Author Archive for Dennis Plank

In Memory of Don Guyot

In Memory of Don Guyot, post by Dennis Plank

Don Guyot, Intrepid South Sound Plant Rescuer at work.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Don Guyot, Intrepid South Sound Plant Rescuer at work. Photo by Andy Hopwood

 

Don Guyot resized

 

Don's original work upon which the background above was derived.

Don’s original work upon which the background above was derived.

 

The following image and text was found on the Guild of Bookworkers website.  Don was a past Vice-President at Large in that organization.  The description of the image is from Don and I suspect most of the short bio was  also as it has the feel of his writing.

Anatomy of Gray, Don Guyot

Anatomy of Gray, Don Guyot Western marbled paper executed using Colophon Water Color Marbling Inks on carragheenan medium and transferred onto Rives Lightweight gray paper; number one in an edition of six, meant to be exhibited side by side to show consistency of imaging. The degree of consistency exhibited on one’s marbled paper is the degree of mastery of the craft the marbler may claim. Since the viewer of this piece will not have the advantage of seeing the remaining five, they will be left wondering whether this particular marbler achieved the mastery sought. Having the full advantage of seeing all six sheets of the edition, the marbler can truly say that he shares in their wondering. 70 x 48 centimeters. Created 1994.

Don A. Guyot was born in 1944. Following college, Don Guyot completed a master’s degree in librarianship and began working at the Seattle Public Library. Intending to become a rare book librarian he completed a second master’s degree in ancient Greek history at the University of Washington. After becoming interested in and diverted by hand bookbinding, he left librarianship and opened a repair bindery in Seattle. He learned to marble paper largely on his own because he could not find the papers he wanted to use in his business, and began teaching workshops throughout the country. In addition to Western-style marbled papers, he also excelled in the art of suminagashi, an ancient Japanese technique of decorating paper by floating inks on water.

You are welcome to leave memories of Don as comments to this post.  Comments are not intuitive.  There’s a place at the top of the screen where it will either say “no comments on this post”  or will list the number.  Click on it to get to the comments screen.

 

Bats on the South Sound Prairies

Bats on the South Sound Prairies, Post by Greg Falxa, photos as attributed.

Greg is a member of Cascadia Research Collective and has partnered with
CNLM on bat projects since 2006. He coordinates the bat station for
Prairie Appreciation Day.

Bats on the South Sound Prairies

Most of the nine species of bats in western Washington are nightly visitors to our south Puget Sound prairies. The inventory of bat species on the prairies are essentially the same as in nearby forest, riparian and urban habitats, although their preferred habitat may vary throughout the annual cycle. For mammals of their size they are extremely mobile, with most species traveling from a few to many miles each evening to their favored foraging locations. Being so mobile allows bats to day roost in one habitat – like agricultural buildings, or hollow snags – and “commute” in the evening to a completely different habitat to forage.

A Big brown bat nursery colony in a barn on Littlerock Road (Photo: G. Falxa)

A Big brown bat nursery colony in a barn on Littlerock Road (Photo: G. Falxa)

This mobility works out well for bats feeding on insects over the prairies, because most of our prairies are a bit short on suitable roosting structures. For daytime roosting, bats generally need dark, secluded locations that are safe from predators and meet certain temperature conditions, like structures that don’t get too hot on our nice sunny days. Species that form small colonies like California bats (Myotis californicus) might find this in old decadent trees or snags, while species that form colonies of hundreds of bats, like Little brown (Myotis lucifugus) or Big brown (Eptesicus fuscus) bats will typically find the conditions they need in barns, bridges, or attics of buildings. During the June and July pupping season, the nursery colonies need additional amenities for the 4 to 6 weeks that the pups cannot fly. A warm roost with extra safety from humans and predators like cats and raccoons can be hard to come by for a large group of pregnant bats, so when a suitable location is found it tends to be used every year by the colony. The juxtaposition of the South Sound prairies with agricultural and forest lands, and JBLM, creates a good environment to support bats that can roost near the prairies and include the prairies in their foraging options.

A Silver-haired bat netted (then released) at JBLM (Photo: G. Falxa)

A Silver-haired bat netted (then released) at JBLM (Photo: G. Falxa)

Depending on the insect hatch on a given day, an individual bat may forage along a tree-lined creek or at the forested edge of a prairie, or both habitats in a single night. Some species, like the Yuma bat (Myotis yumanensis) will focus nearly all of their foraging low over open water, usually a lake like Capitol Lake or Black Lake, but during the mid-summer months many can be seen flying low over the Black River, which is almost lake-like along various stretches, including adjacent to Glacial Heritage Preserve. Most species of bats avoid foraging in the open prairie, probably because it is more exposed to being hunted by owls and raptors than forest edges. However, our 3 largest species – the Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), and Big brown bat – can be regularly heard or seen in the prairie sky. Using ultrasonic bat detectors placed at the prairies over the past 12 years we have documented nearly all of the 9 bat species in this region, and the only species not yet recorded at the prairies – Fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) – has been recorded less than 2 miles from Mima Prairie in the Capitol Forest.

