Author Archive for Site Admin

Fun in the Field – Memories of the Christmas Bird Count

Fun in the Field – Memories of the Christmas Bird Count, post by Mary O’Neil, photos as attributed.

Mary was born an Oregonian, but adopted Washington as her home state in her early 20’s. She lived most of her life in the Puget Sound/Seattle area relocating to Grays Harbor in 2005 when she retired from her career as a Ship Agent. After retirement she took a part time job with the Lake Quinault Lodge as an Interpretive Program Worker leading guided walks in the woods pointing out the birds, animals and plants of the Pacific Northwest Rainforest.

Mary was inspired to take up Bird Watching by her sisters, all 3 of which are avid Bird Watchers. She studied with the Rainier Chapter of Audubon of Washington and continues to expand her horizons with private study through Cornell University and its Ebird extension as well as Bird Canada’s study programs.

Mary has worked with Dan Varland of Coastal Raptors doing Beach Surveys for raptors like Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles. Prior to moving to Grays Harbor, she had assisted in the monthly Kent Ponds Survey which was conducted to prove to the City of Kent, Washington, that the little area surrounding these ponds was vital for the preservation of wild life, particularly birds and water fowl. It was there she enjoyed the very rare sighting of the Baikal Teal and rare to Western Washington Yellow Breasted Chat. Mary has worked with the Shorebird Festival over the last 15 years assisting in guiding various tours. Mary currently serves on the Board of the Grays Harbor Audubon Society. She is active in the Habitat Committee and is the current Field Trip Coordinator.

FUN in the FIELD

Memories of the Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird Count got its start at the beginning of the last century, but I didn’t get involved until the beginning of the 21st Century. In the fall of 2001, I took a bird identification class through the Rainier Chapter of the Audubon Society (in South King County). Our teacher kept us involved with field trips and bird surveys over the next couple of months. She invited us to join her on the Christmas Bird count although she let us know this was very serious and not normally open to beginners. A number of us tagged along behind her as she methodically counted her territory – the DesMoines, Normandy Park area of South Seattle. I remember we took a break around 2 pm at her friend’s place off of S. 200th and DesMoines Memorial Drive. While some were sipping tea and relaxing, others of us walked a side street where we were very much entertained by a flock of drunken robins. It was fairly easy to count the robins as they would feed on the fermented berries until they would litterally fall out of the tree and flounder on the ground until their stupor wore off enough to return to the tree to continue feasting. The festive mood got a little intense when a Sharp-Shinned Hawk moved in to watch the drunken brawl as well. Our teacher was trying to get us to move along and was a bit reluctant to check out a bird I spotted which looked quite different to me. Finally at my insistence, she set her scope and zeroed in on the Townsend Warbler. It was my first, and she ended up being very delighted to add it to her CBC list.

Townsend's Warbler, photo by Tammy Mandeville.  This is her first Townsend's Warbler and was photographed very recently at the retention ponds in Lacey, WA.

Townsend’s Warbler, photo by Tammy Mandeville. This is her first Townsend’s Warbler and was photographed very recently at the retention ponds in Lacey, WA.

 

After moving to Grays Harbor, I eagerly signed up with the GHAS chapter of Audubon and have participated in their CBC ever since with minor exceptions. One year I helped with a group that covered the Westport area of the Grays Harbor Circle. We parked at roads end near the (now) Shop’n Kart Grocery. One in our group who was far more physically fit than myself and another older gentlemen offered to scout along the edge of the marshland. Meanwhile we were to check out the side streets and park area. It was a biting cold day and few birds were showing themselves. The older gentleman and myself settled in the van waiting for the third person to return. While in the van, I pointed out a distant leafless tree – Big Leaf Maple, perhaps. At the top I could see some birds flitting about. At the time, my optics were very poor and I could make out no details on these distant blips. I tried pointing them out the fellow with whom I was sharing the van. Once he caught sight of them, he said: Common Redpolls. I said, “No. We are too far away for you to be able to say what kind of birds those are.” “Common Redpolls” he said again. “You can tell by the way they are behaving.” Finally he sacrificed the security of the van to brave the icy weather. He set up his scope and, sure enough, Common Redpolls. This was my first and only time I have ever seen Common Redpolls. When the third person in our party returned, he was very cold but very excited about finding one of the rarest birds of that CBC, a Harris Sparrow.

