Friday, April 30, 2010

The Annual Return of Our Neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawks

Ever have the feeling that you are being watched?

This is what I saw when I looked up from the computer for much of March and April. Just about every morning there was a red-tailed hawk sitting there in the top of the fir tree in the field behind our house.

Here it is sitting on its second-favorite perch. The hawk is facing left in the middle of the picture.

The nest that hawks use year after year is located in a large cottonwood tree in the large wetland that begins just southwest of our yard. Here are pictures taken from our back deck -

The arrow that I added to this picture is to point out that you can see the hawk sitting in the nest.

This is a view from the east. I couldn't believe how huge the nest looks from this direction.

Every year starting in January we see the hawks fly by carrying twigs/branches to the nest. On March 1 I actually saw the pair, uh, mate in that large fir tree. I took a couple of pictures, but they are both very poor-quality shots. For what it's worth, here they are....

Right now I can look over at the nest through binoculars and see the head of a hawk sitting in there. It's getting harder to see the nest from here now that the trees are leafing out. It should become pretty obvious when the eggs hatch, though, because the hawks become pretty noisy. All day long. I'll post updates.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stream-side Planting - Done!

We had a beautiful day for phase two of the planting of the section of Little Swamp Creek that passes through our yard. This planting event took place in the area all along the west side of the creek.

The majority of the plants for the project were dropped of early in the morning on planting day. The plants are all Northwest natives that came from Bush's Nursery outside of Arlington. Adopt-A-Stream provided some plants from their own supply, too. The plants from Bush's Nursery and the mulch for this project were purchased with money from a 2-year grant awarded by the Washington Department of Ecology and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to improve the quality of Swamp Creek. The boxes and burlap bags used as weed barrier under the mulch were donated by Cascade Coffee. I can tell you from our experience with the planting done on the east side of the stream last spring that this combination of cardboard, burlap bags and several inches of wood chips does an excellent job of covering up/getting rid of the lawn.

I don't know how this job could have happened without the amazing work of the students from the L.E.A.F. School at Edmonds Community College. We are very grateful that they were willing and able to spend the day on this project! (See a link to their program on the side bar) Here they are at the beginning of the day doing a little plant identification before getting started with the planting -

THE PLANT LIST - West side of the stream

Western Red Cedar
Vine Maple
Bigleaf Maple
Douglas Fir
Grand Fir
Sitka Spruce
Pacific Crabapple
Black Hawthorn
Pacific Willow
Scouler Willow
Red Osier Dogwood
Pacific Ninebark
Nootka and other roses
Indian Plum

Everyone helped carry over and arrange the plants in the planting area, and then the hard work began.

Unfortunately, at one point I put the camera down and didn't pick it up again until all of the planting was done and the mulch was spread and the work was done. I did not get pictures this time of the cardboard or burlap bag layers, darn it! (If you want to see what that looks like, you can look back to my April 10, 2009 post of the planting event on the east side of the stream.)

And although we could see small fish swimming in the stream, and a bunch of the group saw a little frog or two at the end of the day, the three catch-and-release traps that the the Adopt-A-Stream guys put in the stream the day prior to the event did not have a thing in them. That was disappointing. It is the time of the year when we can see caddisfly lavaea and "water skeeters", so at least we are seeing the things that we normally see in the stream. Otherwise I would have been really alarmed by the empty traps, considering the critters that were in them last summer...

Here is a picture of some of the L.E.A.F. School group during the wrap-up discussion at the end of the day -

And the finished project -

This is looking north towards the street

This is looking to the south/downstream

All of this new planting blends into what we called "the wetland" area of our yard previously, a small section of our yard that we had planted several years ago with some cedars and other smaller native plants -

Thank you sooo much to everyone who worked on this project! It is was an amazing thing to be involved in, and we are so lucky to have been able to take part in this kind of restoration in our very own yard. I'm happy that we will be able to share the growth and evolution of the restored area on this blog.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

First of all, if you haven't watched it yet, American Experience: Earth Days is a fabulous documentary that is available on disc or to "watch instantly" on Netflix. I highly recommend it.

