Marianne Jackson, a personal trainer and yoga teacher, lives in
a fairly typical residential neighborhood in Des Moines, about
halfway between Seattle and Tacoma. Marianne has been interested in
gardening for years. Recently, however, she decided to up her game
by creating a backyard wildlife habitat.
That’s when Sarah Bruemmer, a habitat steward coordinator for
the National Wildlife Federation, entered Marianne’s life. Sarah
knows how to turn small outdoor spaces — or large ones, if
available — into functioning habitats. She coordinates a training
program that addresses issues from soils, gardening and invasive
plants to birds, butterflies and water quality.
Sarah’s month-long program, which includes weekly classes with
two Saturday field trips, is scheduled for April in Kitsap and
Thurston counties and May in Pierce County. Only a few seats remain
for the Kitsap training to be held in Silverdale.
Marianne, 56, took the course last year and came away with a
much deeper knowledge of the ecosystem. She had already ripped out
her grassy lawn years ago to create what became a series of
connected gardens, but the classes taught her how native plant
species and water features can help native birds and
“I already had the interest,” she said. “Now I have a lot more
knowledge that I can put to use. I’m planning to get my yard
Coconut crabs are giant land-based crustaceans that can grow to
3 feet wide, claw-to-claw. The crabs, frightening to some, inhabit
islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
These crabs, which grow larger than any other land-based
arthropod, are known for their uncanny strength. They get their
name from an ability to break through coconut husks with their
powerful claws. They can also break a lot of other things, as
revealed in a variety of amusing videos, some of which I’ve posted
on this page.
Coconut crabs became a topic of discussion among scientists last
month when a group of Japanese researchers reported that they had
measured the strength in the legs and claws of coconut crabs. They
found that these crabs could lift four times their weight, and
their pinching power was greater than that of any other kind of
crab, even greater than the jaw strength of terrestrial predators.
The report was published in the online journal
When I was a young child, we didn’t have to worry about wildlife
getting strangled by six-pack rings, because these plastic binders
for cans had not been invented yet. I was 9 years old in 1961 when
this simple, convenient form of packaging was invented, so I
clearly remember the transition. (See Hi-Cone
At the time, nobody predicted the conservation consternation
that would be created by such a simple piece of plastic. During the
1970s and up to present, pictures of entrapped birds and other sea
creatures became common, suggesting that we at least cut the
plastic to save the animals. The first video provides a story of
Before the invention of six-pack rings, people bought soft
drinks and beer in cardboard packages, which sort of wrapped around
the cans. Pabst Blue Ribbon may have been the first beer sold in
cardboard cartons (second video), although Coca Cola may have
started the phase. The Coke
company claims to be the first to take its bottles out of
wooden crates and begin offering cardboard packaging for consumers
as early as 1923.
A giant piece of a cedar log stands erect in a barren landscape
north of Silverdale, where a new channel for Clear Creek stands
ready to receive water.
Well, maybe this channel won’t be entirely new. Designers
working to restore this portion of Clear Creek studied old maps.
They tried to align the new man-made channel to the meandering
stream that existed 150 years ago, before farmers diverted the
creek around their fields.
During excavation, workers uncovered buried gravel — remnants of
the old streambed — along with chunks of cedar that had lain along
the edge of the stream. Buried and cut off from oxygen, these
pieces of wood survived for decades underground, while cattle
grazed in the fields above.
Workers excavating for the new channel used their heavy
equipment to pull out what remained of a great cedar log. They
stood the log vertical and buried one end in the ground — a
monument to the past and future of Clear Creek.
Chris May, manager of Kitsap County’s stormwater program, showed
me the new channel this week. He said it was rewarding to uncover
some buried history and realize that the stream would be restored
in roughly the same place.
“We found the old channel,” Chris told me, pointing to a deposit
of gravel. “We are pretty confident that we got it right.”
This $3-million project has been conceived and designed as much
more than a stream-restoration project. The elevations of the land
around the stream have been carefully planned so that high flows
will spill into side channels and backwater pools. That should
reduce flooding in Silverdale and help stabilize the high and low
flows seen in Clear Creek.