A roosting Townsend’s big-eared bat (Photo: R. Davies)

A roosting Townsend’s big-eared bat (Photo: R. Davies)

Shortly after the Mima Creek Preserve was acquired, the discovery of a lone female Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) in an out building led to a 2-month investigation to locate its nursery colony. This species is relatively rare, and no colonies were known in the Black River watershed. By radio-tagging and tracking several individuals in sequence (each radio tag lasted 3 weeks) we finally located a colony of approximately 100 Townsend’s in the attic of a little used building near the Chehalis River. They were foraging and occasionally roosting all along the Black River drainage, feeding in the canopy of trees along forest – prairie boundaries.

Nursery box installed at Wolf Haven (Photo: G. Falxa)

Nursery box installed at Wolf Haven (Photo: G. Falxa)

Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) have occupied the bat box structures that have been constructed and erected at glacial Heritage, Wolf Haven, and various JBLM sites. For the past 10 years CNLM’s Sanders Freed has worked with me to develop bat house designs that are effective in this region. With support from US Fish & Wildlife, JBLM, and CNLM, we’ve experimented with designs to be used as a “nursery box” for the female bats to have a safe place to have their pups and get them to their volant stage, at about 6 weeks of age. The “evolved” design was installed at Wolf Haven in 2012 and has had over 400 adult bats in it the past few years. The bat house sits on the edge of the prairie forest interface, which is likely one of the reasons it is has been a success.

It is important to remember that each species has different habitat and roosting needs, and that a bat box built for one species may be wholly unsuitable for another. The photo below helps illustrate this – Sanders Freed is shown constructing a bat roost structure designed for Townsend’s big-eared bats, located near Muck Creek at the edge of the JBLM Artillery Impact Area. Townsend’s never use the crevice-type of bat boxes, favoring abandoned cabins, roomy attics and similar spaces.

Construction of the “Bat Temple” at JBLM (Photo: G. Falxa)

Construction of the “Bat Temple” at JBLM (Photo: G. Falxa)

In addition to habitat loss (both foraging and roosting) a concern for our bat populations has been the arrival of white-nose syndrome from the eastern U.S. In 2016 we discovered bats infected with the fungus that causes the disease which kills bats, primarily in the winter during hibernation. So far it appears to be affecting bats in the Cascade mountains and foothills, and has not yet been detected in Thurston County.

Links:

Some bat videos at local points of interest:

https://www.youtube.com/user/batsalot/videos

Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife:

https://www.wdfw.wa.gov/bats

Western Bat Working Group:

http://www.wbwg.org

Virtual Puget Sound Birdfest

Virtual Puget Sound Birdfest-Post by Dennis Plank

Following up on Adrian’s recent post here, check out the program for the Virtual Puget Sound Birdfest on September 12th and 13th on the Black Hills Audubon Website.

 

Breeding Birds Winding Down

Breeding Birds Winding Down, Post and photos by Adrian Wolf

Adrian Wolf has been working on habitat restoration projects for endangered birds for over 25 years. He attributes the inspiration to pursue this profession to his undergraduate professor at the University of California, Irvine. For his Master’s Degree at the Evergreen State College, he climbed up into the forest canopy of old growth Pacific Northwest trees to study the importance of epiphytic resources for birds. Currently, he is a Conservation Biologist with the Center for Natural Lands Management charged with restoring and recovering the imperiled avifauna of prairie oak habitats.

Breeding Birds Winding Down

The 2020 bird breeding season is slowing down, and it has certainly been an unusual one indeed. Since mid-April, the CNLM Avian Conservation Program team has spent countless hours monitoring the birds of our prairie and oak landscapes. Some of the activities have included recording color-band combinations of streaked horned larks, Oregon vesper sparrows and western bluebirds; searching for and monitoring nests; color-banding nestlings; and operating the MAPS bird banding program. This season’s activities were very different from previous years. In years past, the team gathered together on a biweekly basis, commuted together to study sites, and shared office space together for data entry; at the MAPS station, we invited volunteers and encouraged visitors.

However, this has not been possible because of the necessary precautions required under COVID-19. Sure, our lark and sparrow team maintained communications, and still paired up (social-distancing, of course) for field surveys, but it was not quite the same camaraderie typical of previous fieldwork. Despite the socially-different way of doing things, we were steadfast and achieved our deliverables for the year. This speaks to the dedication of our field crew, because each individual often worked alone. Preliminary results suggest that our conservation strategies and actions are working. For example, we estimated that at least 50 breeding pairs of larks were present at JBLM’s McChord Airfield this season – this is more than five times the estimated number when we started monitoring the site intensively in 2013. Similarly, the number of lark pairs present this season at a native prairie training area on JBLM were triple that of the estimated population in 2011. We believe that the conservation action of finding lark nests, and conveying these locations to JBLM site managers, has been a major explanation for the increase in numbers at the three sites over the years. The population of JBLM Oregon vesper sparrows at one prairie site also increased, relative to 2019. We believe that habitat restoration activities at JBLM native prairies has increased and improved the amount of suitable breeding habitat for both species. We thank JBLM Fish and Wildlife and the site managers for adopting pro-active conservation measures to protect these rare grassland birds – clearly, we are seeing the fruits of these efforts.

Streaked Horned Lark nestlings. Photo by Adrian Wolf

Streaked Horned Lark nestlings. Photo by Adrian Wolf

 

Treaked Horned Lark nestlings can be identified by the three black dots on their tongues. They young are about 4-5 days after hatching.

Streaked Horned Lark nestlings can be identified by the three black dots on their tongues. They young are about 4-5 days after hatching.

