishing for Inspired Moments

I wish for moments outside and in my heart that inspire me to write about the the thing I love writing about most, but so often gets put aside for other projects - Nature.  I wish that those moments would transform themselves into the words and pictures that I have long dreamed to fill this particular blog with.

This post was inspired by Wishcasting Wednesday after seeing a post by Ange.  May both those women's wishes come true, this I wish for them too! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Evening at Constellation Park - West Seattle

An evening walk, yesterday, took me to Constellation Park during a low tide.

I'm drawn to the tide pools much like the Sanderlings that feed among them. They feed on little invertebrates; I feed on discoveries and the sights and sounds of nature.

Herons perch on the rocks, taking a pause from their patient stealthy hunts.   Then fly off to wade in the shallow waters.

Sea Stars cling to the rocks, most hidden  in crevices, waiting for their watery realm to cover them again, hiding them from predators.  Occasionally one clings boldly out in the open.

A brightly colored Dogwinkle jumps out among the greens, browns and reds of the algaes, seaweeds and anemones.

Gulls stop to take in their surroundings.

The sun sets as people explore along the shore, heads down searching for treasures.  Others peek into the tidepools and a few take in the changing colors of the sky and the peace of the puget sound waters.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


This blog will be coming out of hibernation soon.

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Tidepool Sculpin or Will I Survive as a "Cutesy Theme" Innept Naturalist

In class last night we were each handed a small note card. On the front of mine was a drawing of a Tidepool Sculpin and on the back was a variety of information about the Sculpin. Our assignment was to take our topical card - in my case the Tidepool Sculpin and create a theme based on some part of the information provided. Oh - did I mention your theme should be catchy? And there in was my problem. How would I ever come up with a catchy theme? I am not a catchy theme kind of person - trying to become one is like trying to climb a mountain on only my hands. All I could come up with was something to do with the Sculpin's place in the food chain - how it was both predator and pray. But that isn't catchy or the least bit creative. When I got home I shared my dilemma with my husband and immediately he tossed out a catchy, and yes, punny theme. "Tidepool dinners and diners" or something to that effect. I started to cry. Honestly, I did. I felt even more inadequate now. But there is a difference between my husband and I. He is always full of off hand silly puns which I spend a good deal of time rolling my eyes at or groaning over. For him - it comes naturally, for me…

However, I have had an experience concerning the Tidepool Sculpin that left a lasting impression on me. It was the summer of my sixth year and we were living in Lincoln City, on the Oregon coast. We had spent a day down on the beach, and I had been knee deep in the tide pools or leaning over reaching in as far as I could. This was the day I first recall really discovering the Tidepool Sculpin. (This is also the day I lost my purple jacket to the tide - but that's a different story.) At the time I didn't know that was what it was called. To me it was this incredibly interesting little fish that one moment wasn't there and then was revealed suddenly by its quick darting across the tide pools sandy bottom with the passing of a shadow over the pool or the sudden appearance of a six year olds foot in its home. As quickly as it appeared it again disappeared. And now it was a puzzle, a game. I was determined to find it again and even more determined to be able to see it even when it wasn't darting from one spot to the other. I wanted to uncover its secret. I am sure I spent any number of hours doing just that - completely unfazed by the freezing cold northern pacific ocean waters I was standing in. Towards the end of the day, I had become so fond of my new friend that I didn't care to part company. Since I was not likely to be allowed to live indefinitely in a tide pool on the beach, I got a cup from our picnic basket and somehow managed to catch my own little Tidepool Sculpin. It went home with me, and although I understood that it needed salt water - beyond that I had no knowledge of what this critter needed to survive. The result is probably obvious by now. My sculpin died. Somehow, even then, I knew that it had died because of me. That stuck with me. I no longer took tide pool creatures out of their homes, because I didn't want anymore to go the way of that sculpin.

Years later I learned much more about the Tidepool Sculpin's habitat. It needed the constant changing of waters that were provided by tide pools and with that change of water, a new supply of food. It would then be able to produce more sculpins, but only under the circumstances provided in the unique tide pool habitat. A cup - even of salt water - was no home for a sculpin or any other wild creature either. To live and thrive they needed to stay where they were or be provided a place of equal quality by those who had the means and training to do so - such as a well ran Aquarium.