The engineers did not calculate the reduced frequency of
flooding, but floodwater storage is calculated to be 18.4
acre-feet, the equivalent of a foot of water spread over 18.4 acres
or 29,700 cubic yards or 6 million gallons.
In all, about 30,000 cubic yards of material have been removed
across 21 acres, including the former Schold Farm on the west side
of Silverdale Way and the Markwick property on the east side.
Native wetland vegetation will be planted along the stream and in
low areas throughout the property. Upland areas will be planted
with natural forest vegetation.
The topsoil, which contained invasive plants such as reed
canarygrass, was hauled away and buried beneath other excavated
soils to form a big mound between the new floodplain and Highway 3.
That area will be planted with a mixture of native trees.
Plans call for removal of 1,500 feet of an existing road with
upgrades to two aging culverts. Adding meanders to the straightened
channel will create 500 feet of new streambed that should be
suitable for salmon spawning.
Plans call for adding 334 pieces large woody debris, such as
logs and root wads to the stream. Some of that wood will be formed
into structures and engineered logjams to help form pools and
“This will be one of the first streams to meet the Fox and
Bolton numbers,” Chris told me, referring to studies by Martin Fox
and Susan Bolton of the University of Washington. The two
researchers studied natural streams and calculated the amount of
woody debris of various kinds needed to simulate natural
conditions, all based on the size of a stream. (Review
North American Journal of Fisheries Management.)
The elevations on the property were also designed so that high
areas on opposite sides of the stream would be in close proximity
in several locations.
“Beaver will pick that spot,” Chris said, pointing to one
location where the stream channel was squeezed by elevated banks on
each side. “We want to encourage beaver to come in here.”
Beaver ponds will increase the floodwater storage capacity of
the new floodplain and provide important habitat for coho salmon,
which spend a year in freshwater and need places to withstand both
high and low flows. Because the county owns the flooded property,
there won’t be any complaints about damage from beavers, Chris
Clear Creek Trail (PDF 390 kb), which begins on the shore of
Dyes Inlet, will be routed along the higher elevations as the trail
winds through the property. Three new bridges will provide vantage
points to watch salmon after vegetation obscures other viewing
areas from the trail. Viewing platforms, as seen along other parts
of Clear Creek Trail, were not included in this project but could
be subject to further discussions.
Count me among the many people — experts, volunteers and users
of Clear Creek Trail — who are eager to see how nature responds
when water (now diverted) returns to the new stream channel. For
decades, the lack of good habitat has constrained the salmon
population in Clear Creek. The stream still has problems related to
its highly developed watershed. But now a series of restoration
projects is providing hope for increased coho and chum salmon and
possibly steelhead trout as well as numerous other aquatic
In a story in the
Kitsap Sun, Reporter Tristan Baurick described work this week
on the Markwick property, where fish were removed in preparation
for final channel excavation.
Here are some details (including photos) of various Clear Creek
projects, as described in the state’s Habitat Work Schedule for
For 13 years, a mother duck has been hatching her eggs in a
school courtyard, then waddling through the school hallways to get
beyond the building and into a nearby pond, as you can see in the
first video, featured on Good Morning America.
“It’s so unusual, but everyone gets so invested in this duck,
because how cool is it that she comes back each and every year,”
local resident Elizabeth Krause told reporter Abby Welsh of the
Livingston Daily in Livingston County, Mich., where Village
Elementary School is located.
It seems to me that the most remarkable thing about this story
is the duck’s choice of a nesting site. Each year, the duck flies
into the courtyard and lays her eggs amidst a large group of active
school children. It seems the duck has learned that her nest is
relatively safe from outside predators, so she returns again and
“Everyone knows about the duck because even maintenance (staff)
will go, ‘Can we cut the grass in the courtyard yet, or is the duck
there?’” said principal William Cain. “I told them, ‘No, you have
to wait until the duck is out of there.’”