 

Two of more than 290 lark fledglings confirmed from known nests on JBLM this season, photos by Adrian Wolf.

Two of more than 290 lark fledglings confirmed from known nests on JBLM this season, photos by Adrian Wolf.

 

COVID-19 banding ops 2020 – Alicia Beverage measures the tarsus of a lark nestling.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

COVID-19 banding ops 2020 – Alicia Beverage measures the tarsus of a lark nestling. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

A lark nestling waits patiently to receive its new colors.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

A lark nestling waits patiently to receive its new colors. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

Over 150 color-banded adults were recorded in the South Puget Sound this season.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

Over 150 color-banded adults were recorded in the South Puget Sound this season. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

One of more than 60 color-marked lark nestlings this season.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

One of more than 60 color-marked lark nestlings this season. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

We operated the MAPS station at Glacial Heritage Preserve for the eighth year with a skeleton-crew of four people. We truncated the season and mist-netted birds in the oak riparian bird community on five days (instead of seven), which is still considered a complete season. The capture rates were lower, relative to previous seasons, but included wonderful feathered denizens such as Swainson’s thrush, song sparrow, MacGillivray’s warbler, a hybrid red-breasted/red-naped sapsucker, and cedar waxwings. Hopefully, next year we can once again invite visitors and volunteers to participate in this program that contributes valuable information to a nationwide program of over 400 banding stations.

The MAPS station at Glacial Heritage Preserve is located in an Oregon oak riparian woodland along the Black River.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

The MAPS station at Glacial Heritage Preserve is located in an Oregon oak riparian woodland along the Black River. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

A juvenile MacGillvray’s warbler captured at the MAPS station indicates that this species is likely breeding on the preserve.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

A juvenile MacGillvray’s warbler captured at the MAPS station indicates that this species is likely breeding on the preserve. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

Hybrid red-naped x red-breasted sapsucker captured at the Glacial Heritage Preserve MAPS station.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

Hybrid red-naped x red-breasted sapsucker captured at the Glacial Heritage Preserve MAPS station. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

A cedar waxwing captured and banded at the MAPS station is identified as an adult male by the number of waxy red tips on its secondary feathers, and the length of the yellow edging on its tail feathers.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

A cedar waxwing captured and banded at the MAPS station is identified as an adult male by the number of waxy red tips on its secondary feathers, and the length of the yellow edging on its tail feathers. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

Tansy Season

Tansy Season, Post by Dennis Plank, photos as noted.

Dennis has been getting his knees muddy and his back sore pulling Scot’s Broom on the South Sound Prairies since 1998. In 2004, when the volunteers started managing Prairie Appreciation Day, he made the mistake of sending an email asking for “lessons learned” and got elected president of Friends of Puget Prairies-a title he appropriately renamed as “Chief Cat Herder”. He has now turned that over to Gail Trotter. Along the way, he has worked with a large number of very knowledgeable people and picked up a few things about the prairie ecosystem. He loves to photograph birds and flowers.

Tansy Season

A personal perspective

My wife, Michelle, eyeing a patch of Tansy earlier this year. Photo by Dennis Plank

My wife, Michelle, eyeing a patch of Tansy earlier this year. Photo by Dennis Plank

July and August have become a very special time of year for me because of this plant. On the 6th of July my computer reminds me that “Tansy season is approaching”, a message that was quite unnecessary this year as I had already seen plants blooming on the access road to Thurston County’s Glacial Heritage Nature Preserve (hereafter Glacial) and had the pleasure of removing them.

About 14 years ago, one of our stalwart volunteers mentioned to my wife (an avid horseman) that he’d seen a lot of Tansy Ragwort on Glacial and shouldn’t she, as a horse person, do something about such a pernicious stock poison? The guilt trip worked, and she started single-handedly working on it. The first couple of years she collected the entire plants, bagged them and took them to the transfer station. If memory serves me correctly (it does so less and less as I get older), she had in excess of 40 garbage bags that first year and a similar amount the next. At the time, I was still working in Seattle and just down here on the weekends, so I think it was the third year when I started helping her on weekends and it wasn’t until I retired in 2012 that I started working it in earnest. For several years, it occupied three or four days a week in July and August. About the time we were burning out, the Center for Natural Lands Management assigned Angela winter as permanent volunteer coordinator, and she was more than willing to work at controlling Tansy on Glacial heritage and other preserves that they manage. The last three summers, we were surprised by a significant decline in the amount of this plant, which we attributed to the extremely dry conditions. Unfortunately, this year it returned with a vengeance.

Somewhere in there we realized that we really didn’t need to be taking the whole plant to the transfer station, just the flower heads. The native animals weren’t going to eat the bodies of the plants with so much else available. That reduced the number of bags to a small fraction of what they had been and was a great relief when working the interior parts of the preserve where it was a long way back to the road.

A morning's haul of tansy blooms. Photo by Dennis Plank

A morning’s haul of tansy blooms. Photo by Dennis Plank

For me this two month period has become a time of hard work, a little frustration, a little satisfaction and a whole lot of joy. The hard work part is obvious. The frustration comes because at times (like this year when we’re having a bad year for weeds in general and Tansy in particular) it seems like we’ll never get anywhere. The satisfaction comes because I can look back at what it was like when I first started helping and see that there really has been an improvement. The joy comes because I have a wonderful excuse to be out on the prairie early in the morning, alone with the flowers, birds and bugs, doing something that I consider very worthwhile.

