Six Seattle Salamanders

While almost everyone is familiar with lizards, many are not familiar with the amphibians that are roughly the same shape as a lizard, with skin like a frog. These are the salamanders.

Why are they not more familiar to us?  Salamanders are not generally active above ground during daytime where people can easily see them.  They can be seen during the day if you know where to look, but not very many people know where to look. I know where to look, and am leading walks to show them to you on Saturday, February 11th (2017) and another walk on Saturday, February 18th 2017 , when (after about February 15th) a new batch of eggs should be in the pond.  I am also available to lead such walks for groups (or individuals) on request.

by brian gratwicke via Flickr Creative Commons

Ensatina by brian gratwicke via Flickr Creative Commons

Like amphibians around the world, salamander populations have been in decline in Seattle.  These incredible creatures are extra sensitive to pollutants, diseases and habitat degradation and fragmentation.  While there are relatively few salamanders left in Seattle and the ones left reside in just a few remaining spots, six species may still make Seattle their home.  They are the Ensatina, the Western Red-backed Salamander, the Northwestern Salamander, the Long-toed Salamander, the Rough-skinned Newt and possibly the Pacific Giant Salamander Continue reading

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Lincoln Owl Prowl report and link to W.S. Herald “Slide Show”

A good sized group had a great time on the “Owl Prowl” I led last night!  Thanks to a couple of staff of the West Seattle Herald who joined us, I can post a slide show of the walk: http://www.westseattleherald.com/2012/02/04/features/slideshow-owl-prowl-more-walk-park  I expect the kids will be talking about the bear skull I pulled out of my bag, claiming that I found it in one of the owl pellets along with the rat skulls!  Some adults might be talking about it too!

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The Barred Owl – A Successful, New Immigrant Species Upsets the Ecological Apple Cart

Before 1946 no Barred Owls had ever been recorded west of the Rocky Mountains and then the first Barred Owl was recorded in British Columbia.  By 1973 the first Barred Owls – Strix varia – had been recorded in Washington State.  Up until the mid 1990’s they still had a spotty distribution and were not very common here, but their numbers were growing rapidly, and now they have become abundant and widespread in at least western Washington.  As a new species for our area they ate animals that did not have these predators eating them before.  They then competed for prey with animals that didn’t have Barred Owls to compete with before.  They may also be competing for nesting sites with animals that would use similar nesting sites.

The species that might have the most difficulties due to all of these problems is our Spotted Owl – Strix occidentalisContinue reading

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Seattle – Puget Trough “Spring”

For many of us that grew up elsewhere, “Spring” was the season that followed a freezing cold winter, and then only after late March did the seeds, buds, and bulbs sprout and flowers start to bloom. But here in the Pacific Northwest lowlands west of the Cascades, we have little freezing weather, so the plants often react more to the winter months as a wet season rather than reacting to the spotty freezing in these months with dormancy.  Many plants germinate in the fall or winter.  Some plants, like Large-leafed Avens – Geum macrophyllum, have a bloom now and then all through the winter.

The male catkin flowers of the Beaked Hazelnut – Corylus cornuta – extend open into longer strands, yellow with pollen, as early as December or January, while their female flowers, made up of only a few little sexy red stigmatic threads, come out to receive that pollen.

Weibliche Blüte von Corylus avellana

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January Owl Prowls – West Seattle and Shoreline

Join Stewart for one or more fun and inspiring stewardship adventures in nature!

This Barred Owl was photographed by Minette Layne in West Seattle. Via Flcikr Creative Commons.

Owl Prowl – Shoreline – Hamlin Park

Join enthusiastic and knowledgeable naturalist Stewart Wechsler on an owling adventure at Shoreline’s Hamlin Park’s unique Western White Pine forest!  Will the Barred Owls have started their hoots, screams and “monkey hollers” with the bowing that forms their courtship behavior?  We think they might be.  In addition to looking and listening for owls, we’ll be treated to an evening tour of the park. We’ll see and smell some of the park’s plants, a number of which are already showing signs of spring.  We’ll  also peek under a few logs to see if any invertebrates or vertebrates are home.  Stewart will demonstrate his impressive hoots (even though the owls already know his voice and no longer respond as well as they once did!)  The suggested donation to Stewart’s Stewardship cause is $8 a person, more or less if you can or can’t afford it.

WHEN: Sunday, January 22th  4:30 pm. We will walk until about 6pm.

WHERE: Hamlin Park in Shoreline, 16006 15th Avenue NE. Map.

WHO: All knowledge stages and ages are welcome!

WHAT TO BRING: Dress for the weather, bring a flashlight, and pack binoculars if you have them.

Owl Prowl – Schmitz Park – West Seattle

(yes, even in the snow! Come join us – it will be fun!)

