Field Journal: Late Summer Dragons at Magnuson

A month ago I attended a dragonfly class at Magnuson Park with dragonfly expert, Dennis Paulson. He talked about the dragonfly’s life cycle during the class portion, then we went out to Magnuson Park in Seattle to look at the odes. The season had already begun to fade as many he had seen just a week ago were no longer flying. We did see many blue-eyed darners, cardinal meadowhawks, eight-spotted skimmers, blue dashers and western pondhawks. A single black saddlebag patrolled the pond. There were a few tule bluet and California spreadwing damselflies as well. I spotted one unfortunate blue-eyed darner which had become trapped in the water, only its head was above the surface as it tried to fly out, unsuccessfully. Paulson said that happens sometimes when the males fight, one will become stuck in the water and die. Some of the ponds had dried out, as they…

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Field Journal: Alki Octopus

The very low tides I enjoyed at Scenic Beach State Park over the weekend continued and I didn’t want to miss out. So on the Monday after returning from Hood Canal, I took my daughter to Alki Beach in Seattle to explore. I had already had some great finds at Alki during the low tides at the end of May and it seems I always find something interesting there. The Seattle Aquarium’s Beach Naturalists were already searching and I was bitterly disappointed to hear from them that a Humpback Whale and swam by not more than a half an hour before we arrived. Fortunately, Alki Beach could never disappoint entirely, and there was much yet to be discovered. 

My daughter and I first searched the long stretch of rocks, but remembering the moon snail I’d found on the outgoing tide last time we turned towards the…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Spring Nesting

This spring our wildlife garden has seen a lot of activity. Last year, during my 365 Nature Project, we watched a Bewick’s Wren pair make a nest in our backyard nest box, while a pair of American Robins built a nest in our front yard. This year the wrens returned, but opted for a different nest box. In our backyard I have put up a red box, which the wrens chose last year. I also have a blue box hanging from the garage which has never been used. Then there’s the wood box built by my husband, also never used. Last year I found another wood box at a thrift store and stashed it in the garage. It’s meant to be mounted on a post and this spring I just wedged it into our forsythia for a lack of anywhere better to put it.

To my surprise,…

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Field Journal: Late Spring Insects at Magnuson Park

With the warm and sunny weather coming to a temporary end, I wanted to make the most of it to find some insects before the cool weather arrived. The day started sunny and although I arrived at the park in the morning, there was plenty moving around. The rose plants were full of small bumble bees and a few damselflies cruised around the edges of the ponds. I surveyed the grassy hillside where I often see dragonflies resting in the morning before they warm up enough to fly. While looking for dragonflies, I noticed a bright red insect sitting on a leaf. It was so colorful and large, it would have been difficult to miss. It was one of the few times I see something that really is unusual. When I got close enough to it, I could see it was a moth, but could very easily have been…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Spotted Towhee Nest

A week or so ago I realized we may have a Spotted Towhee nest in our backyard, in addition to the Black-capped Chickadee and Bewick’s Wren nests. I was pulling weeds in the area which used to be a large deck and will one day be a wildlife pond, when a towhee flew up from almost under my feet. Realizing what it meant I quickly retreated and left the area to its own devices for the time being. Instead I started to watch, and indeed, a pair of towhees were constantly on the fence and in the neighbor’s tree. A couple of times I crept back to the corner of the garden trying to find the nest, but after some scolding from the towhees I quickly abandoned the search.

They were very sneaky, flying in and out from different places and I couldn’t discover where the nest was. Once I’d think…

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Field Journal: Low Tide at Alki Beach

Last weekend we had the first of our really low tides of the year and I took advantage of it by heading to Alki Beach two days in a row. On both days I was eager to explore and although the low tide didn’t reach the lowest until just after noon, I arrived before 11 am both days. Even though it wasn’t yet at the lowest point, a great amount of beach was exposed, much more than I’d seen all winter long. Both days I wandered up and down the beach. Alki Beach has a diverse habitat with some areas of sand with eelgrass beds, a few areas of large boulders and a lot of rock. I left the large boulder areas until the lowest of the tide because they were farther out in the water. Likewise, I left the sand and eelgrass for later.

The first areas I wandered…

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