From Frogs, Logs, Dogs, Slogs, Bogs, Hogs, and Pollywogs - It's the Methow Conservancy Blog!
Occasional posts - from the quirky to the momentous - on the life and times of the Methow Conservancy.
(What you won't find in E-News)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

...and a Partridge in a Chokecherry Tree

by Mary Kiesau, naturalist-in-training

Winter is here, and while there isn't a ton of snow, what has been abundant lately are wildlife sightings.  Maybe the snow makes creatures easier to see -- a tawny brown coyote crossing a field of white is much easier to spot than one in a sea of dead grass and weeds.  Maybe some animals are spending more time lower in elevation now.  Or maybe, some folks have just been lucky!

These blog photos all started a few weeks ago when co-worker Jeanne White came in asking for help in identifying an interesting looking bird she had seen several times on Lewis Butte.  At first, I thought she was perhaps seeing Harrier Hawks, but after a quiz of characteristics, we determined that she was seeing Short-Eared Owls (Asio flammeus).  And, what do you know...  the Sibley guide says, "can be confused with Northern Harrier."  These owls are in the Valley year-round, hanging out in the shrub-steppe or agricultural fields, searching for rodents.  And while they are often out in the daytime, they are really not commonly seen.  The sighting was interesting enough that local naturalist Dana Visalli went out in search of them after hearing from us.  He came back with this photo.

Jeanne was on a wildlife roll when right after the owls she saw a bobcat (Lynx rufus)on the side of the road eating a dead deer (most likely road-kill).  Bobcats are closely related to Lynx and look very similar but there are some key differences in appearance.  Bobcats are about twice the size of a house cat, whereas lynx are quite a bit bigger.  Both cats have distinctive ear tufts but a bobcat's are relatively small whereas a lynx's are clearly long.  Bobcats tend to have mottled, pattern fur that is often tones of brown, and a lynx is typically more gray with little to no patterns.  A track in the snow is the dead give away though.  Lynx practically have snowshoes on their feet - there is so much fur that toe pads typically don't show and the size can be up to 5.5 inches by 5.5 inches.  Bobcat tracks are much smaller - up to 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches - and you can almost always make out the four toes.

One week later (last week), local naturalists Victor Glick and Libby Schreiner were out on one of their daily wildlife jaunts and guess what they came across(!).  A cougar (Puma concolor) and a pine marten (Martes americana!)  Those lucky dogs.  And, lucky for us they got some pretty great photos too.


The partridge, you ask?  Yes, friends in the Rendezvous just reported seeing flocks of gray partridges.  Here's a picture from Wikipedia.



From all of us at the Methow Conservancy, we hope you are finding festive and active ways to enjoy these long, dark days around the Winter Solstice.  If these sightings are any indication, there's a lot going on out there in our wintery world!  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanks for Giving!

By Sarah Brooks, Associate Director (aka Chief Gratitude Officer)



Our Leave a Legacy Tree, with each
leaf representing a donor's gift.
Thanksgiving….one of my favorite holidays of the year.  It’s relatively non-commercial, offers a chance to spend a day cooking with people I like, and all in all we are happy, unrushed, and nice to each other.  For most, it is a time to give thanks and pause in otherwise busy lives. 

As someone who spends my career focused on helping raise funds to support causes I care deeply about, the Thanksgiving time for me is not just about giving thanks but also about being thankful for giving.  The spirit of giving is alive and well in our country (and definitely in our neck of the woods), and I make a conscious effort in December to take a moment each day to remind myself just how amazing the American giving spirit is.

According to the GivingUSA 2011 Report, individuals in our country gave more than $211 billion in 2010 to nonprofit causes they care about.  Those rates held relatively steady even in the midst of a long economic downturn.  And, while I know of no official report on volunteer hours, all of us involved with the nonprofit sector know that the “giving” spirit reaches beyond the financial to incredible gifts of time, wisdom, and inspiration. 

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are an especially appropriate time to give thanks for giving.  I read recently that most nonprofits raise almost one-third of their donations from individuals during December.  It is certainly true here at the Methow Conservancy that November through early January results in our largest surge of donations – for which we are incredibly thankful. 

It can be all too easy in December, then, as a fundraiser to get too focused on whether or not we’ll meet our goals or our budget.  This year, I’m making an extra conscious effort to face the weeks post-turkey dinner with a different lens.  This year, I’m in awe.

