June 04, 2012

Carkeek Park, WA- 6/4

Carkeek Park- http://www.flickr.com/photos/79756990@N08/7339283812/in/photostream

I drove over to this park that sits right on the Puget Sound so when I got out of my car there was a strong smell of low tide and the sea. It was 10:45am and about 52 degrees with cloud cover. The grass that was near the parking lot before the trailheads had almost a dozen American Robins scattered looking for worms and squirrels near the trash cans and picking up pinecones from the surrounding trees. Below there is a link to a picture I took of a partially chewed up pinecone that an Eastern Gray Squirrel had dropped just off the path. They usually eat away at pinecones for the nutrients inside and they are easy to obtain.
Pinecone: http://www.flickr.com/photos/79756990@N08/7339267256/in/photostream

I chose to go in the morning so I could observe some birds too and compare the species to what I have found at the Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA) and other areas on campus. Right away I heard a chickadee and later on spotted one flying overhead. After walking for about five minutes I was taking a picture of a Big-Leaf Maple when two robins burst out of the tree cover chirping at each other and then flew away. I had been hearing some short tweets but couldn't place the bird until the robins appeared. It is hard to always tell if a bird call you're hearing is a robin because they have almost twenty different sounds, depending on the situation. Another sound I kept hearing was a short, repetitive call that belonged to the Hermit Thrush. It has a very round body and a tiny head, giving it an odd but distinctive shape. The colorings are brown with streaks of white and gray along its whole body. Besides the Hermit Thrush, most of the bird species found in Carkeek Park are the same I have spotted around University of Washington and UBNA.

One of the first things I noticed about the trees in this area was the lichen on their branches and how much of the tree was covered in different variations of lichen. The crostose lichen was the majority I could see from the trail and its presence proves their is good air quality in the area. From the very edge of the trail there were roughly 4 feet tall Horsetail (that grew so well because of the marshy, wet environment) and tall buttercups. About a meter off the trail there was a mix of Common Ivy, Deer Fern, and Sword Ferns that covered about 95% of the ground. Some of the medium sized trees were Salmonberry and just above them were the Red Cedars and Big Leaf Maples. At the top of a small hill on the trail I looked back at the forested area and could not see straight through to the water and had not been walking more than 15 minutes, so the area is thriving and has a strong ecosystem.

Posted on June 04, 2012 11:10 PM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 02, 2012

Mammals, Beetles and Bees-University of Washington campus- 5/31


For the last class period we talked about the different mammals found on UW campus, which is only one species. The Eastern Gray Squirrel is not native to this region but has out competed the Western Gray for resources because it is more urbanized and thrives in a city setting like Seattle. The Western Gray was put on the endangered species list in 1993 and can only be found in three sites in all of WA state. It is easy to spot where the E. Gray is on campus because it will chew off pieces of bark and excrete salvia on the branch to mark its territory. This squirrel has a very good sense of smell that they use to locate berries and nuts that have fallen to the ground. They are considered scatter-hoarding mammals because they will fill their cheeks with food and then dig a little hole and fill it with just one berry or nut, bury it and then repeat the process. Squirrels can remember up to thousands of these holes in a season and they build so many in order to reduce the risk of loss to another squirrel. They nest in trees and will make a chirp noise.

There is a graduate student on campus that is studying the social behavior of squirrels and trying to discover a reason for the aggressive reaction the Eastern Gray has towards the Western Gray. He first developed robotic squirrels that he will place in the habitat and then twitch its tail while simultaneously playing its sound. The reactions from the E. Gray to the W. Gray squirrel were exactly what happened on our campus and explains why it is hard to find any W Gray squirrels anywhere.

There are about 20-30,000 species of bees in the world and over 100 are found on campus. About 95% of bee species are solitary and all the females in the species are fertile with no worker bees. Honeybees and bumble bees are communal species and live on campus in bee boxes. The services bees give humans are pollinating all plants for food and help plants put oxygen into the atmosphere.

Posted on June 02, 2012 05:13 PM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Union Bay Natural Area, UW campus, 5/16

I spent another morning bird watching at UBNA to hopefully add to the list of observed birds in the area. The weather was chilly but clear skies and no wind.

