Urban Species Profile:: Eight-spotted Skimmer

Common Name: Eight-spotted Skimmer
Scientific Name: Libellula forensis
Family: Libellulidae

The Eight-spotted Skimmer is a common urban dragonfly that can be found in many parks, wetlands and other landscapes with water. Their range includes the Pacific Northwest, northern California and east to the Rockies. The Skimmer family is the largest odonate family and also among the dragonflies most likely to be seen. They are further categorized among the Skimmer family as King Skimmers, a group which includes some of the most familiar species due to their large size and often conspicuous wing markings. They are considered perchers instead of fliers because they hawk prey much in the way flycatchers do as opposed to swallows. Members of this branch of Skimmers are interesting because unlike many other species of dragonflies, the King Skimmers point their abdomen down in the hot sun instead of pointing it upwards towards the sun, a practice called obelisking.

The Eight-spotted Skimmer is so…

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What’s in a Name?

This was originally published on Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens.

Just what exactly is in a name of our flora and fauna? Quite a bit as it happens. I’ve long been very interested in the names of things. My first trip outside of the country was to Finland where I bought my first foreign language bird guide. I had a great time looking through the book and learning the Finnish names of the various birds I spotted. Later as I traveled to other countries, I bought bird guides in the local language, in part to look at the names of birds in that country.

Even before my Finland trip though, I learned a lot about local species and their names from the people I was around. What I didn’t understand at the time was that many of those…

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Emerald City Crows

Crows are everywhere, throughout the world, but in Seattle they seem to have a special place of their own. The humble crow is abundant in Seattle, but unlike House Sparrows or Starlings, they warrant a lot of attention. You could eat at Crow Restaurant, buy a yacht from Crow’s Nest Yachts, schedule a treatment at Crow’s Wing Spa, reserve the Crows Nest Room at the Chambered Nautilus Bed and Breakfast, get your next home inspection from Seattle Nest Home Inspections, cheer for the Seattle Crows Baseball Club or dance to the rockabilly band the Holy Crows. The crow is also the symbol of the Capitol Hill neighborhood blog. Every spring the crows make news on local blogs, television and radio stations and newspapers as they dive at unsuspecting people from walkers, joggers, dogs and…

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Urban Species Profile:: Pacific Chorus Tree Frog

Common Name: Pacific Chorus Tree Frog
Scientific Name: Pseudacris regilla
Family: Hylidae or Pseudacris (under debate)

The most widespread and abundant frog in the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Tree Frog is also known as the Chorus Frog because they are one of the few frogs in the region which are often heard. Occurring from British Columbia south to Baja California, they also range to the east to Montana. They breed in a large variety of freshwater habitats including ponds, wetlands, lakes, slow streams as well as man-made structures such as retention ponds, ditches and reservoirs, most commonly in fishless bodies of water. Their ability to lay eggs nearly anywhere in a wide range of climates and habitats is likely responsible for their success. During the non-breeding season their range expands to any moist habitats including riparian corridors, woodlands, wet meadows and urban areas. In these habitats they can often be found under and in spaces such as…

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Swift Night Out

Read Urban Species Profile:: Swifts for detailed information about the Vaux’s Swifts. 

Twice a year Vaux’s Swifts roost in the chimney at Frank Wagner Elementary School in Monroe, Washington. Once a year the school hosts ‘Swift Night Out’ where people come visit from all over the state, and even country to watch the swifts descend at dusk into the school’s chimney. There are educational booths from groups like local Audubon chapters and there is a swift expert who gives a talk. The 4’x4′ chimney is no longer used to heat the school and is now left to the swifts. It was recently retrofitted to make it earthquake safe for the school and their bird visitors. Seattle Audubon helped the school receive a grant which is used to bring in a special program to educate the students about the swifts. Thanks to the swifts the kids learn about geography, math, biology and science…

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Urban Species Profile:: Jackdaw

Common Name: Jackdaw
Scientific Name: Corvus monedula
Family: Corvidae 

If you spend time in any European city, chances are very high you’ll come across the Jackdaw. Found throughout most of Europe with the exception of the far north, it’s a common bird in cities, mountains, sea cliffs, fields and other habitats. For the most part they’re residents and will breed in cities, often in or on human structures. Couples pair in their first year and mate for life and they can usually be found together even in large flocks, often times sitting very close together. The Jackdaw is a social bird forming flocks to roost or forage, at times with other species such as Rooks and Starlings. Within their own species, there is a hierarchy and a lead, or head bird in charge.

Jackdaws are the smallest of the ‘black crows’ and are dark gray, almost black with lighter gray neck and underparts…

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