Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Amazing Video of Fox vs Eagle with a Rabbit Inbetween

My observations of foxes at American Camp (HERE) were not much compared to posted coincidentally on the same day as my post. Besides the great imagery, the vent was captured on video. Pretty amazing event, but also good filming and photography work.

Monday, May 21, 2018

American Camp Foxes

Red Fox on San Juan Island

Before starting a short hike to observe the dune field and wave cut terraces at American Camp, I noted the warnings at the end of the road about not feeding the foxes and keeping a 75-foot buffer from them. The fox above seemed to understand that rule as the fox maintained about a 75-foot distance from me as it went about its business.

The foxes are clearly habituated to humans, and have thus become a park attraction. The fox in the San Juans is a part of the complex dynamics of shifting ecology as a result of the introduction of non native species (the fox is only one of many), land use change, and cultural change. The non native fox is a part of that mix. Many of the foxes on the island are not red. 

Adventures Northwest (the-foxes-of-san-juan-island) has a good write up on the foxes at the park. 

While heading out on Pickett Road, this fox ignored the car as I passed by.

Fox at pull out on the prairie. Note the warning sign about foxes on the fence.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Euchloe ausonides insulanus - Island Marble butterfly at American Camp, San Juan Island

I had a bit of time to visit American Camp in San Juan Island National Historic Park. The park is on the southern end of the island where the American military set up camp during the joint occupation of the San Juan Islands from 1859 through 1874. The American Camp section of the park has extensive prairie land. This prairie supports a rare butterfly, Euchloe ausonides insulanus - Island Marble butterfly.  

This butterfly has gotten some recent news coverage regarding the efforts to protect the species. The Island Marble butterfly was rediscovered in 1998 after being last observed in 1908. The rediscovery occurred at American Camp (wdfw). One threat to the butterfly is deer (see sign above). The deer like to eat off the tops of mustard plants and inadvertently consume the eggs of the butterfly or the places the butterfly would like to lay eggs. Hence, solar powered electric fences have been installed to protect the butterfly food source.   

Electric fencing in dune and prairie area

Being alerted to the possible presence of the Island Marble via the electric fencing, I spotted a few of the butterflies. And even managed to get a picture of one. It was a thrill to see such a rare species.

Efforts are being made to protect the butterfly and possibly expand its range ( Prairie areas in the San Juans have been greatly diminished and even where still present have altered from the original ecologic make up via invasive plants and grazing by domestic animals and now a high deer population.

The prairie at American Camp is on a south facing wind swept area underlain by glacial sediments that were reworked by wave action as the island emerged from below sea level during the late stages of the last glacial period. The prairie has numerous wave cut terraces and large kettles where blocks of buried ice melted out along the ice margin. The south exposure, rain shadow from the Olympic Range, and well drained soils as well as historic fire setting by First Nations peoples has resulted in one of the larger prairies in western Washington.

Lidar bare earth of American Camp
Note wave cut terraces, kettle depressions and dune field

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Balsamorhiza sagittata Season in Central Washington

I was fortunate to have some central Washington ventures at a fairly optimum time for wild flowers. The Balsamorhiza sagittata was in peak condition on the east slopes of the Cascade Range - at least I think these are Balsamorhiza sagittata. There are multiple Balsamorhiza, but I am guessing sagittata based on my amateur plant skills and the fact that it is the most common of the balsamroots.

This particular hill side was lightly burned about 10 years ago and grazing has been limited to wild life only, so the crop of balsamroots was enough to cause me to pause and admire the slope before heading uphill.    

Monday, May 7, 2018

New Ecosystem Along the Columbia

Highway 243 spurs off Highway 26 just south of the Interstate 90 bridge over the Columbia River. 243 follows the Columbia River south to Highway 24 just north of the Highway 24 bridge across the Columbia. The scenic highlight is Sentinel Gap where the river passes through the Saddle Mountain ridge.   

1,600-foot cliffs and talus slopes in the gap

The foreground feature of trees along the river is a relatively new development. 


The dams on the Columbia River, particular the Canadian dams, prevent the Columbia from the past wild seasonal swings in river flow. The tamed river no longer has huge late spring and early summer floods as the Canadian dams hold water back. The loss of these large flood events has allowed trees to become established along portions of the river bank where previously the floods would have removed them. The river reach at Sentinel Gap has become progressively more wooded over the decades since the dam building era. The trees are a mix of willow, cottonwood and juniper as well as other brush,and this growth has formed a new ecosystem along the river. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Wiyakuktpa - The Gathering Place, Clover Island, Kennewick

Kennewick is located along the Columbia River in southeastern Washington. Clover Island is an island owned by the Port of Kennewick. The island today is a small remnant of the original island which has been covered by water backed up by McNary Dam. However, even before the dam the island would have been subject to inundation from the large floods associated with the late spring snow melt from the mountains to the north. Dams in Canada have largely minimized flooding on the Columbia.

The island has been going through a slow but steady development including a fair number of sculptures including this min park that recognizes the early use of the island as a gathering place and a place ceded to the United States by the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes.

Bronze sculpture of Indians gathering tule
Tule was a major component for home construction

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Impressive Lidar Resolution Aids Field Work

Regular readers of this blog know that lidar imagery and elevation models are a regular feature of posts on the Washington Landscape. That is in part because utilizing lidar is a routine part of my work. Lidar has been a bit of a revolution for geology as well as land use planning.

New high resolution lidar was released earlier this year by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. The lidar coverage is part of a program to obtain high quality lidar coverage for much of the state. The new lidar covers areas that previously had no lidar and also covers areas where lidar was available, but was of lesser quality. 

The newer lidar data sets have amazing resolution that allows for spotting land features on the order of a foot or two in scale. I utilized the new high resolution lidar recently on a couple of small-scale projects.  

2006 lidar

2017 lidar

There is an obvious difference in the sharpness of the lidar images between 2006 and 2017. The arrow in the second image from 2017 points to a feature completely obscured in the 2006 image. The feature appears to be an erosion feature. 

Erosion feature
A small ravine eroded into slope from water discharged on to the slope from an uphill road ditch

The erosion feature was not the site I was looking at. But seeing it in the lidar before going out in the field suggested that I might get a good exposure of the underlying geology units on the hill slope, Indeed, I did get a good view of the underling glacial related sediments exposed in the small ravine.

What is impressive is how small this ravine is. The feature is only a couple of feet across and five feet deep at its deepest and yet very apparent in the new lidar.