Green Lessons from the Past, Green Action for the Future

Seattle Audubon Society recently released an oral history book written and produced by Constance Sidles: “Caring for Birds & Nature: 100 Years of Seattle Audubon.” This is not really a book about the past, however. It is a book to inspire all environmentalists today and in the future. In it are the stories of environmental warriors, teachers, volunteers, and ordinary people who cared about nature and did something to preserve it. We owe our parks and open spaces to them, and they have much to teach us about how to pass their legacy forward. Come and listen to Connie as she reads excerpts from this book and leads a discussion about how they did it – and how we can, too.

Instructor Constance Sidles is a master birder, former board member of Seattle Audubon Society, co-chair of Seattle Audubon’s Urban Nature Work Group, and an award-winning nature author.

Art and Nature: Seedlings and Watercolors

Learn about native seedling development and growth while also taking time to observe the individuality of our native plants by painting them with water colors!  We will cover how native seeds germinate and grow as well as have time to use water colors to catch the fine details of young native plants.  This class includes taking home a native plant seedling at the end of the class as well as any painting you make. Children are welcome, but class content will be geared towards an adult audience. Free, with a suggested $5 donation at the door.

With small slide below Interlaken, soggy March brings landslide concerns

An unbelievably soggy March has neighbors in the sloping areas on the north of Capitol Hill worried about landslides.

A small slide closed 14th Ave E between Boyer and Lynn to through traffic Saturday morning. With continuing rains, you can expect to see more mud.

March has already reached its average rainfall totals following weeks of even wetter than usual weather around Seattle.

CHS has reported on small slides over the years and concerns about the slopes of northern Capitol Hill and around Interlaken Park. Our nature writer documented the landslide risk of the area in 2014 including the Hill’s geologic past of glacial till and water-pooling clay:

Then we come in. The grade is altered, creating new faults. Hills are denuded of trees, which hold slopes and mitigate flooding. Barriers to natural water flow diverts it toward unforeseen consequences. People understandably want views and build on cliffs, changing the loads on hills. Generally things more even more unstable. West Capitol Hill, Interlaken, North Capitol Hill. Slides every decade going back in our modern record. I won’t tally the slides in Hill history — that would take too long.

For the most part, recent slides have been mostly limited in damage. In 2011, cracks from the sliding hillside forced an indefinite closure of Interlaken Drive. It reopened after repairs five months later.

Family Nature Class

photo by Lisa Sanphillippo of Trinity Homeschool preschoolers

photo by Lisa Sanphillippo of Trinity Homeschool preschoolers

Our weekly two-hour classes for 2-5-year-olds and their caregivers engage the senses with hands-on activities, learning stations, songs, stories, hikes and group games based around a theme that changes every week.

Classes run Thursday, Friday or Saturday and Registration is required.

Class Themes:

4/13-15     Decomposers in the Dirt

4/20-22     Our Planet Earth

4/27-29     Tree Appreciation

5/4-6          What Makes a Bird a Bird?

5/11-13      Flowers and Pollinators

5/18-20     Birds on the Water

5/25-27     Forests Are Fun

6/1-3        Owls

6/8-10      Squirrels

6/15-17     Wetlands

Pikes/Pines | The how, when, and why of the Hill’s birdsong

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Male and female Marsh Wrens look alike, but when I find one singing along Portage Bay, it’s undoubtedly a male.

Despite knowing it happens annually, I’m always surprised when I hear birds begin to sing every year. I spend most of my days outside and I wake up early, so I notice subtle changes in the seasons acutely, and my ears are always pricked for avian voices. That’s how I detect many of the birds I watch. As a result, I noted that within the last week, more birds have been singing than a week earlier.

As days lengthen in the temperate world most organisms have physiological reactions, and birds are no different. One result is that male birds’ testes swell, and increased testosterone expands song volume and frequency. Many resident birds sing year round; I hear Song Sparrows and Pacific Wrens regularly throughout winter. But, when the daylength broadens, birds ramp up the energy they put into singing. The other morning in the vicinity of 17th and Roy I counted six species singing, not an impressive number. However, four out of the six I hadn’t heard since last summer.

