written by: Kathryn True
Greg Rabourn, King County’s Vashon-Maury Island Basin Steward, organized a “Vashon Habitat Stewardship Whirlwind” event in January of this year, and recently uploaded videos of the presentations. This community program was organized to help bring the Vashon Island community up-to-date on the many conservation and restoration projects on Vashon and Maury Islands. Speakers included Susie Kalhorn of the Groundwater Protection Committee, Tom Dean of the Land Trust and Vashon Nature Center’s Bianca Perla on stream health, salmon watching and the 2012 Island Bioblitz. Greg spoke about restoration efforts at Cove Creek, Judd Creek and Raab’s Lagoon Natural Area.
Each presenter was limited to 10 minutes, allowing for a brief and wide-ranging overview of current watershed health, habitat restoration efforts, and habitat preservation and acquisition.
Follow this link for a listing and links for all of the videos, or click here to see Bianca ...read more
Last year around this time 90 naturalists, scientists, and interested volunteers explored 53 acres of Vashon's backyard forests, shorelines, ponds, and clearings at Neill Point Natural Area on the southern tip of Vashon Island. This dedicated crew gently observed, photographed, identified, and documented as many species as they could in a 24 hour period. It was Vashon's first annual Bioblitz event and it was eye opening and fun.
What an amazing amount of life shares this island with us and what an incredible community treasure we have in the talent and enthusiasm of the naturalist community here. An equally amazing cadre of filming, producing, and computer talented folks just helped us put together a short video summarizing the feel of Vashon's first Bioblitz.
Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/65585456
And email email@example.com if you want to help us in the next Bioblitz held at ...read more
Written by: Kathryn True
The 2012 Salmon Watchers gathered for soup and stories last weekend to celebrate the best salmon return since 2003. A grand total of 202 live and dead fish were recorded by 23 enthusiastic volunteers of all ages—from 4 to over 65. The fish were mainly coho (152 live and 11 dead), though chum (11 live and 10 dead) and sea-run cutthroat trout (4 live), were also seen spawning in island streams.
Watch the video below for a visual summary of this year's effort. Photo and video clip credits: Kelly Keenan, Mabel Moses, Karen Olsen, and Bianca Perla:
“We had a great salmon watching season this year,” says Vashon Nature Center Director Bianca Perla. “I always love the feeling of getting to experience our creeks so closely during this time, whether I see fish or not. But this year was amazing, particularly for coho. Volunteers ...read more
WRITTEN BY: Kathryn True
Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society is hosting a talk and book signing with the inimitable naturalist and nature writer Robert Michael Pyle next Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 pm at the Land Trust building. It’s hard to know where to start when introducing Bob—his talents are varied and many. He is a master lepidopterist who wrote the essential guide, The Butterflies of Cascadia. He is the award-winning author of 16 books including Wintergreen, an eloquent tribute to his southwest Washington homeland. He is a storyteller whose wit and insights bring the audience into a small circle of warmth when he speaks. Perhaps above all, he is an open-hearted soul who invites all he meets to join him in the sacred camaraderie shared by those who love the wild.
His new book, The Tangled Bank, is a collection of essays that originally appeared in Bob’s ...read more
The following piece was published as a guest editorial on the environment in the November 28th Beachcomber issue. It discusses the subtlety of environmental change and why the Vashon Maury Island Groundwater Protection Committee's newly released environmental report card is helpful in detecting hard to see changes in our water resources.
To see the environmental report card click here
Learn more about the Island Stream Invertebrate Survey (ISIS)
Written by: Bianca Perla
Photo below is from Vashon Nature Center LLC's Neill Point Bioblitz. photo credit: Ed Otto
We flipped over a rock on the beach. Nothing. What about this one? Nope. Would we find one under this? Finally, a tiny green crab! We looked at him for a bit marveling at his little pincers flailing helplessly in the air. Then: “Mama! Let’s look for beach glass!” And we were off.
But I couldn’t shake what I ...read more
Written by: Kathryn True
I’m salmon watching at Baldwin Creek this fall, a rivulet just north of Shinglemill that also empties into the Fern Cove Estuary. My teen-aged daughter was dubious when I first showed her the little stream and has reminded me ever since, “There won’t be any salmon in there—it’s too small.” And maybe she’s right—it is very shallow and narrow in places, and the bridge leading to the Park Distric’s Fern Cove rental is built decidedly too close to the water. “So I’m creek watching,” I tell her with a smile. And so I am.
