Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Pineapple Express" vs. Little Swamp Creek

We knew this weather system dubbed a "pineapple express" was coming, and it was predicted to hit us with a bunch of rain starting on Saturday the 11th.  But for some reason the threat posed by Little Swamp Creek flooding our yard and crawlspace had faded recently since the stream has basically stayed within it's banks for the last few years.  Unfortunately, this was what we woke up to on December 12th  -

The flooded stream was up just even with the top of the threshold of the door into our crawlspace.  Which means that water had already been coming up through the silly floor drains (they never have drained, only flooded, the crawlspace) and was flowing out of the ground from the unfinished part of the crawlspace and into the "finished" (barely) storage area down there.  We owe our amazing neighbors Carol and Matt a HUGE thank you for helping us schlep stuff out of there.  Thanks so much, you two!

Going back a few days earlier, I took a couple of pictures of the stream because it was running at a level higher that I think I had seen it since all of the streambank planting was completed.  These pictures were taken on December 8th.  The water had gotten high enough to go around/behind the large woody debris placed just south of the foot bridge  -

And the stream was getting close to completely filling up the culvert that the stream flows through under 192nd  -

The stream looked like it was about to flow out of its banks back behind the fence  -

But, in fact, this is what it looked like behind the fence on Sunday morning when the area was flooded  -

We've seen the water go over the street a handful of times in our 12 years here, the last time being in 2007.  It's an intimidating thing, even if it is only a few inches deep on the pavement on this side of the street  -

People in trucks didn't hesitate to drive right past the barriers.  I watched one truck go around this barrier on the shoulder, and I'm sure they had no idea how close they were to driving their wheels right off the edge and laying their truck over into the space where the north end of the culvert is

More shots from the flooding on December 12th - 

Late the night of the 12th some guys driving by discovered a beaver in the middle of the road in front of our yard.  It seemed that someone must have hit it with their car.  They moved it to a safer spot in our yard so that it could hopefully recover, but it didn't make it through the night.  I'm always amazed at how huge beavers are, actually.  This is the second beaver road casualty that I've seen in our general area in the past several years.

How's that for before and after shots?!  The 12th vs. today, the 16th.  Though there is still a lot of water in the stream, it's getting back to normal.

Here's what the newly planted area looks like behind the fence today  - 

Everything stayed put!

Looks like the high water washed away the leaves from the willow tree that we just let be, plus some mulch was scoured away  -

The downstream end of the culvert is a bit worse for wear, and the outflow of the little culvert that runs under our driveway in the ditch is basically blocked  -

But we sure can't complain, considering the flooding that other people in our community experienced.  Here's a link to an article in the Seattle Times the next day that featured a picture of a house/business nearby that was flooded by the waters of Swamp Creek -  Rivers recede as residents deal with the mess

Friday, November 19, 2010

When Heavy Equipment Working next to the Stream is a GOOD Thing

The Adopt-A-Stream Foundation has been back on the banks of Little Swamp Creek, working all week long in an area behind our property that has been overwhelmed by reed canary grass.  The LEAF School from Edmonds Community College will be spending the day today working with AASF to plant native wetland plants in the prepared area.

Here's the actual plan - 

This section of the stream has been completely overgrown with reed canary grass and blackberries.  The grass is so thick and tall that in the summer it was almost impossible to even see the stream because the grass was practically creating a tunnel over it.  By this time of year the grass has fallen down enough that it is possible to walk through there again and see the stream- 


These are shots looking south and north in the section that will be replanted today - 


The plan is to shade out the canary grass by thickly planting 21 hummocks with native vegetation (the hummocks are the rectangles with the diamond pattern in the plans above).  In addition, 660 square feet of stream bank will be planted with livestakes, and 3,900 square feet of blackberry bushes were removed to be replaced with scattered native plants.

Access to the area was much easier from our yard, so the dirt for building up the hummocks was dumped in our driveway -

and carried to the area behind our fence by wheelbarrow -

The hummocks were scraped/dug out a bit with a small excavator and this new soil was added-

Plants and livestakes are staged back there, too, ready for planting -

I was struck by the fact that this particular project includes what I think is a huge side benefit to the property owner.  When we first moved into the neighborhood a dozen years ago our neighbor behind us was easily able to walk down to the stream.  But over the past several years the blackberry bushes have grown up and made an impossible barrier for him.  It is fabulous that he will be able to get down there and enjoy checking out the stream again.  We appreciate that he was willing to work with the Adopt-a-Stream Foundation to continue to restore the banks of Little Swamp Creek, and I'm glad he benefits from allowing them the access!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Little Swamp Creek Wildlife - Summer Recap

Baby rabbit munching on horsetail next to Little Swamp Creek

Our friends from the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation are back on the banks of Little Swamp Creek, this time preparing to do some stream-side restoration work on the property behind us.  So as they are out there working hard in the rain cutting down blackberries and staging plants, I will, with much guilt, start catching up on the blog that they inspired me to start.

This summer our yard and those of our immediate neighbors were regularly visitedraided, eaten by rabbits and deer.  I have never seen deer or rabbits in our yard like we did this year.  I'm wondering if the rabbit population in particular has risen due to the fact that the coyotes don't seem to be around like they were when we moved in 12 years ago.

