Discovery Park: Full Moon Trek 5/5/12

Location: Beginning at the Discovery Park visitor's center.
Coordinates: lat. 47.658508
long. -122.405891
Weather: Partially cloudy sky, 45 degrees F. The day was warm, but as soon as the sun has gone down the air regains a chill bite. Luckily, there is not the least bit of precipitation!

8:30pm-- I am here tonight to co-lead a public night-trek through the park. The focus of the trek is to explore and practice some of the technique that animals use to navigate the night, as well as check out the moon. Tonight is the SUPERMOON! Meaning that the moon is at its closest point (on its elliptical path) to the Earth. It is rare that the full moon coincides with the moon being so close to the Earth- only occurring about every 7 years.
We start out the tour inside, looking at some mounts and talkingabout certain animals' night advantages. Owl wings have very finely toothed edges
that allow them to move silently through the air. The ridges on their wing tips "break-up" the air without a sound. Other birds make a fair amount of noise when they flap their wings, you can hear the resistance when you whip a turkey feather through the air, but not an owl's feather.
When hunting, owls rely heavily on being able to swoop down on their prey without being noticed. This entails both silence, and camouflage. The undersides of many owls' wings are whitish-grey to blend in with a dusky sky. In order to detect their prey, owls have HUGE eyes relative to their bodies. Their large black eyes let in maximum light for spotting movement in darkness.
After discussing the owl mounts and the movements of the moon, we walk outside and encourage everyone to touch and feel the plants around them. I discover that cedar is even softer to the touch than it looks. It is almost fuzzy, I can understand how it was used by Native Americans for clothing. Thimble berry too is so fuzzy to the touch it welcomes a good petting.
Eventually, we reach a meadow of low grass surrounded by tall conifers. At 8:30, just before complete darkness, is a good time to see owls hunt. Sure enough, after about five minutes of silent waiting, we see a flash of white over the meadow. A Barn Owl (Tyto alba)! It is the only owl we see, but quite glorious, however quick the viewing.
Owl utilize most greatly their peripheral vision, so as to sense movement over a wide range as opposed to taking in only details of a specific area. We do an exercise to practice using our peripheral that is really interesting--I hadn't imagined sight to feel so much different. Forcing yourself to unfocus and take in movement as opposed to detail is a brain exercise. Your mind wants to focus and tell you what kind of tree you're looking at or what a sign says. It tries to decode the environment as opposed to absorbing it wholly. The change is kind of philosophical... It wonder if plains peoples who hunted the savannahs employed this kind of seeing/thinking. Did it give them a different perception of what it means to see the environment?

Species List:

Observed Species
Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)
Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziessii)

Resident of Park discussed, but not observed
Northern Saw Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
Barred Owl (Strix varia)
Great Horned Owl (Bubo vrginianus)
Mountain Beaver (Aplodontia rufa)

Publicado por jesscubb jesscubb, 01 de junio de 2012

Observaciones

Fotos / Sonidos

Qué

Llovizna (Holodiscus discolor)

Observ.

jesscubb

Fecha

Mayo 12, 2012

Descripción

Ocean spray is easy to identify for its plumed flowers that seem to be splashing off the plant like white ocean spray. Here photographed the flowers are old, so they are brown and dry rather than white. This shrub was about 2.5m tall with small, coarsely toothed leaves that look not unlike black hawthorn.

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