I thought this duck journey was a one-of-a-kind event until I
realized that I had been looking at videos from two different
schools. Both videos were shot this past spring. The second school,
Glover Elementary in Milton, Mass., involves the students, who
quietly form a parade route to watch the ducks go by. Reporter Mina
Corpuz tells the story for the
The second video on this page is a clever three-minute version,
accompanied by music, at Glover Elementary School, showing the
ducks all along the parade route. The video was produced by Bill
Driscoll, nephew of the school nurse. Shorter, more newsy video
stories were offered by Inside Edition as
I never realized that so many cute duck stories existed until I
began reviewing dozens of videos for this Amusing Monday feature.
One story that was especially well done was by Steve Harman of CBS
Evening News called “Duck pals: A girl and her duck” (third video
on this page). There is an unrelated story by Inside Edition about a boy and his
If you enjoy cute duck stories, you can’t miss this incredible
story called “The cat and the ducklings” (video below).
Big Beef Creek, which flows into Hood Canal near Seabeck, will
soon undergo a major wetland renovation that should improve the
survival of coho salmon and steelhead trout.
Other work, which started last year, involves placing large
woody debris in the stream to create deep pools for salmon to cool
off and rest before continuing their migration. The wood also will
help to form new spawning areas for coho, fall chum and the
threatened summer chum of Hood Canal.
Big Beef Creek is an unusual stream, one with a personal
connection for me. In the late 1970s, I lived at Lake Symington, a
man-made lake built years before by impounding Big Beef Creek. A
few years ago, my wife and I bought a home with a tiny tributary of
Big Beef Creek running through the property.
To get a lay of the land, I ventured along the stream and
through the watershed in 1999, meeting many people along the way
and gaining a new respect for Big Beef Creek — known as the longest
stream contained entirely within Kitsap County. Check out my story
for the Kitsap Sun called
“The Watershed.” Much later, I wrote a
Water Ways blog post about the creek beginning with, “It is the
best of streams; it is the worst of streams,” with apologies to
Today, the $1.2 million habitat transformation is taking place
in the lower portion of the stream, just upstream from the estuary
where people go to watch bald eagles soar. (Check out this week’s
“Amusing Monday.”) The project is on property owned by the
University of Washington’s Big Beef Creek Research Station. Work is
under the direction of Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, a
division of Pacific Northwest Salmon Center.
Site work will expand an 11-acre wetlands by five acres and
reconnect the wetland complex to the stream channel. Coho, which
remain in freshwater for the first year of life, will find a safe
place to stay during the low flows of summer and the fierce floods
“Coho rely on streams with complex habitat, including pools and
shade with good water quality,” said Mendy Harlow, executive
director of the salmon center. “In this project, we are focusing on
the lower one mile of stream.”
Removing an access road along with 1,600 cubic yards of fill
will restore two of the five acres of wetlands and open up the
floodplain. The other two acres come from excavating some 4,500
cubic yards of fill from an elevated area where old storage
buildings were removed last year.
In last year’s work, 10 man-made logjams were created where
excavators could reach the creek. At the end of this month,
helicopters will be used to place another 13 logjams in sections of
the stream that could not be reached by land.
In a coordinated fashion, the helicopters also will be used to
place logjams in Little Anderson Creek, which drains into Hood
Canal just north of Big Beef. Little Anderson Creek, which
Newberry Hill Heritage Park, previously received several loads
of wood in 2006 and again in 2009.
Both Big Beef and Little Anderson are part of an
“intensively monitored watershed” program, in which experts are
attempting to measure the extent to which habitat improvements
increase salmon populations. It is not an easy thing to figure out,
since salmon runs vary naturally from year to year. Still, over
time, the improved spawning and rearing conditions should be
Other restoration work is planned on Seabeck Creek, while Stavis
Creek will remain unchanged as the “control stream” for the Hood
Canal complex of intensively monitored streams.