In honor of Earth Day , I would like to share with you the organic fertilizer formula from Steve Solomon's book "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades". (My parents gave me this book in 1990, and I would say that it has been my most important organic gardening book.) I read that this formula used to be published in the Territorial Seed Company catalog but is no longer shared there.

I mix a batch of this complete fertilizer in a 5-gallon bucket so there is room to stir it all up. I store it in used peanut butter jars or whatever handy container I can find. Because this formula is by volume, you can make an amount that is convenient to you.

Steve Solomon's Not-So-Secret Fertilizer Formula

4 parts seed meal or fish meal
1 part dolomite lime
1 part rock phosphate ore 1/2 part bone meal
1 part kelp meal

Steve suggests replacing one part of the seed meal with blood meal in the early spring when the soils are cold, which is what I do. When I'm planting seeds in the vegetable garden, I sprinkle a little fertilizer in the bottom of the furrows and mix it in with the dirt a bit before I sow the seeds.

If you live west of the Cascades and grow or want to grow veggies, I suggest that you check out this book.

Happy organic gardening!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Planting Day Tomorrow!

A banner is up...

.....and some plants are staged, with many more to be delivered tomorrow morning.

When the guys from Adopt-A-Stream dropped off the plants and tools, they placed three catch-and-release traps in the stream to see what critters are living in there. The traps are baited with cans of cat food. I can't wait to see what we see in them tomorrow. In case you wondered, you need to have a permit to do this trapping in a stream....

Here's a closer shot of that trap -

The traps were placed on the upstream side of each of the three large woody debris spots, which were placed in the stream by Adopt-A-Stream with the help of the LEAF School class last July.

This cylindrical one is hard to see. It is the smallest and the furthest downstream -

I LOVE the educational aspect of these projects. To see all of the things that I never knew were living in the stream was so amazing when they did this last July. I'm curious to see how tomorrow's "catch" will compare. I'm sure that we'll have lots of pictures to post!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stream-side Planting - Phase Two - Coming Friday!

Big piles of empty burlap coffee bags staged in our yard means one thing - we are about to take part in another amazing Adopt-A-Stream planting project in our yard, with the help of the students of the L.E.A.F. School from Edmonds Community College. We will be getting rid of a bunch of lawn on the west side of the stream this time, planting native trees and bushes and mulching/covering the lawn in between the plants with the coffee bags and cardboard (recycled, of course).

Here is a picture from the planting day last spring that shows the side of the stream that will be taken care of this time -

And here is a shot of some the the plants from the planting last spring. Most are leafing out now and look much more impressive in person! I am amazed - I don't think we have lost ANY of the plants. M-U-L-C-H!! Well, and we watered them through the summer....

And hey, I just realized that this blog has been around for a year now. I started with the first Adopt-A-Stream-coordinated planting project last year. Nice!

Just a warning - you can expect a flurry of posting for a little while here. I am going to have a lot to share.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eagles in North Kenmore

A few weeks ago I went for a walk in the morning and just happened to notice that there was an eagle sitting in a tree behind the condo complex just north of the Kenmore library. Just north of the heron rookery. I only had my cell phone camera, so the pictures aren't the best, but hopefully you can see an eagle in the middle of the picture above. When I walked closer, I was very surprised to see that there were actually two eagles in the tree, but you can't see the second one in my photo.

I continued my walk north up 73rd, and when I reached the bridge over Swamp Creek I saw two eagles in a tree in the floodplain on the west side of the street there! This is a terribly fuzzy photo (I need to just carry the regular camera on my walks), but I circled where the eagles were in the tree -

Turns out these must have been the same ones I had just seen by the library, because a neighbor out watching them had just seen the pair arrive. But the AMAZING thing was that there were two juvenile eagles in nearby trees!

Can you see that dark spot in the left side of the large cottonwood tree?

And the dark spot in the cottonwood in the middle of this picture?

I thought this was pretty exciting.

Then on March 27th the Seattle Times ran a front-page article about the effect that bald eagles have on herons. Here is a link to the article -

The Kenmore heron rookery isn't mentioned in the article, but I understand that the nests there have been raided by eagles, also. So in retrospect, I wonder what the eagles were up to down by the rookery that morning.

Here are a couple of shots I took earlier this spring of herons in the rookery just north of the Kenmore park-and-ride -