Field Journal: Arboretum Bird Visitors

Over the last two weeks I’ve encountered a couple of unusual birds visiting Washington Park Arboretum. Last week as the kids from my daughter’s outdoor forest preschool played in the meadow after school, we noticed some colorful birds flying around in the ash trees. They were Western Tanagers, bright red and yellow birds which are hard to miss. I rarely see them in Seattle and it was lucky they were flying around on a sunny day and I had my camera to take some photos. They never sat perched long, constantly flying away from the tree they were in to catch flying insects, before returning to a branch. I caught several photos of the tanagers with insects in their beaks.

This week an even more exciting bird visited the arboretum. After I dropped my daughter off at her school I heard Steller’s Jays making alarm calls right outside her forest…

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Field Journal: Alki Beach Opalescent Nudibranchs

For Mother’s Day I chose to visit Alki Beach at low tide, one of my favorite activities in Seattle. It was busy on the beach and after noticing the many red hats walking around I realized it was one of the Seattle Aquarium’s Beach Naturalist days. The red capped people were volunteers there at low tide to educate visitors about the life on our shorelines. I started wandering and first watched a Great Blue Heron successfully fishing in the outgoing water. My next encounters were with chitons, limpets and sea anemones. Like I saw the previous day in Edmonds, dog whelk eggs covered some rocks. I observed something which looked like a sea anemone, but the base was completely buried in the sand and only ghostly white tentacles waved about in the water. Nearby a crab shell hosted a handful of…

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Field Journal: Tecolote Canyon

To begin our second day in San Diego, I chose to visit a place I’d heard about but had not yet seen, Tecolote Canyon. The park is named tecolote which also means owl and indeed, Great-horned Owls and Barn Owls can be found there with some even nesting. The morning started as overcast, but plenty warm enough for us Seattleites. We immediately encountered a few California Towhees at the entrance area, rather dull brown birds at first glance, with with a subtle orange/red color upon closer inspection. I also found a few California Thrashers, jay-sized birds, also a dull brown, but with impressively long, curved beaks. I noticed a woodpecker on a phone pole and took a photo. Later I realized it was a Nuttall’s Woodpecker, a new bird for me. I then encountered some birds decidedly more colorful, a Black-headed Grosbeak and a Hooded Oriole…

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Field Journal: Winged Balboa Park

Whenever we visit San Diego, one of the very first places we head is Balboa Park. This time was no exception and we arrived at the park early in the morning and started wandering around looking for wildlife. I heard and saw birds like California Towhees and Black Phoebes, but couldn’t find many bugs. Much of the park is highly manicured and the flowering plants had little wildlife visiting, despite the warm morning sun. We visited a couple of gardens finding not much more than a very large grasshopper. Although I’ve been to San Diego many times to visit family, I’d never been in the spring and I was eager to find butterflies. Seattle has had a very wet (wettest on record in fact) and cold spring with little bug life as yet and my hopes were high for something with six legs.

One of my favorite places in the…

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Field Journal: Arboretum Bee Flies

Spring has brought more rain to Seattle but at times it’s also brought sun. Friday was one of those sunny spring days that brings everyone outside from whatever they are doing. I packed my camera and stayed at the arboretum after I dropped my daughter off at her outdoor forest preschool because I’d been seeing bee flies around and wanted to photograph them. I hopped from sun patch to sun patch through the forest and it wasn’t long until I found my first bee fly. It was hovering in a sunbeam along with other insects and I stopped to watch. It soon settled down on some woody mulch and I sat down to look at it. When hovering, bee flies have the tendency to stick their legs out, which gives the appearance of a skydiver. Other flies and bees usually tuck their legs in when they fly, which makes…

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Field Journal: Arboretum CNC

On the final two days of the Seattle City Nature Challenge I visited my daughter’s outdoor forest preschool at the arboretum. I talked to the kids about citizen science and how they could all contribute to science and then read a story about finding nature in the city. The kids of course, are already familiar with the concept of urban nature as they encounter it every day at school. They dig around for worms and centipedes, keep a close eye on the weather, watch the Bald Eagles and Barred Owls and visit the ponds to see dragonflies and turtles.

After our talk the class set out on a data gathering adventure. The kids explored, pointing out plants, lichens, mosses and bugs while myself and the teachers took photos to upload to iNaturalist. The kids were soon running around yelling they found ‘data’ and directing the adults to it. We added…

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