Monday, July 16, 2018

Contemplative Sundays at the Rhododendron Garden





Sunday mornings at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden are my contemplative, wind-down time.  I like to observe the tiniest things, listen for sounds from Kingfishers and the waterfalls,  and smell the smells and touch the soft leaves.  Big things also catch my attention like tall firs and the sweep of an eagle's flight.  


Geum, possibly macrophyllum




These two flowers are tiny, the yellow Geum is a native 
while the blue & white blossom is probably an ornamental.



Unknown





The lake at Crystal Springs supports both Mallards and Wood Ducks
through the breeding season.  Wood ducks live in holes in trees originally started by woodpeckers and other animals.  One morning I thought to look up to see if I could find a Wood Duck tree.  



Dougas fir (?) as home for Wood Duck nesting



The ducks here are especially tame and about four weeks ago a little group like this hauled out of the water and sat grooming themselves among my two brown-booted feet as though the boots were not footwear but a pair of additional ducks.  I was transfixed.   

Mallard teenagers plus one parent.




This yellow jacket nest is quite beautiful but I did not capture it well because I had already been stung once a few weeks ago and didn't want to spend too much time with the shot as we go into the height of yellow jacket activity.  Sometimes a hasty retreat is the best strategy.


Yellow Jacket Nest....Yikes!




What is this?  Sometimes the ID matters less than the colors and shapes and which birds are occupying the tree.


Unknown tree







Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April Flowers and Little Bears at Powell Butte

FairyBells

Red Flowering Current





Serviceberry



Wooly Bear



Wooly Bear 2

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Master Naturalist Program and My Oregon Journey







Oregon at a large scale:  Mt Hood from Powell Butte


Oregon is a storied land of ecoregions spanning the dry and the wet, the forest, the coast, the mountains and the prairie.  This land has been my dream destination for over 30 years and finally, in mid 2016, I moved to the Portland metropolitan area as a retiree with a new masters degree in Environmental Studies, a bunch of varied outdoor volunteer experience and a determination to find a niche.  


Oregon on a small scale:  fungus cups



This post tells the story of how that niche developed through taking the introductory online course from the Oregon Master Naturalist program, doing volunteer work at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge and participating as a researcher in a study about the value of restoration partnerships in the Tualatin basin.  Through these activities, the natural and environmental world of Oregon began to unfold. 





OMN slide





The Oregon Master Naturalist program brings together a wide variety of information about Oregon through a mix of text, video, interaction and activities to learn about fundamental natural forces that shape the landscape as well as features of specific ecoregions and species of concern. 

 The course began with general modules on Oregon's geology, ecology, environmental management and hydrology and continued with specific in-depth looks at forests and rangeland.  It ended with a discussion of social/political/environmental issues of changing climate.  

Additional workshops on lichen and fungus added focus to the more general material.  Homework was to the point and flexible so I focused on my geology, hydrology and environmental assignments within the Tualatin basin where I was volunteering.    Where else could I have learned so much in eight weeks?  The OMN experience provided a organized introduction to my new environment and, importantly, I made new friends as well. 


The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is a wetland treasure, providing lush overwintering sites for migratory waterfowl, songbirds and shorebirds plus beautiful opportunities for visitors to experience oak savannah, the forest and a rich riparian environment.  Volunteering at the refuge became a good way to put OMN learning into practice.  I joined the Friends of the Refuge’s Naturalist program PuddleStompers for preschool children and their families and also became a Trail Rover, greeting and assisting visitors on the trail. 



Mixed lichen at the refuge



In a short time, OMN has influenced my refuge volunteer work in two great “aha” moments of confluence, one around the beauty and value of lichen.  Instead of walking the trail, I stationed myself at a large tree and greeted visitors with an invitation to look through a hand lens at surprisingly lovely lichen gardens.  We shared our amazement at the various forms lichen can take.