Why do birds sing? Overall it’s a pretty simple answer. Birds generally sing either to impress the opposite sex or defend a territory. In the vast majority of cases, if you hear birdsong the vocalist is going to be a male bird.    Continue reading

We don’t know what’s next for the Volunteer Park stump tree…

But we like it. We’ve asked Seattle Parks about the cutback tree that has become a “natural” play structure near the Volunteer Park amphitheater but we’re pretty sure they have something better to deal with on a Friday than the latest CHS goose chase. All we know is the tree was clipped weeks ago and we assumed it would be fully removed. It’s still there. We’ll update when we hear more about the park’s strange (and fun) new feature. In the meantime, along with the jade vine and the last few days before a long closure for the Seattle Asian Art Museum, you have a few reasons to gather up a few friends and visit Volunteer Park this weekend.

UPDATE: Yay for Seattle Parks. Here’s what they told us about the tree — and its future:

This is a large cedar tree that was damaged and blown over as part of the snow we recently experienced. Crews will likely leave some of the tree in place, but will probably need to cut some of the tree further back to make it safe for the long term.

Fur-ther? Nice one, Parks.

CHS Pics | In Cal Anderson, ‘the owls are not what they seem’

The owls are not what they seem. #capitolhill #seattle #mytown

A photo posted by Roy Powell (@bkhighfive) on

Neighborhood shutterbug Roy Powell captured a beautiful visitor to Cal Anderson Park Thursday night. This snowy barred owl seems to have sat on this park bench before. Powell said he spotted the bird around 10:30 PM.

In November of 2012, a female yearling snowy owl showed up on 11th Ave making a meal of an ill-fated gull. That young owl required rescue and, after rehabilitation, was released back to the wild in a well-attended celebration at Volunteer Park.

While barred owls make areas around the Hill their permanent homes, the snowy owl is a seasonal visitor to an area as far south as Seattle. Young snowy owls — like many others — regularly return to Washington and points south to winter during the harshest months of life in the Arctic. They are daytime hunters so keep your eyes open and head swiveling. At night, they apparently like to hang out and watch the world go by from a park bench.

UPDATE: Never trust a journalist to ID birds. What about barred owls, you ask? The barred birds are of a mammal-like bulk (21″ tall) “and relatively unfazed by human presence–they will stretch, emit wisdom, yawn, gambol, sleep, be serene, faire la toilette, hunt, etc. within 10-15 feet of a person.”

After spring spraying, state deploys gypsy moth traps around Capitol Hill

(Image: Washington State Department of Agriculture)

(Image: Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Following its aerial eradication efforts this spring, the Washington State Department of Agriculture is setting up gypsy moth traps on Capitol Hill.

The Capitol Hill deployment is just one of many regions across Washington state receiving the bright orange traps. WSDA estimates that 34,000 traps will be set up across the state this season, a 70% increase from the 20,000 typically set.

WSDA spokesman Hector Castro said this is due in part to the fact that some regions of the state, such as Eastern Washington, did not receive any trapping at all in 2015 and thus are being focused on in 2016. Additionally, regions that were treated with the bacteria Btk to eradicate the moths are receiving “intensive trapping.” The area around Miller Park was sprayed with Btk in April, and Castro says the results of the trapping this summer will help the WSDA determine if that treatment was effective.

“On Capitol Hill we are going to have more traps than in previous years to make sure that that eradication was effective,” said Castro. “It will likely be September before we know if we were effective.” Continue reading

Start of Capitol Hill gypsy moth eradication effort a go for Wednesday

IMG_6601 (1)UPDATE 4/20/2016 6:25 AM: That was a punctual pilot.

UPDATE 4/20/2016 11:50 AM: A spokesperson tells CHS no spraying is planned for Thursday, 4/21. “We have to allow a few days to pass between treatments and plan on conducting three at each site,” the spokesperson tells CHS. The next morning of flyovers has not yet been scheduled yet.

UPDATE 4/21/2016: The state says no more spraying until Monday at the earliest — but rain might mean a longer wait for round two:

The next gypsy moth treatments are not expected to occur until Monday at the earliest, but that is subject to the weather as we cannot apply the pesticide in the rain or if rain is in the immediate forecast.

