Calendar Update

Have you been wishing for spring to get here? I know I am looking forward to it a lot more than in years past. Maybe this will help or maybe it will just make things worse, I don’t know! I hope it helps! I’ve posted the Spring Schedule on the calendar. We have plenty of opportunities for wildflower walks and of course a fern “frolic”. (don’t worry, no one actually has to frolic!)

We also have a new program to offer you! As some of you know, we did not have any winter off-trail hike this year. (and even if we had scheduled them, the snow probably would have prevented them from actually happening.) So, we are going to have a SPRING off-trail hike! Better yet, it’s on the Vernal Equinox so we call all celebrate the official start of the season! So mark your calendar for March 20th at 1:00pm. Don’t forget to call and sign up for the hike because there are limited spaces available. Also, if you haven’t been out to the preserve before and/or on one of our off-trail hikes, you need to know the terrain is very steep and rugged. It is important that you be in good physical condition and wear appropriate shoes.

Tom and I are looking forward to seeing everyone this spring! Don’t be a stranger!

Lunch Time

When I take lunch here at the preserve, I try to eat outside. My favorite place to eat is on the bench by the front porch. Most of the time I take a book from our library to read – something nerdy – like the little Golden Guide to non-flowering plants. Usually though, I don’t get any reading done. Here’s why.

From where I sit, I can see a good chunk of real estate. Directly in front of me is the butterfly nectar garden. It contains a host of wonderful plants. Right now, there are Thin-leaved Coneflower, Ironweed, Purple Coneflower, New England Aster, White Snakeroot, and Jewelweed in bloom. Surrounding me there are more Purple Coneflowers, as well as Orange Coneflower and a big beautiful Prairie Dock. These colorful flowers attract more insects than I can count. Mostly pollinators, but others too, hoping to snag a meal from an unsuspecting bee, bug, or beetle. I think my favorite pollinator is our native Bumblebees. They are fun to watch and very tolerant of a giant human face right next to them. Butterflies make appearances too, of course, and everything from tiny little skippers to big swallowtails can be seen. Sometimes, the always fascinating hummingbird moth will stop by for a drink. One of the clear-wing moths, this insect mimics a hummingbird. It hovers by the flower while using its proboscis to drink nectar. Completing the throng of wildlife at the flowers is the actual, iridescent Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Now is a great time to see them because of all the Jewelweed in bloom. Sometimes when I am out there, one will give me “the eyeball.” If this has ever happened to you, then you know what I’m talking about.

If I direct my gaze a little further afield, I can see the edge of the pond. A very interesting place, being an area that transitions from water to land. Emerging from the water is Lizard’s tail, a plant with a plume of fragrant flowers that blooms in July. Mixed in is Boneset, Swamp Mallow, more Jewelweed, Great Blue Lobelia, Dodder, and a host of sedges and grasses. Where we keep the edge mowed, the Water lily leaves come right up to the edge of the water. Lots of damselflies can be found in this jungle, along with their big cousins the dragonflies. Quietly hiding among the plants I often flush out Wood Ducks and Green Herons.

Looking even farther out, the pond becomes an expanse of green Water lily leaves. Dragonflies are hunting for insects above the water, and Swallows and Phoebes are too. The Pseudo-Island becomes a refuge for the recently disturbed waterfowl.
Even further my eyes come to rest of the far side of the pond. This edge looks cool and shady, and sometimes – like today – I can see a Great Blue Heron hunting for his lunch.
So, while I munch away, I’m not really looking at my carefully selected book. There is just too much going on right in front of me.

Reason #843 why I love this place!

Tom and I took a hike off trail the other day specifically to see if there were Black Vulture chicks yet. The hike turned into an adventure as things are wont to do here. We started off well enough, climbing up via “mouse motel” to the top of the ridge. I really like the ridge tops. It constantly amazes me the plants that can grow in the thin dry soil up there. Right away we saw a large area of white wash. We knew that an owl had probably been there. I poked around for pellets, but didn’t find any. A little further down the trail, further exploration by Tom revealed a very large population of Pink lady’s slipper! There were so many in bloom! We counted almost two dozen, plus many other plants that were not going to flower.

We continued along the ridge top looking for the crack to drop down in to look for those Black
Vulture chicks. Once we found it and made out approach, a large Black Vulture flew out of the crack and landed near by in a tree. A good sign! Tom dropped down first, and peered into the recess, “Eggs!,” he said. I gave him the camera, and came down too. There is no nest, just the eggs laid on the sandy soil. There was a foul odor back by the eggs, sure to get worse once those chicks hatch. We exited the crack, and walked along the cliff face a ways and sat down to see the adult vulture return. (Both the male and the female vulture incubates the eggs.) It returned, and we decided to check on the Great Horned Owl nest.

That was way easier said than done! Instead of making our way back to the ridge top and then dropping down again, we cut across – no, we pushed our way through the bottom, then up again to the cliff where the owl nest was. During this trek we got up close and personal with witch hazel, spice bush, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild ginger, ferns, poison ivy, jewlweed, greenbrier, multiflora rose, rubus, and unfortunately, lots and lots of garlic mustard.

Anyway, at the nest site it was clear that the owl babies were fledged and long gone. Left behind was nature’s version of a CSI episode! Bones, feathers, and fur were littered all along the ground, cliff and in the nest. We were able to identify feathers from a bluejay, crow, flicker, and brown thrasher.

