Sunday, December 22, 2013

winter, such as it is

photo courtesy Ron Sikes
In October, unexpectedly large flocks of Buffleheads, Wigeons, Scaup, Canada Geese and other species descended on the lagoon. It is typically a sheltered and hospitable place for waterfowl even in late fall and winter.

The lagoon froze over earlier this month, and all the usual water birds apparently headed down to salt water at Point Hudson and Point Wilson to wait out the weather. Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Wigeons and Buffleheads, all more normally seen at Kah Tai, were observed hunkered down in both places until the weather turned again and the ice departed.

The cold snap didn't bring much snow for the park. The picture here is from a few years past, but it serves as a beautiful reminder of the season and the solstice.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

a part of the process

As a part of the Master Plan for Kah Tai, Phase I of the Kah Tai Lagoon Park was developed, refined, reviewed and permitted in 1985. Phase I required a Shoreline Substantial Development permit (#SH10-85) from the State Department of Ecology. The final version of the permit map, dated November 1985, indicates that the purpose of digging the small lagoon is to 'Restore Wildlife Habitat'.

The small lagoon was initially drawn to extend much closer to 12th Street than it does today with the hope that the 'Department of Ecology shall not require review under the Washington State Shoreline Management Act for future projects proposed for lands brought under the jurisdiction of the Act' as a result of the permit. Ecology was unable to waive review of adjacent lands that would be within the 200-ft shoreline zone of the small lagoon. The result is the modified configuration that we see today for the small lagoon.

There remain intermittent wetlands in the area between the small lagoon and the southern boundary of the park. One obvious component of the Master Plan not yet complete is the restoration of wetlands near the eastern boundary of the southern uplands.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We have a boundary!

Last evening we heard the news from both a port commissioner and a county commissioner that the property transfers are complete and Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park is entirely in city hands. Since the port land was the major source of contention between 1980 and now, and the final small parcel holding up the transfer belonged to the county, it would seem that the sources of information are exceedingly well-placed to provide facts.

We aren't done yet. There are all the issues ahead of language in the parks and comprehensive plans being updated to recognize this new reality and affirm governmental recognition of perpetual protections. But now park supporters can focus on a single entity - it's time for the city to finish what it started in 1980.

Meanwhile, there are some weathered bumper stickers around town that are becoming collectors' items. We still have a few left - just in case.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Another work party on 22 June, 9 am to noon

The ongoing efforts to control Scot's broom at Kah Tai are especially evident now, in peak Scot's broom season. Other areas of the city and county are covered in yellow, no longer beautiful to look at once you know how invasive it is. But in the south uplands, the only yellow visible is a California lupine, not native but not invasive.  The park looks wonderful.

Our May workparty went to work on the last serious Scot's broom outbreak in the middle of the park, not visible from the highway or the lagoon. A few relatively large and healthy specimens were also extracted from the north side of the berms where they had tucked in behind blackberries.  On 20 June from 9 am to noon, we'll tackle that central area again.

There are many non-native species at Kah Tai which do not seem invasive or unwelcome.  A spring walk might take you past a clump of iris, or daffodils, or crocus, some anonymous contribution to the park. A favorite discovery is a cluster of at least three white lilac shrubs on the southern berms. All bloomed this year. As lilacs are not invasive and do not usually propagate by seed, these were deliberately brought and planted on their berm by unknown hands.

The final transfer of Kah Tai land from Port to City is still underway, although movement is glacial. A single parcel in the northeast section seems to be the holdup. It was listed in records as being owned by the City back in 1980 and so when the County sold all its Kah Tai parcels to the City in 2004, the single parcel wasn't included. It is beneath a right of way and intermittently under water. But it turns out that it belongs to the County after all and so we await the paperwork to transfer this final piece from one government entity to another. On September 22, 1980, the County Commission unanimously voted to transfer Kah Tai parcels to the City if the LWCF grant was funded, - "all underwater parcels and upland parcels as needed". Time to finish the job.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Earth Day workparty at Kah Tai

Kah Tai mirror. Photo by Julie Jaman
There's another work party at Kah Tai next Sunday, April 21st. There's ALWAYS another work party at Kah Tai, but this one is in honor of Earth Day. Humans leave a noticeable footprint on the uplands but it is human awareness and appreciation that will continue to protect Kah Tai. It's a fair trade-off. So many folks take ownership of the park. Much of the trash along Sims Way blows in from the commercial area across the street, due more often to careless customers than to the business owners. Many park users pick up the occasional litter as they walk through.