Fish traps placed in the streams monitor the out-migration of
young salmon smolts, while a permanent fish trap at Big Beef Creek
is used to count both smolts and returning adults. For each stream,
biologists also count the number of redds — mounds of gravel where
salmon have laid their eggs — to determine if conditions are
The improved wetlands and floodplain on Big Beef Creek will
allow the stream to move among several historical stream channels
as sediment loads build and decline over time. Strategically placed
wood will provide complexity wherever the stream chooses to go,
according to Mendy, who has been working toward this project since
“I’m really excited about it and look forward to the changes,”
she said. “The phase of work going forward this summer is the
Sarah Heerhartz, habitat program manager for Hood Canal Salmon
Enhancement Group, said improving the wetlands will not only help
fish but also birds that favor wetlands. The stream will have room
to move and spread out, she said, and some of the sediment from
upstream sources will drop out before reaching the estuary.
“The floodplain is going to be a big boost for coho fry to smolt
survival, because that will open up a lot of rearing habitat for
juvenile coho,” Sarah told reporter Ed Friedrich in a story written
The stream restoration is not expected to affect work at the UW
research station, which continues to play a role in salmon studies,
including efforts to improve hatchery conditions. In 1999, I wrote
about the efforts to restore a run of summer chum on Big Beef
Creek. Take a look at
“Reviving a salmon run.” Unfortunately, the resuscitation
effort has not been entirely successful, but there are new hopes
that this summer’s stream repairs will give a boost to the summer
chum as well as the coho.
The winning photo shows a bald eagle swooping down on a great
blue heron at the mouth of Big Beef Creek near Seabeck. Bonnie, a
resident of Kingston, learned that her dramatic photo had been
chosen from among 7,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous
Big Beef Creek, not far from my home, is a favorite place for
nature photographers and bird watchers, who visit in spring and
early summer to observe eagles in action. That’s when the birds
come to hunt for fish called midshipman before heading out to find
migrating salmon. My wife Sue once counted 58 eagles at one time in
that location. See
Water Ways, June 18, 2010.
Bonnie describes how she prepared to shoot the critical moment
in a story by reporter Christian Vosler published in the
Kitsap Sun July 30.
Bonnie’s photo was mentioned during a
CBS News interview with Melissa Groo, last year’s winner and a
judge in this year’s contest. Melissa said a good photograph
“freezes that instant that you can’t even see through the naked eye
sometimes. Sometimes this behavior happens in a split second, but a
photograph captures that unique moment for all of us to see.”
“Which is exactly what this year’s Grand Prize winner is,”
commented reporter Brian Mastroianni. “I mean, the shot of the
eagle and the heron is pretty incredible.”
“Exactly,” Melissa continued. “It’s that kind of confrontation,
that pivotal moment where the eagle is landing and its wings are
completely spread out, and you are seeing, obviously, some kind of
confrontation. It’s just beautifully captured, technically and
A selection of Bonnie’s best photographs are on display this
month at Liberty Bay
Gallery in Poulsbo. You can also see some photos she has posted
on her Facebook
Other winners in the Audubon Photography Contest are shown
below. Comments from the photographers themselves about their work
as well as other photos can be found on
At a community meeting in March, many residents of Harper in
South Kitsap expressed profound disappointment that the latest plan
to restore Harper Estuary would remove a low-key boat launch used
by many people in the area. See
Kitsap Sun story, March 31.
The makeshift boat launch, built on fill, provides the only
access to the beach in that area, community members noted. Many
expressed their belief that county and state officials had failed
in their commitment to maintain beach access.
After the meeting, five representatives of the community met
onsite with officials involved in the project. Several ideas were
discussed, and it appears that a new access to the estuary is
gaining approval, though it won’t allow vehicles with trailers to
reach the water. The new access would be an earthen ramp on the
opposite side of Olympiad Drive.
“Retaining the boat landing in its current location will:
“Block the ability to replace the undersized culvert with a
large bridge in order to restore estuary function and tidal
“Reduce sediment contaminant removal associated with the
“Retain compacted gravel substrate that does not support
aquatic plants or benthic organisms at the existing boat launch,
“Impede restoration of filled estuarine habitat and functional
The proposal now under consideration is to grade the slope
alongside Olympiad Drive at a gentle 5:1 angle. Cars and trucks
could pull off the side of the road long enough to unload their
boats, which would be carried down the slope. For people who just
want to walk down to the water, the ramp would provide the needed
access and perhaps the beginning of a proposed trail system around
A plan to build stairs down to the water from Southworth Drive
raised objections during the March meeting, because it would be
difficult and unsafe to carry boats across the busy roadway and
down concrete steps, which could become slippery. If the stairs are
built, which remains undecided, they could be designed to contain
gravel, making them less slippery.
