2008                                                                                                                                            2007    2006

 


December 31st.  The slide grew today, biting deeper into the hillside.  The dead maple is bound to fall pretty soon.  How long and how far will this slide go?  Pictures.  We only got 30 inches of rain this year compared to the average of 36.  It seems like the seeping water is causing the hillside to blowout, but why on such a dry year?  Did the death of the maple's roots cause the hillside to weaken?


December 18th.  A small mudslide occurred in the same place as it did on January 17th, 2008.  Last spring, I planted wild cucumber, an alder, a maple, and Henderson's checkermallow.  All of that seems to be wiped out.  I will plant a pair of maples and hope some roots establish quickly enough to slow the erosion.  The hillside is supposed to move, but I would hate to see it move so quickly that it destroys the stairs.  Pictures in the gallery.

 

 


November 20th.  Kevin, a frequent volunteer at Seahurst Park, found this loon sitting on the beach at Seahurst Park, unwilling or unable to move.  Jay, the guy who closes the gate, helped him scoop it into a box, and I drove the bird to Renton Veterinary Hospital where they will hold it until Sarvey Wildlife picks it up.  What should one do when one sees injured wildlife?  If you see a seal on the beach, do not help.  It is most likely a young seal resting on the beach, and your presence might drive away the mother.  Animals die all the time in the wild, and if this is just nature taking its course then we should probably not interfere.  However, I decided to do my small part to help this loon because it could very well be that human interference caused the illness or injury.  We need more loons in our world.  The day we can say we have too many loons, then I'll be less likely to help.

Warning: bad joke ahead.  What sort of container is this bird in?  A loony bin.


November 14th.  Many of the plants that invade Eagle Landing Park would be attractive and desirable plants if not for the fact that they are invasive.  Norway Maple and Sycamore Maple are two graceful and sturdy trees that, unfortunately, need to be killed inside the park's boundaries.  I just recently located the Norway Maple, hiding in plain sight.  I had been pulling up little Norway Maple seedlings for many years, not knowing where they came from.  When the leaves turned yellow this fall, I just happened to look up and find the mother tree.  You would think it was our native Big Leaf Maple until you examined it closely.  The picture below shows the three leaves together, Norway on top, Sycamore in the middle, and Big Leaf underneath.


 

November 1st.  Today, the King County Native Plant Salvage program worked a site in Maple Valley.  After salvaging plants for King County in the morning, I dug plants for Eagle Landing Park in the afternoon.  I pulled up carpets of twinflower, starflower, and kinnickinnick.  It had rained hard the previous day, making the digging easier.  Pearly everlasting, licorice fern, hemlock, honeysuckle, cascara, mosses, and lichens also found new homes in Eagle Landing Park.  After I planted a truckload of plants in the park and went home, a heavy rain storm moved through, watering everything for me. 


 

The Crow and The Thrush.

A man walked along the forest path with a small cardboard box in his right hand and a plastic pot containing a cedar tree in his left hand.  Crunching large maple leaves beneath his feet, he walked down the hill, down the stairs, past the large Madrone, past the hemlock growing out of the stump, and then off the trail to an area with rich, deep soil beneath a large cedar.  As he began to dig with his hands through the soft earth, a crow glided through the canopy, silently.  Several trees away, the crow lit on a branch and cawed raucously.  He swooped down from the maple branch to a hazelnut nearer the man.  There, he rattled softly and then made the sound of a muted trumpet, “Wonk, wonk.”  He watched the man digging.  The man glanced up at him, but continued feeling about in the earth, pushing roots aside, making room.

The crow asked, in a scratchy voice, “What’s in the box?”

The man did not look up at him, but answered, “Nothing that concerns you.”

The crow tilted his head to the left.  “If it is something you are going to bury, perhaps I might make use of it.”

“I would prefer you did not make use of this particular item.”

“Selfish man.  You know that if you don’t share with me, I will call every crow around, and we will shout at you mercilessly every time you walk through these woods.  You’ll throw rocks at us, like you did that one time, and you’ll miss, and we’ll scream even louder.” 

The man wiped a speck of dirt from his cheek using the back of his hand.  He put his hands on his thighs and looked up at the crow.  “I apologize for throwing the rock.  It was a mistake.  I just wanted some quiet, and you were being especially persistent that day.”  He picked up the box and popped the seal of tape.  He lifted out a Varied Thrush with a broken neck, and he showed it to the crow.  “I have come here to bury this thrush, and to pay my respects.” 

The crow tilted his head to the other side.  “He doesn’t need your respect.  He’s dead.” 

“I know.  This small ritual is for me.  I am bringing him back to life by planting him with this tree, and his body will become incorporated in the wood of the cedar.  When I watch this cedar grow, I will be reminded of the thrush.”

The crow cawed and rattled.  “Last year, two crows died over there, and you just scooped them up with your shovel and threw them to the far side of the compost pile.”

