Friday, May 29, 2009

Re-introduced fishers have babies

The National Park Service has announced that a pair of fishers, introduced to Olympic National Park in January 2008, have mated and produced four kits - the first fisher kits known to be born in Washington in decades. The Kitsap Sun has a story here. Fishers, weasel-like carnivores that thrive among big trees, once ranged in Washington but were wiped out in the early 20th century, because of habitat loss and fur trapping.
Here's a video showing the mother carrying her babies one by one from one den to another.

Via Watching Our Waterways.

Scientist finds that birds thrive in the urban fringe

John Marzluff, a University of Washington biologist, has found that some kinds of urban development enhance songbird diversity on the edge of cities, says this report on KUOW.
What works best, it turns out, is sprawl: houses distributed widely, mixed with yards and woods.
By the way, I heartily recommend Marzluff's book: "In the Company of Crows and Ravens."
Via Sightline Daily.

Aphid mummies

If you find yourself charged with coming up with a premise for a horror movie, a good place to start with your brainstorming would be the life cycles of insects. They're always good for the bizarre transformation sequences.
The exquisitely keen-eyed Wanderin' Weeta documented one such transformation on the underside of a maple leaf.
And here are more details.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Salmon going ping

Here's a interesting story from the Tricity Herald about an effort by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to track steelhead and chinook in the Columbia River. Scientists are surgically implanting accoustic tags in the fish and then releasing them, watching them with sensors to see which way they go, and whether they survive.

Montlake fill

Urban wildlife is a contradiction in terms. How wild are creatures that exist in a human created environment? The answer is, that though their surroundings may be human made, the animals and plants are very wild indeed.
The Montlake Fill -- a reclaimed garbage dump that has become a showpiece for the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture -- is a study in those kinds of contrasts. Its ponds and paths are tended by some of the best minds in the state, but it is still an urban place, full of wanderers and runners, with a flock of starlings chattering in one of the cottonwoods.
And yet it is wild. That's why people come. Cottonwood seeds waft through the air, sparrows call from every shrub, and warblers lurk between the leaves (I spotted a common yellowthroat).

(I don't know what the flowers are, but I like the picture.)
Shoveler's Pond had northern shovelers on it, and the male was in the mood for courting, bobbing his head constantly.

Swallows (barn and tree) were out in force, and a Great Blue Heron fished offshore.

But the most entertaining birds were the red-winged blackbirds: males singing belligerently from cattails, males and females driving off crows, males joining forces with crows to drive off a bald eagle. The drama was all there.
Mount Rainier looked nice too.

One grim note: a dead beaver by the lake shore.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ochre sea star may thrive as global carbon dioxide rises

A common species on local rocky shores might have a bright future as carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia have published a paper reporting that ochre sea stars(Pisaster ochraceus), sometimes called purple sea stars, grow faster as dissolved carbon dioxide levels rises and as water warms. So, assuming the sea stars have something to eat, they could thrive in a warming, acidifying ocean.

NOAA photo.

Pigeon guillemots

Heather Reid has a post about pigeon guillemots in the San Juan Islands.

Devil's club buds enhance chocolate sauce

The magnificent Fat of the Land explains how, all the while helpfully explaining the hazards of harvesting buds from the infamously spiny Oplopanax horridus.
"If you go a-devil's-clubbing, wear appropriate clothes and a thick pair of gloves. I forgot mine—the gloves, that is—and suffered a few puncture wounds in my fingertips that drew blood. A worst case scenario is losing your footing and tumbling into a thicket of the stuff. The other rookie mistake is bending back a stalk to relieve it of its green shoot only to have the thorny branch snap back in your face when the bud comes free."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Western pond turtle found crossing road

Here's an Associated Press story about the find.

Here be geoducks

"Mum! Come here! I found something big and alive!"
I was with my son and daughter on Discovery Park's south beach on a deliciously low tide: -2.5 feet at Elliott Bay.
My son had found a wrinkled and ancient looking siphon sticking out of the sand.
Or rather, a pair of siphons. As we looked more and more we found more of these tough towers of muscle poking up among the eelgrass and muck.
Here's one.