I realized yesterday as I breathed in the Earth-breath smell of humus and cedar, that creek watching is fine by me. Like many of you, I live on Vashon because of how easy it is to access nature. Walking out my door I can ...read more
NATURALIST HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK
Written by: Kathryn True
My daughter and I arrived at Neill Point, unloaded the car and took a look around the maple-ringed clearing. We were the first to arrive, could we start counting yet? The sun broke through for the first time all week (part of the magic of our Island BioBlitz was the seemingly preordained weather—24 hours without rain between bookends of precipitation) and a Western Tiger Swallowtail fluttered towards us, then stopped on a blackberry leaf to flex her wings. We had our species #1.
Basecamp for the BioBlitz at Neill Point. photo by Ed Otto
A BioBlitz is a 24-hour marathon for nature lovers. A citizen-science effort disguised as a treasure hunt—groups of scientists, naturalists and curious citizens join together and do their best to document every living organism within a prescribed geographic area on one calendar day. Vashon Nature Center’s 2012 BioBlitz was ...read more
WRITTEN BY: KATHRYN TRUE
April sky over Colvos Passage
It’s hard not to notice a spring sky. Like throw pillows of the gods, towering piles of cumulus clouds dominate the horizon. Or they loom ominously overhead like bulbous gray zeppelins, warning us not to get too attached to the parts of the sky that remain blue. I love how the sun catches cloud edges—creating a literal silver lining, while the shadowy undersides do a poor job of hiding their “precipitatory” intent. And who can resist the flying-saucer-like, weather-predicting lenticulars that cap Mt. Rainier on pre-rain days? As the saying goes, “If Mt. Rainier puts on her bonnet, it’s going to rain, doggone it!”
Water floating on air
What are clouds? Most commonly, they form when air rises and expands at higher altitudes. The rising air carries water in a gas form, or water vapor. When its temperature ...read more
Vashon College hosts Vashon 101 starting Tuesday March 13th
After a couple year break, Vashon College has resumed its signature course again this year. It's title is Vashon 101: A journey just begun. It features 6 seminar style evening courses that cover the geology, ecology, history, culture, social sciences, and demographics of the islands. Past versions of this course have been very popular. It is taught by an all island faculty of experts in each of the above-mentioned fields.
For more information visit the Vashon College website: http://www.vashoncollege.org/
or contact Pamn Aspiri: 206-408-8022
WRITTEN BY: KATHRYN TRUE
All around us myriad shades of green are nudging out the gray-brown wash of winter. Buds, blossoms, needles and leaves are unfurling with time-lapse-camera speed, responding to nature’s unseen alarm. For those in the know, one of the most exciting of the re-emerging plants are stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) —famous for their sting and often under-appreciated for their powerful nutritional offerings.
Most people prefer to harvest nettles while wearing gloves.
“Nettles are one of the very first signs of spring, and one of my favorites,” says island ethnobotanist Erin Kenny. “Everything is starting to open up and we’re on this trajectory—there’s no going back. It’s a hopeful sign that coincides with the birds becoming more active.”
Nutritional wow factor
Nettles are high in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, amino acids and vitamins—notably A and C. Anecdotally, Kenny believes nettles can help ...read more
WRITTEN BY: BIANCA PERLA
If you find your flashlight and take a moonlit walk to one of Vashon’s forested ponds or wetlands tonight you might witness the incredible way nature celebrates Valentine’s Day. This may not be your partner’s idea of a typical romantic evening, but it will be interesting! Valentine’s night is smack in the middle of peak salamander mating season on Vashon. Look for wriggling pairs or groups of both northwestern and the less common long-toed salamanders in the dark shallows. Sometimes they can be found amorously clasped together just under the floating leaves at the edges of still waters.
Ambystoma macrodactylum, from Vashon (2006). Notice that one toe is longer than the others on each foot-- hence the name “long-toed salamander”. Photo by: Kathryn True
These two species of native salamander (Ambystoma gracile and A. macrodactylum) are grouped together under the name mole ...read more
WRITTEN BY: Kathryn True
When Orion strides into the skyscape each year I feel like I’m greeting an old friend, and I’m reminded of the first time I ever saw him. Standing on the sidewalk in front of my childhood home in Oregon, my mom showed me how to chain together the stars that outlined the hunter’s belt and sword. This was the first constellation I learned, and it still produces a sense of awe that we are so very, very small in the galactic scheme of things. Although daunting, I also find it weirdly freeing to try to wrap my brain around things completely un-Earthbound; the nature of the universe is so vast it swallows my worldly worries whole.
