Pikes/Pines | Capitol Hill woodpeckers fit right in — drumming, developing microhousing

A Pileated Woodpecker. (Image: Brendan McGarry)

When I was eight years old, my family and I took a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. We spent a week camping along that rugged coastline, falling asleep to the crash of waves beneath gale twisted trees. Of that trip, I remember very little. Only one thing stands out clearly. It was here I met the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). At the base of a gnarled Western hemlock, I found a passion for birds that still burns deep.

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I used to have a hard time explaining why I liked woodpeckers so much. They’re no powerful birds of prey, nor are they elegant hummingbirds. Yet, woodpeckers play an integral role in forest ecosystems, even in the smaller patches we have on the Hill. They are built for a vertical world where their homes and food come from trees. Continue reading

Seattle has plan to retrofit its most earthquake-risky buildings

In 2016, CHS reported on 300 buildings around Seattle added to city’s list of hundreds of seismically risky “unreinforced masonry” structures that could crumble in a major earthquake. In 2018, the City Council might finally start to do something about it.

Monday, the council heard recommendations from the Unreinforced Masonry Policy Committee around requiring retrofitting across Seattle — and how to pay for it. But even with the renewed recommendations — embedded below — there is still only a fuzzy roadmap to putting new rules into effect:

Having briefed the Council this morning, it’s now in the Council members’ hands to decide how to move these recommendations forward in 2018: whether to once again make retrofit of URM buildings mandatory and under what timeline, which financial assistance programs to pursue, and whether ancillary programs such as the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance should be extended to provide additional aid for tenants displaced by retrofit work. Council member Bagshaw has been vocal about the need to address this issue for some time; it wouldn’t be surprising if she sponsored legislation to adopt the policy committee’s recommendations.

And bricks might not even be the city’s biggest challenge. There is growing evidence that concrete buildings engineered using outdated methods were some of the most vulnerable structures during Mexico City’s big quake in September. “Flat slab” construction is only restricted in parts of the United States.

Meanwhile, some Capitol Hill landowners are moving forward on their own. Last year, CHS reported on details of the voluntary retrofit of the Whitworth Apartments, a classic Capitol Hill apartment building at 17th and John.

The full presentation of recommendations from the committee is below. Continue reading

Botanical Sketching in Ink and Watercolor

Botanical Sketching in Ink and Watercolor (August)

4 Tuesday Mornings, 10am-12pm, August 15-September 5

Capture the essence of flowers and foliage in this 4-part class with simple quick techniques and portable materials! While using the beautiful perennial beds and borders at the Center for Urban Horticulture as a backdrop you will be guided in an intuitive approach to sketching with pen layering watercolor washes and gathering tips that can be applied to everyday sketching. A simple supply list will be provided. All levels welcome.

Cost: $95

Register at http://www.uwbotanicgardenscatalog.org/Botanical-Sketching-in-Ink-and-Watercolor-August-P1528C265.aspx


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


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.”