Here's another. (The shoes are my daughter's.)

These are geoducks, the biggest clams ever to dig into a mudflat. Fully grown geoducks average 1.9 pounds, most of it a big fleshy mantle that overflows the gaping shell. They can reach more than 8 pounds and more than 150 years old.
The siphons retreated slowly when the kids poked them. The siphon is just the extended end of the animal, most of which is firmly anchored three feet under the muck -- in the same spot it's been all its adult life. Their name is from a Native American word meaning "dig deep" -- and you'd have to. Don't try to yank them out by their siphon, either. They'll just shed it.
We also found razor clams.

They're a lot easier to pick up.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tale of a century old orca

Candace Calloway Whiting, a volunteer at the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, has an interesting piece in about the J pod of Southern Resident Orcas, particularly J2, the matriarch, who is nearly 100 years old.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vole population explosion threatens airbase

The Whidbey Island Examiner reports that a population explosion of Townsend's Meadow Voles is causing a safety hazard at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. The voles attract birds of prey which too often glide into the path of planes.
Via Puget Sound Maritime.

White-crowned sparrow songs change with habitat

A scientist compared historic recordings of white-crowned sparrows to contemporary ones, and found that as tree cover increased over the years, the birds' songs became slower, says this article in Science Daily

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Photo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spokane citizens help ducklings to water.

Earwig mamas don't like whining

The Oyster's Garter explains why.

Black bear is still at large in Seattle suburb

Wildlife officers have given up the hunt, saying that it's not dangerous. The bear is in Shoreline, and has crossed I-5, says this report.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Green Lake this morning

Great blue heron, pied grebe and spawning carp.
I didn't see any ducklings today. I wonder if it's a bad year for them.

Morel season

In this part of the world, mushroomers are getting excited about morels. Here's the Fat of the Land's take.

Calypso orchid, Portland Island, B.C.

My mother, Jean McCaw, took this picture on Friday.

Beavers restore salmon habitat in the Skagit Delta

Lynda Mapes has a story in the Seattle Times about research into the role beavers play in the ecology of the Skagit Delta's tidal marshes -- and the implications for the recovery of Chinook salmon.

Idea: gather data on urban foraging

A team of researchers wants to create a database where urban foragers can enter information about plants, says this report in Wired Science. As long as they're not asking people to announce the location of their favorite mushroom patches, it's an interesting idea.

Black Bear in Seattle

A black bear surfaced in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood on Sunday and then swam the Ship Canal to Ballard. It was last spotted in the Greenwood neighborhood. Here's the Seattle P-I story.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Damselfly derring-do

Wanderin' Weeta has a look at the anatomy and life history of the Pacific forktail damselfly, now emerging from ponds around the region.

Teeming icebergs

Not Exactly Rocket Science has a mind-blowing post about research into the marine life associated with icebergs.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Well, this is alarming

This article from the Times of London describes a finding that increasing numbers of orcas are switching to mammal diets -- a development that has some people calling for orca culls to protect threatened species such as sea otters and Steller's sea lions.
In a simultaneous development, there are reports that orcas have been showing up in the Canadian arctic, preying on sea mammals there.
Via Heather Reid-Stories from an Island, which is a very fine blog indeed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In bloom in Discovery Park.

Pacific rhododendron

False Solomon's seal

Western trumpet honeysuckle


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hot pink pine flowers

Shore pine (Pinus contorta) is a cool plant in a lot of ways. Depending on the setting, it can grow into a 60 foot-tall tree or a twisted, bonsai form. It can keep some cones sealed up on its branches, until a forest fire triggers the cones to open and release the seeds.
But did you know the female flowers can be hot pink?

I found these pines on Discovery Park's north beach this morning. If you look at some of the branch tips the right way, you can see a face.

