Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Revisiting Issaquah - time for another book presentation!

Before I know it Thursday will sneak up on me this week so I had better bring it up now or I'll forget myself! Silly holidays on Mondays - makes me forget what day of the week it is during the rest of the week! But it's true, Thursday I'll be revisiting Issaquah and giving a book presentation about the newly released Day Hiking-Central Cascades guidebook. This one is for the monthly meeting of the Foothills Branch of The Mountaineers, in cooperation with the King County Library at the KCLS Service Center off Newport Way. You can read more information at the website here, or get the info from the "Upcoming Events" listing to the right of this blog for any and all future appearances that I have slated.

If you can't make it, I'll be following up this in just two weeks locally for the Snoqualmie Valley communities in Fall City. Many south Puget Sound area events are slated for June and July as well - hope to see the faces of many excited outdoors people ready to spend a summer hiking our trails!

(photos: View toward Buck Mountain from the Carne Mountain trail; fall visit views at Larch Lake)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Seabeck and back

What a busy month of May it has been - sorry again for so little news from my end! The past full week I've been deep in the heart of fifth grade adventure as the entire group of 5th graders from my son's school just returned from Seabeck, an annual "outdoor education" experience for them. The community of Seabeck was once the main hub and thought to turn out to be what Seattle is today, along the shores of Hood Canal.

I have many things coming up - many presentations, many details about two-month showings of my work locally, and a lot of fun - stay tuned to hear more from me in the coming weeks!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nice annual visits from the bird world

I've always enjoyed watching how the world of birds changes as we move into the warmer spring months (finally!). First off well back in April the Turkey Vultures came back for their annual summer stay in the area. Then I started seeing the Varied Thrushes slowly start to disappear as they headed back to the forested elevations a bit further away from the lowest valley areas. Suddenly Black-headed Grosbeaks showed up. Then one of the more fascinating large birds made their annual visit and still are hanging around here at our place, the Band-tailed Pigeons.
Unlike the tame pigeons found in city parks, our native Band-tailed Pigeon is a very shy bird and will avoid human contact wherever possible. They can roam alone but most often move in flocks of up to 50 birds! I always am in awe of the sight of 8, 12, or even sometimes 20 individuals booming off from our trees or feeders at the first sign of our presence. Their wings bang together to form a loud chorus of 'clapping' as they launch to the sky. They are very nomadic creatures as they move frequently in search of food. They typically will move over 20 miles daily and once they have found a persistent food source they will hit it hard and stick around. With seeds being one of their preferred foods (along with nuts, berries, and a few insects) this is an obvious story to follow once they have declared our sunflower feeding stations as a good food source. Mid-morning a single bird will come in...then a few more...and more...and suddenly we have 15-18 of them knocking each other off the feeders and the party is underway! Any quick motion on our part and poof: they are gone. But they have been known to empty a 12 lb stockpile of seeds over the course of two feeding visits during a single day!
While this habit of feeding can be hard on the birdseed budget, these birds are a special sight to have present. The purplish-grey upper body and head is almost an unreal color! This color combined with their yellow bill and legs is striking and adults have a thin white band on the back of the neck. And as its name implies, the Band-tailed Pigeon has a black band across its tail feathers. They also have many rather uncommon traits within the bird world. Only a single white egg is laid each year and only in very rare cases will there be two. One trick that I find fascinating about them is that unlike most birds, including other pigeon species, the Band-tailed pigeon is able to drink water without raising its head. It took me many years of observing them before I noted this!
Now, just yesterday we noted a visit by a stunning male Western Tanager, with its bright yellow body and orange head clearly one of the most beautiful song birds that might occasionally pass by on the west side of the Cascades! What will pay a visit next? I’ll keep my eyes open and I hope you do also – share what might be going on out there!
(photo: Band-tailed Pigeon resting on the bent branch of a western red cedar tree)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Step right up to the Issaquah REI tonight

Say, in case you think about doing something like and evening walk or some time in your garden this evening, don't bother. It'll be raining anyhow! Instead, why not come on in to the REI in Issaquah and join myself and my friend Craig Romano as we'll be presenting a talk on the newly released Day Hiking - Central Cascades title that just came out a couple of weeks ago! I'll attempt to put smiles on faces with many images of our adventures, and I'm sure Craig will have many good stories to amuse you with as well. Hope to see some of you there tonight!

