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Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dry Run

A perfect, glorious day means getting out for that first taste of the dry side.  My first thought was to go looking for blooming cactus.  My GPS had other ideas, however.  The cactus area is remote and trackless, for the most part.  While I am pretty familiar with the spot, I like having the GPS to leave a "breadcrumb trail" so that option was out for the day.  My secondary reason for a good solid hike was to field test my new hiking shoes.  I needed a pair of low profile (below the ankle, lighter weight) sturdy hiking shoes.  My feet are not in the greatest of shape so I picked out a pair of shoes from the same maker of my hiking boots; Vasque.  I wanted to give them a good test-hike.  REI is glad to take back any footwear that does not work out and I need to commit to these shoes right away.

I decided to head over to the Ray Westberg trail outside Thorp.  This trail is popular with the folks in and around Ellensberg.  Early in the morning you meet a lot of runners and the occasional mountain biker.  The trail gains about 1700 feet and is 4 miles round trip.  I call that a good solid walk and a good test of the feet.  I will leave it to the younger or crazier to actually run up this trail.

Nature study is a great excuse to stop and pause during such a walk.

This area is Shrub-steppe with a sprinkling of Ponderosa Pine woodlands in some areas of the slopes.  I have wandered here quite a bit and it is one of my favorite places.

The wildflowers are just getting started with Gold Star, Crocidium multicaule and Grass Widows (Blue-eyed grass) Sisyrinchium angustifolim the major players at the start of the hike.  I didn't think I would get to see the Grass Widows and they are often passed by now, but there were still plenty to enjoy.

One thing about blooming flowers is that they are adored by bugs.  These little polka-dotted bugs are ubiquitous in this area and I have never been able to get them identified.

There were hardly any butterflies out but I did meet a few on my walk down the hill late in the morning.  I was thrilled to spot a green colored Hairstreak.  These butterflies are teeny tiny and I really gave a good try at getting a shot while one basked.  I was down in the dirt on forearms and knees and was just reaching in when it flittered off.  Impossible!  There is no other butterfly like this leafy green sweetie, barely bigger than a blouse button.

The Rabbit Brush and sage are not yet greened up and I found this little nest, a remnant from previous season.  It was very visible from the trail without the greenery to hide it.

The middle third of the trail is where you get above the surrounding slopes and you can see far and wide. Out here I started spotting Sagebrush Violet Viola trinervata, Bluebell Mertensia longiflora and Yellow Bells Fritillaria pudica. These three love the areas in and around the Rabbit Brush and sage and the shade they provide later in the month allows the bluebells to stick around quite a while.  All the flowers out right now are THE signs of Spring here.  Spring Beauty Claytonia lanceolata was just getting started in the high area of the trail where it is still a bit moist from melting snows.

I didn't spot any bluebirds at the nest boxes.  I noted that there are more boxes than in previous years. Stellers Jay were pretty noisy and it looked like possibly two different couples were squabbling about possible nesting areas in some of the Ponderosa Pine.  I also saw an American Kestrel sitting in a tree where in previous years I know there was nesting.  Western Meadowlark were starting to sing as I neared the upper area.  One of my favorite songs.

This little pee-wee chipmunk didn't move and inch while I shot some photos and passed by.  It may have had a nest near and I suspect freezing in place is a good tactic.

The first 2/3 of the trail is where the hard gain happens, then the upper 1/3 slopes up more gentle like until you reach the top.

There are many memorials up here to members of the community including a fair number of POW/MIA. Sitting here is always a peaceful time and such great views.

The Stewart range with Mt Stewart dominating.

The beautiful hay fields of Kittitas Valley.  My old trainer called this stuff "horse crack"

My New Shoes!!  <3 br="">

After a brief sit it was back down , down , down...