My first morning there I was about 90% sure I saw a song sparrow in one bushes on the pathway and after twenty minutes I saw another hopping around on the trail in front of me. They are tiny birds that are grayish colored with streaks of white down its chest. Since we are on the coast, their feathers are a darker color than other sparrows living inland. The reason for this is there is a pigment in coastal sparrows that make the feathers darker and tough enough to withstand weather conditions that would otherwise make their feathers degrade. The song sparrow is the most familiar song bird in the northwest because they can be found in forests, marshes, parks and other urban areas. One mating behavior that is not common for other song birds is the male that has a more complicated call has a higher fitness because it shows the female he has a higher ability to learn. The sparrow does not lay many eggs and will only have a second brood in one season if their eggs are lost to predators. The best place to spot the Song Sparrow at UBNA is low to the ground or in shrubs and tall grasses.

Another bird that I spotted more than once was the American Robin. I had seen it before at UBNA but only flying overhead. These birds are present in the United States year-round and live in parks, forests and other urban areas making them very familiar to people. The males and females both have a reddish orange chest and black back with a short yellow beak. The Robin has several different calls but their most common is a whistling sound that males will sing early in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. Males attract females by their singing and spreading their tail feathers wide. They will mostly eat worms, which is why they feed in the morning, and hop a few steps on the ground while searching for food. Just watching them it appears as if they listen for their food by the way they cock their head to the ground but they actually have very good sight and use it to located worms or other insects.

Along with the new birds, I observed another American Gold-Finch, Red-Winged Blackbird and Black-Capped Chickadee.

Posted on June 02, 2012 04:17 PM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Fungus and Forbs, Union Bay Natural Area, 5/24


Mushrooms are one of the oldest living species in the world that are still around today and roughly 500 million years ago their size resembled a small hill. Scientists aren't sure why they suddenly began shrinking in size long before they had any predators, but one theory is other fungus became competition for resources. The modern shape of mushrooms, the umbrella top, developed at the same time of flowering plants about 200-300 million years ago. Recently, researchers have begun studying fungus for medicinal uses and several uses have been found. There are types of fungus that can help with cancer treatments, oil spills, and other drugs like penicillin. To see more cool ways mushrooms help follow this link to watch a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI5frPV58tY

At the UBNA site we found a lachara and is an early succession fungus. The coolest thing about this identification is it signals that an area is returning to its natural state. UBNA was used as a landfill and dumping ground for about 40 years and has only been a protected habitat for thirty years.

The Artist's Conk (Artist's Bracket) is a shelf fungus and is a brownish color. The name of this fungus comes from its surface having the quality to scratch a design onto it and it will stay permanently, making some turned in to art pieces. It can be prepared with tea as an anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-viral supplement and is also known to be used in medicine.

Another species found in the grassy lawns adjacent to one pond is the Japanese Parasol mushroom. Their caps fan out like a parasol and their ribbed surface helps to spread their spores quickly. They have a very short life span of only 24 hours and will pop up in little clusters. We were lucky to see a matured version and then one that was about eight or nine hours younger. At the beginning of their life cycle they are a stem with a red top, and then eventually the top fans out and creates the parasol shape and is a brownish color.


To start, a form is a flowering herb-like plant that is non-woody (i.e. a rose plant). Not many people know what a forb is until given a definition and a few examples. Many plants that people know are actually considered forbs and UBNA is full of them. Most of these forbs were introduced to UBNA back in the 60's when it was first converted from a landfill to a nature habitat when soil was imported from other areas containing seeds of these plants.

Tall buttercup: This is an invasive species to the region coming from Europe. It is easily recognizable because the bright yellow petals. They are toxic to animals and since they grow in fields and grassy areas they are extremely harmful to livestock populations. It does have a bitter taste but that doesn't always affect a grazing animal and it will kill them. The buttercup is on the weed of concern list.

One of the most interesting forbs I learned about was the dandelion. It is such simple plant that I have grown up seeing everywhere but it has so many uses. It is part of the sunflower family and Washington State has the highest concentration of dandelions in the nation. Just about every part of the plant can be used for something.The flower can be made into wine, which has a sweet taste and is often mixed with honey. If you break the stem the white substance that comes out can be rubbed on skin to remove freckles. I found this part especially interesting because I have a to of freckles and have never heard of anything that removes them. Also the leaves can be crushed and made into tea.

By the water edge we could smell the Skunk Cabbage before seeing it. We learned that the plant has the infamous smell because it generates body heat. It likes to grow in shaded marshy areas and has leaves that can reach up to 5 feet long. Their waxy surface was used by Native Americans to wrap fish and other meats but even though the plant is edible it is not usually consumed. The sulfur dioxide smell of the plant attracts beetles and flies that pollinate the plant.