Quercus garryana on the refuge

Next, the OMN assignment to document a food web turned into a broader map of one specific oak’s pivotal place in the refuge’s riverine landscape.  Below is a draft of the oak web, a work in progress that informs my interaction with refuge visitors and can become the basis of a learning module.  


Oregon White Oak Web 



A study out of PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) on the value of partnerships for restoration projects in the Tualatin basin provided a way to use my interview research and analysis skills.  ISS Research Assistant Professor Rebecca McLain led this interview-based project and my role was in part to interview restoration participants, gather stories and write case studies about early volunteers working to restore refuge lands alongside partner organizations such as Clean Water Services and Tree for All. This project provided me with an invaluable view into local environmental issues and practices and how they interlink with social and political values in community-based collaboratives right in my backyard. These insights and experiences dovetailed with both the OMN watershed module and my refuge volunteering and consequently led me to choose the Tualatin basin as the example setting for several OMN module assignments. 




Thank you to the leaders and volunteers in these three organizations who have helped me accomplish exactly what I came to Oregon to learn and do, plus more beyond my original objectives.  I’ve made great friends with whom to explore the natural world and talk lichen or restoration partnering or ways to engage preschoolers in outdoor science. 

What’s next?  NAI Interpretation training, more refuge volunteering, another research project, widening my explorations and enjoying current friends and making new friends. 



At the confluence of the Willamette and the Tualatin, river mile zero.




·      Oregon Master Naturalist Program   http://oregonmasternaturalist.org/

·      Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (plan a visit) https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Tualatin_River/

·      Friends of the Tualatin River NWR  (find out about volunteering)   http://friendsoftualatinrefuge.org/


·      PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions.  Exploring the Relationship between Collaborative Partnerships and Outcomes. 2017.   http://live-stateoftheintertwine.pantheonsite.io/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Value-of-Collaborative-Partnerships-in-the-Intertwine.pdf?mc_cid=0bafc6a2bb&mc_eid=0aad1eb3b4


·      National Association for Interpretation     https://www.interpnet.com 

·      My thesis:  Wilderness State Park Volunteers:  A Qualitative Case Study of Meaning and Sustainability.  2016.  http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/etd_theses/4736/






Thursday, October 5, 2017

Signs of Autumn Around My Neighborhood & at the Refuge

This is for an assignment to notice phenological changes.  These are from a walk around the block at home.  


Human and animal activity changes



Bright colors, bright sun




Seeds and their dispersal



Empty seed pods




Autumn can be messy....


Bright undersides


Colors fading


Wild Geese Migrating at the Refuge

Fall Decay...Beauty in Seasonal Change

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

On the Trail of Oregon Tracks

Animal tracks are fascinating and, because so many mammals are nocturnal or elusive, tracks show us what animals are active along the trails we walk.

I took Animal Tracking 101 from Steve Engel at Jackson Bottom Wetlands and here are a few photos. Steve's a great teacher and the other folks in the class were fun and enthusiastic.

First, there is an authentic eagle nest [link] at Jackson Bottom Education Center, one that was previously occupied but abandoned when the tree where it was situated for many years fell.  



We studied tracks using plaster casts.

Track 1.
You might might recognize this one.  Count the toes. Answers at the bottom.



Track 2.
These are pretty impressive, a whole tool kit in those claws.  Definitely a working animal.  How many toes?




Track 3

Front feet and hind feet very different.  And, an opposable "thumb."  Adaptable animal, lives in town and country.  







Then, out on the trail where we looked at small tracks from the day/night before.  This track is heading down and to the right.  It's probably a squirrel, with three center toes and one each to the right and left, totaling five toes.  

[Please feel free to interpret as your fancy takes you, perhaps the midnight ride of Paul Revere?]


Lastly, one other reason why I like Oregon:

Tualatin River at Jackson Bottom


Answers
Track 1:  Coyote
Track 2:  Raccoon
Track 3:  Opossum

Reference
Halfpenny, J.C. 1999.  Scats and tracks of the Pacific coast.  Helena, Montana: Falcon.