Field Journal: A New Nudibranch

This time of the year, I check my tide app almost as much as my weather app. Low tide in Seattle means the chance to find marine life that is harder to spot when the waves are higher up on our beaches. My standard go-to beach to explore during these low tides is Alki Beach, but yesterday I went somewhere different to look for nudibranchs and whatever else I might find.

In a little known park, under the dock where a ferry arrives and departs many times a day, live bright colored Orange Sea Pens. These large animals consist of a colony of small polyps and resemble, as the name implies, a feather quill. They wave back and forth in the tide, which becomes rough during the arrival and departure of the large…

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Field Journal: Slime Mold Diversity + Dragonflies

There is one constant about being a naturalist, it is always surprising. A couple of weeks ago I went to the beach for low tide and was surprised when I found no sign of the shaggy mouse nudibranch, or their eggs, which I commonly find this time of the year under rocks. On the other hand, I went looking for slime molds this weekend, not expecting to find many because of the long, dry spring, and yet I found them everywhere.

I have not had good luck taking photos of slime molds before because they are usually found in the forest, which are quite dark here. Compounding the challenge of photographing something small, in a dark landscape, my lens is long and filters out even more precious light. But I prefer to travel light and so I don’t carry a flash system, tripod…

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Poem of the Week: Inversnaid

By Gerard Manley Hopkins (1881)

This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

*Burn is the Old English word for a stream, river or spring.
Comb is the crests of water
Braes is the steep bank of a…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: A New Discovery

Once in a while I encounter something in my yard that leaves me completely baffled. I may not be able to identify all the bees, flies or beetles I see, but I usually know that they are bees, flies or beetles. A few days ago, I noticed something that no matter what angle I looked at it from, I just couldn’t figure out even what type of insect it was.

At first glance it looked like a stick insect, but when I looked closer, I could see there were two, a pair mating back to back, attached together. They had long, sender bodies and even longer, more slender legs. Their antennae were also thin and terribly long, ending in little knobs, similar to that of butterflies. Their bodies were brown, but one had a thicker abdomen which had a green underside, and they…

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Poem of the Week: O Swallow

from The Princess: O Swallow
By Alfred Lord Tennyson

O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying South, 
Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves, 
And tell her, tell her, what I tell to thee. 

O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each, 
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South, 
And dark and true and tender is the North. 

O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light 
Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill, 
And cheep and twitter twenty million loves. 

O were I thou that she might take me in, 
And lay me on her bosom, and her heart 
Would rock the snowy cradle till I died. 

Why lingereth she to clothe her heart with love, 
Delaying as the tender ash delays 
To clothe herself, when all the woods are green? 

O tell her, Swallow, that…

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Book Review: Extraordinary Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson

If you know me, follow me on Twitter or read my writing, you probably have a pretty good idea that I’m a huge bug dork and partial to anything without a backbone. When Norwegian entomologist Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson’s new book Extraordinary Insects: Weird. Wonderful. Indespensible. The ones who run the world. showed up in my Twitter timeline, I naturally tracked it down and ordered it immediately. It has just been translated into English and published in the UK, the US release comes in July. In Norway, where it was originally published, it has become a best-seller.

The very day the book arrived I began reading it and finished in just a couple of…

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Poem of the Week: The Stolen Child


WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
 


Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
 


Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,.
In pools among…

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Field Journal: Caddisfly Swarms

There are downsides and upsides to walking the same route with great frequency. Sometimes it can become tedious and feel repetitive, but then there are the times when I get to see things that only happen for a brief time. Yesterday I got to witness something I’d never seen along my walk before, a mass of caddisflies.

I noticed them almost immediately, swarms of small, black insects dancing right on the shoreline over the water. At first I didn’t know what they were, so I went down to the beach and watched them flying around. They were close enough I could reach out and grab them. When I did I found an insect with very long antennae and slender black wings that extended past the abdomen. The eyes were set on the sides of the head, similar to damselflies and they had a…

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