“Sorry.  I didn’t know you were watching.  I didn’t mean any disrespect.”

“Why don’t you like crows?”

“I like crows one at a time.  It’s when you all get together that you become a nuisance.  Like the eagle.  She is just sitting there in the tree, and a few of you will dive at her and scream, for many minutes.  I do enjoy listening to you talk to yourself, when you are alone in the old maple.”

“We harass the eagle because she steals our young.  Just because she does it quietly doesn’t make it any less of an offense.”

The man placed the thrush in the hole.

The crow said, “In Tibet, the monks take the body of their deceased relative to the mountains where they cut it apart and let the vultures eat it.  They call it a sky burial.  Why don’t you let me eat that thrush, and I will give him a sky burial, too.”

He looked up at the crow for a long time.  “You make a good case, and maybe next time I will, but today I have a tree, a hole, and a plan.  All I need now is some peace.” 

The crow nodded.  The man lifted the pot, inverted it with his right hand while holding the soil in his left, and shook the tree loose from the pot.  He examined the roots, which did not appear to coil in circles too much.  He glanced down at the thrush in the hole, gently brushed some soil over him, and placed the cedar in the hole.  After crumbling clods of dirt into the remainder of the hole, filling it level with the surrounding forest floor, he stood and looked down at the small tree.  The crow allowed the silence, just turning his head slightly from side to side. 

After several minutes, the man looked up at the crow, nodded, and said, “Thank you.”  As the man climbed up the hill toward the trail, the crow flitted along beside, gradually getting closer as he hopped from the hazelnut to the salmonberry to the hemlock.  He asked, “Why do you like thrushes better than crows?” 

The man reached the trail and turned to face the crow.  “It’s not that I like crows less.  It’s just that a thrush is a rare and beaut—it’s just that I rarely see any thrushes and I see crows all day, every day.”  The crow did not contradict him, but he shook his feathers and turned on the branch.  The sun glinted off his glossy black wings and sparkled on his shiny black eyes.  “Crows are beautiful, too.  I guess I should pay more attention.” 

The crow nodded. “We are taking a census, you know.  It’s not just noise.  We regulate our reproduction based on these gatherings, having fewer children if the census is louder than usual.  Most people think there are too many crows, and we agree, sometimes.  There’s no point in having more than enough crows.”  The crow glanced around at the houses beyond the woods, houses that every year grew closer and denser as the forest shrank.  Then he turned to look at the man.  He asked, “When you find me, one day, will you give me a burial with a new tree, and give me a new life?” 

“I will.”

The crow nodded and flew off toward the Douglas-fir.  He met a few crows there, and they started with their noise.  More crows joined them as they moved through the canopy away from the man, and as they grew distant, their noise grew louder.  The man walked up the gravel path with leaves crunching beneath his feet.  The sound of his footsteps and the sound of the distant crows transformed, as he walked, from noise into music, random and chaotic but with variations that formed textures and shapes.  As he listened, he discerned that the crows weren’t merely shouting at each other but adding each of their distinct voices into a wall of sound that moved through the ravine and echoed off the nearby houses.  The man walked home with his empty pot and his empty box as the sun slanted through yellow maple leaves, and he listened for several blocks to the fading sound of the crows.

 


October 26th.  Planted: 2 Tiarella, 1 mock orange, 2 maidenhair ferns, 1 cow parsnip.  On this beautiful, sunny afternoon, the maple across the street was brilliant yellow, illuminating the park.  The large madrone north of the park showed deep green leaves and bright red berries against the clear blue sky.  Dozens of robins harvested the madrone berries, giving occasional twitters and chirps.  The vine maples in the lot just north of the park also burned with oranges, reds, and yellows.  If our current trend of subdividing lots and cutting down trees continues, the park entrance will look very different in the future.  I enjoyed it today, with my hands in the dirt, Kodachrome colors all around, and dozens of birds for company. 


October 22nd.  If Mother Nature could talk, what would she say?  Some people have made the analogy that the Earth's biosphere is an entity called Gaia, alive, with a natural balance that we have disrupted.  Some have suggested that we should be the voice of Gaia, since she does not use words to communicate.  If we are to become the voice of Gaia, first we must get to know her.

I have said before that Eagle Landing Park is alive, an ecosystem inside of other ecosystems.  I have gotten to know the park, even though I have much to learn.  I have personally observed every inch of the park.  I've learned the names of the species, which are native and which are invasive.  I know how the rain falls, which way the storms approach, how and when the trees usually fall, and where the water flows all year round.  If I know as much about the park as anyone, then what would she have me say on her behalf?  I can't speak of the park's desires, but I can tell how she is now compared to how she used to be.  I can report on the health of the park.  If our goal is to improve the health of the park, for her benefit and ours, then I can say a few words on what we might do to help her heal. 