The rag-tag crew is me and my sisters and a nephew:  l to r:  Tanner Pinkal, Rita Schlageter, Mary O'Neil, Margaret Beitel and Cecilia Pinkal at Ocean Shores

The rag-tag crew is me and my sisters and a nephew: l to r: Tanner Pinkal, Rita Schlageter, Mary O’Neil, Margaret Beitel and Cecilia Pinkal at Ocean Shores

 

I think the point I am trying to make is: Even if you do not consider yourself and Ace Birder, your ‘third eye’ is going to be a valuable contribution to the group effort. Beginner, Tag Along or Master Birder – it’s calling attention to that brief flick of motion that creates a scientific record dating back 120 years now. I’ll miss the compilation party this year but hope to make up for it in years to come.

Beautiful Moments on the Prairie: Renewed Life from Seeds

Beautiful Moments on the Prairie: Renewed Life from Seeds.  Post and Photos by Meredith Rafferty

Meredith is a photographer who marvels at the world around us, night and day. Her happiest moments are connecting with nature and capturing special moments to share with others. She volunteers with the Center for Natural Lands Management and the Nisqually Land Trust, and is past President of the Olympia Camera Club. She delights in the wonders of the Pacific Northwest, from prairies to mountains, rivers to Puget Sound, morning sunrises to magical night skies. You are welcome to explore with her on Instagram.com/ImageConnections.

Beautiful Moments on the Prairie: Renewed Life from Seeds

Volunteering on the South Puget Sound Prairies is always an adventure. I’ve enjoyed every outing for its discovery and learning. I started with Scotch broom pulling, a straight-forward task, and discovered a larger world of complex prairie restoration.

While out on the prairie, I was of course first attracted to the blooming wildflowers. But there was much, much more to the story of the prairies. My next discovery came inside at the “volunteer house” at Glacial Heritage. Walking in, I found volunteers seated at tables, very engrossed, heads down, with bright lights focused on small piles of debris in front of them. I heard murmurs of “doe-hee” which I thought might be a common name for a plant liked by deer. And “viper” brought up images of a snakelike shape. On the tables were small manila envelopes marked with “SCS” (hmmm, was that Second Class Sorting?}.

The volunteers emptied the contents into round brass tins with screening across the bottoms. They shook the tins and then I could see the seeds falling through, leaving behind much of the bits of leaves, seed pods and such. Many of the seeds were tiny. Placed on a white plate to heighten their visibility, they were further separated from the chaff using hand tools into small piles of very clean, single seeds.

Volunteer Don Guyot, whose hands you see in these photos, was one of the best at the intricate work of coaxing small seeds away from the plant debris. This hand work is reserved for small amounts of collected seed. Larger amounts from the seed farm are processed mechanically as much as possible. Sometimes the seed pods needed to be broken apart to release the seed. In the left photo, Don used a hunk of board to grind the pods and encourage the seed to fall through the tin’s screen. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

Volunteer Don Guyot, whose hands you see in these photos, was one of the best at the intricate work of coaxing small seeds away from the plant debris. This hand work is reserved for small amounts of collected seed. Larger amounts from the seed farm are processed mechanically as much as possible. Sometimes the seed pods needed to be broken apart to release the seed. In the left photo, Don used a hunk of board to grind the pods and encourage the seed to fall through the tin’s screen. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

 

It turned out that “doe-hee” was actually the acronym DOHE which stood for the early Spring wildflower, Dodecatheon hendersonii. And VIPR stood for the yellow-flowered Viola praemorsa. Their seeds had been collected on the prairies at SCS which was the property, Scatter Creek South. Indeed, wildflower seeds are collected at a dozen different conservation sites across the South Puget Sound prairies and the manila envelopes were marked with their locations. The four-letter plant acronyms have now expanded to six letters. Acronyms are formed from the plant’s Latin name, using the first three letters of each part of the name. Accurate identification and labeling are critical to maintaining the genetics, inventory, and production of hundreds of different native plants.