Species List:
Ionside Fiber
Lachara fungus
Artist's Conk
Turkey Tail (white rot)
dacrymeyces Stillatus
Japanese Parasol mushroom
Laratiomyces percavalli
Large Leaf lupin
Morning Glory
Queen's Ainsley
Tall Buttercup
Skunk Cabbage
Common Vetch

Posted on June 02, 2012 03:54 PM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Fungus, UW campus, 5/8

Today for class we walked around discovering the different fungus that grow on the University of Washington campus. There were reveal species that we went into detail about because they are common to campus and can be spotted throughout the region.

Button Mushroom: this is the kind you will find in grocery stores and are native to the northwest. The Portobello mushroom is the adult button mushroom.
Oyster Mushroom: also known as white rot, it is native and can be used to absorb oil from oil spills. It is edible and its extract is used in drugs to lower cholesterol.
Shitake Mushroom: this species is not native to the region but has not spread or become an issue (i.e. not an invasive species).

For mushrooms in general they have to create a ton of spores for reproduction and usually grow on wood because they break down the material and are an extremely important factor in decomposition. In the northwest there are several invasive species that have taken over. Fungi have a process of decomposition different from mushrooms in how they take a more complex structure and break it down to where it can be absorbed by hyphae tips.

Posted on June 02, 2012 03:01 PM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Waterfowl, Union Bay Natural Area, 5/29

The waterfowl found in UBNA can be just as diverse as the song birds. They are usually out in the morning through afternoon and have a few spots where it is almost guaranteed to see at least two or three different birds. Union Bay is right on the edge of Union Bay, which flows out of Lake Union, and has two ponds within the forested areas of the land. The marshy wetland and protected habitats are perfect for birds and since the restoration of UBNA they have been living in the area since.

At the entrance of UBNA there were two mallards on sitting on a log making noises at each other and occasionally climbing into the water to dive below the surface looking for food. Mallards are the most common waterfowl in the world and can be found just about anywhere. Males have the green coloring, mostly on their heads, while females are brown with spots of black on their wings. One interesting fact about mallards that I had never heard before is that during mating season if a male did not find a mate then they gather together with other single males and find a female to take turns mating with, resembling a gang rape. This is not a common behavior for any other waterfowl just mallard and happens every season.

Another species that can be seen all over the region is the Canada Goose. In this area they are very domestic and are not afraid of people. On the lawns on campus there is goose poop all over, especially around Drumheller fountain. There are 11 different species of this goose and is commonly referred to as the cackling goose.

One bird that can usually be seen is the Bufflehead duck. It is the smallest duck in the northwest and has unique color markings on its head including purple and green except for a white patch on the very top of its head. During mating season males extend all of their feathers to attract females and they only have one mate. The bufflehead duck is a migratory bird and will appear in this region during the winter, while they mate in Canada or Alaska.

Species List:

Canada Goose
Great Blue Heron
Cinnamon Teal

Posted on June 02, 2012 02:42 PM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Union Bay Natural Area, UW campus, 5/23

After bird watching in the morning, our group decided to try the afternoon instead to compare what birds are out later in the day. We went at around 1pm and the weather was sunny with some clouds in the sky and about 63 degrees with some wind. I was doubtful that many birds would be there at all but almost immediately after walking on the pathway we heard the chickadees close by and could see birds in the distance.

The first bird we observed more closely than our morning walk was the Red-Winged Blackbird. They are right in the middle of their mating season so the males were very territorial and chasing crows out of their areas. Every time we saw one they were perched at the top of a small tree, flying, or on a cattail. The males are all black except for patches of orange on their shoulders and adult males have a yellow stripe below the patch to distinguish them from juveniles. The colors are extremely bold right now because of mating season. This black bird stays low to the ground and will eat mostly seeds. These birds are my favorite to watch because of their coloring and the way they interact with each other shows how sociable they are.

