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)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wolverines, Grizzly Bears, and the Natural Power of Connections - Notes from the Dec 2013 Holiday Program

Doug Chadwick by Karen Reeves
By Volunteer Bob Herbert
The Methow Conservancy's December program was standing room only for the biologist and author Doug Chadwick.  Doug traveled from his home outside Glacier National Park and he shared with us his vast knowledge about two of North America’s fiercest predators.  Doug is an expert on wolverines and grizzlies, and the photographs and stories he shared were enthralling.  Both creatures play an important role in the food chain, and they both provide balance to the pristine Rocky Mountain wilderness they call home.  They live on the crown of the continent, and Doug showed us that the wolverine prefers the crests to the valleys, and they summit the tallest peaks before breakfast.

Chadwick & "Tank" snarling by Joel Sartore
There is approximately one grizzly bear for every five square miles, and they and the wolves are known as ‘keystone species.’  The Northern Rocky Mountains boast the largest and densest population of grizzlies on the planet.  The berries the bears eat are returned to the ecosystem in the form of fertilizer and seed, which insures a constant source of food for these magnificent creatures.  The digging bears do in order to find grubs helps to turn the soil over, which is why Doug referred to them as the gardeners of the mountains.  These bears are survivors and they are capable of living in extreme conditions.  We learned that there are thirty grizzlies that still remain in the harsh, arid climate of the Gobi desert. 

Wolverine by Steven Gnam
The grizzly bear is a powerful creature and it symbolizes the rugged wilderness of North America, but the stories Doug shared about the wolverine kept the audience’s jaws open in awe and utter respect for this elusive creature.  The wolverine hales from the same family as weasels and martins and they reside in the alpine and sub-alpine regions of North America.  They grow to around three feet in length and they weigh thirty pounds at maturity.  They have been known to take down moose and caribou, and they are fierce enough to drive grizzly bears off of a carcass.  They travel the most difficult routes possible, over the highest peaks in the area.  They travel straight up avalanche chutes and down the backside of mountains at a speed that is unattained by any other creature, and they do it with the endurance necessary to evade any predator.  One GPS tracking device showed how a wolverine climbed a vertical mile to the summit of a mountain and back down to the next valley in ninety minutes.  They did this in the middle of winter with heavy snow on the mountain.  For any Methow locals who would like to test their endurance and speed against the wolverine, you can replicate this feat by starting at the base of Last Chance Point, attaining the summit, and returning to the road that leads to Hart’s Pass in 90 minutes, in snowshoes, in February.
Captive wolverines by Dale Pedersen

Wolverine by Steven Gnam
Wolverines will dig through 20 feet of snow in order to find a marmot sleeping in a den.  They dig their own den in 10-12 feet of snow, and they will tunnel 20-50 feet horizontally, which is why global warming is threatening this rare species.  The only real competition the wolverine has for food is bacteria, and they have been known to return to cached food tens of miles away, months after the kill, in order to find a meal during the harsh winter months.  Wolverines will not tolerate temperatures over 70 degrees, which is why they make their homes in the most remote, glacier covered mountains of North America.  There were 110 glaciers in Glacier National Park when it was founded in 1910, but there are only 23 that remain today.  The reduction of possible den sites and feeding grounds means that wolverine habitat is disappearing faster than any other species in that ecosystem.  There is an estimated 35-45 wolverines living in an area that covers 1,500 square miles.  The same area contains approximately 150 grizzlies, so you can see how rare the wolverine really is.  The wolverine’s territory covers 200 square miles of the most rugged landscape on the continent, and it is estimated that only 300 remain in the lower 48 states.   