A very healthy specimen. Photo by Dennis Plank

A very healthy specimen. Photo by Dennis Plank

 

So what’s with Tansy Ragwort?

Tansy Ragwort, Senecio jacobaea, is a plant in the sunflower family native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa and since spread by us to nearly every corner of the world. Like many composites, it is extremely successful. A single plant can produce 150,000 seeds and they can either sprout the following year or lie dormant for at least 10 years if conditions aren’t right. Additionally, the roots, which penetrate up to one foot in the ground have many adventitious buds that can sprout new plants if the parent is uprooted. The plant is listed as a biennial, but a large percentage of plants act as if they were perennials, particularly if they are cut or otherwise disturbed. In good years for the plant (bad years for us) it can form very large, nearly mono-cultural patches in disturbed soils. This year’s outbreak is also in Oregon. The image below was taken in Clackamas county.

A Tansy field in Clackamas County Oregon earlier this year. Photo by Samuel Leininger WeedWise Manager Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District

A Tansy field in Clackamas County Oregon earlier this year. Photo by Samuel Leininger WeedWise Manager Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District

 

If it were just a prolific weed, we might treat it like we do Oxeye Daisy or Hairy Cat’s Ear and pretty much live with it. However, all parts of this plant contain Pyrrolizidine alkaloids that accumulate in the liver and are poisonous to deer, horses, cattle and goats, but apparently not to sheep which are used in New Zealand as a control for the plant. Most animals will not eat the plant if there is anything else. I’ve seen people’s horse pastures in this county completely devoid of all vegetation except clumps of this plant four or five feet tall that are completely undisturbed. However, if it’s in a field that is mowed for hay, the plant will still contain the toxins after drying and animals will inadvertently ingest it. At various times, there have been outbreaks of sickness and death in cattle and or horses in various parts of the world that achieved their own disease names (Stomach Staggers in Wales, Pictou disease in Nova Scotia, in South Africa Molteno disease for horses and Dunziekte for horses, and in Norway Sirasyke) before someone figured out that they were just Tansy poisoning from tainted hay. And it’s not something that’s over. I see people with small hay fields and Tansy growing in them that are being mowed and baled in this county. Unless someone is going out the morning they mow and pulling the Tansy, it’s getting in the hay. Since the toxins are in the flowers and pollen as well, they also taint honey from bees that use the plant in any quantity and can actually make the honey carcinogenic.

It seems as if people have a fascination with toxic plants and they become a part of folklore and folk medicine. Tansy Ragwort is no exception to this. In Britain and other areas it was used extensively in folk medicine where an ointment was made by boiling it in hog grease and applied to arms legs and hips for joint pain. One source I ran across quotes: “A poultice made of the fresh leaves and applied externally two or three times in succession ‘will cure, if ever so violent, the old ache in the hucklebone known as sciatica’.” It was also used as a mouthwash for canker sores and ulcers of the throat. The wide use and knowledge of the herb led to lots of interesting colloquial names such as: St. James his wort, stagger-wort, staner-wort, ragwort, ragweed, curly doddies, stinking nanny (have I mentioned that it smells), dog standard, cankerwort, stavewort, kettle dock, felonweed, fairies horse, stinking willy, mares fart, cushag, fleawort, seggrum, jacoby, and yellow top. In places, it also became associated with witchcraft and references are made to witches riding stems of it instead of brooms.

The good side of Tansy Ragwort

On the South Puget Sound Prairies, most of the more prolifically flowering plants have gone to seed by the middle to end of July and nectar sources for late season butterflies and other pollinators are in short supply. People doing butterfly surveys say that this time of year the best place to find butterflies is the patches of Tansy. For this reason, some of the state agencies have decided to control it when it might affect neighbors, but leave it to the bio-controls when it’s on the interior of their properties.

Zerene fritillaries nectaring on Tansy Ragwort at Mima Mounds Natural Area, Photo by Brad Gill.

Zerene fritillaries nectaring on Tansy Ragwort at Mima Mounds Natural Area, Photo by Brad Gill.

Tansy is also heavily used by Crab Spiders. These little beauties lie in wait on the flower heads where their color blends in very well and ambush pollinators that come in to nectar on the blossoms.

Crab Spider with Prey, photo by Dennis Plank

Crab Spider with Prey, photo by Dennis Plank

This crab spider didn't get the dress code message, photo by Dennis Plank

This crab spider didn’t get the dress code message, photo by Dennis Plank

Many other insects also use Tansy on occasion, such as this Great Golden Digger Wasp.

Great Golden Digger Wasp, photo by Dennis Plank

Great Golden Digger Wasp, photo by Dennis Plank

Identification and Control of Tansy Ragwort

Like most plants, once you get the image in your head, it’s pretty easy to separate this plant from just about anything else. The closest look-alike is Common Tansy, which is easily mistaken driving 50 mph and seeing it in the ditches. On closer inspection, the single stems with flat clusters 3-4 inches in diameter and the absence of ray flowers on the composite blooms makes the Common Tansy easy to distinguish.

Common Tansy on a roadside in south Thurston County, Washington, photo by Dennis Plank.

Common Tansy on a roadside in south Thurston County, Washington, photo by Dennis Plank.