A new bird we had not seen in the morning was the Barn Swallow and the Violet Green Swallow.
Violet Green Swallow: Throughout the whole UBNA area their call is loud and very distinct from other bird calls because of the 'chee-chee' sound. The only place we spotted this bird (along with the Barn Swallow) was flying close to the water in one of the ponds. Adult males have a dark green back and a white underbelly, while the female has a more gray-brown back coloring. This bird is only found in the American West and will only be in marshy areas. Trying to take a picture of this bird was next to impossible because they dart from tree to tree very quickly and will catch insects in mid-flight. Their population has been slightly reduced because of the presence of the House Sparrow and the European Starling, however, they make good use of human made nest boxes which helps preservation efforts. The best time to observe this swallow is in the April-August months in the mountains, coastal areas and plateaus.
Barn Swallow: The Barn Swallow was also found in the same pond as the Violet Green Swallow flying around extremely fast from point-a to point-b. The coloring for this swallow is a steely blue back, wings and tail for both males and females. The easiest way to distinguish the two swallows besides coloring is the tails. Barn Swallows have a forked tail and looking up at them it is easily visible.

Again we heard the chickadee call but this time it was not only a Black-Capped Chickadee but a Golden-Crowned Chickadee as well. The calls are similar and both species hang out in aspen trees because of the smooth bark. The easiest way to tell the two birds apart is the yellow patch on the top of the golden chickadee's head opposed to the black streaks on the black-capped chickadee.

While walking along the water edge we saw two turtles sitting on a log. At first they were so still they seemed fake but one of them slid into the water and we caught a glimpse of orange streaks on its head. Swimming among the water lilies were mallards, northern shovelers and herons again.

Species List:
Red-Winged Blackbirds
Black-Capped Chickadee
Golden-Crowned Chickadee
Violet Green Swallow
Barn Swallow
Great Blue Heron
Aspen Tree
Northern Shoveler

Again, to learn more information about these birds at UBNA follow this link: http://uwbirds.blogspot.com/

For the photos: http://www.inaturalist.org/projects/university-of-washington-song-birds

Posted on June 02, 2012 05:47 AM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 1 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

Trees, Shrubs, Moss and Lichen- UW campus, 5/22

Class time today was spent touring the University of Washington campus to look at the different kinds of trees and shrubs growing. Many of the tree have a metal tag attached to the trunk or low branches that have an ID number printed on them. By going to the website and entering the number you are given its height, age and other information about that specific tree.

The first tree we visited was the Ginkgo Biloba. The leaves are very unique and fan out with tiny ridges on the surface. The veins on the leaf fork out in a pattern and cover the surface. The Ginkgo tree is extremely resistant to bacteria allowing it to be used medicinally and is the oldest unchanged tree in the world. There are male and female trees but there will almost never be a female planted in urban areas because their seeds give off the smell of vomit.

Next there is a row of English Elm trees (also called the Tall Elm) that range anywhere from 50 to 100 feet tall. They are deciduous trees that originated in Italy and have very water resistant wood making their wood used for coffin building. In England they are associated with bad memories because of their use in funerals. The seeds of this tree are white wafer looking things that are all over campus in the spring time. These seeds are sterile and the Elm uses suckers to reproduce.

Another common tree on campus, and the northwest, is the Red Cedar. The tree has been used for generations by the Native Americans because of its many uses. The bark was used for wood, canoes, and building materials while the inner materials were woven for mats and baskets. Also the oil crushed from the leaves is commonly used in products like deodorant and perfume.

One interesting tree we learned about was the Pacific Madrone. What I thought was the most interesting quality was the bark is always cool to touch giving it the nickname 'refrigerator tree'. The leaves can be crushed and added to tea to help cramps and stomachaches. The dense wood gives it a higher chance of surviving forest fires.

Lichens are campus are very rare to find because they are sensitive to the air quality of an environment and can only grow when the quality is high. Because the UW is in the middle of Seattle it is not a great habitat for lichen to grow. However, there are a few trees with patches of lichen on them and are almost always accompanied by moss. The lichen that we did find are very simple, making them slightly more tolerant to the air. The more complex a lichen is, the less tolerant it is of its environment.

The moss was easier to find and identify because Seattle is also a wet environment. On this day it was cold and drizzling so there was more to see. Lyell's Bristle Moss resembles a star and is slightly translucent. It can grow all over the US, Europe, the Mediterranean and Western Asia. One really cool thing about moss and lichen co-existing together is they can live dormant for up to 2 years. Because there is not always moisture in the air for them they can sort of hibernate and will appear again as soon as it begins to rain again. There are 8 different classes of moss that all evolved from green algae.