Orion is a great starter constellation because he’s easy to find and is composed of a number of very bright stars of varying colors, plus a ...read more
Vashon Maury Island Land Trust Tree Sale February 4th
The Land Trust is holding a native tree and shrub sale on Saturday February 4th at the Land Trust Building (10014 SW Bank Road) from 10 am-2pm. People who have pre-ordered trees and shrubs through the mail or website can pick them up on Saturday. There are also some trees and shrubs for walk-in sales. This annual event is a fundraiser for the Land Trust as well as a chance for all of us to add native plants to our home landscape and improve island habitats.
The Land Trust is looking for help bundling tree orders at the Fisher Pond warehouse for the whole week January 30-February 3 in preparation for the sale. This is a fun opportunity to handle some plants, learn some native planting techniques, and make some friends. If you would like to help contact Beth at the ...read more
Naturalist highlight of the week archive: January 9
The Slater Museum of Natural History: a great resource in Vashon's backyard
The Slater Museum of Natural History (part of the University of Puget Sound campus) is located in Tacoma, an easy bus ride (#11) from the Pt. Defiance ferry terminal. This museum has collections of species from all over the world with a special emphasis on Puget Sound. While there are no interpretive exhibits currently, construction on interpretive exhibits will begin this summer (2012).
Currently the museum website has plenty of interesting pages for looking up animals and plants found on Vashon. The museum has put together a naturalist curriculum for 4th and 5th grade, as well as a biodiversity page. They also have many educational videos on nature in the Puget Sound.
Vashon's own Gary Shugart is Collections manager at the museum. If you find dead birds/mammals ...read more
WRITTEN BY: KATHRYN TRUE
My 12-year-old has been teasing me about how I’m more wound up about the prospect of new snow than she is…and she might be right (I’m wide awake at 3 am writing this because I’m so excited for the onslaught that I can’t sleep).
There’s something about how snow transforms every tarp, bucket and stump to create a monochrome sculpture park—all is forgiven. I enjoy the minutely exquisite symmetry of a snowflake, and trying to get close enough to discover its individual secret before my breath transforms it into a common drop of water. Scraggly bare branches adorned in frosty coats become beguiling artistic studies. Not to mention the joyful abandonment that is sledding, and the rare island event: cross-country skiing to the neighbor’s for a cuppa.
Waiting for snow also evokes childhood mornings, impatiently listening to the ...read more
written by: Bianca Perla
As the winter solstice passes and the New Year begins, I hear excited whispers about snow and look out to the early blackness as dinner simmers on the stove. The falling leaves, the cessation of growth, the turning of movement from branches to roots, the warmth of decomposition, the stillness of death, the stealth of the hunters, the bounty of apple harvests-all these seasonal happenings carry great metaphors for living our human lives.
One of the biggest metaphors contained in our seasons, and other natural cycles, is that of uncontrollable change. Nature can help us deal with fear surrounding the fact that some changes are beyond our control. At the same time, it shows us that sometimes change can yield unanticipated beauty, and delight us with surprises.
As a new mother, I stumbled upon the power of nature to teach my kids about change when my ...read more
written by: Kathryn True
Whether you’re an avid birder or a beginner who’d like to learn more about birds, it’s not too late to sign up for the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), an annual tradition shared by birders across the continent. Join expert island birders in raising their binoculars to scour the beaches and forests of Vashon and Maury to record every bird they can see (and hear) in a 24-hour period. The resulting species tallies provide essential data used by the National Audubon Society to help protect bird species and their habitat.
A killdeer and a Western Snipe seen on previous CBC counts on Vashon. photo by: Richard Rogers.
How to participate
Here’s your official invitation from the Vashon-Maury Island Audubon Society:
The Vashon Christmas Bird Count is coming up Saturday
December 31 and you can participate in two ways:
1. Count birds on your ...
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About the Authors
Bianca Perla survived the nettle stings and slippery logs on Vashon as a child and is now holding her own children's hands across some of those same slippery logs and nettle patches. Bianca has worked as a conservation biologist and environmental educator throughout the West. She has a PhD in Ecology and is the Director of Vashon Nature Center, LLC. Some books she has written: Family Walks on Vashon Island, and Prairie Dogs: communication and community in an animal society.
Kathryn True is an island-based freelance writer and naturalist. Though her first loves are birds and beach creatures, she’s equally enchanted by slime molds and dragonflies. Kathryn is the co-author of the combination guidebook/field guide, Nature in the City: Seattle, and edited Seattle Tilth’s popular Maritime Northwest Garden Guide. View more of her writing at www.kathryntrue.com.
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