1.  We need to preserve the surrounding forest.  Hundreds of large evergreens surround the park, and more significant trees stand within a half mile radius of the park than are within the park itself.  Every year, some of these giants come down.  Some fall, but more often they are cut.  Usually, large evergreens are cut just before or just after a house is sold.  They are cut to let light in, to improve views, and to reduce the hazard that some people think the trees represent.  The character of the surrounding neighborhood is of homes nestled into a forest, but some people would rather that their neighbors have the trees while they have more open sky.  Well, if you want open sky, move to a neighborhood that has fewer trees.  Don't move into a neighborhood with an established evergreen canopy and then try to make it look like Arizona.  Yes, people have property rights, and if people want to cut the trees they "own" then there is little anyone can do to stop them.  Even the requirement of a permit won't stop most people.  From the perspective of the health of the park, however, the surrounding urban forest is critical.  It expands the territories of birds and small mammals.  It is a seed bank for regeneration of the plants within the park, and it is a source of genetic diversity.  It is also a wind buffer and a storm water buffer. 

2.  Remove invasive plants.  The body of Eagle Landing Park is laced with the cancer of aggressive invading plants.  Ivy, holly, laurel, and blackberry are displacing native plants.  These invaders do not perform the same ecological functions as the plants they replace.  They don't have the same food value to native wildlife.  All four of these species are eaten by non-native starlings, though, and the European starlings help spread these non-native plants.  We used to have interesting native mammals and birds that have been kicked out of their homes by invading plants and animals.  Flying squirrels, Douglas squirrels, California quails, and foxes are just a few species that I used to see, but have not seen in a long time.  Before the invaders, the forest of Eagle Landing Park remained in a gently-shifting balance.  Since 1850, the forest has undergone dramatic changes.  Plant relationships that took centuries to develop have been disrupted.  The park needs relief from constant attacks in order to reestablish these relationships. 

3.  Increase diversity.  Once the invasives are halted, the park needs our help in reintroducing the native plants that might have lived here in the past.  Normally, these plants would regenerate themselves, but we removed all the seed sources.  This small forest is disconnected from the larger forest, so we need to transport replacement plants to the park.  Over 500 species of natives used to grow in the Seattle area.  If we could build the species diversity to at least 120 plants, the forest could start to resemble the healthy, balanced ecosystem it used to be.  We can't know for sure if we are restoring the forest to exactly the species it used to have in exactly the right proportions, but we can take an educated guess based on the species found nearby, and based on historical records.  We can know for sure that the forest used to be free of invasive plants.

4.  Minimize impacts.  Not everyone comes to the park to enjoy the natural beauty.  Many users are comfortable with impacting the health of the park if it is convenient for them.  Off-leash dogs and dog waste are the two biggest negative impacts.  Sections of the restoration effort have been retarded by excessive dog traffic.  Other impacts come from people who place their entertainment above the health of the forest.  It is a common view that nature was put here for us to use as we see fit.  If you hold that view, nothing I say will convince you otherwise, but if I am speaking for the health of the forest, then I have to say that seemingly insignificant acts by humans, that give them a fleeting moment of gratification, can have a disproportionately deep and lasting impact on the health of the park.  People think they are adventurous and resourceful when they blaze a trail into the untamed wilderness.  They think they are admirable pioneers making a new trail for the benefit of others.  It is a lie they tell themselves, and we would all benefit if people would stop making new trails.  Another big impact on the park is the continued supply of invasive seeds from surrounding properties.  Some people like their ivy and holly.  It would improve the health of the forest if they found some other plant to enjoy with similar qualities but without the invasive potential. 

5.  Integrate to larger ecosystems.  Eagle Landing Park is knitted into the surrounding urban forest in the yards of neighborhood homes.  Especially along the bluff, the portion of residential lots too steep for building homes, the forest of ELP is connected by a greenbelt to the 175 acres of Seahurst Park.  The larger park is only half a mile away.  Although there are homes between the two parks, the ecosystems are connected by the narrow greenbelt and the network of the canopy of trees.  The connection to Seahurst Park could be enhanced if that bluff greenbelt were improved as habitat, with the invasive species removed and more diverse natives planted.  Again, homeowners are unlikely to act just because it is in the best interest of the park, but if I am speaking for the park, then that's what would improve the health of this forest. 

If I were to speak for the forest ecosystem, I would say that its health will continue to be negatively impacted if people keep doing what they are currently doing.  I would say, "Pay attention to me.  I am a living entity dependent on your awareness.  You have the power to greatly improve my health with minimal effort and expense on your behalf.  If you continue to mistreat me, my health could be diminished past the point of no return, and you might miss me some day."  Although she would never say this about herself, the forest is beautiful on many levels.  I have tried to communicate the beauty of the forest so that people will be inspired to take good care of her.  You should get to know the forest, and learn what she has to say to you.


