Friday, February 27, 2009

The Tidepool Sculpin or Will I Survive as a "Cutesy Theme" Innept Naturalist

In class last night we were each handed a small note card. On the front of mine was a drawing of a Tidepool Sculpin and on the back was a variety of information about the Sculpin. Our assignment was to take our topical card - in my case the Tidepool Sculpin and create a theme based on some part of the information provided. Oh - did I mention your theme should be catchy? And there in was my problem. How would I ever come up with a catchy theme? I am not a catchy theme kind of person - trying to become one is like trying to climb a mountain on only my hands. All I could come up with was something to do with the Sculpin's place in the food chain - how it was both predator and pray. But that isn't catchy or the least bit creative. When I got home I shared my dilemma with my husband and immediately he tossed out a catchy, and yes, punny theme. "Tidepool dinners and diners" or something to that effect. I started to cry. Honestly, I did. I felt even more inadequate now. But there is a difference between my husband and I. He is always full of off hand silly puns which I spend a good deal of time rolling my eyes at or groaning over. For him - it comes naturally, for me…

However, I have had an experience concerning the Tidepool Sculpin that left a lasting impression on me. It was the summer of my sixth year and we were living in Lincoln City, on the Oregon coast. We had spent a day down on the beach, and I had been knee deep in the tide pools or leaning over reaching in as far as I could. This was the day I first recall really discovering the Tidepool Sculpin. (This is also the day I lost my purple jacket to the tide - but that's a different story.) At the time I didn't know that was what it was called. To me it was this incredibly interesting little fish that one moment wasn't there and then was revealed suddenly by its quick darting across the tide pools sandy bottom with the passing of a shadow over the pool or the sudden appearance of a six year olds foot in its home. As quickly as it appeared it again disappeared. And now it was a puzzle, a game. I was determined to find it again and even more determined to be able to see it even when it wasn't darting from one spot to the other. I wanted to uncover its secret. I am sure I spent any number of hours doing just that - completely unfazed by the freezing cold northern pacific ocean waters I was standing in. Towards the end of the day, I had become so fond of my new friend that I didn't care to part company. Since I was not likely to be allowed to live indefinitely in a tide pool on the beach, I got a cup from our picnic basket and somehow managed to catch my own little Tidepool Sculpin. It went home with me, and although I understood that it needed salt water - beyond that I had no knowledge of what this critter needed to survive. The result is probably obvious by now. My sculpin died. Somehow, even then, I knew that it had died because of me. That stuck with me. I no longer took tide pool creatures out of their homes, because I didn't want anymore to go the way of that sculpin.

Years later I learned much more about the Tidepool Sculpin's habitat. It needed the constant changing of waters that were provided by tide pools and with that change of water, a new supply of food. It would then be able to produce more sculpins, but only under the circumstances provided in the unique tide pool habitat. A cup - even of salt water - was no home for a sculpin or any other wild creature either. To live and thrive they needed to stay where they were or be provided a place of equal quality by those who had the means and training to do so - such as a well ran Aquarium.

I learned to just appreciate these and other creatures in their proper habitat. It is far more pleasant than having a new found friend die at your own hands. So, all though, I may not be able to come up with some cutesy theme to lead a program about the Tidepool Sculpin, I hope somehow I will still be an effective interpreter, to be able to communicate what I learned in a way that will successfully help others discover the wonders of the varied habitats around them and those creatures that call those habitats home. And to leave them there for others to enjoy in the future.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Swans of the Union Bay Natural Area

I first spotted the 11 swans on Lake Washington back in late January. I had been birding in the Washington Park Arboretum and was making my way across the Foster Island boardwalk when I noticed several large white birds across the water towards the Union Bay Natural Area, commonly known as "The Fill" among local birders. I was stopped in my tracks - never had I seen Trumpeter Swans on Lake Washington. This was a rare treat, or I thought it was. But this group of birds decided to stick around and I saw them again only a few days later. Whenever I was walking in the area over the next couple weeks, people would see my binoculars and ask me if I had seen the swans - even non-birders were taking notice - but how could they not? Trumpeter Swans are graceful, elegant, and huge. They are hard to ignore, even for people who don't usually take a second look at birds. Now people were pausing in their jogs and walks to stop and appreciate the new Lake Washington residents.

Some time passed, and I didn't get out towards the Fill for a few weeks or at least not long enough to bird. So when I treated myself to a walk there last week I was pleased to find that rare visitors had stuck around - and they weren't being camera shy! All 11 were up close to shore last Friday afternoon and many a photographer was taking advantage of the fact. I, unfortunately (or fortunately if I consider I would have to carry it), don't have a fancy digiscope or huge SLR to take pictures of birds. However, I have learned to take shots with my little digital camera through my binoculars. They don't always turn out that great, but every once in a while I get something that will pass. Here are a few of those.

