Location: Schmitz Park
Coordinates: 47.573705, -122.399049
Weather: It was a relatively sunny day with only about 30% cloud cover during my trip to this park. It was about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, but the shade of all the trees in the park itself made it seem like it was much colder out. The lighting was still fairly good for taking pictures despite the fact that the thick canopy of trees often blocked out the sky in the forest.
Habitat: Schmitz Park is essentially one huge, thick forest habitat. It is an excellent place for birds with plenty of trees to nest and hide out in and the mid-sized stream running next to the path makes it a great place for plants and animals that like wet environments such as frogs and skunk cabbage. It was also obvious that insects and bugs considered the area to be a great place to live as well since I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes the entire time I was in the forest and since I saw at least fifty different spittle bug nymphs in their plant sap cocoons on various kinds of plants (oddly enough all of them were flowering plants). This area is one of the thickest forests I've ever been to in Seattle with very few open patches in the canopy and very little light escaping through the tree tops in some places, especially in the area I was assigned. The canopy started to open up in places a little way into park in areas where the trees had fallen down. There were plenty of fallen trees in Schmitz Park forming large bridges over the stream and creating the aforementioned gaps in the canopy. They all acted as nurse logs and had smaller trees, mosses, and ferns growing out of them. They also served as home to small animals, as I once caught a glimpse of a small vole or mouse running out from a crevice in a fallen tree's roots. There was evidence of woodpeckers in this forest, as I encountered a dead tree that had broken in half, part of it had fallen off the path out of sight and half remained standing, that was covered in large and small holes. There were places where the bark had completely caved in and it was obvious that woodpeckers had been all over it. They often attack dead trees because the bark is soft and easy to peck through to get to insects that will live inside. Finally, as far as other birds go, I heard robins, crows, sparrows, wrens, and owls as I walked through the forest park. They all made their homes in that place well out of sight of the path as I could never get closer to the sounds they were making no matter how deep into the forest I went.
Vegetation: At the east end of the park where I started out, the forest was mainly deciduous with bigleaf maples as the dominant species, red alders as the second most common, and a few black cottonwoods here and there. As I went further into the forest, I began to encounter more and more coniferous trees that I could see off the path. These were mostly western red cedar, but there were a few Douglas firs and trees I thought might be lodgepole pines, but I'm not certain. I was only able to observe that their needles grew in small clumps and could not see any other important features as they all grew far from the path and I didn't have my contacts in or my glasses with me. All of the coniferous trees near the path, especially the western red cedars, had grown to enormous sizes and encountered one that I think would have required at least three or four people in order to wrap arms all the way around its trunk. They were amazing to behold and I have not seen anything quite like them in the other forested parks in Seattle that I've been to. The most diversity in plant species could be seen on the ground beneath the trees. There was a huge amount of plants growing on the ground around the path and off into the trees. In the area where I started out at the beginning of the eastern path, there were tons of stinging nettles in a huge patch around the stream. They covered the ground at least 20 feet into the forest and were all flowering, so they were certainly an interesting sight. The vast majority of them were covered in the plant sap "spittle" coverings of spittle bugs in at least one spot on their stalks, so they were definitely worth stopping and observing. I didn't actually know what these were at first and learned the hard way that they were stinging nettle. I stopped to touch the stalk and got a thumb full of stingers, which were much more painful than I imagined they would be. Though the stinging nettle was the most common and evenly distributed plant in this chunk of the forest on the left side of the path, there were also smaller plants like Berberis nervosa and some plants with broad, heart-shaped leaves and small, delicate white flowers among the nettles. On the opposite side of the path for at least 50 feet or more was a hillside of sorts made of dirt that was completely covered in western sword ferns and wood ferns. There was also Berberis nervosa on this side, but the ferns were far more dominant. Of all the plants I saw growing low to the ground in Schmitz Park, ferns, especially wood and lady ferns, were the most common and evenly distributed. They were everywhere on both sides of the path and didn't leave much room for anything else. Another common sight along the path further into the forest was salmonberry. These plants grew very tall, at least two feet above my head, and formed what I would call arches over the path. Some were still flowering, but the vast majority already had their berries, which were very red-orange and ripe looking. I