October 14th.  I am a white blood cell.  If Eagle Landing Park is 800 feet long, and if I am about six feet tall and can use my pruning shears to cut stems as small as 1/32nd of an inch, then I am like a little white blood cell ridding the forest's body of unwanted intruders.  As I was removing ivy this afternoon, I thought of those animations on the show House, the way they fly through the body and see all the organs functioning and malfunctioning.  ELP is alive.  It is an ecosystem by itself, even if it is part of a larger ecosystem.  Through training, I have learned to distinguish which bits of green are the "self" and which are alien. 

As I ripped ivy off a large maple, I found a cut stem where someone, probably me, had tried to save this tree before.  The maple was surrounded by broken branches and fallen trunks.  Ivy covered one large trunk on the forest floor, demonstrating how ivy conquers the forest.  It climbs the giants and brings them down, and then it feeds on their carcasses while it scouts for new victims.  This large old maple still had several living trunks, in spite of its rotten spots and its burden of ivy.  I did not kill all ivy around the tree.  I just gave it another respite from the attack.  In order to defeat the ivy, I need to invest more time in cleaning up the park, or else Eagle Landing Park needs more white blood cells. 

Many people have volunteered in ELP, pulling ivy and planting natives:  Dr. Coles' office, The Veterans Conservation Corps, a church group, Highline Honor Students, REI, Starbucks, the Rotary Club, and many individuals including Lisa Auman from the Parks Department.  Great progress has been made in many parts, while other sections are at a standstill.  Once the park becomes mostly free of invasives, keeping it weed-free will require much less work.  Wherever people have cleared ivy, it starts creeping back in from the adjoining areas, like removing one cancerous tumor only to have the cancer spread back in from some hiding place in the body.  Probably 1,000 volunteer hours have been invested in the park over the past three years, achieving a state of about 50 percent weed-free.  If people could blitz the park with 1,000 hours of work in one winter, the body of Eagle Landing Park would be rid of the burden that keeps it depressed. 

I have witnessed small feats of regeneration where the invasives have been controlled.  Starflower, Vanilla Leaf, and Tiarella have all sprung up where no one planted them.  Nature can heal herself if given a chance.  In medicine, the goal is not to cure the body through brute force, usually.  Having spent far too much time in hospitals, it seems to me that doctors are usually trying to either trigger the body's healing mechanisms, or else stop a disease long enough to allow the body to regain the upper hand.  Many illnesses don't receive any treatment.  They just send you home and say you'll get better over time.  Without our help, Eagle Landing Park will not get better.  The minute we turn our backs, ivy, laurel, holly, and blackberries will creep back in, undoing the work we've done. 

At Shorewood Park, they have regular work parties every third Saturday of the month.  They have established a group of volunteers that keeps coming back.  Perhaps ELP could benefit from a monthly work party.  Just as an experiment, I'll put a notice on the kiosk for work parties every fourth Saturday, and see who shows up.  Maybe the forest can recruit a few more white blood cells.

[ Today I planted 8 ocean spray, and 1 thimbleberry, in Zone 5. ]


October 11th.  Another alder fell at the beach, beside the alder that fell earlier this year.  It will be interesting to see how the beach evolves in response to this new feature.  Salt marshes used to be common along the Puget Sound shore, before bulkheads and development.  If sediment and debris collect against these fallen alders, maybe an opportunity will arise for a new salt marsh.  Or maybe winter storms will sweep these trees away.

   


October 10th.  Species diversity.

The parking area, Zone 1, has over 68 species of native plants.  The Seattle metropolitan area had over 515 native species before 1850 (according to Jacobson), before pioneers radically altered the ecosystem.  Zone 14, in the heart of the park, in an area that has not seen much invasive removal, has just 7 native species and 3 invasives, including a uniform blanket of ivy.  In contrast, standing on the trail at the southern edge of zone 18, between the wooden stairs and the old gate, one can see 14 native species and 2 non-natives, just a single plant each of laurel and holly.  (This area has not seen much invasive removal.)    Comparing these three areas, each about a third of an acre, they have 68 natives, 7 natives, and 14 natives.  What should be the target for species diversity? 

The goal has always been to remove all non-native species from the park.  To keep them out, one school of thought is to plant as many natives as possible so that new invasions of non-native species can find no open ground to start in.  Some areas that have canopy openings have more microclimates to support a wider range of species, and some areas with a closed canopy have limited opportunities to re-introduce natives.  For the whole park, this list of over 120 natives would be a good starting point for diversity.  A six acre park without a marsh, pond, stream, or prairie would have had a limited number of native species historically, far fewer than the 515 species that grew in the whole Seattle area. 

