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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring is Really Here.

It is still chilly and snowing in the mountains. Here in the Puget lowlands, chilly mornings seem to give way, reluctantly to somewhat comfortable 50+ days. But clouds, winds and rain are the order of the day, after day, after day.


But Saturday, AH it is the day we have all been waiting for. Stunning blue and 60+.


Better yet, we had our first Washington Native Orchid Society field trip. For April means Calypso orchids and Washington Park was out meeting place.





My favorite local park has burst into bloom since my visit a few weeks ago.


I arrived early simply because I could not wait to get into the area. My friend Ron was right behind me, itching to get out there. We walked out to Green Point passing many of the early bird walkers. As usual it was greetings and "good mornings" from every person we passed. One gave us a tip on a Bald Eagle in a tree.






Out at Green Point the Shooting Stars are coming on strong. I love the dew drops.







Ron and I took a sneak peek at the area I knew was my usual good place for Calypso Orchid. They have sprung up and the Fawn Lily continue to join in. We made our way back along the road and met this fellow sliding across the road. He was actually making pretty good time.






Joining the group we returned along the loop road to Green Point. All along the road we found individual orchids. At Green Point early signs of other species were found in the woodland edge. We proceeded along the loop road and enjoyed some time back at the mossy trail filled with Fawn Lily and orchids. By now the sun had joined us full force. There were fun opportunities to play with sunlight. A tip of the hat to Ron for pointing out this particular lily with the cobwebs.






You know me, I cannot resist a bug shot.





We circled the park, scouting for flowers to come and appreciating the ones already here. I love the south slope with its Junipers. The old fellow at the top of the channel slope always fascinates me with its bare bones. These Prairie Stars made a pretty picture at the foot of one Juniper.







There was no topping this day. I knew weather changes were coming but when I heard the snow in the pass forecast, I knew I was going to have to stick by home. I want to get over to Eastern Washington to the dry areas, but driving in the snow is a bit of an issue.




So I stuck around home visiting my local Watershed Park. My gloomy spirit was a little uplifted by finding many more birds. I failed to charge my batteries after a long day out Saturday so I am sorry my little pocket ELPH could not do justice to the wrens I found gathering nest materials or the courting Mergansers.



I found Robin eggshells in a couple of places. Many birds carry egg shells away from the nest and drop them in the environment. I heard nest peeping in a few places.






Unlike the Washington Park, this Watershed Park is deep and green and moist. Plenty of boggy areas and Skunk Cabbage is up in full force.



Trailing Violets lined almost all of the trails.





I intended to go out the full length of the park to a pretty pond but I heard a noise and knew I had to follow.



Too toot toot toot. A Pygmy Owl! It was going to be hard to find but he was persistent in his tooting and it was a fun exercise to work at pinpointing where the sound was coming from. I made my way along a second trail and knew I was pretty close by the quality of the sound. I knew I was really close when he stopped. I looked , I waited but nothing, so I moved on. But it was not too far and he could not resist. I knew he was now behind me.


And I found him. Up in the very top of a fir tree, about 75 feet up. I cranked my camera up and shot, hoping that there was something.


Here he is 6.75 inches of lovelorn owl, calling for his female.



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Earth Day

Wise words from John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914)
Naturalist, writer, adventurer, advocate and founder of the Sierra Club.

Happy Birthday



"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world"








Writing is like the life of a glacier; one eternal grind."





"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world."






"As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can"."










Everybody needs beauty...










"Going to the mountains is going home."








"Anyhow we never know where we must go, nor what guides we are to get---people,storms, guardian angels, or sheep...."



Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Little Bit of Spring

Today was Volunteer Day with Nisqually Land Trust. We did an Ivy Pull at the Ohop Valley property. We have worked there several times before. Today we went over to a road that borders State Highway 7. Along with general garbage dumped over time, there was obviously some yard waste thrown or a car assisted migration. English Ivy is making its way towards the replanted bottom land. Today we concentrated of girdling the trees of the climbing ivy. The stout branches need to be cut away so that the higher vegetation will die.
One tree, however, we did not touch. In one tree Ivy was supporting a bit of wonder.