Thank you to Doug for sharing his knowledge, expertise, and humor with us. and thanks to the Methow Conservancy for bringing him here.  I’m sure that everyone who attended gained a healthy respect for the wolverine and the grizzly bear, and we are lucky enough to have a small wolverine population living in our side yard in the North Cascades. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Storytelling for Change - Notes from the Nov 2013 "1st Tuesday"

By volunteer, Bob Herbert
The Methow Conservancy’s "First Tuesday" program for November was filled to capacity with people eager to learn more about our resident film makers Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.  Benj and Sara have started a project called Facing Climate Change and it focuses on the affects that global warming is having on northwest communities and tribes.  They have adopted a short film format that focuses on how global warming and climate change is affecting people’s lives and their livelihoods.  The average length of their mindfully created productions is just over four minutes, which means they are able to distribute them through the many social media networks.  

"Oyster Farmers: Facing Climate Change"
The first film we watched spotlighted a family owned oyster farm that was forced to relocate their hatchery due to increasing acidity in the oceans.  It is estimated that 25% of the carbon dioxide that has been produced through the emission of greenhouse gases has been absorbed by the oceans.  The increased levels of CO2 have lowered the pH and it is happening faster than climatologists expected.  The acidity of the Puget Sound is actually increasing faster than other areas due to the strong ocean upwelling that occurs here.  The colder the water, the higher the concentration of CO2.  The owners watched their oyster spawn decrease year after year.  Young oysters were struggling to survive in the acidic water; in some cases their thin shells would dissolve.  The family finally made the decision to open a hatchery in Hilo, HI.  They knew the pH would continue to drop so they were forced to relocate their oyster farm to an area where the ocean is warmer and acidification has not had as big of an impact.  

Plateau Tribes: Facing Climate Change
The next film focused on the Umatilla tribe of northeastern Oregon.  The Umatilla tribe has made a commitment to maintain the purity and availability of the First Foods given to the Indian people of North America.  They live in the high plains and they dig the same roots and gather the same berries as did their ancestors.  To this day, the Umatilla serve the same roots, berries, and salmon in their long houses, in the same exact order in which they were received from the Creator countless generations ago.  They share the First Foods with their brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom and they have made a promise to preserve these sacred foods for all.  This may become increasingly more difficult with time however, as the temperature continues to climb here in the northwest.  The Umatilla fear that the roots and berries will be forced into higher elevations, or even become extinct, and the quantity and quality of salmon suffers when water temperature increases.  The boundaries of their reservation will not change with the climate, so the future of the Umatilla’s food source depends on whether or not the developed countries of the world are will to do the right thing and address climate change once and for all. 

Benjamin and Sara’s films tell a personal, localized story.  This format is an extremely effective way of getting a message across in a short amount of time, and the stories they tell should be heard by as many people as possible.  More details about their Facing Climate Change series (which also includes films about coastal tribes and potato farmers) is available to watch at their website - - and I urge you to check them out.   

Sara and Benj also showed the audience two films in their work for TEAM Network, a global web of field stations that provide an early warning system for loss of biodiversity in tropical forests.  Badru's Story was an official selection at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival and was also shown at the Mountainfilm Festival.  

Our natural history-loving crowd got a kick out of Benj and Sara's unique interviews called "The Natural History Project."  See a short film and/or listen to 15 different interviews at the website.

Thanks again Sara Joy Steele and Benjamin Drummond for sharing your films and thank you for the tireless work you are doing for the planet and its inhabitants!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Learning about Raptors and their Migration at Chelan Ridge

By Heide Andersen, Stewardship Director
Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Site at Copper Mountain
Last Thursday I put on my long underwear for the first time this fall.  I wasn't searching for the first patch of snow to ski on or trying to get to Cutthroat Pass on my mountain bike for one last time this season.  I was going to Chelan Ridge as part of a Methow Conservancy field trip to witness the great hawk migration that has been observed by Kent Woodruff and his field crew for the past 17 years.  As Kent will mention, it has actually been occurring for more than 17 years (maybe 17,000 years?), but we have only been observing and counting the birds as they begin their arduous journey in relatively recent times. 
Jane's injured merlin found in a road.
The field trip had an unusual beginning with member Jane Gilbertsen showing up at the TwispWorks parking lot with a small cowering raptor in a cat carrier.  She had rescued what was determined to be an injured adult female merlin from the middle of East County Road.  Merlins are small falcons that inhabit northern forests and plains and are approximately the size of pigeons.  This particular merlin was a dark rich chocolate brown on its back and cap with brown streaks across her chest, which is typical coloring for the female.  A male would be more of a slate blue across his back and cap.  The little merlin was fed some fresh elk meat, which she ate voraciously.  She was ultimately sent in a convoy down to WSU to hopefully be rehabilitated by specialists. 