The ideal method of restoration involves using an undisturbed reference site as a target, and try to copy that park's species diversity and associations.  No undisturbed habitats remain in the central Puget Sound area, though.  Invasive species have infiltrated even those small patches of original old growth, such as South Whidbey State Park.  100 years from now, if anyone is paying attention to this little park, detailed study will likely show that mistakes were made in the restoration of Eagle Landing Park.  There are probably many different ways to restore the park "correctly," and many ways to restore it "wrong."  The only thing we know for certain, as far as restoration, as that all the non-native species must go.  When all the invasives are gone and at least a hundred native species populate the park, more research might lead to better decisions on how best to increase species diversity without making an unnatural forest. 


October 9th, planted:

6 cedar

2 Douglas fir

1 Madrone

1 evergreen huckleberry.


October 8th, planted today:

1 mock orange, philadelphus lewisii

1 yew, Taxus brevifolia

3 cedar, Thuja plicata

1 sword fern, Polystichum munitum

5 Kinnickinnick, Archtostaphylos uva-ursi

4 bleeding heart, Dicentra formosa

2 slough sedge, Carex obnupta

2 false lily-of-the-valley, Maianthemum dilatatum

 

Also, today I happened to notice that a large section of the park is completely free of invasive species, even though no one has done any removal.  North of the trail, below the wooden steps and above the old chain-link gate, the hillside is covered with salal, apparently so dense that not even ivy and holly can penetrate.  Of the park's six acres, perhaps 3 acres are relatively free of invasives.  Still a lot of work to do. 

Zone 1, the area around the parking lot, now has 68 species of native plants, not counting mosses, lichens, and mushrooms.

1

Abies grandis

Grand fir

Pinaceae

2

Acer circinatum

Vine maple

Aceraceae

3

Acer macrophyllum

Big-leaf maple

Aceraceae

4

Achlys triphylla

Vanilla leaf

Berberidaceae

5

Adiantum pedatum

Maidenhair fern

Polypodiaceae

6

Alnus rubra

Red alder

Betulaceae

7

Alnus sinuata

Sitka alder

Betulaceae

8

Amelanchier alnifolia

Serviceberry

Rosaceae

9

Arbutus menziesii

Pacific madrone

Ericaceae

10

Arctostaphylos uvi-ursi

Kinnickinnick

 

11

Athyrium filix-femina

Lady fern

Polypodiaceae

12

Berberis nervosa (Mahonia)

Cascade Oregongrape

Berberidaceae

13

Berberis aquifolium (Mahonia)

Tall Oregongrape

Berberidaceae

14

Carex obnupta

Slough sedge

 

15

Corylus cornuta

Hazelnut

Betulaceae

16

Crataegus douglasii

Black hawthorn

 

17

Dicentra formosa

Bleeding heart

 

18

Epilobium angustifolium

Fireweed

Onagraceae

19

Epilobium ciliatum

Purple-leaved willowherb

Onagraceae

20

Fragaria vesca

Wild strawberry

Rosaceae

21

Galium aparine

Bedstraw

Rubiaceae

22

Gaultheria shallon

Salal

Ericaceae

23

Geum macrophyllum

Large-leaved avens

Rosaceae

24

Heracleum maximum

Cow parsnip

 

25

Holodiscus discolor

Ocean spray

Rosaceae

26

Juncus effusus

Common rush

 

27

Lonicera involucrata

Honeysuckle

Caprifoliaceae

28

Maianthemum dilatatum

Lily of the valley

 

29

Montia siberica

Candyflower

Portulacaceae

30

Oemlaria cerasiformus

Indian plum

Rosaceae

31

Oplopanax horridum

Devil’s club

 

32

Petasites palmatus

Palmate coltsfoot

 

33

Philadelphus lewisii

Mock orange

 

34

Physocarpus capitatus

Pacific ninebark

Rosaceae

35

Picea sitchensis

Sitka spruce

 

36

Pinus monticola

Western white pine

Pinaceae

37

Prunus emarginata

Bitter cherry

Rosaceae

38

Polypodium glycyrrhiza

Licorice fern

Polypodiaceae

39

Polystichum munitum

Sword fern

Polypodiaceae

40

Populus balsamifera ?

Black cottonwood

 

41

Pseudotsuga menziesii

Douglas fir

Pinaceae

42

Pteridium aquilinum

Bracken

Polypodiaceae

43

Quercus garryana

Garry Oak

 

44

Rhamnus purshiana

Cascara

Rhamnaceae

45

Rhododendron macrophyllum

Western rhododendron

Ericaceae

46

Ribes diverticatum

Gooseberry

 

47

Ribes sanguineum

Red-flowered currant

Grossulariaceae

48

Rosa pisocarpa

Clustered wild rose

Rosaceae

49

Rosa nutkana

 Nootka rose

 

50

Rubus parviflorus

Thimbleberry

Rosaceae

51

Rubus spectabilus

Salmonberry

Rosaceae

52

Rubus ursinus

Wild blackberry

Rosaceae

53

Salix lucida

Pacific willow

 

54

Sambucus racemosa

Red elderberry

Caprifoliaceae

55

Solidago canadensis

goldenrod

 