St John’s Wort would never be mistaken for Tansy Ragwort when seen close up, but when we’re on the prairie trying to find tansy, we are often looking several hundred yards away and the colors of the blooms are quite similar. The key is the shape of the bloom head. Tansy looks almost flat at a distance, while St John’s Wort tends to be more rounded and less dense. I‘ve traipsed quite a ways only to realize I was after the wrong weed. We had one St. John’s wort that fooled us for most of the season a few years ago. I finally got frustrated and pulled it. It may seem odd to take binoculars to pull weeds, but they save a lot of walking. Even a yellowing fern leaf turned the right way can look like a Tansy bloom head when it’s a couple of hundred yards away.

St. John's Wort, photo courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

St. John’s Wort, photo courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

Common Groundsel is another plant that somewhat resembles Tansy Ragwort in the leaf structure, but when it blooms the flowers are very small and never open very far. It is an annual and seems to have great seed life as it is common to have a flush of it the first year or two after a fire. The Center for Natural Lands Management used to use Americorps volunteers as their volunteer coordinators and we had one, who shall remain nameless, who insisted we rip out a huge patch of Groundel on a rainy, ugly day under the mistaken impression that it was Tansy Ragwort. I’m not sure I’ve forgiven her yet.

Common Groundsel, photo courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

Common Groundsel, photo courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

The final look-alike is only a problem when the plants are very small. That’s the Oxeye Daisy. The young rosettes of the species do bear a superficial resemblance, but it doesn’t take very much practice to start distinguishing the two.

Tansy and Oxeye Daisy rosettes side by side. Note the purple stems on the Tansy. Photo by Dennis Plank

Tansy and Oxeye Daisy rosettes side by side. Note the purple stems on the Tansy. Photo by Dennis Plank

Three bio-controls have been introduced in the Western US since 1959 to combat infestations of Tansy Ragwort. The first of these is the Cinnabar Moth first introduced in California in 1959. It is well established in Washington and Oregon. The moth lays its eggs on the underside of rosette leaves and the larvae eat all above ground parts of the plant, sometimes causing sufficient damage to kill it, though more often just setting it back for the season. The larvae seem particularly fond of the blossoms. Unfortunately, like most bio-controls, the population of the moths depends on the population of the Tansy, so it is most effective when there are huge infestations of the weed. When the infestation is patchy, we see relatively few plants with Cinnabar larvae (often called Tansy Tigers for their coloration) on them. Also, unless the numbers of larvae are extremely large, our experience has been that the denuded stems left by the Tigers will releaf and rebud later in the season and often produce late season flowers and seeds just when we’re very tired of looking for the plant and have let down our guard.

One of the down sides of the Cinnabar moth is that it will use a couple of native plants for as hosts for the larvae including Packera Macounii, commonly known as Siskiyou Mountain Ragwort, Macoun’s Groundsel, or Puget Groundsel.

Cinnabar Moth Larva (aka Tansy tiger) hard at work, photo by Dennis Plank.

Cinnabar Moth Larva (aka Tansy tiger) hard at work, photo by Dennis Plank.

The second of the bio-controls is the Ragwort Seed Fly (Botanophila seneciella) introduced in California in 1966 and present throughout the Pacific Northwest. This fly lays its eggs on the flower buds and the larvae dig into the bud and set up housekeeping near the base of the bud where they happily eat the entire flower. I just noticed these this year, though I’m sure they’ve been around before. They are detectable by a brown spot in the middle of the disc flowers often with some bubbles on it. The spot increases in size until the entire disc is brown and the ray flowers disappear. Unfortunately, studies have shown that only 10-40% of the flowers are predated by the bud fly larvae.

Tansy Seed Fly Larva. Microscope photo taken by teasing away the outer parts of the seed head. Photo by Dennis Plank.

Tansy Seed Fly Larva. Microscope photo taken by teasing away the outer parts of the seed head. Photo by Dennis Plank.

Flower head predated by Seed Fly Larvae, photo by Dennis Plank.

Flower head predated by Seed Fly Larvae, photo by Dennis Plank.

The third bio-control is the Ragwort Flea Beetle, Longitarsus jacobaeae. This species is primarily effective at the rosette stage where the larva attack the roots and the adults eat the leaves producing an effect called “shot holing” where the leaves are heavily perforated with BB size holes. Some people consider this the most effective of the bio-controls since the larvae attack the root crown over the winter and early spring and a late spring dry stretch can actually kill the weakened plants. I’m sure we have this beetle, but I’ve yet to identify it on a plant.

Mowing and cutting are not effective means of control as they essentially move the life cycle of the tansy into the perennial mode. One local land manager, has a practice of just breaking over the bloom stem, leaving it attached. Our experience with this technique is that unless it is done perfectly, it doesn’t kill the flowers and they still go to seed. Also the plant can continue to put out new flower heads after the first is broken.

Tansy plant that had the heads broken over and left attached earlier in the season. Note the mature seed head in the yellow circle. Photo by Dennis Plank.

Tansy plant that had the heads broken over and left attached earlier in the season. Note the mature seed head in the yellow circle. Photo by Dennis Plank.

There are herbicides that are considered effective, though they need to be used with care. Apparently they make the plant more palatable, so for the first few weeks after application it’s necessary to keep the grazers away from those plants as the poisons don’t go away.

