Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Artist Reception at Marianwood Art Gallery tomorrow

Hello friends-Just a quick note to invite anyone who might be interested in coming by to see the “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” photography exhibition being shown at the Marrianwood Art Gallery up on the Sammamish Plateau. The show runs until May 31st but tomorrow night happens to be the artists reception to have a little bit of fun. I’ll also have a table set up with extra unframed matted prints, some cards, and even my guidebook series of books for people to browse over if they are bored. Ha.
This is a continuation of the artEAST winter gallery show that was in Issaquah for the month of February at the UpFront Gallery – I haven’t even seen the gallery yet so I’ll be curious how it is set up there actually. For an interesting side note….turns out the quartet music that is lined up for this is a quartet made up of four members of the Evergreen Philharmonic Orchestra in Issaquah, of which the viola player will be my own daughter. We didn’t even realize that until just a week or two ago – funny! Pretty cool….
Thanks for your time and maybe I’ll see a few of you there tomorrow evening!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What a beak...the Evening Grosbeak

Here we have a rather uncommon bird that many of you may not have experienced yet. But one thing is almost for certain: if you see one, you will see many more! Moving around often in large flocks, the evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) can fill your surrounding trees with a loud chorus and also drain your large birdfeeders of sunflower seeds in a hurry.
About 140 years ago, English-speaking settlers in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains came across a beautiful big-beaked bird that appeared mysteriously from somewhere in the distant west. They named it evening grosbeak in the mistaken belief that it came out of the woods to sing only after sundown. The species today has expanded its range---prior to 1890, they were unknown east of the Great Lakes, whereas today they continue to expand their breeding range throughout the East. Thus not until recent times (historically speaking) have they even been known to exist to white settlers. The modern day abundance of sunflower seeds at feeding stations is one of the keys to its range expansion as the seeds available have extended the chances of them being able to survive the winters in areas their native wintering seeds (primarily seeds from the cones of spruce, balsam fir, and pine trees) never existed!

The evening grosbeak is considered a very common bird…if you are lucky enough to have them around. However, they are very spotty in their distribution and while one area might be overwhelmed with dozens of them the next areas will not have a single specimen. They are an erratic migrant in winter as the occurrence of their flocks is unpredictable. They are large, gregarious, nomadic finches that travel in raucous flocks. During the winter, evening grosbeaks are irregularly common, sometimes appearing in large flocks at feeders where they can devour huge amounts of sunflower seeds. I can’t describe the amazing sense you experience when getting the opportunity to stand outside and listen to a flock of 30 or 40 of them all chirping! The chorus of chatter they create is absolutely lovely!
A fascinating feature about this bird is of course its beak. The evening grosbeak's bill is bone color during winter, but it undergoes a dramatic change in pigmentation in early spring. Its new color matches precisely the green of fresh deciduous buds and leaves and also the new needles that will tip the spruce boughs around the site where the bird's nest will be built a few weeks thereafter. The evening grosbeak conceals its body in the trees and in order to see lifts only its head and bill, which looks like a young green spruce or balsam cone. This is a terrific example of protection through appropriate coloration!

Certainly no farmer will wish to take away from them the weed seeds they devour. A grosbeak getting all its daily energy from budworm larvae would eat 1000 a day. These birds crowd into budworm infested areas to breed and raise young, then move elsewhere when the infestation declines. Because of its appetite for this destructive pest, the evening grosbeak is one of our most beneficial birds! So while they are not as common as our summer visitors, the black-headed grosbeaks, they certainly are a joy to experience if you are so lucky to have them at your feeders during their times passing here in the area!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Peaceful wanderings in the Pack Forest

A very wet past 72 hours got me antsy to go hike more new areas for future projects and get a good fix of waterfall hunting in the meantime. The Pack Forest lands south of Eatonville offer a wonderful opportunity for peaceful lonely roaming and there are many trails and roads to choose from. With the dark "dripping" clouds hanging on tight to the foothills my friend and I decided to leave places like Hugo Peak for a second visit in coming weeks, thus we opted to roam northward and enjoy the waterfalls along a stunning gorge where the Little Mashel River flows toward Eatonville where it joins the Mashel River.

What a stellar day of moss and water! The heavy rains of the previous 3 days had the river flowing at a very strong level causing numerous other smaller waterfalls to be cascading over the cliffs than you might normally see, I would have to assume. The overcast light, fresh green moss and leaves coming out, all made for a very lush peaceful setting. And very muddy to slop around in - I think we almost filled our boots with mud on a few occasions as we hiked down toward Lower Mashel Falls!

Return visit will have to happen to fully appreciate roaming the highlands up around Hugo Peak and the Trail of Giants. Western Trillium was starting to bloom in force, Red-flowering Current was blooming near the river, and water was the enjoyment for the day to go along with wonderful company of a good friend. Thanks Michael.