I present to you, my retort to the inane viral websites with a death grip on our imagination, patience, and, shit, our sentience. The surprising, impressive, and weird things one finds birding and exploring natural history in Seattle. Get out and explore, even if it’s just out the backdoor.
- A dead deer mouse (genus Peromyscus) prostrate on a branches over a Discovery Park path. This was seriously bizarre and not to toot my own horn, but it was surprising to pick it out in the maze of vegetation. Just a dead mouse, on a branch, with no cause of death evident (I opted to not overly probe the subject). My guess: an avian predator, say a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Northern Pygmy-owl caught this little one, perched to begin feasting, and was started by one of the many people who seem to be constantly running here. Or maybe it just climbed up there and had a heart attack when one of the runners came around the corner. A less likely option.
- Street signs that almost convince you that you’ve bumbled into a rural town, not the West Duwamish Greenbelt.
- Random discarded objects. The St. Marks Greenbelt does remain surprisingly free of detritus, despite being bordered on one side by a road that would encourage copious discreet dumping. I expect garbage, and I wouldn’t be surprised by couches, matresses, and old appliances people are too lazy to dispose of properly (or have tried diligently to pass on responsibly, but can’t manage to do so). But a car seat, positioned nicely amongst the exotic tangle? How strangely inviting. I guess if you are going to dump your garbage, the least you can do is arrange it aesthetically.
- On that note: Art! Art! Art! Art should be everywhere. Especially nature related work. Gate posts topped with owls. Awesome. Giant fish at the Chinese Gardens. Awesome. Don’t take art for granted.
- Pileated woodpeckers.The bird that got me into birds, reliant on mature forests, and a big ass woodpecker, gets my heart thundering away ever time. Even their foraging detritus is fondly admired.
- How many awesome animals live in the tidelands of Puget Sound, (despite the water smelling of our gastric leftovers). A low-tide, and a good organizer, brought a group of like-minded individuals together to enjoy these wonders. If I had to admit huge ignorance of an area of natural history, it would be of marine invertebrates. While wholly a mystery, I have now found another thing I want to study. Gelatinous moon snails, wispy sea-pens (which when gently encouraged display biolumenesce), various crabs and small fish, anemones, and alien worm-like little squirts. To top it off, I’ve always read about Great Blue Herons nocturnal fishing in tidal areas. Now I’ve caught them at it, though they didn’t seem quite as pleased with the experience.
- A dyed chicken feather in the middle of a Discovery Park forest path. How did it get there? Was it from a colored feather boa? Did a dandy have it tucked into the band of his hat? Was orange significant – I imagine an orange feather boa bedazled Broncos fan running for their life from blood-thirsty Seahawks. Was there an orange chicken here?
- Steller’s Jays like peanuts. One of my co-workers likes feeding them peanuts. They knock on the window for her. Squirrels also like the peanuts. I enjoy trying to take pictures of them remotely with my new GoPro gizmo with the help of Rufes the Bird (though not so successfully). Watching their coy efforts to cache their larder in the rain gutters and in leaf litter out my office window is the best part. I think this would be labeled #Offtask, in the decay (of which I am sadly a part), of language and communication.
- Urban birds of prey. Apex predators in the middle of the city! We’re lucky to have them. Even people who dislike bald eagles have to admit it’s awesome that they nest all over our city (despite their impacts on heronries). Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, Kestrels, Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Bald Eagles, Barred Owls, Red-tailed Hawks. I’ve seen all these in Seattle, all in the last few months. (But all you get is this crummy eagle photo. Did you know they control the weather? Just ask Thunderbird).
- Color in the winter. We have our share of green, but I have to admit the least bit of yellow, red, or orange give me a giddy feeling. A Townsend’s Warbler coming down from the trees is prime example. So are the plants in the Volunteer Park Conservatory or a the Washington Park Arboretum.
- And finally weather. I write every day (if i’m being good) and usually I talk about the weather at least once. Some people may find this mundane. Wake up! It dictates our life and that of the natural world around us! Seattle is especially good. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes. Oh wait, it’s still gray.
- (bonus: Bare treetops and winter sunsets)
Brendan I enjoy your musings or are they amusings; dead mice in trees ,orange feathers on park paths Slainte Nodrog !