Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cold Weather, Followed By A Good Rain

Earlier this month we had record-breaking cold temperatures. Near the end of that cold spell I happened to notice something I had never seen on the stream before - ice on the surface. It was just a small patch along the edge of the stream, but surprising nonetheless.

Here's a closer shot -

The stream looked like it was steaming on those really cold days, which was amazing to see. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture that well in a picture.

I was quite surprised to see that the water level of the stream was down as far as it ever gets in the summer. Can you see the patch of pebbles in the stream bed that were dry? I don't think that this low water level was caused by a lack of rain, I think it was because the ground was frozen. It had been seriously cold for a while by then.

Several days after I took those pictures we had a downpour. Here's the stream in the beginning -

And here are shots from several hours later -

Yuck! It is amazing how dirty that runoff water is. One of these days I'll take a walk upstream with my camera and see what the quality is like at different points along the way when we have a good, strong rain. I suspect that runoff from surface of 80th NE causes a lot of this, since the stream takes the runoff from a good stretch of it, but I could be wrong.... One good thing about the Brightwater project near our house being at a standstill for a while is that there haven't been dump trucks dripping mud all the way up 80th as they head to the freeway with dirt from the tunneling project.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Large Bird Sightings

Can you find the beautiful bird in this photo? It caught my eye yesterday as it was hanging out on the side of the stream behind our fence...

Give up? It's in the center of the picture, above the roof of the woodshed. Here is a closer shot. A beautiful Great Blue Heron -

It seemed to be nervous about me being out on the deck. Contrary to what a city council member once told me when they were discussing removing the 50-foot Heron Habitat Buffer from Little Swamp Creek, I have found the heron to be very shy and very cautious of people. At least the herons that visit our yard are.

When we first moved into this house 11 years ago, we saw herons on a regular basis in our own yard and behind the fence. Now we rarely do. Luckily we still see them return to the rookery down by the Park and Ride every spring, so I know they are still living in the area.

While I was marveling at the heron, something big in a nearby cottonwood caught my eye -

I'm not sure, but I would guess that this is one of our neighborhood Red-tailed Hawks. There is a large nest that they use every spring just a little ways further into the wetland to the southwest of us. It sat there preening for quite a while. I have a feeling it was actually there to eyeball our chickens....

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Evidence of Beavers in our 'hood

Part of a tree that is behind our back fence blew down a while back. Recently a fresh pile of wood chips on the ground below it caught my eye. I hopped the fence and discovered....

....that a beaver had been working on it.

Here's my hand in the picture for scale.

This piece looks a bit sculptural, with a slightly spiraled look to the core.

Strangely enough, there is a scattering of pieces of small branches approximately one foot long stretching from the downed tree along the side of the stream to that little bridge. But no evidence of a dam built nearby.

I am now seriously keeping my eye out for any beaver damage to other live trees. Luckily so far it has just chewed on this downed tree and taken out my Black Willow bush that is on the stream edge, but I'm slightly nervous about what's next!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

White Rock Experiment Update

I think it's about time for another visual update of my white rock experiment. First a little review...

This is the original circle of white marble chips placed in the stream bed on June 4th of this year. It's about 18" in diameter. My plan was to get this white rock circle set up before we had a good, hard rain. My motive was to be able to show how much silt is carried downstream/deposited in the stream bed by all of the runoff from a good rain. I was also curious to see whether the speed of the increased water flow from a rainstorm would move the white rocks downstream.

18 hours later (My biggest shock of the experiment was how much silt had been deposited on the rocks after 18 hours of just sitting there without the forecasted rainfall)

8 days later

25 days later

3 months later, after a good Fall rain

nearly 6th months later

Here is a close-up of the situation after nearly 6 months. The white rocks have been partly buried by pebbles and sand. The evening of Nov. 25th we had a lot of rain, and the next morning the stream level was as high as I've seen it since last winter. And this afternoon I noticed that some of the white rocks had finally actually been pushed a foot or two downstream. Interesting....

(the stream flows from left to right in this shot. You may barely be able to make out the fact that the white rocks have spread downstream a bit)