Wednesday, November 25, 2015

the colors of late autumn

English hawthorn, Crategus laevigata
common privet, Ligustrum vulgare
Washington hawthorn, Crategus phaenopyrum
Kah Tai is settling in for the winter, and berries seem to be everywhere. Although none of those pictured here are native species, all provide some food value for wildlife. We continue to plant natives but many are too immature to fruit. Look for blue elderberry and evergreen huckleberry to produce in the not too distant future.

Above are two non-native hawthorns and a privet. That Washington hawthorn is named after the 'other' Washington, first noted in cultivation in the 1700s in the Washington DC area.

The work continues to minimize the spread of invasive English holly and English ivy in the park. Both species are so successful that they crowd out the native understory. Both produce berries of interest to birds and so proliferate beneath the trees where birds perch. Funny how passage through a bird's gut can determine the location of the next generation of invasives. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

fire at a distance

all photos courtesy Artemis Celt
 A winter just a couple of degrees Fahrenheit too warm led to torrential winter rains that should have been snow in our part of the Olympic Mountain watershed. Three percent of normal snowpack in our watershed when spring arrived resulted in water rationing - voluntary so far, but possible to be enforced.

Our water supply is surface water, taken from the Big and Little Quilcene Rivers through a complex calculation, with one simple rule: if the flow is lower than 27 cubic feet per second, we cannot withdraw water.

The Olympic National Forest is in significant part temperate rain forest, in the westside valleys of the Quinault, Queets, Hoh and Bogachiel Rivers. You don't get fires in a rainforest. But this year, you do. Relatively containable fires are burning in the Olympics.

East of the Cascades, hell has broken loose. Another year of drought and the tinder is ready. The beautiful landscape is being transformed in unimaginable ways.

If there's an upside to fires, it's the sunsets for those just distant enough not to suffer the particulates. Enjoying such sunsets feels guilty, because they mean someone is suffering, even if the fire is in a remote area. Wildlife always suffers. We forget that when humans are not present, life still goes on for other species. Human suffering always takes precedence, and it isn't at all certain that it should. There is so much more to this world than us.

Nonetheless, beautiful sunsets. Top left is smoke from the fires in the Olympics around 3 August. Next photo down is those mudflats we hadn't seen in quite some time, reflecting that fiery sunset. And bottom photo is a sunset in mid-August, courtesy of Eastern Washington's calamity.

The drought has also been good for the appearance of shorebirds at Kah Tai. The two summers that were part of Admiralty Audubon's Kah Tai Bird Survey (2010 and 2011) were both unusually wet, and few shore birds were reported because there were no mudflats. This year has hit the shore bird bonus board, while elsewhere, others pay the price.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

a few thousand words' worth

Who needs words for a May evening at Kah Tai?

Monday, January 19, 2015

waiting for spring

Kah Tai, January 2015, © Artemis Celt.
Although the snowpack isn't what we hope for this time of year, we've had plenty of rain. The lagoon is full and the mudflats have disappeared. Instead of Yellowlegs and Sandpipers in the shallows, we find Buffleheads and Mergansers tucked in among the ever-present Mallards. Two Merganser females (Red-Breasted and Common) allowed photos to document their presence. Coots, Ruddy Ducks, grebes, herons, wigeons, and quite an array of upland birds can be seen, including a Scrub Jay spotted just across the street from the entrance to the park.

Mallards are a personal favorite, simply because they are so personable. They are Kah Tai's best salesmen, or salesbirds; city birds, approachable, vocal and always willing to accomodate a snack. They draw small children and elderly folks to sit on the benches along the edge, to appreciate that the park is here in the middle of town where we all have access. Mallards make the case for the average non-birding people walking through the park, quacking them in to discover Mergansers and Buffleheads and Ruddy Ducks, to witness passerine migrations, to hear the beautiful scream of a Red-tailed Hawk circling above.

In our first winter here, a Snow Goose appeared at the lagoon. She'd apparently missed the migration with her flock, whether due to injury, illness, or inattentiveness she never indicated. The resident Mallards took her in; she joined them in greeting humans in her foreign tongue, and she spent a fine winter being an odd Mallard. In the spring, she was gone.