If you can't make it, I'm doing another Issaquah presentation in two weeks for the Mountaineers Foothills branch. See details over to the right column of this blog text.
(photos: autumn view across Minotaur Lake; view from Garland Peak toward Buck Mountain and Glacier Peak)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

They joy of what my mother (and father) brought to the table of life for me cannot be even hinted at in words. Joy. Love. Faith. Trust. Caring. Choices. Advise. As an adult I now reflect on the many things they did which were for me to learn from, choose wisely from, and brought me in many ways to where I am today where my own choices as an adult, choices to be extremely responsible for my own well being and actions, show how I want to be represented. Heck, had my Mom not allowed me a chance to play with her old Kodak Brownie B&W camera as a kid on the big farm we grew up on in Oregon, I might never had grown to love photography as a format that I loved sharing my vision through!
Happy Mother's Day to everyone who has their Mom to hug or a memory of their Mom to cherish.
(photo: what more lovely wildflower in Washington State to share to my Mom than the rare Tweedy's lewisia!)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A night with the Beavers

And here you thought that title meant a talk about our local den-building rodents of our Northwest waterways. No! I'm talking college baseball here! Last night this Oregon native was able to go see one of the better college baseball teams in the country play in Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. The match up between the University of Washington Huskies vs. Oregon State Beavers was held there in front of a crowd nearly 5,000 strong (in a place that holds 45,000 the place looked empty!). Of course I was seated with my son in the sea of orange and black behind the visitor dugout - this OSU graduate was happy to sport his orange and black too! The evening grew cold and breezy, but we had a wonderful time together watching OSU defeat UofW 6-4. And my son even got to hang out with one of his best friends from his current Little League team since we found them walking in also.

Go Beavs! :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Listening For Coyote

I have a love for clear calm nights. As the night slows down and humans turn their attention to indoor activities, nature’s choir is just getting warmed up. Suddenly one piercing yelp cry leads to at least a half dozen more: the nighttime social life of the coyote has begun!

The coyote is a member of the dog family. In size and shape the coyote is like a medium-sized collie dog. However its tail is round and bushy and is carried straight out below the level of its back. They are one of the few wild animals whose vocalizations are commonly heard. At night coyotes both howl (a high quavering cry) and emit a series of short, high-pitched yips. Howls are used to keep in touch with other coyotes in the area (“I am here and this is my area!”). Sometimes, when it is first heard, the listener may experience a tingling fear of danger. But to those seasoned to the outdoors the howl of the coyote is truly “a song of the West”.

Coyotes typically dig their own dens and on average give birth to six pups in early spring. At this time food is abundant also which makes the timing of this event critical. The pups will live and play in the den for 6-10 weeks before beginning to venture out to hunt with Mom as a group. The family gradually disbands and by fall pups are hunting on their own and venturing away forming their own territory within a year of birth. Small mammals such as squirrels and rabbits make up a bulk of their diet but they also will diet on mice, insects, fruit and carrion, and even reptiles! Biologists now feel that only 10-14% of their diet comes from livestock such as poultry or young/sick sheep, etc…. Obviously great controversy exists over this very aspect of their being: are they really vicious killers or simply opportunistic hunters?

Coyotes are one of the most adaptable animals in the world. They have long been one of the most controversial of all non-game animals. Agricultural interests have urged its control by whatever means necessary so that actual and potential livestock losses may be eliminated. Environmentalists firmly believe that they are necessary to preserve the balance of nature. Actually the nearly successful attempt to exterminate the gray wolf (the coyote’s primary predator!) has been largely responsible for the coyote’s great expansion across the continent! Biologists do agree that individual animals preying on livestock and poultry should be destroyed. But they also agree that the species as a whole is not necessarily harmful, because much of its diet is made up of destructive rodents. Biologists also agree that coyote populations have no lasting effects on other wildlife populations. So the controversy rages on.

The adaptability of this cleaver creature brings humans into play as well. They can quickly learn to associate us as a food source and have been known to beg for food from people! The most important thing you can do is at no time ever leave any pet food outdoors, especially overnight. Equally as critical is to realize that they love nothing more than cats and often will take small dogs. Be responsible and keep your small pets indoors and don’t attract the coyote to your domain in the first place by leaving pet food outdoors. This alone will greatly aid in keeping the likelihood of a confrontation to a minimum and allow us all to co-exist and enjoy our signing neighbors! Listen for them this spring…they have a lot to say.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Just one photograph....

So yesterday I departed for what was long ago planned to be a 4+ day photography road trip to photograph many things in the Ochoco/John Day Highlands, with the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument being the key here. Long story short I'm back not 18 hours after leaving, many hundreds of miles driven, due to a family emergency. Alas, that is what can happen to the best laid out plans sometimes! I planned the details of this trip for the better part of 5 weeks! Leaving early this morning to get back to the home fort, I did pull off the highway climbing out of the Columbia River Gorge toward Goldendale...the wildflowers in the eastern gorge desert climates are stunning and totally prime right now. Don't believe me? Just look at the ONE image I took on the hundreds of miles driven trip that was 4+ days cut short. Shot out my truck window none-the-less, from the shoulder of the road near Dalles Mountain Road.

I promised myself a return next May to retry this again - I know first week of May always treats me right for these!