Dodecatheon hendersonii is the unique Shooting Star of Springtime. It presents a photography challenge to get down at eye level to capture its downward pointed shape. The seed pods will form as shown in the right photo (hey, there’s a surprise occupant in the bottom seedpod!) The ripe seeds usually shake right out but are tiny and must be carefully contained. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

Dodecatheon hendersonii is the unique Shooting Star of Springtime. It presents a photography challenge to get down at eye level to capture its downward pointed shape. The seed pods will form as shown in the right photo (hey, there’s a surprise occupant in the bottom seedpod!) The ripe seeds usually shake right out but are tiny and must be carefully contained. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

 

The fuzzy leaves of Viola praemorsa become apparent when viewed closely. The yellow flower will yield a seedpod to be picked when it is ripe. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

The fuzzy leaves of Viola praemorsa become apparent when viewed closely. The yellow flower will yield a seedpod to be picked when it is ripe. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

 

In those earlier days of my first visit, much of the wildflower seed collected from the areas were cleaned by hand. Volunteer Gail Trotter still regularly contributes her experience to help out. But now CNLM staff member Forrest Edelman applies mechanized tools along with hand labor, to produce piles of clean, single seeds. He cleans not only the wild-collected seed but also the quantities produced by the Violet Prairie Seed Farm in the Tenino area.

Forrest Edelman readies a collection of Sericocarpus rigidis, also known as Aster curtus. It is a challenge to separate the seed from its fluffy part (I’m sure there’s a technical name for the fluff). Mechanical extraction works. Other seeds require other machinery. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

Forrest Edelman readies a collection of Sericocarpus rigidis, also known as Aster curtus. It is a challenge to separate the seed from its fluffy part (I’m sure there’s a technical name for the fluff). Mechanical extraction works. Other seeds require other machinery. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

 

Seriocarpus rigidus Seedhead MRafferty reduced

Seriocarpus rigidus seedhead, Poto by Meredith Rafferty

Ultimately, all this preparation of the seeds brings us to the next critical phase of restoration: planting which includes its site preparation. Some types of seeds will be sown directly at their conservation or farm sites; others will be planted in “plugs” in a nursery setting and later transplanted.

Starting seeds in “plugs” enables closer management of their growing conditions and easier transporting to their final destinations. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

Starting seeds in “plugs” enables closer management of their growing conditions and easier transporting to their final destinations. Photos by Meredith Rafferty

 

Pictured are the seed cleaning and nursery operations at CNLM’s Shotwell’s Landing site. Spring brings a burst of life in its beds beside the Black River. Photo by Meredith Rafferty

Pictured are the seed cleaning and nursery operations at CNLM’s Shotwell’s Landing site. Spring brings a burst of life in its beds beside the Black River. Photo by Meredith Rafferty

 

The moment of truth will be when the plants start popping up, reaching for the sun, on their way to be part of the prairie ecosystem. But there is more to the journey before planting. Indeed, in the next blog, let’s go to the wildflower seed collection. It turned out to be an interesting and far-ranging process.

Intrepid Inspectors

Intrepid Inspectors, Post and Photos by Keith Muggoch

Howdy everyone, I am Keith Muggoch and I have lived in Washington all my life, with my beginning years growing up in Olympia. Early on I spent as much time as I was able outside. In high school I started hiking and climbing around the Cascades and Olympics and became quite keen on the experiences I had in the mountains. I also enjoyed being on the water around lower Puget Sound. I moved to Leavenworth in the 70s and concentrated on rock climbing for several years, becoming a carpenter to feed my habit. After a time the physical toll my activities took on my body made me rethink my direction a bit. So I went to school and achieved a degree in civil engineering, using my head instead of my body. After graduating WSU 1993 I took a job with Ferry County Public Works working all over the county and living a bit west of Malo. The country thereabouts is very beautiful, a mix of Cascade and Rocky Mountain bio-zones. I spent my off hours hiking about and took up paddling again on the Columbia and Kettle Rivers and enjoying canoeing in the San Juans while on vacation. I left my job in Ferry County and came to work for Lewis County Public Works in 2007, though I kept my house in Ferry County and still spend considerable time there. Since being back on this side of the crest I spend a lot of time paddling about all over between the Columbia and Clay0quot Sound. I still get into the mountains on a hike now and then, as Rainier is so close as are the Olympics. As I am now retired I have decided to give back to the community and help out here at the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust. I love paddling on the Chehalis so it is a real joy helping preserve it. So there is a bit about me, hope to see you at the members meeting on the 16th or maybe even on the water.