Savannah sparrow, Discovery Park south meadow

Discovery Park's south meadow is one of my favorite spots in Seattle. You walk out of the woods to see a broad, rolling stretch of grass and shrubs, leading to a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. This time of year, almost every bush or tree sticking out of the grass is occupied by a male song bird singing with gusto.
This morning, joggers and strollers heard from white-crowned sparrows, a goldfinch, and savannah sparrows, such as this fine fellow.

How to keep birds away from jets

I wrote an article in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, about Steve Osmek, Sea-Tac Airport's wildlife biologist.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pacific flowering dogwood is in bloom

Huckleberry Days has a report.

Bird electrocutions on Vancouver Island

The Victoria Times-Colonist reports on a problem that is one of the leading ways humans accidentally kill birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that electrical transmission lines kill as many as 174 million U.S. birds a year, which is deaths than vehicle collisions cause.

Photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

You, with the cloven hooves and the big brown eyes!

Get off the road!

Mule Deer cross U.S. Highway 97 south of Bend, Ore. twice each year: in the spring when they go from the High Desert to the Cascade Foothills, and in the fall when they go back. Each year, about 95 of them die on the road.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is adding two wildlife crossings as part of revamping a four-mile stretch of the highway says this Associated Press report, which includes the details of how wildlife biologists plan to coax the deer into the tunnels.

Photo from the National Park Service

The lonesome abalone

The Seattle Times has an article on the plight of the northern abalone. The heavily poached sea-snail has reached such low densities, that the remaining ones have trouble getting close enough to each other to ensure that when their eggs and sperm can meet in the water column.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rare fen protected in Willamette Valley

The Oregonian has an article about Peach Cove Fen, a floating mat of peat moss and rare plants now protected by the Portland Metropolitan area.
Via Sightline Daily.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pika closer to endangered species listing

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife will review the status of the American pika and announce its findings by next February. If it is found to be threatened, it will be the first animal in the lower 48 states to be listed because of the warming climate.
For more details, see my earlier post.

National Park Service photo.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Swimming coyote

Chattermarks has a story and pictures about spotting a swimming coyote in Diablo Lake.

New endangered species listings in Canada

The northern abalone is now endangered in Canada and the horned grebe is now a species of concern in most of its breeding range, reports the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
The northern abalone, a flattish marine snail with a beautiful iridescent shell, has declined in population because it has been poached for sale in Asia, where it is a delicacy. The U.S. federal government lists the abalone as a species of concern. It's a candidate species for listing in Washington.

About 92 percent of the horned grebes' breeding range is in Canada. The bird winters in bays and estuaries along the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, and is one of the most commonly seen winter seabirds in Puget Sound. Possible factors in its decline include: drought, loss of wetlands, increases in nest predators on the Prairies and pollution in its wintering habitat. Because of local declines, it's a state monitored species in Washington.
Via Nature Canada.
Northern abalone photo from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Horned grebe photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Humpback whale spotted off Vashon Island

Watching our Waterways has details.

Redoubt's lava dome is about to collapse

Eruptions has an explanation of what will happen when it does. The webcams of the volcano have had some great views lately, showing steam gently rising from the dome.

Image source: Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Barn swallows at Lake Union

Even though they're named after a farm building, barn swallows seem to have an affinity for boats. In fact, I think the most reliable place to find a barn swallow nest is probably a boathouse.
This pair appear to have staked out a spot under a gangplank leading to one of the old ships moored near the Center for Wooden Boats in Lake Union.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Fishes on tide flats

Wanderin' Weeta has a post about sand lance, buffalo sculpin, and the second weirdest fish of the intertidal zone: crescent gunnel, a fish that can breathe air.
What's the weirdest intertidal fish, you ask? That would be the Northern Clingfish.

Think like a mussel

The Oregonian has a fasicinating essay on biomimicry: the practice of mimicking living organism's responses to engineering challenges. Examples? Glue from mussels, and solar energy strategies from shade-tolerant plants.
Via The Daily Score.