Friday, April 20, 2012

Little Swamp Creek in April

Salmonberry blossom

Give us some warm, sunny, spring days, and suddenly everything along the stream comes alive!  And I breathe a sigh of relief each spring when I see life returning IN Little Swamp Creek itself, too.  

 Here are a couple of little 1.5-2"-long fish that were hanging out at different spots in the stream - 

I've seem some larger fish (maybe 4" long) zipping by, but they are too quick for me to identify.

We are starting to see the trails of caddisfly larvae along the bottom of the stream.  Here's a caddisfly larva conveniently perched for a photo (though it's hard to get a clear photo through rippling water...) -

I recently recalled that 10 years ago we used to see small groups of river eels hanging out in dips in the stream bed, but we haven't seen any recently.  Ha!  On the day I was taking update photos I happened to spot two eels swimming upstream.  Unfortunately all of my photos of those quick critters ended up being blurry, but you get the idea -

And suddenly our native plants are leafing out like crazy --

Red Currant

Nootka Rose


Indian Plum seedling  (love it when good seedlings show up instead of just weeds)

Red Osier Dogwood

Big Leaf Maple

All of the plants haven't leafed out yet, but already you can see what a thick, shady riparian zone we now have along the stream where there used to be some trees and mostly lawn.  This side is going into the fourth year since planting in spring of 2009 -

This shot is looking south into the yard.  This area was planted a year later than the other side, so it's beginning its third year.  I'll post another shot after the plants have all of their foliage -

I've been noticing heron in the planted area behind the fence -

I'll post photos of how the plants are doing in that area soon. 

A variety of trash shows up in the stream, the best being parts of old glass bottles.  While I was taking pictures of the caddisfly larva I looked over to see the sun shining on this chunk of green glass in the stream. Nice to see beauty in litter.

Foam keeps collecting on the upstream side of this large woody debris installed in the stream bank.   I've read that one cause of foam can be faulty septic systems upstream.  Or soap.  Since the presence of the foam is pretty constant, I'm thinking it's septic.  Yuck.

And this photo.... a teaser for a post to come.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Red-tail Hawks, Beavers and Stellar's Jay Origami

A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to get these shots of one of the neighborhood Red-tailed hawks as it was flying close to our rooftop, possibly checking out our chickens.  This is one of the pair that is using the nest in a large cottonwood tree in the wetland behind our fence (the area officially known as Kenmore's Wetland #3).  Its mate was soaring much higher up in the sky.

Back in February I noticed that something had been nibbling on the root of the giant willow tree next to the stream at the front of our yard.  I didn't find evidence on any other trees in our yard.

...until a couple of days ago when I discovered brand new damage on two quaking aspen trees further downstream in our yard -

and some branches chomped off of a willow -

I'm assuming it is a beaver, of course.  I wrapped the damaged aspens with chicken wire to a height of about 4 feet to hopefully prevent further damage.  

But today I noticed that there is new damage on a smaller trunk next to the others....

On a lighter note, a pair of house finches were foraging together in one of our raised beds -

You couldn't miss that little guy's bright red head.

This is a collage of the process I witnessed of a Stellar's Jay folding up a long strand of old onion or leek leaf that it scavenged from our vegetable garden -

A pair of jays has been building a nest somewhere next to our house in our neighbors' trees.  I hope to see their fledglings in our garden this summer - little jays are the cutest little things.  

A funny thing I noticed when putting together this collage is that the jay didn't only snag the plant matter for its nest. It is also is holding onto a plastic plant marker in the first two photos.  It must have grabbed that with a claw at the same time it flew off with the onion bit in its beak!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kenmore Heron Rookery 2012


I spent a little time down at the Kenmore heron rookery in mid-February watching, listening (quite spellbound by the crazy noises being made) and taking pictures.  It appeared that the heron were in the midst of fixing up nests, showing off to potential mates and being very territorial.  I regret that I didn't make a sound recording while I was there, because in the times that I have been back there since I have not witnessed the same cacophony.

(Yep, that actually is a picture of herons mating...)

I had never seen heron flare/puff up their feathers before.  What a show!  Here are several pictures of varying degrees of showiness -

That sleek neck turns into quite the bottle brush!

I didn't realize that those long, dark head feathers would stand straight up like this.

And some other miscellaneous photos of the heron.  Too bad it was such a dark, gloomy day -

A Metro bus driver who was on his break at the Park and Ride told me that the babies make quite a racket.  So I still have a chance to record some crazy sounds down there.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Looking For Spring

Indian Plum

Indian Plum is the first deciduous shrub to show signs of life in our yard after winter, and here is one that is getting close to blooming already.  This is one of the things that I anxiously look for in February as a sign that spring WILL be coming.  

Heron rookery at the Kenmore Park and Ride, 2/17/2012

The heron return to the rookery in Kenmore every year around the first week of February.  The rookery was definitely FULL Friday morning.  In the near future I'll post more pictures from my trip there.

Red-tailed hawk returns to nest in Kenmore's Wetland #3

A red-tailed hawk returns to the same nest in the cottonwood tree behind our fence every February.  There it was peaking out of the nest Friday afternoon.

So I have now seen all of the early signs of spring that I watch for along Little Swamp Creek.  Here are some other things we've seen along the stream in the last month or so -

Varied Thrush
Varied Thrush pair in a locust tree
Varied Thrushes were here in January but I haven't heard them lately.

Chickadees, of course

Flocks of (maybe?) Pine Siskins passed through and seemed to be pecking at alder cones

Towhee giving me the stink-eye because the bird feeder was empty

Stellar's Jay also pointing out that empty feeder


Flicker looking guilty after hammering on our stove pipe

Bees were going crazy on a hellebore one unseasonably warm afternoon

Some of my first photos of the year of the red-tailed hawk in the tree across the field from us -

I could tell that the hawk had returned because of the fussing of crows.  Speaking of crows, I have noticed that the huge flocks of crows that would stop for a while in our neighborhood as they pass through at dusk all winter long are no longer showing up.  That also seems to happen every February.

I haven't seen the Kenmore deer herd for quite some time.