Discovery Park Docent Naturalist Program - Class of 2009

This past week brought the start of the Docent Naturalist Training at Discovery Park. I am among the dozen plus members of the class of 2009. We are an interesting bunch, with much in common, yet with very diverse backgrounds. Getting to know my classmates proves as interesting as the Docent training. This last Saturday we spent a gloriously sunny day exploring Discovery Park - first by van and then later on a fast paced hike with points of interest stops along the way. Of course I think every place in Discovery Park is a "point of interest" and worthy of a stop. Yet some are used more regularly by the park during its various education programs of which I and my classmates will eventually be leading. We had some exciting moments during our tours, including the meeting of Otto or maybe it is spelled "Auto". Either way, this bird would be the same by any other name. He's a handsome pheasant who seems to think he's a Border Collie or other breed of herding canine. He boldly rushed our passenger van and then after being shooed out of the way by the brave Ginger, a current park docent, chased the van and the car our fearless leader, Kit, was driving ahead of us. The story is that Otto is well known among park staff and volunteers, as well as those who live in the historical Officer Housing within the park. Kit was once cornered by the bold bird while driving through the park and was eventually rescued by a local resident who shooed the pheasant out of the road. I guess Otto takes his job seriously. If ever there is need for a road closure within the park I would think he would be a good enforcer.
We learned much about the history of the park as well as the lay out. I have been frequenting this park for many years now and am amazed at the little corners I have yet to explore or the bits of history I have yet to learn. I am looking forward to more adventures to come.

Signs of Spring

We had our first picnic of the year (and since we moved back) at Parson's Gardens this last Friday. It was a sunny day, although the breeze from the west was chilly. We plopped down on a picnic blanket and had our picnic fare while listening to Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Flickers and Anna's Hummingbirds all voice their springtime thoughts. It does seem like spring is finally moving into our area. Later that same day, I stuck my nose in the first Daphne bloom of the season outside the Elizabeth C. Miller library at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Glorious. The following few days lent more signs of spring. Like the first blooming daffodil showing its sunny face amongst the gardens at Interbay P-Patch. There was the blooming and odoriferous skunk cabbage along the Wolf Tree Trail in Discovery Park. It was along that same trail that I spotted a single open salmon berry blossom - a sure sign of the coming spring and the coming Rufous Hummingbirds, now I'll be keeping my eyes out more closely. The stinging nettles are popping up along side the trails out at Discovery Park as well and the Osoberry or Indian Plum is bursting with green. I love this time of year. There is so much new growth, new hope, new energy. The birds begin to carry nest material and do their little dances to impress potential mates. The Anna's Hummingbirds sit at the top of the trees and chatter and skritch and if another male comes into the area you'll hear just how loud such a little bird can be as it goes diving after its rival. Ducks are paired up for the most part. I see the crows hanging out more in twos and threes lately. Gardeners are preparing their soil for potatoes and radishes and other early spring plantings. And I am eagerly awaiting the full blown spring, enjoying these little signs of winter's end while the rain pours once again outside my window.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Interbay P-Patch - Here I Come!

I am excited to announce that there will be some garden writing this year.

On Thursday we received a community garden plot assignment - something we were thinking would not happen for another year or two. What a pleasant surprise. Hm. That is not quite putting it right. If I am to be entirely honest I will have to mention that I was jumping up and down clapping my hands like a little kid, giggling and grinning, and exclaiming my joy. I was giddy. I am giddy.

After March 7th I'll get to start playing in my little patch of dirt at the Interbay P-Patch here in Seattle. The timing was great. The few precious flowers and herbs I dug up from my house in Olympia won't need to find a temporary home in my mother-in-laws yard (though she was kind enough to allow that).

For now I dream. I'll imagine all the wonderful things I can put into my plot. I'll look forward to making it mine. I'll look forward to the community I will make with those I'll be gardening along side of. Now my head is full of summer flowers and huge salads made from the bounty of my little patch of dirt here in Seattle.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sun Worship in Seattle

It was sunny again today. In Seattle. I walked downtown to the library this afternoon and then enjoyed a long walk along the waterfront. When I got to the Olympic Sculpture Park and I planted myself into one of those orange chairs facing the water, rolled up my sleeves and got a decent dose of vitamin D makings. I'm a junkie. When it came time to head home I wanted to transform into a little kid, sit down on the ground, throw a tantrum if neccesary - anything to keep from having to leave the park, the view, and that glorious sun.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Tropical Vacation in Seattle

With the weather staying so cold I've been joking with my husband to take me somewhere tropical - he's unemployed right now so it really is a joke. We got inventive, however, and went to the Woodland Park Zoo. Upon arriving we headed straight for the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit. It has a tropical house with Ocelots, Toucans, and Green Tree Boas to name a few; and a tropical aviary with bright colored birds and warm humid tropical conditions. That did the trick. Who would have thought that right here in Seattle you could have your own mini tropical vacation.

The zoo isn't the only place to manage this luxury either. The Pacific Science Center has a tropical butterfly house with temperatures staying between 80 and 85 degrees and the always pleasant butterflies to keep you company. Further downtown there is the Seattle Aquarium where you can wander through the tropical section and take a very dry walk among the fish. Don't forget to say "hi" to Dory and Nemo while you're there. Haven't had quite enough of the tropics yet? Then head up to Capital Hill and take a stroll through the Volunteer Park Conservatory which houses a large number of tropical and other warm region plants including a beautiful selection of orchids. Sit on a little bench near the waterfall and soak it all in.

With a membership to the Zoo and Aquarium as well as the Science Center (the conservatory is free but welcomes donations) you can have this tropical vacation as often as needed for a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what it would cost to fly off to the tropics.

Check out the links to the right to learn more about the membership costs and operating hours of these wonderful places. Be sure to compare the memberships with the single entry fees. You'll quickly see what a great deal it is.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Change of Blogs

I had a long pause and in the mean time decided I wanted a different title. So I am now posting at:

I am not sure if I will work with The Local Life - The Good Life again - we'll see. In the mean time, if you haven't given up on me, you can find we at the above link.
Related Posts with Thumbnails