Salmon Watchers Toast Big Year

by Bianca Perla on January 29, 2013 0 Comments


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 ...

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Permission to Go into the Woods

by Bianca Perla on October 29, 2012 1 Comment

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 ...

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BioBlissed: Absolutely Everyone Counts at the 2012 BioBlitz

by Bianca Perla on June 18, 2012 5 Comments

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 ...

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Nature’s night of love

by Bianca Perla on February 13, 2012 3 Comments



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 ...

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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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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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Orcas having fun off Vashon shores

by Bianca Perla on October 29, 2011 0 Comments


October 28th, brought many (members of  all J,K and L pods)  resident Orcas to Vashon's shores.  At our best viewing point off Pt. Robinson we got 2 close passes by this large group as they were cavorting around sometimes within 20 feet of shore. This was the largest congregation seen in years with around 80 whales socializing together. 

Harbor seals were popping up very close to shore looking a little nervous (even though these are the salmon eating Orcas) and we saw many salmon jumping out of the water as well (probably chum but hard to tell). It was an amazing sight. 

Here is some not so polished video of the whales coming through on their second pass by Pt. Robinson around 3:45:

Check out the Vashon Nature Center webpage for more video and photos I ...

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Wildlife summary for September

by Bianca Perla on October 4, 2011 0 Comments


September was a great wildlife month for us on the Islands.  Maybe it was that short but lovely Indian summer we had, maybe it was just a lucky year, but we had lots of wild visitors.

Let’s start with the predators! We had a few visits from transient Orcas at the end of August (around 30 transients on the 26th) and a few days in early September (10, 11th, 3-4 transients). Transient Orcas eat seals, sea lions, dolphins and small whales. Puget Sound Harbor seals tend to have pups in August and this may be why transients are attracted to our waters in late summer and early fall.

Orca Network posted regular reports of J, K and L pod resident Orca activity in the Sound throughout the month but they seemed to stay north of us. Maybe they didn’t want to ...

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Orcas and birds

by Bianca Perla on August 26, 2011 0 Comments


It appears that everyone knows we are having the best weather of anywhere right now! Today was a good one for wildlife on Vashon and Maury Islands.

We had reportedly up to 30 transient Orca whales swim by the island starting with a great show on the passenger ferry boat around 8 this morning. They moved fast down the east side of the island passed Pt. Robinson and into Commencement Bay. This high number of transients is VERY unusual.

Here is some raw footage from SkyKING:

Anyone have any good photos of the whales from today they want to share?

And in the birding world some firsts as well. Quoted from Ed Swan:

"About 7:30 this morning, a Red-necked Phalarope was foraging in the pond at KVI.  It’s the first time I’ve seen ...

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Lately in the birding world...

by Bianca Perla on August 16, 2011 0 Comments

   As the island's human summer residents start closing up their cabins many of our forest songbirds are starting to prepare for the long migration south. Some that should be leaving soon are the western wood peewee, willow and Pacific-slope flycatchers, warblers, warbling vireos, tanagers, black-headed grosbeaks, martins, and swallows.  Watch for their preparations, or notice the silence slowing overtaking the woods.

The end of summer changes in birding activity go both ways. Like some of us, the water and shore birds are starting to return from their summer vacations in distant lands. August is a great time for sandpipers (peeps) of all kinds. For the next month or so watch for the return of loons, grebes, cormorants, widgeons, buffleheads, scoters and other water birds. 

Seasonal shifts in bird life like these are always good times to pay attention. Invariably there are species that decide to show up early or ...

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by Bianca Perla on July 19, 2011 0 Comments

Bianca saw a coyote on July 12th at the intersection of Wax Orchards and Reddings Beach Rds. 

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