05 de junio de 2012

Final Journal: Natural History of the Schmitz Park to Alki Trail

June 4
Location: Trail linking Schmitz park preserve to alki neighborhood, beach, and a publc sports park. Adjacent to resdential neighborhood and a small creek, only about 3 blocks from alki beach on the Puget Sound coast.

The pathway was a thin corridor of mostly natural habitat, surrounded by the residential horticultural scene, and often subject to pedestrian and canine traffic, and the sounds of softball being played n the nearby park. However I think that it is possible to distinguish the horticultural from the native in this setting. For comprehensive species descriptions and individual observations see the referenced inaturalist observations for this post at schmitz park.

The canopy was less than 50% tree cover in most places, making this an deal habitat for the shrubby pioneering species that ere prevalent, and the wide varieties of forbs. The pathway grew wetter and darker as you proceeded towards schmitz park (NE), and just as you would enter the park, the prevalence of stinging nettle, and western redcedar increased. This I think was because of the increasing proximity to the nearby creek.
Of the horticultural plants, the maple trees neatly ligned up along the esge of the pathway were the most clear. The red-osier dogwoods, and the prevalence of many dog roses indicate that they too were most likely planted. Those are not species that I commonly associate ith dominant flora.
The natural dominating understory was comprised largely of snowberry, thimbleberry, sword ferns, horse tail, and a variety of forbs that included buttercups, fringe cups, large-leaved avens, himalayan blackberry, a single sited stem of english ivy (which i pulled up), dock leaves, and a few stinging nettles, as well as a few other individually sited species.

The bird species were comprised of many of the local common residents. I spotted the smooth brown feathered winter wren with hs upright head and upright stubby tail for the first time clearly through my binoculars on ths trip. Also consistently flying overhead were two violet green sallows. There were american crows, a song sparrow (see observations), A hummingbird flew overhead that I assume was an anna's hummngbird because of the speed of its flight and that it went into the top of a tree, although im not certain. The calls of a robn and a spotted towhee could be heard at some point. Additionally there was an interesting call hich i did not identify, but can describe as a rising whistle like trill followed immediately by four or sometimes five chirps that sounded like tv laser beam sound effects "pew pew pew pew". This call was sounded repeatedly from a nearby tree that i couldnt pinpoint.

species list
Maple Tree (Genus Acer) (not bigleaf maple)
Bigleaf maple
western redcedar
red alder
Dog Rose (Rosa canina)
Blackcap raspberry (Rubus leucodermis)
Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)
English Ivy
himalayan blackberry
carrot family
california hazel
pacific ninebark
large-leaved avens
fringe cups (Tellima grandifolia)
Red-Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius)
estern buttercup (Rananculus occidentalis)
Bumble bee
Violet green swallow
winter wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
song sparrow
American robin (Turdus migratorius)
Anna's Hummingbird

Ingresado el 05 de junio de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 15 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

Union Bay Natural Area Sketches

Aprl 12

A trip to Union Bay natural area provided an opportunity to practice using sketches as a natural history tool. The reasons for continuing to use sketches and hand made visual representation remain applicable because it gives the naturalist a chance to be subjective in the way they are interpreting hat they see, and to highlight features to increase the emphasis of certain aspects of a visual. It is important to realize that sketching is a tool that can be perfected with practice, so in UBNA, We practiced drawing critters, and plants of our choice using a few standard technques. The first was to be objective to the certain parts of something, and not to make assumptions of what something looks lke just because you know what it is. The second one, which practiced by drawing a willow tree, was to draw a set of increasingly zoomed in sketches f the same organism, thereby focusing on different levels of its characteristics from various distances. first drew the overarching shape of the willow tree, very recognizeable. Then I drew in more detail one of the branches such that you could see that it as comprised of bunches of curled leaves. Then I depicted one leafy bunch and how it unfolded from the stem, and then finally, the detail of an individual leaf.
I intend to practice this for a catalog of trees, admittedly a large project, because I am not a gifted artist.