A Rufous Hummingbird has already made her nest on a vine of ivy. Woven of spider webs lichen and plant fiber. Decorated with more shaggy lichen, two eggs will snugly fit in the cup. The female, when she sits on the nest will create a plug. The soft nest will mold around her body, making the perfect little warm snugly for the eggs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Offering to the Wind

My co-worker found another of Dan Cautrell's gifts. She was thrilled , as she should be. This treasure was placed late last Fall. Its position is further back from the road and up a slope. Amazing how red can hide in this background. Seed Pods

Again in the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark

I ventured east last weekend. I was torn as to where to go and by what route. I am afraid our chilly weather once again dropped snow in the pass and at some places I was hoping to visit. I decided to head down to the Columbia River Gorge and stop at Catherine Creek and Lyle. Last year at this time, Catherine Creek a exploding in wildflowers. Saturday the experience was quite different. We had fair skies all the way and it did not seem that the winds were very fierce in the Gorge. High winds are caused by the pressure and temperature variations in the areas on either sides of the Cascade Mountains. There are several gaps in the range, most notably Enumclaw, south of Seattle and the Gorge, where the Columbia River divides Washington and Oregon. It was not until I got to Catherine Creek that the winds really started getting strong. I was glad that my warm gloves were in the car. I picked up a trail that loops east of where I walked last year. I was drawn by an oak tree lined canyon and wanting to know what this basalt canyon supported. Here there were flowers I did not see the last time I was here. A more sheltered area, the wind was still problematic. Most of my photos just has a touch of blur. Most of the soil here is quite thin and fine grasses and moss carpets can build up and support flowers on the sides of the rock walls. Spring Gold and buttercups dominate right now. But I did find a new flower, Steers Head. These fun flowers are related to Bleeding Heart aka Dutchman's Pants. I am afraid my photo does not do justice to the gentle blush of the colors. Bleeding heart are very common along most trails in the moist woods of the west side. I will say in all my ramblings in the east side of the state, this is a first for me. Yellow Bells, usually the first flower of the dry side Spring, were few and far between. Many had already crumbled. Those in the more sheltered areas were doing well. I encountered a couple standing up a little path, looking at the ground with camera and binoculars. When they looked up I asked them "what do you have?" Chocolate Lily!. I was thrilled as this rare flower is not yet blooming on this side of the mountains. I walked up the path and sure enough, HUNDREDS of them, many still tightly budded. Oh the frustration, the wind bobbed and whipped them about, I could barely get a decent shot. I am cheating and posting a photo I took at Washington Park last June. I continued my walk up the oak lined canyon. I did grab and nice robust acorn for my collection. The dominant color was brown from all the fallen leaves. This Blue Hounds Tongue was easy to find. Climbing out of the canyon and over the brink of the hill, the slope was all grass and filled with Shooting Stars ... and Camas. Camas was a vital diet staple for the native people of this region. The starchy tubers were cooked and used like potato. Lewis and Clark wrote of the effects of too many of these tubers. In these slopes the near related Death Camas is equally abundant. The flowers are distinctive and white but the tubers could not easily be told apart. It is well known that Camas should not be harvested except by those expert at their collection. These slopes do not support many trees. This stout pine looks to have been easily toppled by winds. I moved down slope and across the road. I knew a photo-op for my Scavenger Hunt. The topic "silence" I originally wanted to go up to the stage stop above Ellensburg and photograph the old broken buildings there, but I knew the snows had been through in the previous 24 hours and I don't think Pearly Mae is ready to drive in that muck. But this bench is so isolated and it was exactly as I remember. "Silence" This is a panorama from the bench east on the Columbia. I spent the rest of the day wandering the roads all the way over the last ridge on the left looking for the states only resident population of Acorn Woodpeckers. I had no luck. I spent the night in The Dalles and was torn as to what direction to head Sunday morning. I looked at my Gazetteer and saw an area on the map I had noticed before but never investigated "Big Lava Beds" south of Mt Adams. The weather forecast showed the rains advancing and I noticed that some of the precipitation echos on the Doppler was snow. I decided I would venture up to the Lava Beds as it was nearest the highway route home. I knew fairly quickly that I had made a road mistake. I found myself at a good elevation above the Gorge returning east, parallel to the river rather than north and inland. AH me, I am usually better at navigation and decided I better relocate. I came around a bend and saw this! A roadside decorated with plastic Easter Eggs in the bushes and trees. Oh man this took me way back to when we made Easter Egg Trees. Mom would find a likely shrubbery branch and we would blow and decorate eggs, string and hang them. I can still remember the effort of trying to blow the egg out a too small pinhole. But after several shots I realized that this was my shot for "Easter" on the Scavenger Hunt. I am so pleased. I finally found the road up to Lava Beds but did not get very far. Snow on the road. Darn me, I forget that the elevation east of the mountains is higher than at home. I forget that not everywhere has Sea Level as its starting point of reference. Well I will prepare better next time and venture to this interesting place. The lava beds are said to be pretty impenetrable. People say the footing is difficult and dangerous. There is a trail that parallels the edge and climbs a nearby mountain, so I will set that as a goal for later in the season. The mountain is called Huckleberry, so I will bring a handy collection container.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

How I choose where to wander is as varied as the places I visit. Sometimes it is to experience someplace new and exciting. Sometimes it is to visit an old friend. Usually it is based on what is in bloom (if anything) and always, weather is a factor. Right now Spring cannot get a grip. Snow in the passes, traction tire requirements and avalanche mitigation pretty much shuts off eastern Washington for me. And here at home we cannot muster 50 degree+ days. We have already had 70% of our April average rainfall. So what to do, I have the weekend free? On Flickr, the photo sharing site, I participate in a photo scavenger hunt. The first of the month we get a new list of topics or concepts to capture. Often they are solid subjects like "tripod" or "board game" . Other times they are abstract, like "silence" "a cliche". This month my list decided my destination. With subjects like "Black and White" "wave" "guide" and the perplexing "skyless sunset" I opted for the far southwest coast; Long Beach and Cape Disappointment.