As mentioned above, New Zealand has had good success using sheep to graze infected areas in the early season, so that could be a viable approach.

An accidental discovery happened at the CNLM Mima Creek preserve a few miles south of Glacial Heritage. This is an old farm with low lying pastures pretty much in the Black River flood plain. Several years ago, it had a very bad Tansy Ragwort infestation and volunteers and staff from CNLM put an enormous number of hours into just topping the plants as an emergency measure to keep seed from getting into neighboring hay fields. Then the beaver moved in and raised the water table a bit and suddenly there was no more Tansy. Hopefully, they’ll keep up the good work. Since it is being managed for the Oregon Spotted Frog (which has found its way there), the raised water table is a good thing.

The last control method, and the one we’ve been using with some success (though this year feels like a major setback), is simply digging the plant out with as much of the root as we can get, bagging the flower heads, and leaving the stem and leaf on the prairie. It’s crude, but eventually seems to do the trick, though there are patches with deep roots that do keep coming back.

Dead Tansy in the Middle of the Road (heads were removed and bagged after taking this photo). Photo by Dennis Plank

Dead Tansy in the Middle of the Road (heads were removed and bagged after taking this photo). Photo by Dennis Plank

Happy Tansy Hunting.

References

USDA NRCS Plant Guide on Tansy Ragwort

World of Weeds: Tansy Ragwort

Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board Brochure

Uses of Tansy Ragwort in Magic

Art Cornwall: Tansy in Witchcraft

Botanical.com (A modern herbal) on Tansy Ragwort

The Herbal Supplement Resource on Tansy Ragwort

Article on Tansy Contamination of Honey

Senescence

Senescence, Post and photos by Dennis Plank

Senescence

Dennis has been getting his knees muddy and his back sore pulling Scot’s Broom on the South Sound Prairies since 1998. In 2004, when the volunteers started managing Prairie Appreciation Day, he made the mistake of sending an email asking for “lessons learned” and got elected president of Friends of Puget Prairies-a title he appropriately renamed as “Chief Cat Herder”. He has now turned that over to Gail Trotter. Along the way, he has worked with a large number of very knowledgeable people and picked up a few things about the prairie ecosystem. He loves to photograph birds and flowers.

This time of year the prairies remind me of an aging genius. Most of its productive life is behind it, stored in seeds. Waiting. Waiting for just the right conditions to flourish and create yet another generation. But here and there, buried in the uniform gold of the grasses, are sparks of life still perpetuating the current generation and bringing great beauty in the process.

Panorama view of Glacial Heritage, photo by Dennis Plank

Panorama view of Glacial Heritage, photo by Dennis Plank

Of the natives, the most obvious is Canada Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis, growing in isolated patches on the prairies, predominantly on roadsides, but here and there on the open prairie. When I first started volunteering here, there was none of this beautiful plant on Glacial Heritage, nor do I recall seeing any on Mima Mounds. Now the clumps of this plant are fairly common and it is a lovely addition to the late summer prairie as well as an excellent late season nectar source.

Canada Goldenrod on Glacial Heritage Preserve, photo by Dennis Plank

Canada Goldenrod on Glacial Heritage Preserve, photo by Dennis Plank

Another goldenrod, Solidago missouriensis, is also blooming this time of year and in favorable situations may be visible above the grasses. It tends to be found as individual plants, though more concentrated in some areas. I tend to find it in areas of slightly better soil and a bit more moisture, though there is little of that on the prairie this time of year. I describe our soil as having all the water retention of a sieve since it is basically a gravel bar with a very thin layer of organic soil on the top.

Solidago misssouriensis, Missouri Goldenrod, photo by Dennis Plank

Solidago missouriensis, Missouri Goldenrod, photo by Dennis Plank

Continuing with the composites, Western Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea, is also in bloom, though small white heads are relatively inconspicuous and it tends not to rise above the grasses, particularly the invasive pasture grasses.

Pearly Everlasting taken in a neighbors yard, photo by Dennis Plank

Pearly Everlasting taken in a neighbors yard, photo by Dennis Plank

A close-up look at the Pearly Everlasting blossoms, photo by Dennis Plank

A close-up look at the Pearly Everlasting blossoms, photo by Dennis Plank

A similarly inconspicuous white flower is Pussytoes, Antennaria howellii. This species tends to be even shorter than the Pearly Everlasting and while found in loose groups does not form a bunch like the Pearly Everlasting that’s illustrated above.

Pussytoes, photo by Dennis Plank

Pussytoes, photo by Dennis Plank

Spreading Dogbane, Apocynum androsaemifolium, is also supposed to be blooming this time of year, but I haven’t been able to find one with blooms yet. This is a spreading woody plant that can form quite large patches and is a very important nectar source this time of year.

Another plant still blooming is Scouler’s Catchfly, also known as Simple Catchfly or Simple Campion, Silene scouleri. I’ve also heard it called Stickyweed because it does stick to your fingers. Like most of the plants this time of year, it’s not very showy, so you have to look closely to appreciate it.

Scouler's Catchfly, photo by Dennis Plank

Scouler’s Catchfly, photo by Dennis Plank

A close-up of the blossoms of Scouler's Catchfly, Photo by Dennis Plank

A close-up of the blossoms of Scouler’s Catchfly, Photo by Dennis Plank

Of the earlier plants, Showy Fleabane is still in bloom here and there, though it’s starting to look pretty ragged. The Harebell is still blooming, though in lesser numbers and it will continue well into the fall. On well vegetated mounds, one can still find the prairie violet, Viola adunca, blooming as well.