Following the winding bumpy Black Canyon Road up to Chelan Ridge at almost 6,000 feet in elevation, the tour began with a hike up towards the high observation points where biologists are staked out all day to identify and count individual birds.  After discussing the joint program between Hawkwatch International and the U.S. Forest Service that has collected invaluable qualitative and quantitative data about these birds, the group made its way towards the blinds.  There are two blinds on Chelan Ridge where other biologists utilize an intricate system of nets and lures to attract migrating hawks.  When hawks have been captured in the nests, valuable information is documented about not only their gender and species, but also their size and body condition.  They are banded around their leg with a metal band that has a uniquely coded stamp that can be interpreted through a database by any birders or biologists in North or South America.  
Chelan Ridge educator Carla Jo with a "sharpie"
The first bird captured in the blind on Thursday was a sharp-shinned hawk.  "Sharpies" are an accipiter and the smallest hawks to reside in North America.  Their preferred habitat is broad-leafed or coniferous forests.  Often mistaken for their larger cousin, the Cooper's hawk, the compact sharpies are the size of doves and fly with what looks like "shrugged shoulders". 
Carla Jo showing the wingspan of the northern goshawk
The final highlight of this exciting day came when the biologists in the blind presented a northern goshawk, a relatively uncommon bird to be caught on Chelan Ridge.  The goshawk is a very powerful raptor of northern forests.  Despite the fact that it is the largest of the accipiters, goshawks can fly with great agility through dense stands of trees, taking prey as large as snowshoe hares or merlins.  Northern goshawks are often used in falconry and revered in many cultures as a sign of strength.  Attila the Hun was claimed to have worn the image of a goshawk on his helmet.
It was a wonderful way to spend a fall day with Methow Conservancy supporters and the inspiring and committed biologists that are a part of the Chelan Ridge Hawk Watch project.  Their intimate knowlege of their subjects and their infectious attitudes as enthusiastic interpreters made our experience even more enjoyable.  

Fieldtrip participant, David, preparing to release a goshawk.

Fieldtrip participant, Helmet preparing to release a sharp-shinned hawk.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Whitefish Island - Fish Restoration & Snorkel Site!

by Mary Kiesau & John Crandall

On August 11, 2013 we took a field-trip to "Whitefish Island" with aquatic ecologist and Methow Monitoring Coordinator, John Crandall.  Whitefish Island, between Winthrop & Twisp along Hwy 20, is the site of a large-scale river restoration project implemented to improve habitat for ESA-listed (endangered or threatened) fish species inhabiting the Methow River.  Participants heard from John what was done at the stream habitat restoration site but more specifically why.  It's a long story but here are the basics, plus photos from the day!

Stream restoration is occurring to address landscape conditions (which are now degraded and lacking the "functionality" that creates diversity of habitat that supports a variety of fish species and life stages --eggs, juveniles, adults) - that limit the production of spring Chinook, steelhead and bull trout that are listed under the ESA.

Increased fish production is a necessary step (court mandated) to achieve recovery and get the species off the ESA. This is the ultimate goal of current habitat restoration efforts in the Methow.

Reconnection of stream with their floodplains and side channels, installation of large wood, and improving streamflow and water quality (riparian restoration) are key attributes of current restoration efforts. Habitat protections (easements etc.) assist this effort by keeping intact functional/less impacted areas.