Jim Heytvelt, a community leader in Harper, said the new access
to the beach would meet the needs of most, but not all, people in
the community. Most people in support of the restoration never
wanted a major boat launch like the one at Manchester, he said.
People are beginning to come around to the reality of the
situation, given conditions needed to restore the estuary, he
During surveys of the property, officials discovered another
problem that could have thrown a monkey wrench into the boat launch
at its current location. The county learned that it does not own
the property where the boat launch was built, as had been widely
assumed. The property is owned by the state Department of Natural
Resources — and nobody has ever been given approval to use the
Even if the restoration could be done without removing the
launch site, nobody knows if the DNR would grant a lease for the
use to continue. Someone might need to assume liability at the
site. The proposed ramp to the estuary seems to eliminate that
problem, as the property is almost entirely owned by the
Delays in preparing the plans, getting permits and putting the
project out to bid has caused the schedule to slip from early
summer into late summer and fall, said Doris Small of the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That assumes the
project can be advertised for bids by the end of this month —
something that is still not certain.
Any further delays could put the funding in jeopardy and might
require new approvals from the Washington Department of Ecology and
possibly the Legislature. The restoration money comes from a fund
set up to mitigate for damages from the ASARCO smelter in Tacoma,
which emitted toxic pollution for decades, some of which reached
The first phase of the project involves excavation to remove
most of the fill dumped into the estuary, allowing the shorelines
to return to a natural condition. To complete the restoration,
additional funding is being sought to build a bridge, which will
replace the culvert under Olympiad Drive. If funding is approved,
the bridge could be built as early as next summer.
Another community meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30
p.m. at Colby United Methodist Church, 2881 Harvey St. SE.
Officials will provide an update on the restoration efforts. County
Commission Charlotte Garrido said she would like to continue
discussions about what the community would like to see in the
future, hoping to build a stronger relationship between the county
and the community.
The common murre, which can be spotted in Puget Sound especially
in winter, may be considered “nature’s laugh track,” according to
Bob Sundstrom, writing for “BirdNote,”
a two-minute radio show heard on public radio stations including
I wasn’t sure what he meant until I heard the call clearly, and
then I wanted to share this amusing sound with readers who missed
“The Common Murre’s guttural call carries well over the roar of
the waves, a natural laugh track, far richer than human laughter
canned for a sitcom,” says narrator Michael Stein in the following
For other amusing bird sounds, I pulled a YouTube video created
with the help of Nick Lund, who writes a blog called “The Birdlist.” This
video was posted on National Public Radio’s science program
Andy Jeffrey of
Earth Touch Network points out that the bald eagle’s
less-than-intimidating chirp may not be the strangest call, but it
may be the most surprising. For films and such, Hollywood producers
have dubbed in the screech of a red-tailed hawk to give the eagle a
more imposing sound.
We can’t leave the topic of funny bird sounds without taking
time to listen to the lyre bird, known for its ability to mimic all
sorts of sounds. And who better to sneak with us through the
underbrush and explain this odd bird than the BBC’s David
Attenborough. Check out the video.
While all of these bird sounds are amusing, who would you say is
the most amusing bird? The question is open to debate, but I always
get a kick out of the thievery of the various species of sea gull.
The compilation video below offers a sampling of this clever bird’s
antics. As you’ll see, a few other clever birds also are
An international team of taxonomists has chosen the “Top 10 New
Species of 2016” from among some 18,000 new species named in
They include a hominin in the same genus as humans and an ape
nicknamed “Laia” that might provide clues to the origin of humans,
according to information provided by the College of Environmental
Science and Forestry at the State University of New York, which
compiles the list each year.