Ingresado el 05 de junio de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

Evolutionary stories

Burke Museum April 26

The evolutionary stories of ths weeks trip to the Burke museum of natural history revolved around the topics of Sex, treachery, and death.
The sex in evolution was vividly displayed by song birds, and birds of paradise in the museum collection, where the males were usually the more brghtly colored. One of many morphologic distincions of males that can happen as a result of sexual selection, another example being sexual dimorphsm.
The death aspect of death in evolution gave insight into how the burke museum can use their inventory of very old collections of birds to retroactively study the population dynamics of population of different species, a very useful tool.
Treachery provided some interesting cases to study within the context of evolution. Over time, parasitic relationships have led to a sort of coevolutionary arms race between those being parastized, and those seeking to gain an advantage. One way this happens is in the disguising of eggs. As Richard Dawkins put it there could be a gene for making your eggs look like the eggs of the bird who you want to raise your offspring for you, and there could be a gene in that bird for recognizing intruder eggs. Both genes have selective pressure for passing on their on genetic info.
The very interesting case study of treachery comes ith Cowbirds, for hom there has been a proposed mafia hypothesis that suggests that these birds ho parasitize a wide range of nests in a given year, will return to the nests of small birds whom it parasitized to check up on whether they are raising the cobird young, and if not, punish the host in a way that would take an impressive amount of memory. This theory is supported by the fact that the cowbirds brains increase in capacity or size during mating season. Hoever an alternative theory suggests that it is simply beneficial for cowbirds to terrorize as many birds nests as possible to encourage those birds to re-nest and provide more opportunities for the cowbird to parasitize them.

Ingresado el 05 de junio de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

02 de junio de 2012


Lichen are comprised of a fungal part and an algae or cyano bacteria part. In the mutualistic relationship between the two parts of a lichen, the algae or cyano bacteria provide the glucose through photosynthesis, the fungi provides nutrients obtained through hyphae. The lichen cross section appears like a sandwhich in which the algae or cyanobacteria are contained within a hyphae net produced by the fungi that forms the outer wall. A lichen is formed when a fungus and an algae or cyanobacteria meet in nature and form a mutualistic relationship that allows both to survive in places that they usually would not be able to.
An interesting use for lichens is their ability to measure air quality over time. A quadrat of lichen surface area over time will reveal a trend in declining air quality, or more specifically, pollution and sulfuric compounds which get absorbed by the lichen and cause it not to produce reproductive fruiting bodies.
Some common Lichens:
Antlered perfume
Lipstic cladonia (red fruiting bodies, sited in longmire Mt Ranier Nt park)
Lobaria (exclusive in old growth, Nitrogen fixing)

Ingresado el 02 de junio de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de junio de 2012

17 native Conifers of Washington State leaf Identification notes

Location: Pac Forest Lodge
Time: Evening, March 31
Materials: Hand lense and branch specimens of all 17 native WA conifers.

Incense Cedar: Very serrated ventrical scales. Ventrical scales stick out further at tip of leaflet and at each individual scale set, than dorsal scales.
Yellow Cedar: Elongated and more cylindrical scales, greater ability for leaflets to cross over themselves and lose geometric shape. Ventrical and dorsal scales point outwards at roughly equal distances.
Western Redcedar: Geometrically feathered shapred leaflets, with rounded inflexion at the tips of scales due to ventrical scale length and slight inward curve. Short flat scales.
Noble Fir: Two distinct stomata on top and bottom of needles, gives a blueish tint in cold environments. Geometric symmetry to tree and branches.
Subapline Fir: One very thick stomata on the top of the needle, two stomata underneath. Otherwise similar to noble fir.
Juniper: Very three dimensional scaled leaflets. Radial dispersal of ventrical scales, and produces berries instead of cones.
Pacific Silver Fir: Full 180 degree array of needles on top side of branch, making the woody top of the branch not visible. No needles stem from the bottom 180 degrees of branch, leaving underside of branch bare, with woody stem visible. Prominent 2 stomata underneathe needle, no stomata on top of needle.
Western Larch: Alternate bunches of needles that are deciduous. Scarcity of bunches of needles leaves much of the woody branch visible.
Sitka Spruce: Stiff and very sharp pointed needles that are painful to grab. Bluish green coloured needles.
Western Hemlock: Short, flat, round, and blunt needles, unequal in length. Feathery flat splay of needles from branch. Untidiness of needle uniformity keeps needles from being completely flat coming off the branch.
Mountain Hemlock: Radial distribution of short, blunt, flat, round tipped needles of unequal length. Neeldes taste citrus-like, strong taste which hangs around in mouth for a long time.
Douglas-Fir: pointed needles radially scattered off of branch. Flat scar on branch visible when needles are removed. Groove on upper surface of needle.
Pacific Yew: Needles flat and very abruptly pointed at the tip, and evenly lengthed. Two prominent stomata underneathe needle, red coloured patches of bark. Branch with neeldes appears very flat.
Lodgepole Pine (Shore Pine): Needles in bunches of two..
Ponderosa Pine: Needles in bunches of three.
Western White Pine: Needles in bunches of five. Geometric whirls of branches off of main trunk.