Fish need habitat options as they move through their lives. Habitat/streams that provide a variety of water depths, current velocities and overhead/instream cover are the most productive. Stream restoration is occurring to provide the Methow watershed with increased stream function to create habitat over time (decades +) as well as shorter term additions of large wood that provide immediate habitat benefits for fish and other species.

Monitoring has shown that juvenile fish (ESA species and other species like lamprey) are abundant in the large wood structures that have been installed. The structures should increase juvenile fish growth and survival
which is being monitored through the MRC.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beaver Match-Making? An Immersion into the Deep Trenches of Mammalian Harmony

Guy feeding beavers before they are relocated
By Guy Thyer, one of our three college interns
(To learn more about the Methow Beaver Project, click here)

The inexperienced beaver feeder might mistake their task to be a simple matter of putting food in the bowl. While we understand the importance of daily sustenance in these beaver’s lives, we’ve found the feeding process to be an immersion into deep trenches of mammalian harmony. More than simple nutrition, feeding the beavers is about fabricating stories of love, drama, and the eventual triumph of the Good and then playing them out to full fruition!


It’s a Monday afternoon. Jamie jumps out of the passenger side to unhook the fenced-gate and we pull into the Winthrop Fish Hatchery. We are quick to shelter ourselves from the shameless beaver courting; we interns of course, are much too young to see such voluptuous behavior. While millions of Americans eagerly await Episode four of the Bachelorette, where the men battle it out in the Bachelorette’s Mr. America contest, a much more subtle and arranged lover’s game is happening all the while down at the Winthrop Fish Hatchery.

Less the Bachelorette’s abs and interviews, sprinkle a touch more real-life drama, and you’ve got the Beaver Relocation project. Beavers are captured from at-risk locations and brought to their temporary home in Winthrop. The beaver-crew plays ultimate match maker; before the beavers can make the move to their new homes upriver they must find a partner. These naive lovers are tossed into pools and the mix-and-match is on. A quick date to the waterway-waterfall, a romantic cruise around the house, a wood-chewing project, or perhaps an afternoon of snuggling and whispering sweet nothings. No matter the activity, the waterways are lively, full of discovery and also occasional divergence. Feeding the beavers can be bittersweet, we interns are bludgeoned with redirected beaver stress from crushes, heartbreak, jealousy, and even foul rumors. We got tail-smashed (an epic and radical water-slap move) trying to photograph a beaver for this post. The social-spectacle of these raceways often approaches middle school dance levels.

Mama beaver and two youngsters
Arranged marriage within such a small population of beavers forces these water-wizards to look deep inside one another’s soul in search of redeeming qualities. Two dens are provided for each pair, so when it’s not all kittens-n-roses for the unfettered romantics, each has their own home. Unlike the bachelorette, these beavers hardly get a say in their new partnership. A testament to their starry-eyed spirit, grandmothers and spry teenagers, princesses and slobs, introverts and social butterflies find ways to fuse together into dynamic pairings. Sleep and play patterns are observed, all to ensure that each beaver has a fighting chance at the wonders and endless fruits of proper matrimony.

Getting released into a high mountain pond
No beaver, fat, small, shy or impatient is a forlorn partner. Stories ofcompanionship, compassion, and canoodling are abound and plentiful in these concrete condominiums. It is not heartbreak, but instead transcendent union that triumphs in the waterways. A proper cardiologist would shut down the entire operation for its extreme effects on the heart! When two beavers do truly connect, we find joy not only in that same encouraging sentiment that keeps America watching the Bachelor -- “two strangers can find love!” we yell at the Television/Waterway – but also in the return to the river that love symbolizes. More than just a relocation project, this is a project about the triumph of the beaver spirit. A mini-verse where cooperation, trust, and openness triumph over deceit, division and despair.   

