Pikes/Pines | The Seattle Cooper’s Hawk Project is tracking a bird on the rise despite window strikes and rat poison

Cooper's Hawk

A steel gray bolt slashes across the blue of dusk. Rolling around corners, it disappears into darkening trees, apparating with a scrape of feathers through branches, and vanishes below the horizon. As it passes robins in the nearby holly tree squeal in alarm. They know twilight is trouble: the killing hour. If you’re a Cooper’s Hawk, it’s the time to make hay.

My first love of birds sprung from a woodpecker, but I’ve always loved raptors. As enchanting aerialists, they live long, interesting lives, and they are relatively easy to observe if you know to pay attention. Some of my best memories involve unwittingly getting too close to breeding Northern Goshawks and hearing the screaming rush of Peregrine Falcons in a dog fight over my Eastlake apartment building. I especially love Cooper’s Hawks. They occupy an ephemeral realm, wild, impressive creatures that permit our presence.

Cooper’s Hawks are the most common North American members of the Accipiter family, a group of hawks known for short wings, long tails, and a specialization for hunting other birds.  According to Ed Deal, President of Urban Raptor Conservancy, a Seattle area nonprofit focusing on research, education, and conservation of urban raptors, Cooper’s Hawks have become increasingly common in our area over the past several decades. They have been able to not only endure but flourish amidst our rising human density. Continue reading

Pikes/Pines | Two Turtle Doves

Eurasian collared dove (Image: Rovdyr via Wikipedia)

The music finally got through to me the other day. Either through stubborn denial or mere chance avoidance, I hadn’t heard any Christmas music. I know people love it, and as a person who celebrates the holiday, I feel it’s appropriate in the week of. But not in November. Not before Thanksgiving.

Holidays can be equally as trying as they are happy and uplifting. However, in an attempt to dig deep into curiosity I had to ask: what’s this music talking about? Gritting my teeth, I cast across one of the songs that got stuck in my head. I started thinking about “The 12 days of Christmas” and its birds. Specifically, those “turtle doves.” Continue reading

Pikes/Pines | For Capitol Hill trees, beauty is being comfortable and confident in your own bark

Ponderosa Pine bark (Image: Brendan McGarry)

Dry winds brought down the leaves. Rain is currently making them slick hazards as we walk under an increasingly bare canopy on Capitol Hill. We enter a time of year when you can look up and fully appreciate the magnificent spread of a massive oak and the bright papery bark of a silver birch. I particularly enjoy this opportunity to engage with the barks of plants in winter, both because they pose interesting points about survival, and because they are simply artistically captivating, (especially without those gaudy distractions, leaves).

While it’s likely we all know this, it’s worth saying: Bark exists to protect woody plants, which grow year after year, from harm. Trees, shrubs, and some vines grow bark as a shield from fire, insects, and fungi as well as from freezing temperatures or moisture loss. When that delivery truck mangles the bark of an ash tree on Broadway, it opens up the tree to potential pathogens, gives it less protection from freezing weather, and can even stop it from transferring nutrients if badly damaged. Trees, our main focus here, need bark like we need our skin. Continue reading

Arboretum Holiday Sale

The Arboretum’s annual holiday sale returns on Saturday, December 7. It features a great selection of botanical decorations and nature-inspired gifts, as well as educational games for kids.

Buy handcrafted wreaths and centerpieces; locally made jewelry, soaps, and housewares; whimsical holiday ornaments for around the home; and much more. Complimentary hot drinks!

All sales support environmental education and tree care at Washington Park Arboretum.

Free Lecture: How Does Nature Benefit Us?

An increasing body of scientific evidence has verified the psychological, physiological, and behavioral benefits of time in nature. In this presentation, Dr. Donald Rakow will address ways in which nature experiences positively affect different aged cohorts, from early to middle childhood, through teen and college years, and finally to adulthood. In doing so, he will also explore prevailing attitudes about nature and how these can best be addressed.

No RSVP necessary

This event is free, with a suggested donation of $5 to support UW Botanic Gardens public education programs.