We just keep working on the Scot's broom. Areas that were once covered with broom now host crowds of Nootka rose.  As the completion of ownership transfer inches closer, more folks show up at the work parties, starting to trust that the park will be intact and it's worth digging some weeds. Kah Tai's future isn't so clouded these days. There's still a little parcel on the north side that has an incomplete solution but it is the same little parcel that confounded those volunteers who created the park in 1981.

We visited a few of those 130+ shrubs and trees that were planted in February. The mock orange and blue elderberry are leafing out nicely. The dogwood are still thinking about it, waiting for a clearer message of spring.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Arbor Day, 2013

Kah Tai uplands, February 23, 2013
Yesterday was officially declared Arbor Day by our City Council so that the planting at Kah Tai would be our official Arbor Day event.

A group of thirteen volunteers planted 130 native plants and shrubs in the uplands. In the woodland, we settled in snowberry, Indian plum and baldhip roses to provide some competition for the invasives recently removed.

Pacific dogwood, mock orange, blue elderberry and red-flowering currant were added along the upland trails.

It's late winter and the park is poised for spring. It is anything but barren. Compare this photo with the one posted in January 2013, an image of Kah Tai from a similar perspective in the late 1970s.  You can click on the photo to enlarge it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

a day of service

Kah Tai uplands, pre-1980. Photo courtesy S Hayden.
Monday was MLK Day, a day of service in our community. Some folks journeyed to Irondale Beach to help the County convert a hazardous waste area into wildlife habitat; much invasive blackberry and ivy were waiting to be removed. Other folks headed up to Fort Worden to work on the invasion of Scot's broom in our state park.

Some of us had our 'day of service' a day earlier at Kah Tai. At least sixteen volunteers showed up and diligently put in a few hours each, pulling Scot's broom. A few new faces joined our ranks. In December, we had eighteen volunteers with several new faces, a record for Scot's broom efforts in recent memory. There've been times in the recent past when a Kah Tai work party would draw the same four people, but now there's a sense of ownership with the park.

In December, a volunteer found  and pulled what is likely the oldest Scot's broom remaining at Kah Tai, a monster over eight feet tall. It was tucked in on one of the berms along Sims Way and when not in bloom it was camouflaged with other similar-sized shrubs. There's still a lot of broom, but it is mostly quite small, often too young to bloom.

For those who think Kah Tai is a failed park, go stand in the uplands, turn to face the courthouse, and see what your view is now. Then compare it to the photo here, taken before the park was created in 1981, when the uplands were young dredge spoils and Scot's broom was about all that would grow. The native plants slowly seeded in and were protected by the hardy broom back then, but time and nature and more than a little help from her friends have brought the park to life.

There'll be another planting party on February 23rd. Pacific dogwood, mock orange, blue elderberry, red flowering currant, twinberry and other natives. We hope to introduce another 130 trees and shrubs into the park.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

'of course, the eagles are always about'

David Gluckman's spotting scope
Ten birders participated in an Admiralty Audubon chapter field trip along the southern edge of Kah Tai Lagoon today. Highlights were five raptor species, including a 'very spiffy' Peregrine Falcon perched on a utility pole at the east park entrance.

Here, in order of sighting, are the 37 species seen: Bald Eagle, Cooper's Hawk, Black-capped Chickadee, American Crow, Double-crested Cormorant, Glaucous-winged Gull, Northern Flicker, Bufflehead, Mallard, American Coot, Ruddy Duck, Common Goldeneye, Red-winged Blackbird, Scaup species, Pied-billed Grebe, Anna's Hummingbird, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Great Blue Heron, Song Sparrow, American Robin, Red-tailed Hawk, European Starling, Red-breasted Merganser, Canada Goose, (probable) Cackling Goose, Pine Siskin, Eurasian Wigeon, Bewick's Wren, Northern Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, House Finch, Purple Finch, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Golden-crowned Kinglet.

A few human slackers didn't show up to look into the spotting scopes and marvel at the abundance of riches. So this photo showed up in the inbox, entitled 'we missed you'. And being slackers made some of us miss out on seeing what would have been our first Northern Harrier. I mentioned the list of raptors to a friend who has the good luck to have a front window filled with a lagoon panorama, and she knew the Harrier was back and was interested to hear about the falcon and the Cooper's.  

'Of course,' she casually added, 'the eagles are always about'.