Guy Thyer's Bio:
I am originally a Seattle-lad but I am going to be a sophomore at Pomona College in California this fall. I am an Environmental Analysis and Philosophy double major.  I am interested in education policy and ways of incorporating experiential/outdoor education into our education systems. I came to the Conservancy because the projects we are working on seemed really interesting and worthwhile. The tasks we work on are a great mix of environmental and community work. The people at the Conservancy, and in the Methow Valley in general, have been extremely impressive and have really inspired me to continue pursuing this sort of work! 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Climate Solutions in the Age of Consequences - Notes & Video from the July First Tuesday

Notes by high-school intern Erik Ellis
Video (1 hour 20 minutes, see below) by high-school intern Ella Hall.

The July 2013 First Tuesday Program featured speaker KC Golden, from Climate Solutions, presenting a lecture entitled Climate Solutions in the Age of Consequences at the Merc Playhouse in Twisp.

Video of KC Golden Climate Solutions Talk

The first topic that was presented was that climate change is not just an environmental issue, that  it affects mostly every aspect of our lives, economic and social effects included. This means that we need to limit the adverse impacts of our society, and we need to clean things up a bit. This issue is too small to solve by just changing some aspects of our lifestyle. It requires complete, innovative re-engineering to build stronger, healthier, more compatible communities. A success story in Washington regards the Coal Plant, which produced 10% of Washington’s carbon emissions. In 2011, plans to phase out of coal passed with unanimous support from workers, company, and community. This was one of the biggest energy success stories, as it saved 5 Seattle-sized cities worth of power and $2 billion in electrical bills.

A Time Magazine headline from read “Be Worried, Be Very Worried.”  But the time to be worried was approximately 100 years ago when the first theories on carbon emissions came out. Changing ourselves and doing something about our impact on the environment is NOT optional, it is something that we have to do. What we are facing is either an inconvenient truth or a reassuring lie, and the truth does not lie in the middle of the two extremes. Right now everything is at stake, and if we continue on our current path, we will soon be likely to be beyond adaptation, so something must be done.
It is time to be the solution. Although this is a global scale, much of the impacts are local. For example, snow cover is projected to drastically decline. Forest disturbance will occur and at the end of the 21st Century there will be twice as much forest burned in Washington as in the 20th Century.  Sea level rise presents a problem. With just a 1 foot rise of sea level, an event like Hurricane Sandy, which may only occur every 100 years, becomes a once in 10 years event. With a rise of 2 feet, that even will happen yearly. Ocean acidification is rising, it is at 30% now but expected to be at 100-150% by 2100.

The problem is a cycle. Many people face this challenge with denial and confusion, which leads to inaction. We need to break this and turn this into a circle of practical economic solutions leading to results-oriented policies. Although it is called “Global Warming” much of the action must be local. By 2017, continuing with no action taken to stop this, emissions will be “locked in” and it will be increasingly harder to turn back. The Keystone Principle presents one answer: Stop Making it Irrevocably Worse!  Huge long-term mistakes we have the opportunity to not make. Clean Energy Revolution is good for us, but bad for the coal industries, who are turning to building coal plants in less developed countries. This can lead to a great climate disruption if it isn’t stopped.   

This is a technological and moral issue. A solution is to transition out of fossil fuels to more renewable resources. Also using biocarbon and scaling up carbon storage, taking back some of the carbon we’ve released. This leads to a bioeconomy. In the May 10th issue of the New York Times, it was being described as “game over for climate.” It isn’t a game, and it isn’t over. Adaptation and resilience is a must, limits on carbon pollutions, energy efficiency and renewables, international leadership, will help to tell everyone that someone’s doing something about it.

Helpful websites:
Stop keystone XL:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

First Impressions

by summer intern Claire Bartholomew

As a rising senior in college the pressure to figure out what comes next after graduation is a constant stress that tugs at the back of my mind on a daily basis—finding an important internship for my last summer before “real life” seemed daunting. What’s going to look good on a resume? How will the experience give me tools to succeed later on? Am I even going to find something? These were just a few of the anxiety filled questions I began to ask myself starting around Christmas vacation. Let’s face it, internships go fast and college students are chomping at the bit to find summer work that will help them find a job after graduation. 