...for I had a burger on my mind.  I love the Red Horse Diner good diner food in an old converted Mobile Gas station.  It is filled with a ton of gas station signs and a few old road signs from around the Kittitas Valley area.  The Van de Kamps Bakery sign is certainly one I remember from kid-hood

The dry side is always a good bet for fair weather.  Getting an early start to the day is key, for it wont be long when daytime temps climb into the upper 80's to 90's.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wilcox Flats Clean-up

I spent a wonderful, warm sunny morning working with the Nisqually Land trust cleaning up the Wilcox Flats property.  This parcel is on the far side of Wilcox Farms and just north across the river from where we burlaped the end of last December.  This parcel was inundated several years ago with flood waters which washed debris downriver.  Today the focus was cleaning up and clearing out.

When I arrived Chris, our coordinator said there were at least 15 soldiers from Lewis/McCord joining us.  They are great help as they are willing to put themselves to tough work.  I grabbed a knife and set out removing tubes and stakes from around plants which were planted several years ago.  I have done several of these plantings here and the results are a mixed bag.  The spruce trees were thriving and so were many of the roses and currant bushes.  In one area, however, most of the plants were dead or barely thriving.  It could have been a series of unfortunate weather events, a bad batch of root-stock or perhaps something bad in the soils from the flood.

Spring has clearly sprung.  All around there was bird song.  White-crowned sparrows have arrived here too.  Orange-crowned and Common Yellowthroat Warblers shyly took off when people started working.  Sapsuckers and Flickers were rat-a-tatting in trees.  I even hear a small group of California Quail.

Without a doubt, however, the domineering bird here was a noisy clan.

Several male peacocks noisily "eeeeYAH-ed" around the property.  They have been in the area for sometime, clearly escaped (or released) from someones farm.   How anyone would want to live with these loudmouths is beyond me.

As handsome as they are.

This fine fellow was really strutting his stuff.  He had four hens in his little harem and I have no doubt he was the A Number One fellow

The hens acted just like females of many bird species where the male struts and performs.  They wandered around and appeared to act just liked bored women strolling the counters at the department store.  Oh he tried so hard.

I found myself working quite alone pulling tubes and sacking them for disposal.  I found a few of these little fellows.  Woolly Bears, the caterpillars of Isabella Moth were having an early start to the season.  I usually think of them as a late Fall presence.

Little charmers.

You can see from the trucks that a large number of tires were pulled from the shoreline woods.  Chris said he had underestimated how many and said today he thinks there are at least 100 in and around the woods.

I found a broken lamp and a shoe (size 8)

What a great way to spend a lazy morning.  The good weather has arrived. There is promise of a few rain-free days and temperatures in the 60's.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Meandering on a Sunny Day

Up an on the road early.  If rain is forecast before noon, best get to it.

I was happily surprised as I got north of Everett to see that the skies were getting a bit lighter and before I got to Mt Vernon, there was actually sun in the sky.

Even though I was walking in the woods, it is good to be out in as good a sunlight as the day can muster.

I headed to my favorite place, Washington Park, near Anacortes to do my first good wildflower walk of the year.  There were few disappointments save for my camera work.

The Calypso Orchids are out.  This seems to be a good year, though not a great year.  Numbers look down a bit, and some of the flowers have already started to go to seed.  I was up one month ago and saw no buds breaking, so they came and went pretty fast.

First of the year

A happy trio

Fawn Lily are doing well.  Here too , many which were just starting to show buds are past.

The trail most of these are on is just magic.  A solid carpet of all kinds of mosses and lichens with dainty flowers and solitude.

I even saw a fair number of Coralroot Orchids starting to spike, looking like red asparagus.

The south facing slope was starting to show off its special delights.

Small Flower Blue Eyed Mary is truly small flowered.

Early Saxifrage, Prairie Star, Meadow Chickweed and Death Camas  are doing well.

The Common Camas were not breaking their bud yet.

I skirted into the woods to seek out some rare and elusive things.  In the woods there was plenty of birdsong and all over wrens, chickadees and kinglets were courting and squabbling.  I watched one wren check out multiple holes in a dead tree.  It was shopping in a condo block. A chickadee patiently waited to do its inspections.

There was a lot of new fungus coming up through the mosses. This fallen Madrone tree was really covered with tails

Out on the rock-face the wet area is just getting started with Monkeyflower

I paused to take in the view.  Clouds are starting to set in.