This baby rabbit could have easily fit in the palm of my hand

Adult rabbit raiding our vegetable garden

Another shot of the rabbit raiding our garden

You would think from the number of times that the deer were in our yard/garden this spring and summer that I would have more pictures of them.   This one shot is pretty funny -

A deer munching on our raspberries

The deer wiped out our initial crop of raspberries by eating them, cane and all.  And they ate the top half of all of our tomato plants.  They've obviously really enjoyed the red osier dogwood bushes in our yard and behind the fence, which is just fine with me as they hold up well to the nibbling and we have lots of them.  We were seeing up to four deer at a time around here during the summer.  Just a few days ago a solitary deer was nibbling on plants at the side of the road when I drove away.  We knew that at least one was still secretly visiting our yard because it/they leave presents for us in the garden....

This amazing caterpillar showed up on the deck railing one day - 

- I'd love to know what it turned into.

We didn't notice any salmon returning to spawn in our stretch of Little Swamp Creek this year, but I would periodically see fish several inches long zooming around in the stream throughout the summer.  There was a fish that seemed to station itself under the bridge all summer long and would swim away when it felt me approaching, so I never captured it on film.  Here's one fish that I did manage to get a shot of -

4-inch fish at the upstream end of the stream in our yard

Oh, and for the record I would like it to be known that I did see salmon returning to Swamp Creek this fall, which I figured would happen on the year that I skipped out on being an official Salmon Watcher.  I spied two sockeye and one coho, all on different days, down where Bothell Way crosses over Swamp Creek at 80th.  I  believe that it has been several years since I saw and recorded any there during my official "Watching".

Birds are the wildlife that we notice more that anything else in our yard.  I've always been amazed by the variety of birds that we are lucky to see.  My favorite are the Swainson's Thrushes that we hear pass through our area every summer, though I can only identify them by their song, not by sight.  We used to see Kenmore's official bird, the Great Blue Heron, in our yard fairly often, but we rarely see them now.

Every year a robin makes a nest on either the wisteria or grape arbors off of our back deck, but this year the nest ended up on a grape arbor that is directly below our window.  We were able to watch as four eggs were laid and four eggs were hatched.  Amazingly enough, they were never discovered by predators.  Here is a shot (taken through the window screen) after the first of the eggs hatched - 

A pair of Stellar's Jays were making a huge a racket on our back deck one day last summer.  I realized why when I saw this cute-but-crabby-looking baby jay under our barbecue -

I've mentioned before that there is a hawk nest in a cottonwood tree in the wetland behind us.  It is incredible to see that nest used year after year, and I would love to know whether the same hawks lay their eggs there each spring or if the next generation comes back to use the nest.  Or if a new pair finds and uses it.  Here's one of the resident hawks watching over the field-

Hawk in the fir tree across the field behind us

This group of four hawks were circling above our yard on a beautiful day last week -

A beautiful pileated woodpecker was on a snag across the street when I left on a walk, camera-less, last week.  You'll have to settle for a picture of some visitors to the cottonwood snag in our backyard last spring -

All of my pictures of these two Canada geese that landed on the top of the snag are blurry, and I think it is because I was laughing too hard to hold the camera still.  I seriously wondered if they were going to try to build a nest there, but they didn't.

And finally, evidence of a more troubling visitor to our neighborhood - 

The Adopt-A-Stream guys pointed this out to me behind our fence.  This tree was 6+ inches in diameter where it was "chopped" down, and I couldn't figure out where the rest of it ended up!  I've blogged about the stream-side black pussy willow bush that we lost to beaver/mountain beaver/? a while back, but that trunk was a lot smaller than this.  This is a bit more disconcerting.  

Friday, May 7, 2010

Stormwater vault pumping, day 2

Little Swamp Creek at noon today

Today the good news was that I went to City Hall to get some contact information and ended up talking in person to a city engineer and the surface water program specialist about what was going on in the stream. They explained the changes that they were requiring when the pumping of the stormwater retention vault upstream resumed today. Unfortunately, the bad news was that when I got home from talking to them I could tell that the pumping had started up because the stream was a bit cloudy. But not as bad as yesterday. That was at about 9:30. But when I came home at noon and looked at the stream, the picture above shows you what I saw. Worse than yesterday. I went up to the vault to see what they were doing, but they were all done. Thank goodness is all that I could say.

Here's what the stream looked like by about 1pm -

And at about 2pm -

Finally, back to normal clarity by 4pm -

(a note on the photos: I really hope to be using a camera with a polarizing lens soon!)

There are a lot of developments with these stormwater retention vaults upstream from us, but this is the first time we've noticed something like this happening. We need to find out if these vault inspections that require the emptying out of the vaults are required at regular intervals or what. The turbidity of the water coming out of the vault may have been fine (as far as the DOE threshold is concerned) when the guys pumping the water tested it today at the hose, but the stream sure wasn't OK down here. (Personally, I think a third party needs to do the testing, anyway.) I hate to think of the lovely concentration of chemicals off of the streets and lawns that ended up coming down here all at once today, especially, as they got down towards the sludgy bottom of the vault today.

Once again I can't believe how much I have learned from living with a stream passing through our yard. I guess everyone lives in a watershed, right? We just happen to experience the good and the bad of our watershed very up-close and personally.