Our whole staff shares a commitment to our mission of
inspiring people to care for the land of the Methow Valley.
I’m in awe at the trust that all this giving of time, money, and expertise represents.  I know that when I open an envelope with a donation to the Methow Conservancy that what I am really seeing is a family’s trust that we will make their hopes for the Methow Valley come true. Giving is an expression of one’s values and an implicit expectation that we will know how to turn that donation into lasting land protection in the Methow Valley resulting in productive farmland, open spaces, scenic views, wildlife habitat and a community that cares for the land for generations to come.  We take that responsibility seriously here at the Methow Conservancy and we do see each gift – of money, volunteer time, or expertise – as a sign of trust and a belief in our ability to make an impact.

In 2012, I hope we can find more ways to hear from all of you to understand your hopes and dreams for the Methow and to make sure that our efforts continue to have the impact you all envision. 

The week before Thanksgiving, I attended the National Philanthropy Day celebration at the Westin Hotel in Seattle.  It was incredibly humbling and uplifiting to be in a room of more than 800 people who choose to change the world by either working for or supporting the efforts of nonprofits.  This year, I’m personally declaring every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Philanthropy Day as I pause to be grateful for the incredible giving spirit that sustains not only our work here at the Methow Conservancy but our mission.  Thanks for the trust.

Sarah celebrating the joy of giving!
-- Sarah 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Snow!

video

The new pedestrian bridge on the Susie Stephens Trail here in downtown Winthrop provides a perfect vantage point for observing spawning salmon or simply watching the Methow and Chewuch Rivers come together during a peaceful snow storm like the one we are enjoying outside our office here in the Methow on Tuesday morning. The forecasters say that rain is one the way, but you wouldn't know that by looking outside.  If you are here in the Methow Valley, enjoy!  If you are headed to the Methow for the Thanksgiving Holiday, travel safely and have a wonderful weekend enjoying the beauty of the Methow Valley!

video

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The White-Headed Salt Eagle Returns!

By Mary Kiesau, Conservancy bird nerd

Yes, we are into Latin or Scientific names around here, mostly because they are just so interesting, or maybe because it makes us look smart (or not so smart as the case may be with our last post from Jason who used the scientific name for Western Larch when he really meant to be referring to Subalpine Larch!  We'll let him stick to running the organization).  ANYWAY, today we are talking about the Bald Eagle with the fancy name of Haliaeetus leucocephalus.  To decipher this we look to the Greeks where hali = salt, aeetus = eagle, leuco = white, cephalis = head.  That's the white-headed salt eagle, or sea eagle as it is often called, but we'll stick to Bald Eagle today.

Have you noticed there has been a considerable increase in these big birds in the last week or so?  In trees along the highway, in the rivers eating fish, flying low through the valley....yes, seasonal migration is on and eagles that spend their summers further north are returning here (their birth place) for the winter.  (Some stay here year-round, but many more are here Nov-March).

Here's some info about Bald Eagles along with some local photos taken by yours truly:

 Bald eagles historically occurred throughout the contiguous United States and Alaska. The largest North American breeding populations are in Alaska and Canada, but there are also significant bald eagle populations in the Great Lakes states, Florida, the Pacific Northwest, the Greater Yellowstone area, and the Chesapeake Bay region.  In the fall, eagles begin moving to their wintering grounds, which can be throughout the US but mostly in the Midwest and West near open water and rivers, including the Methow Valley of course.

 It takes 4 to 5 years for juvenile eagles’ mottled brown and white plumage to change to dark brown with the distinctive white head and tail.  This is also when they begin to breed.  See various stages of markings below.
Eagles mate for life, typically nesting in the tops of large trees; nests may reach 10 feet across and weigh a half ton.  The birds travel great distances but usually return to breeding grounds within 100 miles of where they were raised.

Breeding bald eagles typically lay one to three eggs once a year, and they hatch after about 35 days. The young eagles are flying within three months and are on their own about a month later. Young are as big as adults when they fledge – they gain 10 lbs in 10 weeks. 

Female adults may weigh 14 lbs and have a wingspan of 8 feet.  Male eagles are smaller, as is the case in many birds, weighing up to 10 pounds with a wingspan of 6 feet.

Bald eagles are opportunistic feeders with fish comprising much of their diet.  They also eat waterfowl, shorebirds, small mammals, turtles, and carrion.  Here in the Methow we often see eagles eating dead deer on roadsides or over embankments.  Because they are visual hunters, eagles typically locate their prey from a conspicuous perch, or soaring flight, then swoop down and strike.  Eagles need to eat about 11 lbs of food a day in the winter.  Note the bloody face (and feet) of this eagle that was recently feeding on roadkill deer.
At night, wintering eagles often congregate at communal roost trees, in some cases traveling 32 miles or more from feeding areas to a roost site.  It is thought that communal roasting helps the birds communicate and find food.
To distinguish Bald and Golden Eagles at any age, the lower part of the bald eagle’s legs are bare. The entire legs of golden eagles are feathered.  Golden are noticeably larger as well, but for more of us the birds need to be side by side for us to "notice." 