Among the non-natives, even the Oxeye Daisy and the St. John’s Wort have almost finished, but a new and unwelcome star has risen above the prairie and that is Tansy Ragwort. Like many plants this year, native and non-native, this one has done extremely well. The last few years there wasn’t much of it, but this year t is very abundant. But more on this plant in a later post. Hairy Cat’s Ear, Hypochaeris radicata, is also still blooming and never seems to stop, though I know it will by fall.

Tansy Ragwort, photo by Dennis Plank

Tansy Ragwort, photo by Dennis Plank

The birds are pretty much done making babies for this year. Now it’s time for them to learn how to be adults. In my last few visits to Glacial Heritage, I’ve seen hundreds of swallows on the power lines and fences along the entrance road, a flock of 10 Western Meadowlarks (probably the offspring of a single male and his two mates), and a flock of six American Kestrels-again probably a family group. Around our own property, the Western Bluebirds have fledged their second crop of youngsters with the help of some of the first brood and now have them secreted somewhere until they’re old enough to bring back (probably within the week). They have been known to raise three broods, and that’s a possibility this year as the relatively wet spring produced a lot of foliage and that’s been followed by lots of grasshoppers which make excellent Bluebird food. We have a large number of juvenile American Goldfinches coming to the feeders. They learn to feed themselves quickly, but until they do they have a plaintive cry that is easily rendered as “feed me”. Usually, they raise two sets of young in a season, with the male taking over rearing after the first batch fledges and the female taking up with another male (usually an inexperienced first year bird) for the second crop. We saw a female feeding young today, which is a good sign that the second crop of this species is starting to fledge.

Juvenile American Goldfinch, photo by Dennis Plank

Juvenile American Goldfinch, photo by Dennis Plank

Another sure sign of this time of summer is that the Yellowjackets are starting to make their presence felt. I was digging out Tansy on Glacial Heritage recently and ran afoul of a nest, so keep your ears open for them.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife: Voluntary habitat restoration on private lands

Partners for Fish and Wildlife: Voluntary habitat restoration on private lands, Post by Nick George, Photos as attributed.

Nick George is the Washington state coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. He has worked with private landowners to restore native habitat for the majority of his 10-year career in natural resources, including his time with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Originally from Upstate New York, Nick has had the opportunity to work in multiple states including Texas, North Dakota, Montana, and Illinois. He is excited to find that South Puget Sound has such tremendous enthusiasm and opportunity for habitat restoration. At each stop, he has picked up a new tip or trick from practitioners and private landowners on how to restore habitat efficiently and effectively. Nick, his son, and wife currently live in Thurston County and are enjoying their first summer in Washington. For more information on the Partners program, please contact Nick at (360) 522-0545 or email Nicholas_george@fws.gov.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife: Voluntary habitat restoration on private lands

Hello, I’m new here. I was looking forward to meeting most of you during my first Prairie Appreciation Day, but obviously, that plan was spoiled due to our current situation. I come to you most recently from the Midwest, Illinois to be specific, and have worked extensively on restoring prairie and other habitats for native plant and wildlife species.

Although I am not yet an expert in restoring South Puget Sound prairies, many of the restoration concepts and habitat threats translate from my previous work (e.g. site preparation is key, habitat loss from human development can be overwhelming, invasive species are stubborn, etc.)

Nick George (USFWS Biologist) stands with a proud landowner after the completion of a project; Photo Credit: Debbie Newman/Illinois Natural Heritage

Nick George (USFWS Biologist) stands with a proud landowner after the completion of a project; Photo Credit: Debbie Newman/Illinois Natural Heritage

With this short post, I would like to first ask you a question – Are you familiar with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program? The Partners program (for short) is a great resource for private landowners who are interested in habitat restoration. Landowners have the opportunity to obtain technical, and in some cases financial, assistance for practices they are looking to implement on their property.

For a little over a decade, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Lacey has assisted with the restoration and enhancement of prairie habitat throughout South Puget Sound. The program has collaborated with the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM), the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and many other conservation organizations to successfully implement these projects on privately owned property. However, with the assumption the program may be new to your ears, or I guess eyes in this case, I will cover the basics.

The Partners Program is a voluntary habitat restoration program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). All private landowners who want to restore and protect priority wildlife habitat areas on their property are eligible to participate. Current partners include farmers, ranchers, recreational landowners, land trusts, corporations, and local governments. The program helps private landowners conserve the Nation’s biological diversity and habitat integrity by reducing habitat fragmentation, increasing habitat for various plant and animal species, and supporting threatened and endangered communities.

Using prescribed fire to restore native prairie in Illinois; Photo Credit: Nick George/USFWS

Using prescribed fire to restore native prairie in Illinois; Photo Credit: Nick George/USFWS

The primary goal of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is for each restoration project to reflect the needs of the landowner, as well as the priorities set by the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife office. Participating landowners continue to own and manage their land to serve their needs while they improve conditions for wildlife. Here in South Sound, the Partners Program has multiple objectives. The first objective relevant to this forum is the restoration and enhancement of native prairie habitat to benefit priority species such as Mazama pocket gopher, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, streak horned lark, and Golden paintbrush, just to name a few.