I’m not ashamed to say that it was my dad’s idea to contact the conservancy about a summer internship. When Associate Director Sarah Brooks said that she was willing to talk to me about a possible internship, it was honestly a no-brainer:  A) I love the Methow Valley. B) I’ve always been interested in nonprofit management and what that might entail. And finally C) I could tell after one phone call with Sarah that the office was going to be a great place to intern, with interesting projects and a welcoming and friendly staff…. And thankfully I was right.

My first week at the Conservancy, I was on invitation duty for an upcoming major donor event. My first lesson from Sarah was the difference between a “bad pen” and a “good pen” (ballpoint is bad). Never again will I even think about writing a formal letter in ballpoint—Thanks Sarah!

I am now diving into the project of expanding the “This Methow Life: A Library of Conservator Interviews” started by Sophie Daudon, last year’s intern. The project was created to collect recorded interviews with landowners who have conservation easements with the Methow Conservancy. These interviews are for future landowners to learn and hopefully understand why an easement was placed on their land in the first place and how important it is to continue the work of stewardship.

Going through the already completed interviews from last summer, I’ve learned so much about the different homestead stories in the valley. It’s amazing to hear the things people’s ancestors did to make living in the Methow Valley possible. Along with the longtime landowners are first generation newcomers to the valley who are so passionate and captivated by everything this place has to offer.  The passion and commitment of this diverse community of people is both amazing and inspiring.

My first two weeks living in the valley have been great and have shown me how truly beautiful and unique the Methow Valley is. I have also discovered a new appreciation for the proximity of wildlife on a daily basis. Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of putting on waders, getting into a raceway tank and feeding some wild beavers at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery. How many people can actually say they’ve actually done that?

A couple times this week I have returned to my dad’s house to find a doe lounging in the front yard. The first time, she was fairly close to the door and was happily laying in the grass, while I, a confused city girl, sat in my car eating my lunch hoping she would soon let me pass to the front door. After twenty minutes I moved my car as close to the front door as possible and then tiptoed to safety. The second time, she (I’m assuming it was the same doe) was a little farther away so I made a mad dash for the door dropping everything that had been in my arms in the process. The next night, at the Conservancy’s monthly board meeting, Vice President Richard Hart educated me on the ways of the deer and taught me that a deer won’t attack unless there is a fawn present. Naturally, I felt stupid, kept my mouth shut about my ridiculous standoffs with a sweet doe and soaked up the information Richard was so nice to share with me.

Thus far, I am so thankful for this experience and cannot wait to begin interviews with conservation easement landowners in the coming weeks!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Farming Ancient Grains - Notes & Video from the June First Tuesday

Post-Program Notes & Thoughts by Volunteer Bob Herbert
Watch a video of the whole program (1 hour 15 minutes) below. 

Everyone who attended the Conservancy’s First Tuesday in June enjoyed a beautiful evening outside with Sam Lucy from Bluebird Grain Farms.  Sam and his wife Brooke started Bluebird eight years ago and their organically grown ancient grains are a feather in the cap of the Methow Valley.  How many people these days in America can say that their grains are grown and milled locally and organically? 

Sam grew up on a farm in New England, so when he found himself working on a ranch in Washington his interest in agriculture was revitalized.  Once the decision was made to start growing grains, the next question for Sam and his wife was which grains to grow.  They researched the ancient grains and they decided to plant the oldest and simplest ones they could find.  They chose emmer because they could trace its lineage back 10,000 years.  Wheat has been bred and hybridized over time to increase yields and as a result, its molecular structure has become increasingly more complex.  This goes a long way to explain why so many people these days have problems digesting wheat and gluten (a protein in wheat).  As an ancient grain, emmer has 28 chromosomes; it is high in protein, low glycemic, and high in omega-3’s and other vitamins and nutrients.  Bluebird has also recently added another ancient grain called einkorn.  

Sam shared some of the history of grains with us. 
By the 1800’s white flour became known as rich people’s flour, and grains like emmer were considered peasant grains.  Bleaching techniques were also developed over time which made white flour even whiter.  As the flour got whiter however, the nutrient content diminished.  Vitamin B deficiencies became common in urban areas and plagues struck as a result.   

