365 Nature – Day 285

In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Learn more about the project and see all the 365 Nature posts.


This morning started with a definite autumn chill in the air because the skies were clear overnight. With the prospect of a sunny morning, I opted for a visit to Magnuson Park. I didn’t expect to find any dragonflies with the morning temperature in the mid-40’s, but I was hoping some ducks and other birds would be easy to find in the quickly shedding trees.

It was cool when I arrived, not yet 50 degrees and I set off walking and immediately found a large cluster of mushrooms in the mulch. I walked into the sun and studied the unique architecture of the different seed heads – thistle, Queen Anne’s Lace, spirea all silhouettes in the sky. I spotted a few goldfinches and heard Red-winged Blackbirds, but the pond was empty. No insects flew around, no ducks swam on the first ponds I saw. It wasn’t until the large pond near the  end when I finally spotted some ducks. Gadwall and Mallards were sitting quietly in the center of the water doing mostly nothing at all.

As I walked back along the large pond I finally spotted one dragonfly cruising high up in the trees, in the sun. I checked my phone, it was 51 degrees. I surveyed the reeds along the pond looking for exuvia and found none at all, but I did see one Pacific Forktail damselfly. I returned to the other side of the wetlands and a low-flying insect caught my eye and upon stopping to watch, I saw it was a dragonfly. It landed and I could see it was a meadowhawk, but not one tolerant of my presence. A step too close and it moved and I followed. A photo later I identified it as a Striped Meadowhawk. A few more steps and this time I startled a grasshopper, which in turn startled the dragonfly. As we continued our two step dance, a male Anna’s Hummingbird sang right above us.

I revisited the eastern most pond after my lunch and discovered a grasshopper and another Striped Meadowhawk, this one much more tolerant of me. A Great Blue Heron and Pied-billed Grebe foraged in the water and a Belted Kingfisher surveyed the pond. I heard a tapping sound and found a female Downy Woodpecker excavating a hole in one of the snags along the edge of the pond. She nearly disappeared inside before popping back out to look around and resume drumming.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of a book about urban nature, coming Spring 2020 from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, ParentMap, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction.

Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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