By this time it was getting very hungry out, so we made for the nature center. Back up to the ridge top, down via “mouse motel”, and out to the trail along the old logging road which is now a mere deer trail. But, we were in for another surprise. A nice patch of four-leaved milkweed was growing right beside the trail. Although we have this species recorded for Wahkeena, we didn’t know it grew in this location.

One last surprise awaited us right by the spring. For whatever reason, I spied a nice Showy orchis, in bloom, right next to the trail. For those of you who have walked the Cassa Burro trail searching for this orchid, you know how hard it can be to find it. So many times have we tried to explain to visitors where to see a particular clump, and can’t take them personally because it’s too far away, and the whole time there has been one seconds away from the nature center!! Arrhhggg! 🙂

So ended that adventure for the day. The really cool thing is, stuff like this happens all the time in nature, you just have to slow down and watch for it!

Orchids and Azaleas

If you’ve been waiting to come out to the preserve to see orchids or azaleas, now is the time! Currently, Pink lady’s slipper is in bloom. There are several flowers easily accessed by the study pond, and the first portion of the Cassa Burro trail. There are full blooms now and others that will be coming along a little later. The Showy orchis may be on its way out, but still to come are Puttyroot, and Twayblade.

There are three different azaleas flowering now, including Mountain azalea and Pinxter. If you haven’t seen our native Flame azalea before, you’re missing out! This species is endangered in Ohio, and is one of the most beautiful flowers you’ll ever see. It should begin to bloom this week.

Tomorrow and next weekend are the last of the spring wildflower hikes. There is alot to see, and we have lots of “fun facts” to enlighten you with.

Also tomorrow is our International Migratory Bird Weekend bird hike. I think the official name is Wahkeena Warblers and Wildflowers, or something like that! We’ll be meeting in the parking lot and the cost is only $3 per person, and as usual OHS members are free! I’ll post a list of new birds we see, tomorrow. This year should be nice; last year it poured down rain almost the whole time.

April showers brought LOTS of flowers!

Spring is definitely in full swing now. There are tons of wildflowers in bloom, too many to list here, although I will mention a few. Showy orchis is just beginning to bloom. I know today is Sunday, and we will be closed for the next two days, as usual, but you will be able to see it all next week for sure. This year seems to be a great year for Jack-in-the-pulpits. They seem to be popping up everywhere! Also, the Wild geranium is beginning to show its flowers.

This morning Tom and I did some birding. There are so many birds back now, it’s crazy! I got my first look at a Yellow-throated warbler – so beautiful! One of the Scarlet tanagers also let me look at him. I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking at that bird! So here is the list of new birds that we have seen/heard since I posted the last list:
Yellow-throated warbler
Black-throated green warbler
Black and white warbler
Hooded warbler
Green Heron
Solitary sandpipers
American Bittern
White-eyed vireo
Scarlet tanager
Rose-breasted grosbeak
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
Gray catbird
Chipping sparrow
and various other birds yet to be identified!

Also, the Pine siskens are still here as well as at least one red-breasted nuthatch. And, the goslings are out and about now.

Happy birding!

Blink and you miss it!

I think the next couple of days are going to be one of those times in the spring when it seems like you’ve blinked, and everything has changed. The warm sun following the rainy days we’ve had is going to make stuff pop like gangbusters I think! We’ve already seen more flowers in bloom like the Long-spur violet and Twin leaf. The Crab apple on the terrace is ready to go, and it will be beautiful. We’ve got Wildflower walks this weekend – on both days – and you can check the calendar at the bottom of this page for more details.

I wanted to go ahead and put up a list of birds we’ve seen/heard so far. Here it is:
Barred owl
Red-shouldered hawk
Ruby crowned kinglet
Winter wren
Yellow-rumped warbler
Wood thrush
Wood ducks
Red-breasted nuthatch
Pine sisken
Pine warbler
White-throated sparrow
Red-eyed vireo
and all the other “normal” birds like cardinals, titmice, chickadees, towhees, etc.

I have no doubt that after this weekend, we’ll have more to add to the list!

One last note about the Barred owls. If you come out, there is a good chance of seeing or hearing them. They have been consistently seen and heard in the Shelter trail area of the preserve. Yesterday, Tom and I had our best look at what was probably the male, and we did not have binoculars!

See you this weekend!

Welcome to Wahkeena

Welcome to the Wahkeena blog! I meant to have the first post before opening weekend (April 4, 5), but time flies when you’re having fun! And we have a lot of fun here at Wahkeena. Sometimes too much fun!

Spring is in full swing. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and trees are leafing out, and frogs have been clucking, snoring, and peeping. Bloodroot has been blooming since last week, and the Cut-leaved toothwort is everywhere. The patch of Marsh marigold is in bloom as well as Squirrel corn and Dutchman’s breeches, and I can’t forget the Rue anemone. As I’m sitting here writing this I can hear the Louisana waterthrush singing. He’s our fist warbler to come back for the breeding season. Lots of Pine siskins are still visiting our feeders, and the Pheobes are building their nests. The race is on between trees leafing out, and warblers coming back! Cherry and Buckeye trees are well on their way. Oh, and the Serviceberries are in full bloom with the Redbuds to follow next. All the Woodfrog eggs have hatched and you can see tiny little tadpoles in the frog ponds. You can also see the Spotted salamander egg masses in the frog ponds.

Things are changing all the time around here, and there is always something new to see. We see things that we’ve never seen before on a regular basis. I hope that you’ll come out and see something new too!