When World War II ended agriculture in the United States quickly transformed from organic and sustainable to chemical and petroleum based.  Large mechanized farms began growing single hybridized crops on large parcels of land.  This type of farming required chemical fertilizers and pesticides in order to grow the same crop year after year on depleted soil.  Mechanized farming continued to ‘progress’ and ultimately opened the doorway to genetic engineering. 

Genetically modified foods fill the shelves of every grocery store in America, so people like Sam and his wife who are dedicated to bringing top quality organically grown ancient grains are a very small minority these days.  The corporatization of agriculture has put people’s health at the bottom of their concerns, and GMO’s have taken over the majority of commercial farming in the United States.  Over 80% of the corn and soy grown in America is now genetically modified.  Many of us were surprised to learn that no genetically modified wheat has been released in America.  It's a surprise, one because we just don't know this stuff, and two, because a couple of weeks ago a farmer in Oregon found Round Up resistant wheat in his fields, meaning that wheat is genetically-modified and got there some how or another.  Round Up is the most commonly used pesticide worldwide, and its parent company Monsanto is responsible for most of the genetically modified food grown in America.  Sadly, Americans are the GMO guinea pigs and the legislation that recently passed will protect Monsanto from any legal action that may arise from their genetically engineered ‘Frankenfood.’      

Companies like Bluebird Grain Farms that are dedicated to providing organic food and operate in a sustainable, environmentally sound manner are few and far between.  We all know how lucky we are to live in the Methow valley, and companies like Bluebird are part of the matrix that makes this valley so special.  The residents of the Methow send out a big thank you to Sam’s family and all the employees at Bluebird - keep up the great work! 

Sam also shared some of his poetry with us throughout the evening.  Here's "Rain."
By Samuel Lucy

Not just sprinkles
A moving chorus-
Lost in heavy fog
'Cross the springtime valley
From shrouded melting peaks
Hidden as if never there.

Cool and easy
Kiss the brittle sage
Make sweet and tangy
Love these hard dry hills
Come unafraid and curious
Tip-toeing to this tilled soil.

Open and clutch
This anxious eager earth
Harrowed, sown, waiting
Through sunrise and moon-set
For gentle May breezes rise up
An sing this long spring song.

Thrushes' trill
Meadowlarks' lullaby
A Building patter
Dancing 'cross dusty stone
Along tender green aspen run
Pelting dusty dirt
Swallowing the land whole.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

White-Headed Woodpecker May "First Tuesday" Program

On May 7, Jeff Kozma, a wildlife biologist with the Yakama Nation, gave a Methow Conservancy's First Tuesday program on the "Reproductive Ecology of the White-Headed Woodpecker in Washington’s Ponderosa Pine Forests

White-headed woodpeckers are restricted to the western states of WA, OR, ID and CA.  In WA, they are a species of concern and little is known about them - they are the least studied woodpecker in North America. White-headed woodpeckers (WHWP) are the only woodpecker with a fully black body and a white head (the male has red on the back of his head). They are non-migratory and found in conifer forest, specifically ponderosa pine.

WHWP were historically thought to be tied to old-growth forests. Jeff's research, which was the second study to ever be done on them in WA, showed that they do well in either burned or unburned trees and that there doesn't appear to be a strong link to old-growth. They do just fine in managed stands.

Jeff’s study focused on WHWP in managed forests, looking at:
Nest site characteristics
Reproductive success
The role of sexes in feeding and nest cleaning
What were parents feeding young

White-headed woodpeckers show a clear preference for ponderosa pine for nesting, and they tend to prefer fire-cleared habitats like this photo on the right, but they will make cavity nests in other trees. WHWP are weak excavators, so they tend to chip away at dead or dying trees to make a cavity. White-headed woodpecker holes are relatively small and round, very similar to hairy woodpecker holes, but on average they are just 12 feet above the ground. Because they are so low to the ground, WHWP prefer sparse canopy cover because dense shrub cover near their nest brings more danger (squirrels, weasels, martins, hawks) and less visibility.