Mazama pocket gopher; Photo Credit: USFWS

Mazama pocket gopher; Photo Credit: USFWS

Restoring hydrology and enhancing shallow wetland and riparian habitat is another priority for the local Partners Program. This habitat type is critical for the federally threatened Oregon spotted frog to live a healthy and complete life cycle.

Oregon spotted frog; Photo Credit: Teal Waterstrat/USFWS

Oregon spotted frog; Photo Credit: Teal Waterstrat/USFWS

The projects that would be associated with these objectives could take place on a variety of property types. Although a 1,000-acre prairie reserve, 5-acre backyard for wildlife viewing, and 100-acre pasture for cattle produce different levels of benefit, all are equally important to protect and restore.

For more information on the Partners Program, or to find out what is available in your specific area, please feel free to contact me to discuss your property and potentially set up a site visit, when the situation allows.

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly; Photo Credit: Zach Radmer/USFWS

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly; Photo Credit: Zach Radmer/USFWS

 

“We Should Do Forbs!”

“We should do forbs!”, Post and photos by Andy Hopwood

Andy Hopwood is a native seed specialist with the Center for Natural Lands Management, South Sound Conservation Nursery and a co-manager of the Native Plant Salvage Foundation’s nursery.

“We should do forbs!”

Aquilegia Formosa, Red Columbine.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Aquilegia Formosa, Red Columbine. Photo by Andy Hopwood

Native Plant Salvage Foundation encourages gardening with native plants. In 2016 we were challenged to expand the foundation’s nursery’s focus to propagating our native woodies and broadly to, “do forbs”. Our herbaceous palette began with those few species we could find during our regular winter salvages in the woods. Finding plants in January and February is challenging so we extended our winter salvages into spring, beyond the emergence of Trillium ovatum. Don Guyot, plant rescuer and South Sound Prairie friend, helped us turn rescued Trillium into our first propagated native perennial. Start with the hard plants.

Don Guyot, Intrepid South Sound Plant Rescuer at work with Trillium ovatum.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Don Guyot, Intrepid South Sound Plant Rescuer at work with Trillium ovatum. Photo by Andy Hopwood

Trillium is an unmistakable plant in a garden but is challenging to grow. Don suggested, since we had some years to wait for the Trillium, that we make a leap and broaden our palette to South Sound Prairie plants. What should we grow? How would they fare in gardens? Would people use them? We started growing small blocks of a few showier perennials that we thought gardeners would find interesting. Aquilegia Formosa, Columbine, is a wonderful addition to sunny spots. Erigeron speciosus, Showy Fleabane, brings a summer burst of long-lasting color. Symphyotrichum subspicatum, Douglas Aster, can be grown as a seasonal privacy screen that holds color into fall.

Erigeron speciosus, Showy Fleabane.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Erigeron speciosus, Showy Fleabane. Photo by Andy Hopwood

In most instances, prairie plants fare well in a garden as long as they aren’t too shaded. Quite a few grow more robustly when afforded some shade and the extra moisture of a watered garden. All should be able to survive without watering. The variety of prairie species affords opportunities throughout a garden. The selection of native plants is an individual gardeners choice but one with advantages. Native plants are adapted to local conditions and serve as important food sources. Pollinators love them!

Plectritis congesta, Rosy Plectritis or Sea Blush with pollinator.  Photo by Andy Hopwood.

Plectritis congesta, Rosy Plectritis or Sea Blush with pollinator. Photo by Andy Hopwood.

What started with growing a few perennials has expanded to a collection of perennials, the use of graminoids, and the introduction of annuals. Gardens can be outlined with bunch grasses, with large statement perennials, and splashes of competing and changing annuals. If you are gardening, you should try some of our forbs.

Two of Andy's garden beds.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Two of my garden beds. The primary plants are Gilia capitata, Blue Thimble Flower, and Sidalcea hendersonii, Henderson’s Checker Mallow Photo by Andy Hopwood

To learn more about the Native Plant Salvage Foundation and their nursery and plant sales check out their website. You can learn specifically about the nursery on their Facebook page.

 

 

Update on Potential Seatac Size Airport in South Thurston County

Update on Potential Seatac Size Airport in South Thurston County, Post by Dennis Plank

The County council turned down the idea of an airport here and the Port of Olympia specifically turned down the idea of a South Thurston County airport by a vote of 3-0 and the idea of expanding the existing airport by a vote of 2-1.  This issue looks dead for now, but these things have a way of rearing their ugly heads again and there are plenty of other development hungry folks eyeing all the “empty” space in this part of the county, so keep your eyes open.

Thanks to everyone who provided their input to the County Council and the Port Council.  Without active citizen participation, our government often does very stupid things.

Scotch Broom Ecology and Management Symposium on YouTube

Scotch Broom on the march. The road edge of an undeveloped lot, Photo by Dennis Plank

Scotch Broom on the march. The road edge of an undeveloped lot, Photo by Dennis Plank

We announced the Scotch Broom Ecology and Management Symposium a few weeks ago in this blog.  We’ve now received word that the entire session is available on Youtube.  You can go to The Washington Invasive Species Council website to connect to it.  Lots of good information on the continuing fight against this pernicious invasive.

Scotch Broom Seed Density. Photo by Dennis Plank

Scotch Broom Seed Density. Photo by Dennis Plank