Valley Wander

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My partner Bernard and I had a nice wander in the valley the other evening. We visited The Snoqualmie River, checked for tracks under the 124th bridge, and had a great time walking in the cherry blossoms near a wetland. Tracks we saw included muskrat, beaver, rabbit, and deer mouse. Fine river silt is a great way to see detailed morphology of a track, and under bridges, the rain does not disturb the sub-straight. This makes great tracking possible, and we had a lot of fun trying to decode the tangle of shapes and scratches.

In a wetland down the road, we were serenaded by a strange low frequency boom occasionally coming from the edge of the water. It was some how familiar to both of us, but we could not figure out the noise. Our theories ranged from bullfrog to pheasant, but our minds did not rest on a clear answer, even after looking around the marsh for a long time. It was not until a few days later that I began looking for an answer online, and boy was it a challenge to phrase my search question right. “Loud boom sound in wetland” was no good, neither was “strange sound in a marsh”. I finally got it right with “strange boom calling from wetland” and found my way to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. May I proudly introduce The American Bittern. I’ve heard this friend before (thank you Lindsey for the lesson) and it all made sense after I listened to the sounds of this amazing bird.

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Here’s a fun fact from the site which also made me smile:

American Bitterns are heard more often than seen. Their booming, clacking, gulping calls have earned them some colorful nicknames, including “stake-driver,” “thunder-pumper,” “water-belcher,” and “mire-drum.” -Cornell Lab of Ornithology

I’m not sure what would have come up in the search results using those nicknames! It was a fun learning journey, and all from taking a walk one evening in spring. This is the pleasure of being a naturalist; the mystery only gets larger as you go deeper.

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Speaking of deep, our local river is looking very good at this time of year. Snow melt is happening at a perfect pace, helping to water the landscape without flooding. This is a wonderful gift to the farmers in the valley, and I’m happy for them, though the floods also bring nutrients to the soil and a good soaking before summer drought times, but we had great rain in April too, so things have a head start. It’s still going to be hot and dry again this year according to the weather outlooks, but that’s no surprise. I think we’re in for this weather pattern for the foreseeable future. It’s a little nerve racking, because fire is a very real threat once drought sets in, and we’re living in a tinder box. I hope to avoid the smoke this year, because last year was record breaking in our area.

It’s so beautiful in our valley, and nature is off the hook, as she is in most places. Here, there is something so special about our abundant life, thriving forests, and endless water features. That’s why I’m proud to call Western Washington home.

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