was really tempted to taste a few, but I didn't want to eat any pesticides that might have been sprayed on them. Salmonberry was another of the most dominant and widely distributed of the plants growing under the trees. As I walked down the path, the stream went from being at least 20 feet away to directly next to the path. At this point, skunk cabbage became a very common sight. They grew in thick patches around the stream and even on the other side of the path opposite the stream. They were all very big, but they didn't have their large yellow flowers. My mom, who went with me on this adventure, noted that they all looked very "prehistoric", which I thought was a very accurate description. Also near the stream I saw a single patch of water parsley, which was very interesting as I didn't see it anywhere else in the forest and I had never seen it up to that point. So far, the salmonberry and the plants with the tiny white flowers I discussed earlier were the only flowering plants I saw along the path. Flowering plants, it seems, were not very dominant in Schmitz Park and were only present in sparse distributions. As I progressed down the path, I began to see plenty of Galium aparine and youth-on-age, which had smaller, maple shaped leaves and tiny, purple-green, fluted flowers. The Galium aparine grew to enormous sizes, bigger than I had ever seen it, I had had fun throwing it at my mom and getting it stuck on her shirt as we walked. The youth-on-age was growing very thickly along the path in the middle of the forest on the left side with the plant with the tiny white flowers, the Galium aparine, and the ferns. It was interesting that, as I walked, flowering plants became more and more prevalent, though the number of species of flowering plants still remained low. Finally, the last species I was able to identify on the forest floor was the northern giant horsetail, though these were not common and grew only in certain places along the path near the stream. Generally, the species diversity of the plants growing between the trees low to the ground was very high, though there were a few species more widely distributed and more dominant than others. There was not a whole lot of variation in the trees species, which seems to be a common trend in all the forests I've been to for this class.
General Comments: Schmitz Park was a very peaceful place to walk through. My cat just died, so it gave me some comfort to distract myself with all of the plants and the bird calls I heard. The only upsetting moment on this forest adventure was getting the finger full of stinging nettle. My favorite experience during this trip to the park was hearing the owls hooting back and forth throughout the forest. It was about seven o'clock, so it didn't surprise me that they were at least awake. At one point, I heard this odd hooting, gargling bird call somewhere off the path to my right. Suddenly, another bird made the same call back as soon as the first one finished. They then began to make some really odd squeaking noises at each other. I have absolutely no idea what was making that noise, as I couldn't get through the trees off the path and I had no way of knowing where the sound was coming from. Could it have been owls or was it something else entirely? What were they doing? Were they fighting? Mating? Whatever it was, it sounded extremely strange to me and I had never heard anything like it before in my life. It was so different from the calm, peaceful hooting I had heard echoing through the forest before that moment that it surprised me. I also wonder why I didn't see any of the owls I heard, especially since I had seen one in Ravenna just sitting above the path. Was that just pure luck or was that owl just particularly indifferent to humans? If in fact that owl was just indifferent, why were the owls in Schmitz Park so different? The other point of interest in my trip was the spittle bugs. Why were there so many of them? How were they sitting on the nettle plants without getting hurt? Why were they all on nettle plants in the first place? These were all the questions brought up during my visit to Schmitz and I'm glad I was assigned that place for my final. It was very different from many of the places I had explored on my own and it was certainly a learning experience. My final question had to do with the fallen trees. Why were so many of them downed? Did they just get old? Were they diseased? Did they die because of insects, fungi, or birds like sapsuckers? These questions will probably never be answered, but they certainly stretched my thinking.
Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)
Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
Red Alder (Alnus rubra)
Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Owls of unknown species
Sparrows of unknown species
Wrens of unknown species
American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum)
Lady fern (Athyrium felix-femina)
Wood fern (Dryopteris sp.)
Dwarf Oregon grape (Berberis nervosa)
Unidentified plant with tiny white flowers
Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
youth on age (Tolmiea menziesii)
Meadow spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius)
red clover (Trifolium pratense)
water parsley (Oenanthe sarmentosa)
white clover (Trifolium repens)
stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Unidentified plant with large, clustered purple flowers
Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus)
Northern Giant Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia braunii)