This is why we encourage the public to visit www.agr.wa.gov/gypsymoth and sign up for email, text or robo-call notifications if they wish to be alerted in advance of any of these treatments or changes in schedule.

UPDATE 4/24/2016: Sate says Monday will be the second day of spraying on Capitol Hill — *if* it isn’t raining. UPDATE x2: Canceled: “The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s gypsy moth treatments scheduled for Monday, April 25th for Seattle and Gig Harbor have been CANCELLED due to the weather. The Vancouver treatment is proceeding as scheduled.”

Monday, April 25, will be a gypsy moth treatment morning, weather dependent. Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and the Gig Harbor site are the locations we plan to treat tomorrow. It will be the second treatment for both communities. Vancouver is also scheduled for its second treatment Monday morning, but that work is being done by the Oregon Department of Agriculture in a partnership with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The first treatment of the 130-acre site in Seattle was completed in about 15 minutes on Wednesday, April 20. The Gig Harbor site, about 600 acres, was treated on Monday, April 18, in about 45 minutes. The Vancouver site is 807 acres and was last treated on Sunday, April 17. All gypsy moth treatments are very weather dependent as we cannot apply the pesticide in the rain or if rain is in the immediate forecast. That means tomorrow’s treatments may be delayed or even postponed to another day in the event of rain or other weather problems.

UPDATE 4/25/2016: After Monday morning’s rain, round 2 is slated for Tuesday:

Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and the Gig Harbor, Lacey, and Nisqually sites are the locations we plan to treat tomorrow. It will be the second treatment for all communities.

UPDATE 4/28/2016: May Day on Capitol Hill will, weather permitting, begin with one last morning treatment:

The final stage of gypsy moth treatments is scheduled to begin this weekend. Our next scheduled treatment will be Saturday, April 30, when we plan to treat the Port of Tacoma area, also referred to as the lower Tacoma site. On Sunday, May 1, we plan to treat Capitol Hill, Gig Harbor, Lacey and Nisqually if the weather allows. Vancouver will also be treated on Sunday. These will all be the third and, most likely, final time these sites will be treated this season.

UPDATE 5/1/2016: Weather looks awesome for Monday — so this might finally be the last round for this spring:

Today, we completed the third and final treatments for Kent, Nisqually. The Oregon Department of Agriculture completed the third and final treatment of Vancouver. On Monday, May 2, we are planning to treat Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and Gig Harbor.

Original report: The Washington State Department of Agriculture says the war against Capitol Hill gypsy moths is about to begin. An airplane is scheduled to fly above an area near the Miller Park neighborhood early Wednesday morning to deploy an organic pesticide. The state says Btk is not toxic to humans but recommends minimizing exposure.

The process will require multiple days of treatments. CHS wrote about the treatment plan here and how to stay abreast of the schedule.

The state has been treating for gypsy moths since 1979. As of last year, they had conducted 93 eradication efforts across the state, including one here in 2006. Last year, the department deployed about 16,000 traps to attempt to detect gypsy moths across the state.

The WSDA announcement on the plans for Wednesday morning is below.

Today’s gypsy moth treatment in Tacoma went smoothly and much faster than anticipated. All but about 100 acres in Tacoma were treated before we stopped operations for the day at 8 a.m.

Seattle’s treatment will be moved to Wed., April 20.

This is as a result of us being able treat more of the Tacoma site than anticipated. A 130-acre site in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood will be treated beginning at about 6 a.m. tomorrow morning. Once Capitol Hill is complete, the last 100 acres of the Tacoma site will be wrapped up.

Like all of our treatments, these dates are subject to change due to the weather or other factors.  We advise the public to visit www.agr.wa.gov/gypsymoth and sign up for email, text or robo-call notifications if they wish to be alerted in advance of any of these treatments or changes in schedule.

To date, WSDA has conducted gypsy moth treatments in areas of:

  • Vancouver
  • Lacey
  • Nisqually
  • Gig Harbor
  • Lower Tacoma site
  • Most of the Upper Tacoma site
  • Kent

All sites must be treated three times for the best chances of eradicating the gypsy moth. We are treating all these sites with Btk, a non-chemical bacterial insecticide approved for organic agriculture. It targets caterpillars and is not harmful to people, pets or bees. An airplane is being used to treat most sites, but the Vancouver site is being treated by helicopter in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which is eradicating its own detection of gypsy moth in the Portland area.