Ingresado el 01 de junio de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

May 31 Beetles and Butterflies of UW student led tour

There is only one species of squirrel on UW campus, the Eastern Gray Squirrel. This species of squirrel is invasive, and highly territorial. It is also well suited for habitats that are influenced by humans. These factors account for the Eastern Gray Squirrels dominance, and for the subsequent decline of the Western Gray Squirrel. The Western Gray Squirrel is larger, and solidly gray, unlike the eastern gray squirrel which has a brown face. The Western Gray Squirrel is now on the threatened species list, and only three known populations exist in Washington State. An interesting piece of research into squirrels behavior found that squirrels are not very territorial when it comes to members of their own species, but do defend against the other variety of squirrel.

Beetles: Colioptera, or sheathed wing, is the order of beetles. Sheathed wing is an appropriate description, because beetles are defined by having two sets of wings, the foremost pair being elytra, or hard wing covers, that protect the more fragile secondary pair commony used for flight in beetles that can fly.
Interesting Beetle families:
Lampridae: Luminescent firefly beeltes (not all fireflies in Lampridae luminesce). Includes California firefly, distinguished by two red stripes along edges of Pronotum, doesnt luminesce, (see may 27 observation)
Brachypterous: Dwarfed wings not capable of flight.

Ingresado el 01 de junio de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 1 observación | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

31 de mayo de 2012

Pac Forest Early morning bird watching hike March 31

Transcribed from notes:
Time, 630-700am Location, Pac Forest WA

Bird watching hike yielded insight into new bird species and their calls for me. Along the short walk away from the pac forest lodgings along the old logging roads birds could be heard calling from nearby trees. The experience was to acknowledge the utilization, and the precision of hearing as a way of identifying birds through their calls. An identified call of a bird provides powerful supplemental evidence to the sight of it when identifying or birdwatching. For example, that morning we could hear a kinglet; it sounded like a very high single tuning fork like call. We never saw the kinglet, but we did also see a brown creeper, which corroborated our kinglet id through the call, because brown creepers are known to follow kinglets. The brown creeper we identified by its behavior, flying vertically along the trunks of trees. The spotted towhee could be identified by its mew call, similar to that of a crow, but very different once you get an ear for it. Then there was the loud repeating chirp of the northern flicker which is a very recognizeable bird by sight and call. Finally, a bird which i have not seen, but recorded that morning because of its call, was the varied thrush. I wrote a description of its call: a single sustained note, almost raspy.

Bird Species List:
Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Dark-eyed Junco
Spotted Towhee
American Robin
Varied Thrush
Brown Creeper
Northern Flicker

Ingresado el 31 de mayo de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

28 de mayo de 2012

may 27 Carnation WA

This day consisted once again of being outside in carnation pulling himalayan blackberry on my parents forested plot of land. The forest is a residential subdivision sold off by weyerhaueser after a clearcut in 1985, and was replanted along with the neighboring plots as dense douglas-fir stands, fragmented by old logging roads that are now used residentially, and allow for shrubby pioneering species because the road upkeep insists upon pruning the edges of the road much too far back in my opinion. In these open spaces in the forest caused by the roads is where the blackberry are, and where I spent the first part of the day pulling them. I saw all three types of blackberry: Himalayan, trailing, and evergreen, in order of abundance. The trailing blackberry was much easier to identify today because it was in bloom, and the white 5 pointed flowers are easy to recognize because the individual petals are widely spaced, and skinny, and so do not touch each other. The trailing is also much more likely to be a ground cover rather than a tall shrubby plant. The best thing about it is that it's native, because it would be almost impossible to pull it up by the roots if it were included in the campaign to pull up our invasive species. Another native thorny shrub worth mentioning is the wild black raspberry, which is distinguished from the himalayan blackberry because of its powdery white stems, which can also appear blueish. The evergreen blackberry is less common, and is distinguished by its deeply lobed leaves, that are also typicaly a darker green. Everything else is himalayan blackberry. Interestingly, even though the blackberry is an invasive species, it provides a reliable food source for much of the wildlife, and humans. While pulling it up you have lots of time to ponder why on earth you would be pulling it up. My answer: it smothers everything, including the more preferable native trees, and out-competes native food sources and causes a reduction in biodiversity because of its prevalence.

In these cleared areas for the old logging roads however are most of the shrubby biodiversity and wildflowers. The openness allows for Broad-leaved starflower, false solomans zeal, and a wide range of other rarer species that I haven't yet seen in an area of closed canopy, or any non interrupted forest stand. It is worth noting that many shrubby species like salal, indian plum, thimbleberry, sword fern, etc can be found in the understory of the forest without a road.