Intrepid Inspectors

I am Keith Muggoch and am happy to be a part of a team of folks that monitor thousands of acres in the Chehalis river basin. The Chehalis River Basin Land Trust (CRBLT) are stewards to approximately 4500 acres of land in the Chehalis River Basin.

Lazy Afternoon on the Chehalis, photo by Keith Muggoch

Lazy Afternoon on the Chehalis, photo by Keith Muggoch

This basin is a unique, and for western Washington, a relatively undiscovered and undeveloped landscape. Our stewardship consists of conservation, protection and restoration of the lands under our care. About half of the lands we visit are owned by CRBLT and about half are conservation easements. In order to help manage these properties we monitor them by visiting them once a year and it is a delightful experience. The parcels vary in size and character and each has its own potential, and problems. We set out about twenty times a year on our goings-over. We go afoot mostly but with some kayak/canoe trips too, whichever suits the site’s accessibility.

Intrepid Inspectors on the Wiskah, photo by Keith Muggoch

Intrepid Inspectors on the Wiskah, photo by Keith Muggoch

For most sites a typical visit is hiking through the parcel to determine how the land has changed during the previous year. Our parcels consist of riparian, wetland, prairie and forest environments. Some are easily accessible and others not so much, which is why we take to our boats for some of the parcels. When we evaluate a property we look for; littering, dumping and destruction of vegetation. We have noted anything from illegal docks to the odd couch to the more mundane beer cans and not so mundane cedar piracy. Also we note the invasive species, English Ivy, Scots Broom and Reed Canary Grass come to mind. There are also meandering rivers and occasional erosion problems. These visits are all documented with written reports and are documented on a tablet with photos and GPS; we also fly a drone over some of the parcels, allowing us to view lands not accessible by foot or water. Over time we form a record for each parcel and that gives the CRBLT an excellent overview of the properties.

Green Heron, left and Kingfisher, right, photos by Keith Muggoch

Green Heron, left and Kingfisher, right, photos by Keith Muggoch

With this information we can determine what course of action we believe we should pursue with each property. Much of the property we review is older second growth and is in excellent shape, and so is left to mother nature to manage on her own. We have also looked at a parcel and determined that human intervention has been too intrusive. An old logging railway on the Hoquiam River comes to mind, in this instance a railway embankment cut a brackish slough in two. We were able to procure a grant that will allow us to reunite the two pieces of this slough into one as well as remove several culverts along the railway embankment. So we are able to restore salmon habitat as a result of our intrepid inspectors’ efforts, along with many others help.

Wetlands Near Hoquiam River, photo by Keith Muggoch

Wetlands Near Hoquiam River, photo by Keith Muggoch

We also are able to get a handle on invasive species before they get well established, it’s so cool to be able to remove an ivy patch before it starts strangling the trees and smothering the understory. All of this is very rewarding, but most rewarding is being able to visit these properties knowing that they will be there next year without worrying about whether they will be appreciably changed from this point forward.

Greater Yellowlegs, photo by Keith Muggoch

Greater Yellowlegs, photo by Keith Muggoch

Look us up on Facebook or the web at www.chehalislandtrust.org to get a closer look at how we are helping the beautiful Chehalis River overcome some of the wrongs of the past. Get in touch with us if you would like to become more familiar with this treasure hidden within within our midst.

On the Chehalis River, photo by Keith Muggoch

On the Chehalis River, photo by Keith Muggoch

 

Otters on the Chehalis, photo by Keith Muggoch

Otters on the Chehalis, photo by Keith Muggoch