Join enthusiastic and knowledgeable naturalist Stewart Wechsler on an owling adventure at Seattle’s Schmitz Preserve Park’s ancient forest!  Up to about 7 years ago Great Horned Owls lived and bred here.   We’ll give them a hoot in hopes that one might have returned.  A few years ago, when Stewart came here at this time, his hoots got the pair of Barred Owls to start their hoots, screams and “monkey hollers” with the bowing that forms their courtship behavior. In addition to looking and listening for owls, we’ll be treated to an evening tour of this last, best chunk of old growth forest in Seattle. We’ll note some of the park’s plants, a number of which are already showing signs of spring and may learn to identify one or two by smell alone!  We’ll  also peek under a few logs to see if any invertebrates or vertebrates are home.  Stewart will demonstrate his impressive hoots (even though the owls already know his voice and no longer respond as well as they once did!)  The suggested donation to Stewart’s Stewardship cause is $8 a person, more or less if you can or can’t afford it.

WHEN: Friday, January 20th  4:30 pm. We will walk until about 6pm.

WHERE: Schmitz Preserve Park in West Seattle, 5551 SW Admiral Way. Map.

WHO: All knowledge stages and ages are welcome!

WHAT TO BRING: Dress for the weather, bring a flashlight, and pack binoculars if you have them.

 

 

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Lincoln Park Owls, Back by popular demand! Sat – Feb 4th 4:30 – 6:00 pm

This Barred Owl was photographed by Minette Layne in West Seattle. Via Flcikr Creative Commons.

In January, more than 50 intrepid and curious folks came out on a nature walk with me to see the owls at Seattle’s Lincoln Park.

All who attended got good views of one of Lincoln’s Barred Owls (a treat that is never guaranteed and always exciting). We found and examined owl pellets that had been disgorged by the owls. The pellets contained rat jaw bones and incisors that grow into a circle if not ground down by chewing!  A raccoon even looked down at the group from a tree, its eye-shine glaring through its dark mask!

We all had a great mini-tour of the park at night, learning about our owls, the park and its community of plants and animals! And, we’re going to do it again. I hope you can come, and bring your friends.

Our next Lincoln Park Owl Prowl is on the evening of February 4th. We’ll walk the park, hope the owls are again cooperative, and cross our fingers that we’ll even get to hear the owl’s vocalizations (those hoots and hollers become more probable as the courtship season progresses!)  We’ll also see some of the early signs of spring of the first buds breaking!

Meet again at the kiosk at Lincoln Park’s north parking lot on Fauntleroy across from Rose St.  This time at 4:30 pm and we’ll go ’til 6:00 pm.  To make it affordable for all, we ask a suggested donation to Stewart’s stewardship cause of anywhere from $1 to $20 per person.

Read more about this event here. Hope to see you there!

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January Adventures in Nature

Join Stewart for one or more fun and inspiring stewardship adventures in nature this month!

Start the New Year with a Hoot!

This Barred Owl was photographed by Minette Layne at Lincoln Park. Via Flickr Creative Commons.

Join enthusiastic and knowledgeable naturalist Stewart Wechsler on an owling adventure at Seattle’s Lincoln Park!  Will the Barred Owls be hooting it up as courtship season approaches?  We think they might be. In addition to looking and listening for owls, we’ll be treated to an evening tour of the park. We’ll see and smell some of the park’s plants, a few of which are already showing signs of spring.  We’ll  also peek under a few logs to see if any invertebrates or vertebrates are home.  Stewart will demonstrate his impressive hoots (even though the owls already know his voice and no longer respond as well as they once did!)  The suggested donation to Stewart’s Stewardship cause is $1 to $20 – your choice.

WHEN: Saturday, January 7th  4:00 pm. We will go for about 2 hours from dusk to dark.

WHERE: Lincoln Park in West Seattle. Meet at the kiosk by the middle of the north parking lot at Lincoln Park (across from Rose St)

WHO: All knowledge stages and ages are welcome!

WHAT TO BRING: Dress for the weather, bring a flashlight, and pack binoculars if you have them.


 

Early Signs of Spring are Sprouting – Nature Appreciation Walk!

False Solomon's Seal by La.Catholique, via Flickr Creative Commons

Share the excitement for the natural world with knowledgeable naturalist Stewart Wechsler at Seattle’s Lincoln Park. We’ll learn the call notes of some wintering songbirds and spot the special sprouts of Seattle’s early spring. Learn the names of these plants and animals and their stories. During our nature walk, we will learn to be stewards of this last piece of pre-Columbian paradise in Seattle — Lincoln Park– by pulling a weed. Yes, that’s right – you will learn Stewart’s one-weed rule!  The suggested donation to Stewart’s Stewardship cause is $1 to $20 – your choice.

WHEN: Sunday, January 8th  8:00 am. We will go for about 2 hours.

WHERE: Lincoln Park in West Seattle. Meet at the kiosk by the middle of the north parking lot at Lincoln Park (across from Rose St)

WHO: All knowledge stages and ages are welcome!

WHAT TO BRING: Dress for the weather, and pack binoculars if you have them.


 

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