Here’s information on getting alerts about the spraying:

Reminder: All treatment times are highly dependent on the weather. Should we have warmer or colder weather than anticipated, treatment times could start earlier or later. To receive notifications when treatments actually occur, sign up for our alerts via e-mail, text, or robo call.

Pikes/Pines | Get dirty for Earth Day

Madison Square Garden

This month, I was going to write about birds, unveiling an epic of expansion and recession, of species pitted against one another. A tale that can wait. April is Earth Month, when Earth Day happens, which is a much more pressing. I’d love to smush together the ornithological facts that I can hardly keep from falling out my mouth, but I’ll ask something of you instead. Please celebrate Earth Day.

I shouldn’t have to tell you the earth is worth celebrating, but I know we’ve all got busy schedules. So, this doesn’t have to happen on April 22nd, nor necessarily the following weekend. In the next month or so, several local events celebrate our planet. Last year I asked you to get out and learn about a small bit of your environment, regardless of its origin, no matter how common place. Having done that, I’d like you to get outside and volunteer.

The Arboretum
CHS is by definition hyperlocal, so it would only be right that I highlight events very close to home. Here’s the first: As in the past several years, the Washington Park Arboretum has teamed up with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) for a day of service on the grounds. You can read the particulars about the event here, but I’d like to point out that attendance gets you a free t-shirt and free food, which is generally enough to get me positively hopping with excitement. The goal of the event is to plant, mulch, remove invasive species, and maintain the trails.

Now this isn’t glamorous work, as you’ll likely sweat and get dirty in the process. Nor will I suggest that spreading mulch will save the planet. However, you’ll be giving back to one of the more expansive green spaces we’re so lucky to have nearby, which (if you ignore tax dollars), is free. Plus, and while this sounds very cheesy, you’ll engage in community. I believe community is what can protect biodiversity and environmental health worldwide, because it’s not about partisanship, it’s about collective success. We really need some success these days.

EarthDay Challenge
Ok, so maybe you aren’t the manual labor type and despite my prodding that getting a little dirty is a good way to connect with nature, you can’t bring yourself to hack at blackberries in the rain. There’s other ways to contribute. A simple one is to donate to the EarthDay Challenge, which is a cooperative of a multitude of Washington conservation groups. Donating will help a bevy of these nonprofits, and if you can handle some mud, this is also a good place to find other volunteer events.

BioBlitz
In all honesty, all I want to do in my spare time during Spring is explore nature. As it happens, there’s an event just for that. On the heels of Earth Day is the BioBlitz at Washington Park Arboretum. While having a slightly funny name, bioblitzes are awesome. The tangible goal is to inventory as many species as possible in a given place during a given amount of time. While experts can get out and do some of this on their own, the heavy lifting is in the shear data and that’s where you come in as a citizen scientist. You get the opportunity to learn about birds, bats, insects, plants, even freshwater mussels. Taxonomic experts get your help inventorying and an opportunity to raise awareness about biodiversity in their given field.

UPDATE: Capitol Hill Spring Cleaning, starting at 10 AM Sunday, April 24th in Cal Anderson:

It’s that time of year! Thats right, Spring Cleaning! Come join the Captiol Hill Ecodistrict, Capitol Hill Community Council, Cal Anderson Park Alliance, and your fellow community members at Cal Anderson Park for a Spring Clean-Up! It also happens to be Earth Day weekend, so what better way to celebrate?

This is an opportunity to get to know your neighbors and be involved in the improvement of Cal Anderson Park. We will provide the tools required for the project, but feel free to bring your own gloves, etc. Wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting a little dirty.

We will be meeting up at the Shelter House located in the center of the park at 10am on Sunday, April 24th. Feel free to come by a little early if you would like to help set up. Simple breakfast foods and drinks will be provided as a thank you for your time and participation!

No matter what you decide to do for Earth Day (here’s even more events outside of the Hill), I hope you get outside (watching David Attenborough doesn’t count). Consider this: Aside from donating to a cause, all the events above are free and should be loads of fun and good for the planet. Maybe I’ll see you out there.