Bald eagles may live 15 to 25 years in the wild!

On June 28, 2007, the US Fish & Wildlife Service removed the Bald Eagle from the list of threatened and endangered species, and deemed it “recovered.”  The bird is still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

 

Happy Eagle Watching!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Larix occidentalis

By Jason Paulsen, Executive Director

Here in the "Evergreen State", fall is the time of year when the high country is illuminated with the beauty of Larix occidentalis, our "not so ever green" Evergreen. 

Reportedly discovered in western Montana in 1806 and finally described and classified by Thomas Nuttal in 1834, Larix occidentalis or the western Larch is often a traffic stopper along Highway #20 near Washington Pass this time of year. And for good reason.


The bright yellow-orange coloration of the leaves (needles) of Larix occidentalis preparing to fall to the ground, set against new fallen snow and a backdrop of the blue sky is a combination worth pausing for.

Part of what makes the western Larch so unique here in the Pacific Northwest is that it is the only one of our conifers to lose ALL of its leaves (needles) EACH year.  In fact, it is reported to be one of only three conifers to do so -- the others being the Bald Cypress and Dawn Redwood.

While all conifers technically lose their needles, they do so over a cycle of 2 to 15 years, with the old needles being replaced by new green ones.   For instance, most pines keep their needles for three or four years.  Hence, their "ever green" appearance.

If you are here in the Methow Valley this week, be sure to plan a hike somewhere up high to enjoy the brilliant beauty of Larix occidentalis!

                                                     - Jason
                                                                                     
                                                                               




Photos by Jason Paulsen, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Step Outside...

One of the great things about the Methow Valley is the fact that you can literally step outside just about anywhere and be captivated by the beauty of the landscape -- even if you have only a few minutes. 

A short walk around our downtown Winthrop office this afternoon revealed beautiful fall colors, the crystal clear water at the conflence of the Chewuch and Methow rivers, and the whistle of air under the wings of a pair of ducks headed south.

We welcome you to migrate through our Winthrop office when we are open, to say hello, and to enjoy the unique setting that provides so much inspiration for our work.  We hope to see you soon! 

 Enjoy!  
                                                                                                    - Jason




Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"My Favorite Time of Year..."

By Jason Paulsen, Executive Director

While not concluded by way of a scientific survey, I think that the period from mid-September through mid-October is the time of year when casual conversation here in the valley most often includes someone saying “…this is my favorite time of year.”  Or, perhaps I’m just more receptive to these remarks because the autumn season is my favorite time of year.

Regardless, I was giving some thought the other day to why I feel such a strong connection to this time of year.  Crisp mornings, clear blue sky days (at least some days!), less traffic on the trails, the beauty of the low angled light at sunrise and sunset, or the satisfaction of getting firewood secured for the coming winter…there’s no end to the list of great attributes that the autumn season brings. 

For me it is all these things, and something more.
Harvest and views on a conserved property in Mazama

While stacking firewood the other night, I concluded that it is the frequency of what I’ll call “memory triggered by scent” episodes that make this season so intense and enjoyable for me.  Those moments where a scent in the air triggers an immediate memory, transporting me back to a previous time and place, often one I haven’t thought about for years.  I seem to experience these episodes more frequently at this time of year for some reason.

Over the past couple of weeks, the smell of fresh cut alfalfa has taken me back decades to time spent on the tractor on my grandparent’s farm.  The smell of fresh snow in the mountains brought back a memory of waking up unexpectedly to a snow covered tent near Mount Rainier.  The first smell of wood smoke evoked memories of past Septembers spent smoking and canning salmon with my family.  Even the smell of the skunk who met an untimely demise on Highway 20 near Big Valley the other day triggered a humorous memory of trying to evade a one of its cousins while camping last year in British Columbia.  This list goes on…

I hope to find some time this winter to research the science behind this “scent/ memory” connection, but until then I’m already looking forward to being outside this evening after a day of rain, to see what memories come drifting by.  And I’ll look forward to hearing if any of you experience these “triggers” more often at any particular time of year? 

                                                          - Jason

                                                                                    



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Behind the Scenes: The Sweetness of the Cider Squeeze

By Sarah Brooks, Associate Director  


I still get nervous before our events.  Are all the little details (and the big ones, for that matter) in place?  What will happen that’s out of my control?  What if no one shows?  What if we don’t have enough food?   What if…

Prepping for my 8th annual Cider Squeeze, it seemed I shouldn’t be too nervous.  After all, it’s a great event every year:  generous hosts Marilyn and Dave Sabold are about the nicest people you could meet, there is always plenty of tasty cider flowing from a cool antique press, the weather was set to be sunny and warm, and who doesn’t enjoy an excuse to enjoy a fall day at the Sabold’s beautiful pond? 

On Friday afternoon, however, I found something to worry about.  I went to the Sabold’s early to do a little pre-pressing to ensure we had enough cider for all the guests.  I was excited to have some time on the press—usually I work the nametag table, so I don’t get to be a part of the cider making.  All too soon, the yellowjackets arrived.  They were fierce.  No one could remember them being quite so ferocious quite so late into the fall.  I found myself seeking an almost Zen-like state of calm to work the press or the tap without making a movement too quick to cause a wasp frenzy as they swarmed the filtering screen.   Despite my focus, I still managed to get stung and ended the day with a rapidly swelling arm.

And, so, I fretted most of Friday night and Saturday morning.  What if others get stung ?  What if no one wants to press the cider because of those pesky wasps?  Here was an event wrinkle I had not anticipated.

The event began and soon enough the press was running.  I must admit that I spent much of the following two hours thinking about all the details that could go awry.  I saw lots of smiling faces and people seemed to be having a good time (and no medical emergencies emerged), but I still couldn’t seem to relax.

As the event drew to a close, Nellie Casey stopped by my nametag table to say thank you for the event.  She then proceeded to say that she looks forward to the event because even if you don’t leave with cider, there’s just something about taking a turn on that press and looking up to see another community member working with you.

And suddenly, I stopped all that fretting.  Nellie was completely right.  That’s the point of the Cider Squeeze.  It does take a whole team of people to make that sweet nectar:  people to put the apples in the press, someone strong to spin the wheel, someone else to monitor the flow, another to crank the press, others to filter and fill the bottles.  A whole crew of people—who often haven’t met before—have to work together. 

That’s a pretty perfect metaphor for doing conservation work in the Methow.  You can’t do it alone.  It takes a whole team – a whole community—of people.  And, it takes working with people you may not know for the end cause you all care about. 

So, maybe the yellowjackets were annoying and maybe it was too hot for the cream cheese frosting, and maybe the speeches were hard to hear in the wind.  That didn’t matter, because at it’s core (excuse the bad pun), the Cider Squeeze is the perfect celebration for conservation.  It is about all of us coming together to celebrate our collective work as people protecting a place we love.  And, that’s pretty sweet.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

RAPTORS up-close and personal

By Mary Kiesau, Program Coordinator

On Sept. 21, 2011, we took a fieldtrip to the Chelan Ridge Raptor Migration Project site with 12 folks. Just like last year's fieldtrip, we had an amazing day seeing raptors up-close and personal and learning about raptor conservation with our wonderful guide and instructor Kent Woodruff. We highly recommend a visit to this site which is open to the public daily. The raptor project usually runs from late August through mid to late October.  Check out http://www.hawkwatch.org/conservation-science/migration-research-sites/74-chelan-ridge-raptor-migration-project for details on the site, including how many and what species of birds have been counted there.  These photos were taken by Mary Kiesau.


A Sharp-Shinned Hawk at the Chelan Ridge Raptor Migration Project site.

Kent Woodruff, Chelan Ridge project coordinator (works for the Forest Service) and a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. The FS works in partnership with HawkWatch International to monitor and learn more about raptors migrating through the eastern Cascade Mountains of Washington. The project has been running for 15 years.

A female Sharp-Shinned Hawk, weighing in at 184 grams. A male caught earlier weighed just 91 grams. For raptors, females are always larger than males.

Ellen Lamiman holding a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.

Ellen Lamiman releasing a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.

By looking at the faint colors within the wing of this Cooper's Hawk, Kent can tell that it is a "2nd year" (2 year old) bird. It still has a tiny bit of brown (juvenile) feathers in it's wings.

A female Cooper's Hawk, weighing in at 453 grams. This bird was significantly larger than the Sharp-Shinned Hawk, but they are similar in that they are both Accipters. These birds are short-winged and long-tailed, and they are forest hunters. They are quick and agile, able to pursue small birds through trees and shrubs.

The views and trail to the Observation Deck.


This is known at the Observation Deck. At least two people stand here all day watching for raptors and writing down info on what they see. A plastic owl, which raptors hate, on a pole helps bring raptors in, but it's the high density of willows on the ridge that brings in "food birds" (aka song birds) which in turn brings in raptors...much more here than other places.
Kent Woodruff tells us about the beak of a Sharp-Shinned Hawk.

Kent Woodruff, Chelan Ridge project coordinator (works for the Forest Service) and a juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk.

Placing the very calm Sharp-Shinned Hawk in the hand of Heide Andersen, our Stewardship Director.
Heide Andersen releasing the Sharp-Shinned Hawk.