Species list:
American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
steller jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
winter wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
American crow (crovus brachyrhynchos)
rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
Broad-leaved Starflower
common hawthorne
mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia)
furry cats ear
false soloman's zeal
himalayan blackberry
Trailing blackberry (flowering)
evergreen blackberry
western redcedar (Thuja plicata)
western hemlock
black cotton wood
Big-leaf maple
bitter cherry (Prunus emarginatus)
garry oak
Red alder
Indian plum
japanese knotweed
butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii)
vine maple
sword fern
bracken fern
spiny wood fern

Ingresado el 28 de mayo de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de mayo de 2012

Forbs of Union Bay Natural Area May 24

A walking tour around the Union bay natural area revealed some of the forbs (flowering herbacious species) that exist in this prairie wetland habitat. Focus species included skunk cabbage, and dandelion.
Skunk cabbage: The recognizeable yellow head of this wetland dwelling wild flower consists of a modfied yellow leaf, that wraps aroound a verticle column of spikey yellow small individual flowers. It derives its name from the smell it gives of via sulfurous chemicals to attract it pollinators which are flies and various decomposing beetles. Amazingly, skunk cabbage can live to be over 100 yrs old, with leaf span of up to 5 ft. An interesting evolutionary trait is the skunk cabbage's ability to produce its own body heat, which allows it to persist through snow cover. Also, its root system functions to pull itself into the ground via the contracting of its earth-worm like roots.
Dandelion:The name means tooth of the lion, and is indicative of the leaf shape, which resembles a row of lions teeth, arranged at a slight angle. The dandelion has the ability to self, which means it can pollinate itself, yet it retains its yellow colour probably because of the slight advantage that comes with the ability to share genetic information with neighboring populations that increase the fitness of offspring. A very similar species is the furry cats ear, which is distinguishable because of its furry leaves, which are not quite as neatly arranged like a set of teeth although they are lobed. Also its stem is not hollow and is much more wirey feeling than the dandelion's, which is hollow. Every part of the dandelion is edible.
Forbs Species List:
Big leaf Lupine
Furry Cat's Ear
Skunk Cabbage
Common Camas
Common Vetch

Ingresado el 25 de mayo de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

21 de mayo de 2012

Port Townsend/Fort Warden May 6 2012

I was awoken at sunrise because I wasn't used to the bright light that lit up the inside of the tent I was sleeping in on the coast of the Straight of Juan de Fuca. I got out of bed however because of the strange bird noises that I could hear coming from just outside, along with the lapping of waves not much further off from our campsite. This bird noise was like a vibrating series of pulses or beats, but when I got outside the tent it was gone. I went to the adjacent hill and into the beginnings of the forested land next to the shore, comprised of pacific madrone as would be expected in the rain shadow of the olympic Mts, and douglas-fir and western-redcedar. On the ground were nootka roses, snowberry, elder berry, salal, salmon berry, and sword ferns. at the top of the hill, I climbed up a cedar tree in order to get a better look at the view of the sun rising above the Straight and the opposite shore. I had to climb up the south facing branches, because these were the only ones which remained alive at the base because of their access to sunlight. I also had no choice but to climb a cedar, because those trees are the ones that reliably have branches at the bottom of them, probably because they are a wet climate tree, and dont worry about fire, which is extremely rare in places where cedars are in climax. This forest was not in a climax vegetation however. I dont think it ever will be because of its proximity to the ocean, where the harsh edge effects continually recycle the life of the plants. This was very noticeable by the fact that the top of an adjacent douglas-fir snag was tangled amongst this cedar's branches about mid way up. When I had reached a suitable height, I took in the views, but I couldnt sit down safely because of the dramatic downward sweep of cedar branches. Instead I was forced to remain standing and facing trunkwards, that is until I again heard the pulsing that had woken me up from the tent. I turned around, and there was a humming bird hovering not 4ft from me, it's wings making the pulsing sound, which then seemed obvious. It didnt stay long, but it was as if it had come to investigate what I was doing up a tree, it was looking right at me. I once had a similar experience in which a crow circled a tree I was in, but this hummingbird, which was clearly a rufous hummingbird like the one on the cover of my bird guide (bright reddish orange head and upper torso and white breast), didnt seem as bothered by my presence as the crow had been. Retrospectively, the curiousity that hummingbird displayed gave me the feeling that it was the same bird had been the one to get me out of bed that morning, and that it led me from my campsite up the hill and into the tree where it showed itself again. I am unclear on whether an animals ability to insight fantasy because of its personable characteristics has a place in natural history, but similar traits were appreciated in the spotted owl, which had a unique role in the natural history of the same peninsula.

Species list:
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

Ingresado el 21 de mayo de 2012 por robertmarsh robertmarsh | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario