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.
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Field Class Stories from our Summer Interns!

Butterfly Excursion to Harts Pass

by Morgan Tate, 
Methow Conservancy Summer Intern and rising Liberty Bell High School Junior

A group of butterfly-lovers joined together on July 11th to search out as many butterfly species as possible. Harts Pass had a bluebird sky and a warm breeze; the perfect day to be skipping along with a butterfly net. On this excursion, I was surrounded by many people who knew a lot about butterflies. They were able to snatch up a Northern Checkerspot and identify it with a swish and a glance. I, on the other hand, struggled to capture anything with my camera lens. I eventually had to settle with the grounded butterflies.

David James, the leader of the group, was able to help us “newbies” notice the slight differences between the insects as well as catch them. The differences could be in antenna color; white vs. black and white stripes, or perhaps a different number of spots on the wings. Anything could be a sign, and there I was attempting to take it all in during one trip.

Northern Checkerspot
We traveled up the road towards Harts Pass and then back down, stopping at four main places, with a couple of random stops too. We tried to find the most open areas because butterflies enjoy the sunshine. In total, we found 19 species of butterflies. I feel that the most common were the Northern Checkerspots (Chlosyne palla) and Northern Crescents (Phyciodes cocyta), but my favorite was the Lilac-Bordered Copper (Lycaena nivalis); the ends of its wings were tinted lavender. 

Northern Crescent
At some point, we all noticed that most of the butterflies were smaller that average. David James said that the caterpillars probably had less food the previous fall before hibernation.  Once, the "hatch" as butterflies, they are the size they are going to be - they don't grow.  He also mentioned something I never knew but was completely realistic; however big the caterpillar was, is how big the body of the butterfly will be. Butterflies don't grow after being in the chrysalis. Fun fact!

The Clodius Parnassian was big and beautiful
In the second spot, we were surrounded by forget-me-nots and lupine. There, we found a great deal more of Northern Checkerspots and Northern Crecents. At the end of the road (we were stopped because of snow between Harts Pass and Slate Peak) we ate lunch and had a stunning view of the Cascades, and we all looked around in amazement at the spring flowers. It was as if we were in a time warp, sitting in a field of glacier lilies and spring beauties. Our last spot granted us with the 19th species: the Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides).

After this experience, I will never be able to look at a butterfly the same way again. I will begin to search for certain spots or markings that define who they are. Thank you David James for broadening the horizons of my young mind!

Me at Harts Pass enjoying the glacier lily and amazing views!


What's in the Water?

by Taylor Curtiss, 
Methow Conservancy Summer Intern and rising Liberty Bell High School Junior

Last Saturday I attended a Stream Ecology and Aquatic Macroinvertebrate class. I arrived hoping to learn more about the waterways in our valley, and be able to recognize certain macroinvertebrates. When I left the class I took away much more information than I expected. I learned about the food chain in the rivers and that if too many nutrients are being produced, which could be a result from a septic tank leaking, there will be more nitrogen in the water. I’m also able to identify a stone fly, caddisfly, a mayfly, and the differences between these three macro invertebrates. The teachers of the class, Rick Haley and Tim Hall taught us some new biology terms such as thalweg, which mean the main channel of the creek/river, which is usually also the deepest part. Another new term is imago which is the name for the adult winged form of an aquatic insect.

Here is a picture of a stonefly. You can tell that it is a stonefly because of its two tails, whereas most mayflies have three. The antennas on stoneflies are also much longer than the ones found on a mayfly, and stoneflies don't have external gills whereas mayflies do.

In this picture, our leader, Rick, shows the group how to record the data that we took with his provided instruments. We measured the temperature of the water, the percent of oxygen in the water, the salinity (salt level) which was 0, and conductivity. Rick told us that the conductivity is directly linked to the total amount of dissolved solids in the water. This means that, in a way, we were measuring the amount of suspended solids (sediment/debris) in the water. The lower the number the better.  Some macroinvertebrates such as stoneflies and mayflies require a high level of dissolved oxygen and their abundance is an indication of good water quality.

After examining the river near the suspension bridge in Mazama, we made our way to Early Winters campground and learned how to examine a site to determine the well being of the area. We were each given a short report to fill out.  We had to describe the site visually, draw a sketch of it, and then answer a lot of questions.  Some were specific, such as, “What the water temperature?”, which we could answer from having taken the measurement, and some were more subjective, such as, “What percentage of vegetation shades the stream?”.  We then gathered into a group to talk about our answers and compare with the “pro’s.”

Being in this class has given me a lot more knowledge about the place we live in, and the river behind my house. I also feel better prepared for next year’s science classes in school.

Here are some fun facts that I learned:
•  When the water in the creeks/rivers gets warmer, the cold blooded animals need more oxygen because their “motor” is running faster but there is less oxygen available to them.
•  Salmon laying areas need fresh oxygen from moving water. It’s important that there is moving water because it provides oxygen and if there is any dirt in the water; chances are that the eggs will die

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Daylily Season

Daylilies outside our front door
This is field season for the Stewardship Team (Heide, Mary, Julie and me) at the Methow Conservancy and several times a week we are out in the 'field' doing either baseline surveys for new easements or annual monitoring visits at one of our 94 conservation easements. We work in a variety of habitats from dense riparian jungle, to mid-elevation ponderosa pine/Douglas fir, to dry shrub-steppe, to Valley floor farmland. Each day is different.

At the end of each of those days I come home to my green, irrigated yard and for the past week to some brilliant orange daylilies that are right near our front door. When I see them I smile and remember our beloved neighbor Fran. Every time  we walked past this same clump of lilies Fran would tell me that when she was a little girl, her dad would pick the flowers and make soup out of them.

Fran grew up on a farm on Vashon Island, the oldest of 8 siblings. Her family raised chickens, vegetables and fruit. They sold their produce at Pike Place Market. Fran's dad was Chinese and lilies are often used in Chinese cuisine. You can buy them in Asian markets as 'golden needles' or 'gum jum'. 

This family photo was taken on the farm on Vashon Island in 1930.  My neighbor Fran (Mary Francis) is in the middle.  The siblings that were born after 1930 were 'photoshopped' in a few years ago.

Fran worked many jobs in her lifetime and was often a farmer as well. She moved to the Methow Valley in 1968 when she and her husband bought what many of us think of as the VanderYacht Farm on the East County Road. They raised cattle there and had a big garden. Fran moved from there to the house next door to us on the Twisp-Carlton Road in 1983. She had a huge garden there too and tons of flowers which she sold at a little stand in front of her house. Many people knew her as the flower lady.  Fran is now 93 and in a nursing home on the Westside. We miss her every day.
Fran at the Methow Valley Farmer's Market about 10 years ago.

Here is one of many recipes for Chinese Daylily Soup (a vegetarian version). I do not know what Fran's dad put into his version. I wish that I had asked her.

Ingredients: dried daylily buds, black fungus, tomatoes, fresh ginger, shiitake mushrooms, olive oil, soy sauce, white pepper.
1. Soak a handful of dried daylily buds and a handful of black fungus half an hour in advance.
2. Cut a couple of large tomatoes into large wedges.
3. Slice a 3-inch piece of fresh ginger and fry it lightly in olive oil.
4. Add shiitake mushrooms to the oil and fry them until done to taste.
5. While they are frying, bring a pot of water (2-3 liters) to a boil.
6. Shred the soaked black fungus and drain the daylily buds.
7. Add the shiitake, fungus, buds, tomatoes and ginger to the boiling water.
8. Season with soy sauce and a dash of ground white pepper.
9. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

I have never tried daylily soup, but I have a bunch of these lilies and I'm going to give it a whirl. I'm going to throw them into my next stir fry too.

- Dawn Woodruff
Monitoring Coordinator & Computer Nerd

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Scenes from the Spring Season

I've been outside a lot lately.  That's one of the best things about my job at the Methow Conservancy - that and spending quality time with interesting people who share my same passion for the natural world.  On top of "monitoring" many of our conservation easements, I organize and attend all of our educational field classes and programs.  These activities have left me little time to write lately, but they've given me ample opportunity to see flowers, birds, insects and amphibians, and whatever I see I take a photo of.  Photos are a joy to have and share, use in our work and document things, but as someone who aspires to be a good naturalist, photos help me learn.  I can zoom in and look at little details that I might miss in the field.  I can send them to people or websites that know far more than me when I need help identifying a creature, such as a butterfly or other insect.  One photograph can lead to an hour or more of research online (and I do get sucked in - everything is so interesting!).  Eventually, I label the photo and move on, but I'm so grateful for the knowledge that photo brought and I know that little by little, that knowledge soaks in so that the next time I'm in the field, I'm just a little bit more aware, a little bit more observant, a little bit more prepared for what I might see and hear, and a little bit more connected with the world that most of us have forgotten we are a part of.  

Here's a sampling of what I've seen this spring and early summer in the field.  What have you seen and learned??  :-) 
Mary Kiesau
Educational Programs Director
(All photos © Mary Kiesau.  Please do not take or use them without permission)

We were holding an Intro to Birding class, walking around a pond that had forest on one side and shrub-steppe on the other, and the flowers were just as interesting as the birds.  Then I spotted this little "Blue" butterfly on a Buckwheat flower. This is either a Pacific Dotted or a Square Dotted Blue (Euphilotes ssp.) on a Wyeth's Buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides).  These butterflies are very hard to tell apart even by experts.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
I was monitoring a conservation easement with one of our summer interns, Hannah Hogness, pointing out that pretty Oxeye daisies are actually invasive weeds when I noticed this beetle that was so covered in yellow pollen that it at first looked like a bee.  Then, we saw these beetles everywhere, on numerous different flowers.  They must have just "hatched."  After some research back at the office, I learned that this is a Flower Scarab beetle (Trochiotinus affinis).  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Our Spring Naturalist Retreat, a 3-day indoor and outdoor learning experience, is new and different every year.  Each year, there seems to be one plant or bird that stands out for each person and makes the whole trip special for them.  This year, for me, this singing male Lazuli Bunting, filled my heart with joy.  (Yes, there were the saw-whet owlets, the mtn bluebirds, and the brilliant tanagers - see below for those- but this guy was my fave)  I hope he found a worthy mate after all that singing!  Photo by Mary Kiesau
There are some flowers that elude us, like cougars, lynx and wolverine.  They are uncommon, often in hard to reach places and don't hang around long.  Tweedy's Lewisia (Lewisia tweedyi) is one of them.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I'd never seen this flower until this spring.  But, I finally did and wow was it in abundance!  This flower is closely related to Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), and when you see it you'll know it's something special.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
I really know almost nothing about butterflies, I admit it.  I just haven't yet made them my naturalist subject of focus (baby steps, people).  But, when they actually sit still for me, I definitely make an effort to look at them, take a photo and then identify it.  This beauty is a Lorquin's Admiral (Limenitis lorquini), a pretty common flutterby around here, but a wonder all the same.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Last year, I showed six photos of flowers with "bugs" in a Confluence Gallery show.  I choose to identify and research each of the insects, so as to give good information with each image.  Overnight, I became fascinated with insects (how many of the images in this blog post are about bugs??  Six!), and I began to see them everywhere (even tho' some are so small you can barely see them).  I'm still a nerd when it comes to bugs, looking up each one I see.  Here is a Green Blister beetle (Lytta cyanipennis) on lupine.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
This was just a rare treat - it's not a great photo - but I had to share it.  Here's a male Williamson's sapsucker in my own yard!  I've only seen a Williamson's two other times in my 7+ years in the Methow.  Sapsuckers are a group of woodpeckers that drill tiny holes in trees (usually in a rectangle pattern either vertically or horizontally around) in order to drink the sap that comes out.  They build cavities in trees just like other woodpeckers.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Who knew that Columbia Spotted Frogs had red (or salmon as the books say) underpants?  To be honest, I never looked before!  Show and tell by Dana Visalli.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Here's the Columbia Spotted Frog right side up (and probably much more comfortable and happy).  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Nothing says Spring in the Methow quite like yellow Arrowleaf Balsamroot and blue, blue, blue Mountain Bluebirds (in this case, a male on an old mullen stalk).  If only I had a bigger telephoto lens!  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Here's another something blue, and now is the time to start looking for lots of species in the Odonata order because dragon and damselflies like it hot and sunny.  This is a male Marsh Bluet (Enallagma ebrium), best as I can tell.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Every year, right around the end of May and the beginning of June, I go on my annual hunt for Mountain Lady Slippers (Cypripedium montanum).  You see them in scattered bunches on the edge between dry, ponderosa pine forests and wetter riparian forests, often near rivers, creeks or ponds.  This clump is so big and tightly put together that it looks like a bush - it is on the Big Valley trail in plain site - look for it next June 1st!  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Who doesn't love a good lizard??  They are just so... prehistoric looking.  This Northern Alligator lizard hung out for quite a while letting me take his/her picture.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Talk about prehistoric looking!  "What is that?!," was my first reaction to this large bug on a thimble berry leaf.  It's easy to google "iridescent green beetle with orange legs" to discover this is Bumelia Borer (Plinthocoelium suaveolens).  It's a type of Longhorn beetle (obviously) and makes quite a flash of color when it flies.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
There are several steps to the advancing of spring in the Methow (the first Say's Phoebe, the first sagebrush buttercup, the first Harlequin Duck...) and the arrival of the Osprey is a big obvious one that all of us notice.  We are fortunate to get to watch osprey (and eagles and ducks) "fish for fish" from our office.  Here's a lucky bird with fresh lunch.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
A naturalist photo essay would not be complete without at least one photo of fungi (and an edible one to boot!).  This huge patch of Oyster mushrooms would have made quite a meal for our Naturalist Retreat group... if only we could have reached it.  It was about 40 feet up a cottonwood tree.  Better luck next time.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
There are so many wonderful flowers to enjoy in the Methow - it was hard to just pick a few for this post.  Lately, I've seen an abundance of super showy pink wintergreen (Pyrola asarifolia) in the boggy, swampy areas around side channels, pools and wetlands.  There are several Pyrola species in the Methow, but this one is surely the prettiest.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
Most of our woodpeckers are here year-around, but spring is the season of sapsuckers (see Williamson's above).  The Red-naped sapsucker is a common site in our mixed forests.  The nape is the area on the back of the neck, even tho' this species has red on the front of his neck too.  Listen for their fading downward squeak (like a dog's toy getting stepped on) in the woods and look for drilled sap wells in willows, fir and pine. Photo by Mary Kiesau
Quite possibly the cutest photo of the bunch... a pair of Northern Saw Whet owlets was found in Dana Visalli's wood duck boxes at the back of Aspen Lake.  This pair looked at our group of budding naturalists and us at them for a long time, and we assumed they were just curious and un-bothered, but apparently their defense upon discovery is to sit still.  Photo by Mary Kiesau  
There is something about red in flowers that is very hard to capture in a photograph.  Have you ever noticed that?  I have taken dozens upon dozens of photos of Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) and have never been quite able to pick up the little bits of spots and variation of color in the petals, until now.  Behold, my best photo ever of scarlet gilia, taken this spring!  Here's a unique flower of dry, rocky, sunny spots.  Look closely next time you see one and you'll see magic inside!  Photo by Mary Kiesau
And last but certainly not least is our ubiquitous but surprisingly inconspicuous male Western tanager.  Kent Woodruff says this is the most common bird of the spring and summer in the Methow.  Hmm?  This guy spends his winters in Central America, eating fruit and bugs, and then flies here to mate and bred (and eat fruit and bugs).  The red on his head is rhodoxanthin, a pigment rare in birds. It is acquired through his diet, presumably from insects that themselves acquire the pigment from plants, and that's why the amount of red can really vary from male to male.  Photo by Mary Kiesau
 I hope you've enjoyed this naturalist photo essay from our spring and early summer outings and easements.  If you can tell us something about a species here, or something else you've seen in the Methow, please do!  Sharing what we learn and love is what makes and keeps the Methow so unique and special.  
~ Mary Kiesau