The list also includes a newly identified giant Galapagos
tortoise, two fish, a beetle named after a fictional bear, and two
plants — a carnivorous sundew considered endangered as soon as it
was discovered and a tree hiding in plain sight, states a news
release from ESF.
The annual list of the top 10 new species was established in
2008 to call attention to the fact that thousands of new species
are being discovered each year, while other species are going
extinct at least as fast.
“The rate of description of species is effectively unchanged
since before World War II,” said Quintin Wheeler, ESF president.
“The result is that species are disappearing at a rate at least
equal to that of their discovery.
“We can only win this race to explore biodiversity if we pick up
the pace,” he said. “In so doing we gather irreplaceable evidence
of our origins, discover clues to more efficient and sustainable
ways to meet human needs and arm ourselves with fundamental
knowledge essential for wide-scale conservation success.”
The top-10 list, compiled by the International Institute for
Species Exploration, is a colorful sampling of the new species
being named by taxonomists. The list comes out each year around
Mary 23 — the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, an 18th century
botanist considered the father of modern taxonomy.
Descriptions of the “Top 10 New Species of 2016” are taken from
information provided by ESF, which permitted use of the
photographs. Additional information and photos can be found by
following the links below.
A research team working in the Galapagos Archipelago of Ecuador
has discovered that two species of giant tortoises — not just one —
co-exist on the island of Santa Cruz. The discovery comes 185 years
after Charles Darwin noted that slight variations in the shells of
tortoises could distinguish which island they were from, which is
among the evidence Darwin used in his theory of evolution.
This particiular giant sundew, a carnivorous plant, is the
largest sundew ever found in the New World. It is believed to be
the first species of plant discovered through a photograph on
Facebook. It is considered critically endangered, since it is known
to live in only one place in the world, the top pf a 5,000-foot
mountain in Brazil.
Fossil remains of at least 15 individuals makes this the largest
collection of a single species of hominin ever found on the African
continent. Once the age of the bones is determined, the finding
will have implications for the branch of the family tree containing
This tiny amphibious crustacean, discovered in a South American
cave, represents a new subfamily, genus and species of isopod with
a behavior never seen before in its family group: It builds
shelters of mud.
This two-inch anglerfish — with its odd fishing-pole-like
structure dangling in front — was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico
by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration while
assessing natural resource damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil
spill in 2010. The dangling structure, called an esca, is home to
symbiotic bacteria that produce light in the darkness of the deep
ocean and is presumably used to catch prey.
The ruby red seadragon, related to sea horses, is only the third
known species of sea dragon. At 10 inches long and living in
relatively shallow water off the West Coast of Australia, it is
notable for having escaped notice so long. The ruby seadragon was
first identified while testing museum specimens for genetics, then
the hunt was on for a living sample.
The scientific name of this tiny beetle, just 1/25th of an inch
long, comes from the fictional Paddington Bear, a lovable character
in children’s books who showed up at Paddington Station in London
with a sign that read, “Please look after this bear.” The
researchers hope the name for the new beetle will call attention to
the plight of the “threatened” Andean spectacled bear, which
inspired the Paddington books. The beetle is found in pools of
water that accumulate in the hollows of plants in Peru, where the
bear also is found.
An ape nicknamed “Laia” lived about 11.6 million years ago in
what is now Spain, climbing trees and eating fruit. She lived
before the lineage containing humans and great apes diverged from a
sister branch that contains the gibbons. Her discovery raises the
prospect that early humans could be more closely related to gibbons
than to the great apes.
Found near the main road in Monts de Cristal National Park, in
Gabon, this new tree species had been overlooked for years in
inventories of local trees, which tended to focus on larger
specimens. The tree grows to only about 20 feet high and is so
different from related members of the Annonaceae family of
flowering plants that it was given its own genus.
This new damselfly, called the sparklewing, is among an
extraordinary number of new damselflies discovered in Africa, with
60 species reported in one publication alone. Most of the new
species are so colorful and distinct that they can be identified
solely from photographs. The name Umma Gumma was taken from the
1969 Pink Floyd album, “Ummagumma,” which is British slang for