Jeff and his research team used "tree-top peepers" (see left) to look into nest holes.  They also watched birds to see what they were eating, and which sex was feeding or sitting on the eggs more.  They banded birds and took habitat notes.

Jeff's research showed that males scout out potential snags, and then females decide whether they like it or not. If not, the males keep looking before they excavate. Males do most of the excavating. Females lay one egg a day (perhaps up to five eggs) and start sitting on the eggs after all the eggs are laid. The females stay close to the nest, alternating with the male sitting on the eggs and gathering food (which can be just about any insects but they especially like wood borer larvae and carpenter ants). However, males sit on the eggs most of the time, and catch larger food items. Whether they are a monogamous species is a “gray," unknown area.

Woodpeckers have hooked or barbed tongues and work them like a sewing machine, to grab grubs out of holes. 

White-headed woodpeckers avoid competition for food with other woodpecker species by using different nesting periods.  (Hairy woodpeckers are slightly earlier)

 Figuring out the age of birds is based on primary feathers and molting. Young birds have brown primary feathers until they molt and slowly replace them with with white adult features. Males have dingy brownish white heads that slowly molt into a red stripe at the back of their white hood.

Notes by volunteer Maddie Cogswell.  Thanks Maddie!

Friday, May 10, 2013

On Arctic Ground

On Arctic Ground...Bonus Program on Monday!
By Jason Paulsen, Methow Conservancy Executive Director 

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that just over a year ago, I could not have pointed to the National Petroleum Reserve on a map.  Had you asked me to describe what it looked like, I would have guessed a large area covered in underground fuel storage tanks, somewhere in the deep south.  With time I’ve grown less embarrassed to admit this, as I’ve discovered I was far from alone.

Northern Alaska and the National Petroleum Reserve (NPRA)

Last June, I had a rare opportunity to visit and explore the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, and to experience our Nation’s single-largest unit of public land first-hand.  At 23 million acres, the National Petroleum Reserve continues to exist as a large blank space on many maps, and represents the far western reaches of the arctic slope, north of the Brooks Range and extending toward the Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean.  Think of nearly 50 Pasayten Wildernesses, and nothing but open space and wildlife extending to the horizon in all directions.

Enjoying the Midnight in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve, June 2012

Nearly a year later, I still struggle to put words to the experience of exploring this expansive wilderness.  Each hour of every sun lit day and sun lit night brought new experiences and memories I hope never to forget.  These memories include watching a wolverine lope across the tundra within minutes of touching down in the bush plane, observing brown bears which had likely never seen a human before, crossing paths with caribou, discovering cultural artifacts, and marveling at countless birds celebrating the nesting season. 

                         The Utukok River, National Petroleum Reserve Alaska   
Photo by Jason Paulsen

                                                                      Young Caribou on the Move, NPRA  Photo by Jason Paulsen

Thankfully, I don’t have to put too many words to the experience as author and adventurer Debbie Miller is traveling to the Methow Valley to do that for us this Monday, May 13th at the Twisp River Pub.  Debbie will share her new book, On Arctic Ground, Tracking Time Through Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve and an evening of stories, stunning photography, and a glimpse into her lifetime of learning about and working to conserve this unique piece of public land.   Doors open at 6 p.m., a buffet dinner is available for $10 and the free program starts at 7 p.m.  Contact the Methow Conservancy office w/ questions at 509-996-2870.

The Utukok Uplands Special Area, National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska 
 Photo By: Jason Paulsen                          

Wolf Print in Mud, National Petroleum Reserve Alaska

Make tracks to the Twisp River Pub on Monday evening and help us to welcome Debbie Miller to the Methow Valley and learn about an important piece of our public land in one of the most remote areas of our country.

                                                                                 See You There!

                                                                                    - Jason