Species List:
Ginkgo Biloba
English Elm
Red Cedar
Giant Sequioa
Horse Chestnut
Pacific Madrone
Golden Chain tree
Douglass Fir
Cindaleeran Cancer
Skolios Sporum Verda
Permia shield lichen
Eurhynanium praelongum
Hypnum circinatum
Ceratodon Purpurius
Lyell's Bristle Moss
Red-Roof moss

Posted on June 02, 2012 05:23 AM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 8 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Union Bay Natural Area, UW campus, 4/25

Early on Wednesday morning a group of us walked to UBNA to bird watch and record which birds we could hear and see. Mornings are the best for observing birds because of the little human activity (boating, cars on the road, etc.) at 6am, insects and worms are out and the temperature is cooler. The morning we were there it was cloudy and around 55 degrees. There was rain the night before and it began sprinkling around 8am.

One of the very first birds we heard was the chickadee. The call is very distinct and sounds like a 'chick-a-dee-dee-dee' noise. After circling an alpine several times we located the small bird and from the black markings on its head determined it was a Black-Capped Chickadee. This individual had a white underbelly and was bouncing around from branch to branch. After awhile several more chickadees began flying around the area, which makes sense because chickadees travel in flocks. They like woody or forested areas, especially marshes so UBNA is full of this species. Males are usually the ones that sing, in order to attract females, so the bird we were observing was in fact a male.

In a tree just down the path from the chickadee we spotted an American Gold-Finch. The bright yellow markings and black wings are unique to this bird and the colors were especially bold because it is spring which means mating season. The Gold-Finch usually can be found perching on cattails or other long grasses in marshy areas around the northwest and on other days in UNBA the other finches spotted were on cattails. Again, it is usually the male that sings but only in mid flight in order to draw attention to itself.

By one of the ponds we heard a frog like sound as we got closer but the sound was more broken up. After watching the water for a few minutes we saw a Virginia Rail was the one making all the noise because she was building her nest and sensed predators near (i.e. us). We never spotted a Virginia Rail in the afternoon.

One bird that we had trouble identifying until researching further in guide books was the Hutton's Vireo. It is a small bird about the size of a chickadee without as large of a head. It had a yellowish belly and a dirty yellow-gray back. It's call caught our attention because it was high pitched and repeated frequently. At the time we thought it might be a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet because the habitats, size and behavior are very similar.

Birds that were commonly spotted together or in the same tree were the Towhee and Chickadee. Also there were at least a dozen Song Sparrow's near the ground or on the path itself along with the House Wren.

Because UBNA is also a marshy area there were many waterfowl in the ponds and on the water edge. We spotted two pairs of mallards and a Cinnamon-teal swimming in the central pond. The Cinnamon-teal male has bold colors of orange and red that stood out compared to the mallards. Near the far end of the area two Great Blue Heron's were perched on the banks watching for food.

UNBA is considered one of the best bird-watching sites in the region and over 200 species have been spotted there since its opening in the 60's.

Species List:
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-Rumper Warbler
American Robin
Virginia Rail
Great Blue Heron
Cinnamon-Teal (male)
American Gold-Finch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Hutton's Vireo
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
House Wren
Anna's broad winged hummingbird

To see the photos of these birds follow this link to the University of Washington song birds project:

For more information about the birds of the Union Bay Natural Area:

Posted on June 02, 2012 04:44 AM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 17, 2012

Green Lake, Seattle WA 5/16

Following Ravenna down the opposite direction from Ravenna Park towards Green Lake is also an area rich with native plant species. It was another warm sunny day in Seattle and the whole walk I could hear birds chirping. Most of the plants we observed grow on the ground or are trees. This area is full of colorful flowering plants in the springtime like the heart leaf bergenia and many types of rhododendron's. There were lots of maples planted and also a few Japanese Maples. The majority of plants identified on the walk are ground plants like several species of ivy, the lesser periwinkle and ferns. Urban areas like this contain a lot of flowering plants because of their aesthetically pleasing quality and the color they add to the area in the spring and summer. I saw the most birds on this walk than in other areas, besides the Union Bay Natural Area. In one of the maples on the edge of lake was a Black-capped Chickadee high in the tree eating a worm. We could hear several other chickadees the whole afternoon flying around when the sun was beginning to set. We also saw several mallards swimming in the water and crows on the grass looking for worms.

Posted on May 17, 2012 11:49 PM by karavanslyck karavanslyck | 23 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment


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