56

Stachys cooleyae

Cooley's hedge-nettle

Lamiaceae

57

Symphoricarpos albus

Common snowberry

Caprifoliaceae

58

Taxus brevifolia

Pacific yew

 

59

Tellima grandiflora

Fringecup

Saxifragaceae

60

Thuja plicata

Western red cedar

Cupressaceae

61

Tiarella trifoliata

Foamflower

Saxifragaceae

62

Trientalis borealis

Northern starflower

Primulaceae

63

Trillium ovatum

White trillium

Liliaceae

64

Tsuga heterophylla

Western hemlock

Pinaceae

65

Vaccinium ovatum

Evergreen huckleberry

Ericaceae

66

Vaccinium parvifolium

Red huckleberry

Ericaceae

67

Viburnum edule

Highbush cranberry

 

68

Viburnum opulus

Highbush cranberry

 

 

     

 

 


October 6th, planted:

1 yew

3 cedar

1 viburnum edule

5 carex obnupta

1 vine maple

2 ocean spray

1 goldenrod

 


October 3rd.  We got the first good rain in a long time, so today I planted a bunch of natives:

2 rhododendrons

8 salal

4 deer fern

3 false solomon seal

3 indian plum

1 pacific yew

The ground was bone dry, even after several hours of rain, underneath the top quarter of an inch.  It will take a week of rain to get that moisture deep into the soil.  A couple of years ago, we had five inches of rain in one day, and the runoff wasn't serious.  A month later, after the soil had soaked up that five inches of rain, we got two inches of rain in a day, and the runoff caused considerable damage, washing out the trail.  It's tough to be a plant in Seattle.  You never get the right amount of rain at the right time.


September 26th..  Planted several natives along the ditch/rain garden.

1 devil's club

1 cow parsnip

2 cooley's hedge nettle

5 twinberry

1 lady fern

1 ocean spray

 


September 17th.  The termites have been swarming for the past week or two.  The come out at sunset and flutter about aimlessly. 

Pacific Dampwood Termite Reproductive -- Zootermopsis angusticollis - Zootermopsis angusticollis

Tonight's sunset received its color from wildfires in Oregon.  The sun's light was golden all day.  Poor air quality is good for sunsets, but I'll be glad when the rains come next week.


September 10th.  A barred owl checked out my large dogs, wondering how he might have one for a snack.  I took the dogs inside and came back out with my camera.  After I had taken dozens of pictures, the owl swooped down to the ground about 15 feet away and caught a mouse.  He took it back up to the maple branch and ate it.  This was at 10 AM.  Barred owls are becoming like raccoons, squirrels, and crows, tolerant of human presence. 


August 2nd.  Read about the stupidity of Mr. Weedwacker here.

On July 27th, a large portion of the maple in the center of the park fell off, blocking the trail for a few hours.  Pictures here.


July 24th.  A giant moth startled me as I walked around a corner near the park.  I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots before it flew off into a cedar tree. 

A little research revealed that this moth only lives for a week.  How fortunate that I happened upon him.  This is Antheraea polyphemus , a male judging by his feathery antennae, and I would estimate that he measured over 4 inches from wingtip to wingtip.  He won't eat at this stage of his life.  He did all of his eating as a growing caterpillar, and he'll spend his last week of life in flight, searching for mates.  Here's another picture, close to the end of the life cycle:

A pair of young woodpeckers noisily attacked an old cedar tree, but I suspect they didn't really know what they were doing.  I had previously watched an adult methodically disassemble an old alder tree, and these kids seemed to be just tapping at random, making a ton of noise and not seeming to accomplish much.  I took about fifty pictures, and only one or two turned out okay.  Young woodpeckers do not like to sit still for a sixtieth of a second. 

 


 

June 9th.  Yesterday, a seal watched my dogs on the beach as they sat quietly and watched him.  All we could see was the seal's head, and it looked very much like a dog swimming in the water.  I wonder if the seal saw the dogs and thought they looked very much like seals.  Seals on leashes.  I know it was not a dog because he eventually dove down to the eel grass to look for lunch, and didn't come up for a long time. 

Also, yesterday, I heard what sounded like a baby eagle in the nest tree.  I heard the adults, for sure, but another voice sounded quieter and squeaky, like past fledglings have sounded.  I tried to see the baby from the viewing area, but I couldn't see anything.  It could have been an adult making sounds like an infant, I suppose. 

Today we had a winter storm in summer (almost). 

Several large maple branches blew down onto the path.  This one wedged itself into the railing, so I had to go get a handsaw to cut it free.  In summer, we often have whitecaps due to a north wind on sunny, warm days.  It is unusual to have whitecaps from the south at this time of year.  The high winds hit while trees like the maples had all their leaves out, causing more damage than might have occurred in winter.

 


April 30th. 

Some unusual events this past week:

Hundreds of birds have been congregating on Puget Sound between Eagle Landing Park and the northern end of Vashon Island.  They churned up the surface of the water with their activity.  When some of them came closer, they appeared to be Bonaparte’s Gulls, accompanied by our usual seagulls.  Some of them dove at the water, and some of them dropped things from the air into the water.  From a distance, they looked like a strange, localized storm on the surface of the Sound.  They seem to have moved on now, having just stopped for a rest on their way from Mexico to Alaska. 

Hundreds of clams all started shooting water at once, just south of Eagle Landing Park at low tide.  It looked like the fountain at Seattle Center.  I had never seen them do this before.  Over decades of visiting the beach I have become familiar with the squirt of water as you step on the sand near where a clam is resting just under the surface.  You’ll see them randomly squirt here and there even if you don’t step near them.  This was the first time I ever saw hundreds of them go off at once for no apparent reason.  Other people saw it, too, so I wasn’t hallucinating. 

Five eagles swooped around the nest tree one afternoon.  One adult seemed to guard the tree while two other adults engaged in an aerial battle.  Two juveniles seemed to be watching the display.  As far as I can remember, five eagles are the most I’ve ever seen at one time.  Besides that activity, I haven’t seen many signs of nesting activity.  It got me to wondering if eagles might attack each others’ nests to ruin the eggs and reduce local competition.  I found this video of an eagle attacking an eagles’ nest: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1ttvz_attack-on-the-maine-eagles_animals .  This might be the third year in a row with no fledglings from our nest tree. 


April 16th.  The dogwood is starting to bloom.  I'm always glad to see its return in the spring.  The starflower is up, but not blooming yet.  The vanilla leaf is coming along. 

Two of the Trilliums are missing.  I don't know if the theft was by a person or possibly the mountain beaver.  People need to know that taking a trillium stem in bloom can seriously harm the plant or kill it.  It needs its leaves to feed the bulb.  The trilliums that were taken will most likely not bloom next year, if they survive at all. 


April 12th.  The mystery plants turned out to be purple dead-nettle and scotch broom, so I yanked them.  Thanks to the several people who answered. 

The eagles have been exhibiting nesting behavior recently.  One flew toward the nest with an alder branch in his talons.  Also, one eagle has been staying at the nest tree most of the time while the other comes and goes.  The one at the nest tree does lots of complaining, possibly saying, "Bring me a fish!"  I hope this means we will have fledglings this year.  There weren't any in 2006 and 2007.


April 4th, 2008

I need a little help identifying these plants.  If they are weeds, I want to remove them, but if they are natives I will preserve them.  The first one seems to be related to a Stachys and the the second one might be in the lotus family.  Both grow one to two feet tall beside the trail.  Any help would be appreciated.  jim [at] eaglelandingpark.org


March 14th

Tonight just before sunset I saw the Great Horned Owl.  I had been hearing them for months, but this was the first time I saw one.  He or she was sitting right over the trail, in a young maple.  I could see the "ears" or horns.  The owl flew off a little way and continued to make the soft hooting calls. 


March 11th.

A windy and sunny day, it was a perfect day for eagles to play.  Flying was easy, and they had to work hard to ever come down.  You could see them high up in the sky, circling effortlessly without ever flapping.  They didn't need to go that high, since it just took them farther away from food.  I think it's just a way to enjoy the perks of being an eagle.  To land in the perch tree, they would hover along and then park in the air above the tree, just with a slight adjustment of their wings.  Then with another slight adjustment, they would slowly ride an invisible elevator down to the top of the tree.  No flapping required.  I would like to have been an eagle today.  Just before sunset, I heard them talking softly to each other in the nest tree.


March 9th.

Spring is here, according to the flowers.  Indian plum, trillium, salmonberry, currant, Oregon grape, coltsfoot, and skunk cabbage are all blooming.  Ocean spray and snowberry are leafing out.  The buds of the maples, vine maples, and alders are fattening.  Down at the beach, an alder has split lengthwise, and will soon fall down to the gravel.  The devil's club is showing signs of green on the buds. 

The eagles are around, but I haven't seen many signs of mating behavior or nest building.  This may be another year without fledglings, the third in a row.  I wonder if they will retire to Arizona, or something, and leave their prime nesting site to a new couple. 


February 29th.

Laborare est orare; to work is to pray.  I don’t pray, and I’m not religious, but that phrase captures something essential.  Much of the work I have to do is tedious and less than fulfilling.  When I’m working as a volunteer in the park, I feel that I’m working toward something worthwhile.  Even though I’ve been killing ivy for over two years and I’ve hardly made a dent, even though it will take at least ten more years of volunteer efforts to restore this park to something like its native, natural state, and even though the work I do in the park is often undone due to carelessness or ill will—still, while I’m doing this work, this hard, slow, tedious work, it feels like a meditation or a consecration. 

                The park is alive.  It is an ecosystem.  The soil is not inert dirt; it is teeming with roots, fungi, and microscopic organisms.  Particles of particular shapes and sizes hold the moisture at rates that suit different plant species.  A giant Douglasfir may be dependent on an unseen fungus in the soil to exchange nutrients and moisture and minerals essential to life.  Even dead things are alive in the forest.  A rotting trunk of a fallen alder is more alive with insect activity than when it was standing.  Last year’s leaves quickly become this year’s soil.  All of this life used to be invisible to me, but books and science and educators have revealed the hidden forest.  When I do my work, I can enhance this hidden life of the forest by working to neutralize the infection.

                The infection comes in the form of invasive plant species brought here by humans.  When I hike in the Cascades and Olympics, I see over a hundred species of native plants along the trail.  Each plant fills a niche, and they often cooperate with each other to help each plant reach its fullest potential.  At my park, invasive plants are trying to turn this diversity into a wasteland of ivy, holly, laurel, and blackberries.  In parts of the park, they have succeeded.  The native species have been reduced to less than thirty that can withstand the pressures of the invaders.  When I clear a patch of soil, the natives march back in, seeding themselves, restoring the health of the forest. 

                Many of these invasives were brought here by me or members of my family, and they escaped from our gardens.  Out of ignorance, we planted these plants because they seemed robust and wildly successful.  Only later did I learn that the ability to force out other plants is not necessarily a good thing.  Someone saw a photograph of a university in England with its ivy-covered walls and thought they could achieve some sort of dignity with the aid of this creeping vine.  Now that I know better, it is up to me to atone for the sins of my ancestors.  Atonement is part of the work.  Aches and blisters are penance.  The surrounding neighborhood was built with bulldozers and power tools, but I have to restore this park by hand.

                When I am done with several hours of volunteer work, the park hardly looks any different.  I am covered in sweat and dirt.  People look at me and wonder if I am homeless, if maybe I slept under a blue tarp, drunk.  In many ways, the park is my home.  Whatever house I live in, I will always come back to my park.  It is the closest thing I’ll ever have to a church, a house of worship.   I can wear gloves, but I like to have dirt on my hands, to have my hands smell of crushed ivy and broken holly.  I have put my hands on these plants, weeding, sorting, healing.  I’ve had my hands in the soil, in the body of the ecosystem.  My work is my prayer, and I can envision a healthy forest, many years from now.  A forest that I helped create, with my  hands, with my work.

 


February 27th. 

This evening just before sunset I saw 3 eagles.  One with a white head sat in the perch tree while an immature eagle flew south about a hundred feet below.  Then another mature eagle coasted up to the perch tree and landed beside the first.  Neither of them said a word. 


February 26th. 

I've been hearing the great horned owl very often when I walk near (not in) the park at night.  It's a soft sound, and I'm sure that most people aren't quiet enough to hear it.  The owl is like an old friend. He never has anything new to say, but it's nice to know he's there.  Some other old friends are coming back to life in this warm and sunny weather.  I've seen skunk cabbage and trilliums, but several patches of trilliums have not come up yet.  Indian plum, elderberry, Oregon grape, and snowberry are leafing and blooming.  They are right on schedule compared to the photos I took last year.  The palmate colstfoot is springing up.  Much of the greenery that has persisted all winter is rather dull, and the fresh green of Indian plum and skunk cabbage are a welcome change.  The skunk cabbage especially seems to catch the light, earning its other name of swamp lantern. 

Our old friends the eagles are around as well.  I haven't seen any signs that they are building the nest again, but I've been watching the perch tree more than the nest tree.  Since the park has been open, they have not had offspring.  We'll see what happens this year.  Maybe they are just enjoying their retirement.  They must have had about 30 offspring in the time they have been nesting here, since 1989 or so.  In this recent video, the eagle has his or her head turned completely backward so both the beak and the tail are pointing toward the camera.  I wonder if they can turn their heads as far as owls can. 


January 18th.

I had debated whether or not to try to keep a journal this year, since my notes from 2007 and 2006 were inconsistent and sporadic.  Since it's already January 18th, I've missed the boat for keeping a daily journal.  However, I've noticed things in the park that I would like to keep track of for later, so I will keep another imperfect journal for another year.

Some notes about the first few weeks of the year:  the woodpeckers have been very active, and they allowed me to take a close-up video of one of them ripping apart an old, dead alder.  The eagles are around, as are Great Horned Owls and Western Screech Owls.  An alder near the parking lot fell westward onto private property, smashing a vine maple in the process.  Down at the beach, a chunk of land about fifty square feet fell about four feet.  Is that a landslide or a slump?  Last December was very wet, and the high tides have removed the protecting driftwood and undercut the toe of the slope.  Also, this area is infested with Himalayan blackberries, which crowd out native species but don't bind the soil well.  The slide or slump is about twenty feet south of the bottom of the stairs.  If this slide grew larger, it could endanger the stairs.