Pikes/Pines | The trash trees of Capitol Hill

A canopy of red alders in winter. (Image: Brendan McGarry)

A friend of mine calls alders “trash trees.” He is an arborist, and as a pragmatic person who maintenances trees to fit into the grid, alders aren’t “good” trees. They are fairly weak, short lived, are rot prone, and pop up unwanted. They are also native, and as a result host loads of other species, and possesses a subtle seasonal variability I find a beautiful part of our landscape.

These differences of opinion are well reflected in the blocked up properties of dense, urban Capitol Hill. Based on my observations, some people care dearly about managing every last inch of space, others are willing to let things go wild, and some seem entirely oblivious to the world outside their indoor spaces. (Landscaping is also a privileged act, not simply about “caring” or “not caring”). I wonder how the red alder, Alnus rubra, the common and unassuming tree, fits into our world on the Hill?

There are certainly plenty of alder trees growing around Capitol Hill. They are in the Arboretum, in St. Mark’s  Greenbelt, in Interlaken Park. However, few yards appear to purposefully invite red alders into their limited spaces. Why is this? Continue reading

Pikes/Pines | Sign of Capitol Hill summer: Dragonflies in ankle tattoos — and the air

Eight-spotted Skimmer

One of the things that signal summer to me are dragonflies. One day I look up and suddenly they’re there: jeweled, colorful insects, jetting through the air and changing direction on a dime to scoop up unsuspecting prey. Maybe this isn’t your idea of summer but I think dragonflies are worth your attention this season.

I’ve been feeling a little blue about the state of insects lately (to put it lightly). I am convinced that I belong to a generation with a shifting baseline, unknowingly living through a major decline in insects because I grew up without massive amounts of insects around (see the link above for why this matters). But despite this feeling of dread, I have to remind myself that while some humans have seriously destructive and potentially irreversible tendencies, many insects have been around a long, long time too.  Continue reading

Capitol Hill slept through an early morning Seattle earthquake

A 4.6 magnitude earthquake rumbled from near Monroe early Friday morning, shaking buildings to the southwest around Seattle while most of Capitol Hill slept through the ride.

There were no reports of significant damage or injuries from the 2:51 AM quake or smaller aftershocks that followed but it did rattle and roll enough for a few people to get out of bed — or, at least, roll over, grab their phones, and update social media.

USGS Community Internet Intensity Map

The US Geological Survey’s mapping of reports from around the area showed that the quake was felts as far away as Olympia.

KIRO reports the quake is the largest to hit the region since the 6.8 M 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

While Seattle is still largely unprepared for the “big one,” the city does know more about how much it would cost to retrofit its thousands of unreinforced masonry buildings. A new plan, meanwhile, will test a solar microgrid system at Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center that is designed to give the facility greater resiliency in the event of natural disasters.

Nature Journaling Class: Drawing from Nature

2 Tuesdays and 2 Thursdays: July 30, August 1, 6 and 8, 2019, 6:30-9pm

This class is a nature journaling and observational drawing class. We will be going outside into the gardens at the Center for Urban Horticulture with our sketchbooks to practice recording observations in the field. We will then use our field observations to work on the drawings further, using graphite and watercolor. The focus of the class will be practicing nature journaling and using this information from the field to create a more completed observational drawing.

Pikes/Pines | Queer as nature — Capitol Hill roses are gender-fluid

Your Capitol Hill lawn is gender-fluid, too. Bobby Morris? That’s a different essay.

Pride month is here and I have something to tell you: Nature is queer. I don’t mean strange (though it is that too), but that the natural diversity of gender and sexuality in the Hill’s nature is part of its beauty. Culture can blind us, sometimes presenting facts that are actually fiction, particularly about the more than human world. Let’s bust that up a bit.

I write this as a white, straight, cisgendered man inexperienced in getting into the weeds on the subject of the LGBTQ world. Pride is easily co-opted as social capital, something I’d like to avoid. I am writing this not to co-opt but in an attempt to offer a few clumsy words to uplift some stories of natural diversity (and hopefully not inadvertently perpetuate violence or my privilege).

The complexities of gender and sexuality in nature (you may need to be reminded that this includes us), are fathomless. Despite being trained as an environmental educator, I am not a people expert; we will speak here about the more than human world, possibly as lessons for being human. The version of nature we are often given, of male and female organisms on an endless trail of sexual reproduction is a far cry from reality. Continue reading