I am currently reading Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose. It is a wonderfully written history of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Cape Disappointment is where they first met the Pacific. It is where they spent their miserable Fall / Winter. Long Beach is exactly that, and amazing stretch of uninterrupted sand. The peninsula juts north along the coast. The Willapa estuary which forms along its east side and stretches inland is world famous for oysters.



In Long Beach you can enjoy tons of dining opportunities and ample lodging options; basic to swanky. I captured "skyless sunset" in a true ah ha! moment running back from seeing the sunset in the only rain (while not driving) of the weekend. I wish I had captured a safety image, this ones zoom focus was so bad. It was just a moment of right light and color.





I was disappointed to not be able to get to the unique Kite Museum (closed Sunday mornings). Long Beach regularly sponsors kite flying events and conventions. But I did capture this image for the subject "fly". While the Flickr group administrator is in the Netherlands, topics are listed in English. Fly lends itself to many interpretations.





Lewis and Clark spent many sad days along this coast. It was here they took what may have been the first truly democratic vote in US history. Every member of the team voted equally on where to spend the winter. The vote was taken at Dismal Notch and York, a Black slave and Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman, were included in the vote. Dismal Notch is just east of the Astoria Bridge. Here the river looks lovely and peaceful ...




...but to the west, on the rising tide you can see and hear the crashing of the rivers outflow when it meets the rising tide. The Columbia Bar is one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. The Coast Guard maintains two important stations on either side of the river.





River pilots are required for ships coming in and going out. Rescues are often carried out. This is Dead Mans Cove, just north of the Cape Lighthouse. Name such for obvious reasons. This is one of the historic spots for wreck recoveries.





Lewis and Clark were trapped at Dismal Notch by a week long storm in November of 1805. This area is subject to fierce rains and gales. The little cove they were trapped in did have a creek where they could easily get salmon for food. Today there is a nice bronze monument documenting the efforts of the party to break away from their camp and reach their ultimate destination. I knew I wanted Sacagawea to be my "guide" subject and I am happy I stopped at this place.





Cape Disappointment is wonderful for exploring. There are two different lighthouses and plenty of exciting wave and rock action. I knew that one of the lighthouses was likely to be black and white and waves are given at the ocean. Lighthouses are wonderful subjects.






I was thrilled at this wave photo.






Walking on the beach is not as nice as the beach up at ShiShi. Here cars are allowed to drive on the beach. To me, it is a wrong choice. There is far too much pollution and garbage washed up onto the beach and almost no interesting rocks or shells to seek. But I stumbled upon this seabird feather, the perfect black and white capture.





Some years ago a dead Gray Whale washed up on the north end of Long Beach. There was much discussion as to how to dispose of the very large carcass. Ultimately it was decided to simply bury it on site. Several years later permission was granted to dig it up. The skeleton was carefully preserved and assembled on the beach in Long Beach town. Lewis and Clark had recorded finding a dead whale and it certainly fits in neatly with experiencing some of what Clark saw here.




At Cape Disappointment there is a wonderful Lewis and Clark Museum. I really liked seeing some of the little details. Reproductions of their journals made me appreciate how great their scientific work was. These journals were simply paper tablets covered with soft leather. They were no more than 6 x 9 inches. Detail of the handwriting shows amazingly neat tiny script, beautifully penned, filling every page with exacting detail. There is also a section in the museum about early shipping and the history of shipwrecks off the cape. One display shows how lighthouse lanterns are focused using prisms. You get to manipulate the prisms on a miniature light to make it focus. I like things like that.



For me the highlight of the weekend was dinner at Jimellas Market Cafe. Owned by Jimella Lucas and Nanci Main owners of the now closed Ark Restaurant. I knew the Ark was world famous and I figured this was going to be as good as it could be. It was! Fresh fish given a simple grill prep. Fresh crispy asparagus and snow peas, lovingly prepared. A little salad I would never have thought would work; arugula, grapefruit and Kalamata olive. It was sweet, tangy, bitter and salty all in one perfect balance. Add a glass of wine and a fresh , homemade herb roll and I was one happy camper. Add the simple, come as you are surroundings, perfection. I might have to check into one of their many cookbooks to see if I can learn some secrets.





I will happily return to this beach if only to fly a kite (for the first time) and have more lovely dining experiences with Nanci and Jimella.