Snowy Owl Invasion

by Bianca Perla on November 30, 2011 1 Comment



Long before Harry Potter’s Hedwig, Snowy Owls held a magical allure. Perhaps it’s their startling size (nearly two feet tall), unblinking yellow stare, or Arctic providence, but these circumpolar owls stir excitement among even the most distracted citizenry. Whether Snowy’s decide to head south en masse is based largely on weather conditions and the availability of lemmings, their main food source. Every so often the Northwest experiences what is known as an irruption (a sudden and irregular increase) of Snowy Owls. During such years these tundra-dwellers sometimes stray as far south as Texas and Florida!

In November Snowy Owls were spied around Western Washington in Snohomish County, Ocean Shores, and on the Dungeness Spit. Then on Thanksgiving Day, a West Seattle family had one show up for dinner (though they prefer lemmings, Snowy Owls also eat birds…but none the size of turkeys ...

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Tidal Creatures of the night

by Bianca Perla on November 23, 2011 0 Comments



Creatures of the Night

This Friday, Nov. 25 at 10:45 p.m., the new-moon tide will ebb to a rare low of -3.4 feet. Taking this opportunity to explore an island community normally hidden from view, the Vashon Beach Naturalists will host a free Starlight Low-Tide Walk at the north-end ferry dock from 9-11 p.m. Sip a hot chocolate as you head to the beach with a naturalist guide to discover dozens of denizens of the intertidal zone: nudibranchs (sea slugs), sea cucumbers, and sea pens to name a few.

A shaggy mouse nudibranch (Aoelidia papillosa). Photo taken near Pt. Vashon by Kathryn True

Besides the fact that our local winter low tides occur only at night, this is a good time to get out for several reasons. At low tide on a hot summer day, animals that prefer cold, wet, and dark ...

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Coyotes on Vashon

by Bianca Perla on November 22, 2011 2 Comments



Vashon has always had an almost mythic connection to music. An inordinate number of musically inclined people find themselves drawn to these shores. Music surrounds children growing up here. As a child, I remember hearing flutes in the woods as I walked home from school, and the haunting notes of marimbas floating through my bedroom windows on warm summer nights. It’s no wonder that many children here eventually become musicians themselves. Even Vashon’s nickname, Dancing Man, hints at the music coursing through this place. 

Earlier this summer I awoke just before dawn to a new song in the woods. In my just awakened state I thought of the flutes and marimbas of my childhood. But, as my surprise wore off, it slowly dawned on me what these howls were.  I lay there appreciating the irony that coyotes, known as “America’s Native Song Dogs ...

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Beetle Mania!!!

by Bianca Perla on November 20, 2011 22 Comments


Vashon style-accessorize with wooly bears!




I was on a walk last week and noticed two joggers stopping to ponder something on the ground at the edge of the pavement. I had just rescued a woolly bear caterpillar (the larval stage of the Isabella Moth) from a suicidal road-crossing and thought they’d found another one of these relatively cuddly critters.

Vashon style- accessorize with woolly bears! Photo by: K. True



What I discovered instead was orange and black like the woolly bear, but the similarities stopped there. Far from cuddly, this was an inch-long beetle covered in miniscule wriggling mites. Gary Shugart, collections director at the Slater Museum of Natural History in Tacoma, had recently told me about similarly colored carrion beetles he’d found in a deer carcass he was preparing. He regaled me with stories of the rather macabre and definitely fascinating natural history of one of nature’s ...

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naturalist highlight of the week November 13th 2011

by Bianca Perla on November 17, 2011 1 Comment


Movie on Vashon: Fundraiser for Vashon Hydrophone Project and Wolftown

Sunday, November 13, 1:00 PM at the Vashon Theatre, First Nations whale conservationists Orca Annie Stateler and Odin Lonning of the Vashon Hydrophone Project (VHP) host a special screening of “The Whale.”
This highly acclaimed film tells the compelling story of Luna/Tsux’iit (L98), a young Southern Resident orca who was separated from his pod. In 2003, Odin and Orca Annie traveled to Nootka Sound, where they met Luna and many of the people who appear in the movie. They will do a brief introduction, and after the movie, hold a Q & A session. Don’t miss this opportunity – you won’t find anyone else on Vashon who knows more about Tsu’xiit/Luna and his extended Southern Resident killer whale family than your VHP hosts do!
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Audubon monthly birding trips

by Bianca Perla on November 12, 2011 0 Comments


Audubon birding field trip Saturday November, 12th

Learn about waterbirds on Vashon from birding expert Gary Shugart.

Meet at the Ober Park, Park and Ride at 9 am. Tour lasts until 11 am. All experience levels welcome to join the fun.

Waterbirds are great for the beginning birder because they stay in one place, are large, and are clearly seen. This is always an exceptional birding field trip. Don't miss it!

These birding trips are held on the second Saturday of every month. For more info:

Salmon-watching on Vashon-Maury Island

by Bianca Perla on November 9, 2011 3 Comments


Thanks to Stream and Marine Ecologist Bob Fuerstenberg and Abel Eckhardt, land steward, Vashon Maury Island Land Trust, for salmon information.

The rains are coming (and going), but they will soon arrive in earnest, and as the siren scent of their home streams wash into the Sound, salmon will follow their noses into Vashon waterways. There have already been a sprinkling (seven to be exact) of salmon sighted along Judd Creek, and with November’s trademark deluge (Nov. 19 is historically the Northwest’s rainiest day of the year), we expect more (hopefully many more) to follow.

Coho salmon or silvers (Oncorhynchus kisutch) spawn in the Puget Sound area from October through January, with a peak around Thanksgiving each year, depending on rains and tides.  Abel was awarded the first coho sighting in Judd Creek this year. On October 12th, while working at a Land ...

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What is a Phenology notebook?

by Bianca Perla on November 9, 2011 2 Comments


Phenology (fin-noll-uh-gee) is defined as:

A branch of science that studies the cycles of plant and animal life. Phenology tells scientists when events, such as bird migration, are happening on their usual schedule--and when an event might be out of time or place, especially in relation to the climate and change of seasons. 

Posts in this Phenology notebook section of the blog are designed to record anything to do with seasonal change on Vashon-Maury Island.  We are hoping to keep track of changes through time to get a feel for how life on these islands cycles. We also hope to get insight into how those cycles themselves may be changing overtime, and what implications, if any, this may have.

Remember how the salmonberry blooms right around the time hummingbirds arrive? Or how the salmon spawning time is aligned with fall rains that raise our creeks? And ...

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The enjoyment of birds educational series

by Bianca Perla on November 8, 2011 0 Comments


The Enjoyment of Birds Educational Series 2011-2012

Vashon Audubon Society is offering an updated series of 5 different programs to help you enjoy the birds, inside and outside, through fall, winter, and spring. 

These are terrific classes taught by very knowledgeable and personable islanders and are held in the Land Trust building from 7-9pm. It is well worth signing up.

More information about this series

More information about other local Audubon events

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