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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Field Journal: Alderflies Galore

Yesterday turned out to be sunny and warm and I visited Magnuson Park for the first time this year. I quickly took off my jacket because it was so unexpectedly warm and my thoughts immediately drifted to garter snakes basking in the sun. I see them at the park every year and weather like this was sure to bring them out. Almost as soon as I had that though I encountered my first snakes. Sometimes they are silently basking in the sun and I only see them once I get too close and they quickly slide away. But this time I heard them before I saw them. There were at least two garter snakes moving in the reeds, as though chasing one another and then twining together. I suspect they were in the act of mating….

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Field Journal: Sinking Grebes

There’s something interesting about Pied-billed Grebes. They are very small compared to ducks and with their brown coloring they are easily overlooked in ponds. I tend to pay attention to them however and during my 365 Nature Project I witnessed them doing unusual things. One of those thing I watched again today during a visit to Magnuson Park in Seattle. At the far eastern end of the wetlands I saw a couple pairs of ducks in the pond. The first, a Mallard pair suddenly leaped out of the water in a frenzy of wings and in the swirling water a tiny grebe head appeared. I’ve seen them harass waterfowl before, as though they were a shark harrying the larger birds from beneath. However, what I found very interesting was their method of going underwater during these shark attacks. 

When grebes are fishing they dive down beak first with a…

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365 Nature – Day 292

In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Learn more about the project and see all the 365 Nature posts.


Mid October, a cool day with clouds and sun changing places every half hour, it feels like the quintessential autumn day. As I walked through the wetland part of the arboretum this morning I spotted clusters of mushrooms standing in the fallen leaves and trees full of color, despite the recent windstorms. In duck pond, a carousel of Wood Ducks went round and round, males chasing each other in an infinite circle. I saw only one female, but a dozen or more male Wood Ducks.

Late yesterday afternoon I went through a container of pond life I’d scooped up earlier in the day. I had caught damselfly larvae, one so tiny as to nearly fit on the head of a larger one. They change dramatically in size as they grow….

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365 Nature – Day 258

In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Learn more about the project and see all the 365 Nature posts.


Today was the first day since Day 237 that I’d spent any time in the arboretum. Aside from a short preschool orientation, we hadn’t been to the arboretum in over two weeks and today I was eager to get back and check on the ponds. After a little morning first-day-of-school chaos which resulted me putting the fulling charged camera battery in the charger and leaving the dead one in the camera, we arrived at the arboretum. The downside of course, I had to carry my camera without getting to take any photos what-so-ever.

When I arrived at the pond I frequently visit, I immediately saw swarms of tiny invertebrates or perhaps crustaceans. The sun was shining directly on the pond illuminating the water down to the bottom and…

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Pritchard Wetlands – A Pictorial Essay

This was originally published on Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens.

A little known park in Seattle, Pritchard Wetlands is a treasure trove of Pacific Northwest native plants and wildlife. It may sound familiar, I included it in my recent post 5 Great Parks:: Seattle Edition. Situated along Lake Washington, the wetlands area of the park was historically part of the lake and underwater until the construction of the Ballard Locks in 1917. After the construction, the water level fell about nine feet and the area which is now wetlands was then above the water level. However, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that a renovation of the site turned it into the wetlands we have today.

Since moving to the neighborhood last fall, we’ve walked and watched the wetlands on a daily basis and I have taken photos through all the seasons so far of the…

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