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On the final weekend day of the Seattle City Nature Challenge I headed for one of my favorite places in Seattle, Magnuson Park. The day promised to be warm and sunny and I hoped some insects would be out which I could document as Seattle’s biodiversity. When I arrived it wasn’t yet very warm, but there was plenty to see. I immediately found a bumble bee visiting some purple deadnettle when I entered the wetlands. As I walked around the first set of ponds I counted Red-winged Blackbirds, Violet-green Swallows, American Goldfinches, Bushtits and Green-winged Teal. I listened and heard a Marsh Wren singing, hidden among the cattails and as I searched for the bird I found a large fuzzy ball in the reeds. A Marsh Wren nest. 

I continued walking around the many ponds and as it warmed a little I started to see insects flying around. I photographed an alderfly and various species of flies along with a few ants, and near the water, non-biting midges. In the large pond I found Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks and Pied-billed Grebes. In the trees, warming on the trunk in the sun, I found my first solitary bees of the day. On the other side of the road, along the other large pond I found water striders on the surface, freshwater isopods under the water and Tree Swallows flying in the air. On the pond’s edge I found an Anna’s Hummingbird drinking nectar from a twinberry and a Great Blue Heron preening on a log. 

As the sun came out and warmed the air, more insects became active and soon I was taking dozens of photos of the various flyers. I found many solitary bees and tiny wasps, flies of all kinds, weevils, crane flies and many syrphid flies. A few spiders lurked on the ground or on leaves. A large insect landed on a plant and I knew it was something I hadn’t seen before. It was very large with a fat abdomen and no waist. It wasn’t until I returned home that I learned it was a Cimbicid sawfly. A few minutes later I encountered my second sawfly, but one I’d seen before, a willow sawfly. 

Up in the sky I noticed an interesting weather phenomena, a sun halo.

Nearing the end of the wetland trail I retraced my steps and watched a Song Sparrow catching flying insects. It caught a crane fly right in front of me. On some down wood I found some seed bugs and carpenter ants. A Spotted Towhee perched over the pond while in the pond I found a Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Bufflehead and Green-winged Teal. In the branches over the water Yellow-rumped Warblers searched for food. 

As I returned to the far side I found a busy Oregon Grape with a honey bee and syrphid flies visiting. I was most excited when a fuzzy bee fly joined in and I was able to take photos of it visiting the flowers and hovering in the air. I continued retracing my route and found a log with three garter snakes, two stretched out on the top warming in the sun, while the third poked its head out of the log. Around the corner I found one more garter snake basking on the mulch. I also discovered a pile of ants on the path.

During my walk I also added many of the plants I found including Red-flowering Currant, Osoberry, Mock Orange, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, willow, Thimbleberry, yarrow, spirea, Oregon Grape and more. 

Magnuson Park also produces a wide variety of species, from plants to birds to insects and I knew it would be a good place to visit for the City Nature Challenge. 

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, 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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