It was here I heard something missing for some time.

"I'm a pretty little bird-e"  The call of the White-crowned Sparrows, back from their winter in the South.  I didn't think this zoomed in photo would work, but you can see him in the top of that Juniper

Barely.  I looked in my archives for a nice picture of this bird but have none in my computer, they are all on backup discs.

What a nice walk.  Many people were out and everyone seemed in joyous spirits.  Our region needs these fine days and any break in the weather to help the workers up at Oso is welcome.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Trying to Understand the Impossible

I cannot express the sadness I feel at the events of last weekend.

Our friends Professor Cliff Mass and Dan McShane have excellent blogs which discuss issues surrounding this terrible events.

Dan is a Geologist engineer and discusses the Washington Landscape in his blog


Professor Mass teaches us all about weather.  Twenty-four inches of rain this month  in the hills north of the slide area


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome Spring...again

Oh, is it Spring
a tick on the clock
a mark on the calender
the sun crossed the sky

Oh is it Spring
in dark of the morn
Drearily scraping the iced
frosting overnight

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More Burlaping

Last weekend I spent a morning with the Nisqually Land Trust placing burlap on a riverside property in Yelm.  This long, thin property has a home on it and staff members of the Land Trust have lived here over the years.  In its former life it was a riding stable.  Most of the evidence of that past life has gone.  There is one clearing where the old sand arena has given over to soil and supports a healthy growth of young Cottonwood and cedar.

Today we hiked in about 15 minutes and fanned out, placing burlap over the invasive Reed Canary Grass.  After letting this grassy area die back a bit, native trees and shrubs will be placed.

This area was a bit tricky.  It is near the river and there are a few small water paths cutting through it.  In the thick grass it is a little challenging to see.  Also buried under the grass are many small fallen trees.  Some I assume are wind-tossed but I would not be surprised to find that some local residents did some of the cutting.

Beavers, this property has beavers.  They love hardwood; alder, maple and the like.  They will not eat conifer.  This does not stop them from damaging the trees however.  They will methodically girdle the conifers in order to kill the trees and increase the sunlight, boosting the growth of favorable trees.  The Land Trust has tried to protect as many of the conifers along the property as they could, but resources are limited.

These roots and trunk have been girdled.  Some smaller, recently planted trees at the front of the property have had their trunks painted with a pasty mixture containing sand.  This makes a sandpaper like coating and the Beavers avoid it.  For this old tree, it is too late.

The work was easy and fairly pleasant.  There was a lot of dragging sacks from the stockpile out to the patch being worked on and back and forth again.  Throw them down and piece the edges together like a huge quilt.  Hands and knees crawling about type work.  At one point I simply took a break and lay down and checked out the clouds.  Pretty comfy.

We had a ton of singing woodland birds.  Spring is clearly in the air.  I heard many mating songs and chases.  Brown Creepers wound up and down tree trunks in courtship and territory display.

Highlight for a few of us was a visit from a little charmer.  He was in the grass and hopped onto the burlap we were in the process of placing.  I cannot believe I was able to roll over grab my camera and sneak back for this terrific shot

A teeny , tiny Tree Frog, Hyla regilla.  He is not much longer than 2 1/2 inches nose to bottom.  He posed quite nicely for us.  Chris, the volunteer coordinator observed that the bug life under the burlap gets quite robust and these frogs make a good living.

Three hours passes quickly.  I can feel it in my hands they are simply not as healthy as they use to be.

The walk to and from the work sight was time to enjoy the first hints of Spring.

Early Blue Violet ; Viola adunca

Salmonberry ; Rubus spectabilis bringer of Rufus Hummingbirds.

Impossibly tiny puffballs.  I didn't know what they were, for sure and after getting the pictures ventured to touch one.  They dent slightly and did not puff any spores.

The prize of prizes

We spotted two Trillium ; Trillium oviatum .  I don't remember ever seeing one this early!

The rains continue and the river runs high.  Right now it is hailing, crazy start to Spring

Ah well.  Sit back, stay warm and have another cup of coffee.