I learned to just appreciate these and other creatures in their proper habitat. It is far more pleasant than having a new found friend die at your own hands. So, all though, I may not be able to come up with some cutesy theme to lead a program about the Tidepool Sculpin, I hope somehow I will still be an effective interpreter, to be able to communicate what I learned in a way that will successfully help others discover the wonders of the varied habitats around them and those creatures that call those habitats home. And to leave them there for others to enjoy in the future.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Swans of the Union Bay Natural Area

I first spotted the 11 swans on Lake Washington back in late January. I had been birding in the Washington Park Arboretum and was making my way across the Foster Island boardwalk when I noticed several large white birds across the water towards the Union Bay Natural Area, commonly known as "The Fill" among local birders. I was stopped in my tracks - never had I seen Trumpeter Swans on Lake Washington. This was a rare treat, or I thought it was. But this group of birds decided to stick around and I saw them again only a few days later. Whenever I was walking in the area over the next couple weeks, people would see my binoculars and ask me if I had seen the swans - even non-birders were taking notice - but how could they not? Trumpeter Swans are graceful, elegant, and huge. They are hard to ignore, even for people who don't usually take a second look at birds. Now people were pausing in their jogs and walks to stop and appreciate the new Lake Washington residents.

Some time passed, and I didn't get out towards the Fill for a few weeks or at least not long enough to bird. So when I treated myself to a walk there last week I was pleased to find that rare visitors had stuck around - and they weren't being camera shy! All 11 were up close to shore last Friday afternoon and many a photographer was taking advantage of the fact. I, unfortunately (or fortunately if I consider I would have to carry it), don't have a fancy digiscope or huge SLR to take pictures of birds. However, I have learned to take shots with my little digital camera through my binoculars. They don't always turn out that great, but every once in a while I get something that will pass. Here are a few of those.

Discovery Park Docent Naturalist Program - Class of 2009

This past week brought the start of the Docent Naturalist Training at Discovery Park. I am among the dozen plus members of the class of 2009. We are an interesting bunch, with much in common, yet with very diverse backgrounds. Getting to know my classmates proves as interesting as the Docent training. This last Saturday we spent a gloriously sunny day exploring Discovery Park - first by van and then later on a fast paced hike with points of interest stops along the way. Of course I think every place in Discovery Park is a "point of interest" and worthy of a stop. Yet some are used more regularly by the park during its various education programs of which I and my classmates will eventually be leading. We had some exciting moments during our tours, including the meeting of Otto or maybe it is spelled "Auto". Either way, this bird would be the same by any other name. He's a handsome pheasant who seems to think he's a Border Collie or other breed of herding canine. He boldly rushed our passenger van and then after being shooed out of the way by the brave Ginger, a current park docent, chased the van and the car our fearless leader, Kit, was driving ahead of us. The story is that Otto is well known among park staff and volunteers, as well as those who live in the historical Officer Housing within the park. Kit was once cornered by the bold bird while driving through the park and was eventually rescued by a local resident who shooed the pheasant out of the road. I guess Otto takes his job seriously. If ever there is need for a road closure within the park I would think he would be a good enforcer.
We learned much about the history of the park as well as the lay out. I have been frequenting this park for many years now and am amazed at the little corners I have yet to explore or the bits of history I have yet to learn. I am looking forward to more adventures to come.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Fibrous Fish

Today I watched a second year Glaucous-winged Gull treat a water-logged shred of cedar bark as if it was a prize fish. The gull picked it up from the edge of the surf, strutted about with it in his beak; then he sat it down and picked at it. When a first year Glaucous-winged moved in to see if he could have some too, the older gull snatched it back up, whipped his head away and strutted on down the beach. Was it a game? Was it practice? Was it wishful thinking? Whatever it was, it was certainly amusing.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Walk with Otters

A half moon cove of
sand and pebbles,
and weeds of the sea.

From water like glass emerge
heads and whiskers,
curious critters following me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Cormorant

The smooth surface of the water
shattering the reflection of the
in it's place floated a
black and sleek throat thrown back to
the slippery silver fish.

Then down again it
and once more the water gradually
a mirror for the great blue