Friday, November 1, 2013

Fall Color at Coulon Park

The lure of a warm, blue-sky Fall day was irresistible, so we headed out for a sunny walk through Gene Coulon Park. This impromptu visit to a favorite waterfront park might have been our last opportunity to enjoy 2013's changing colors since, WHAM! Mother Nature is switching gears tonight. At least we had a glimpse of that Autumn display, before the last of those colorful leaves blow away in the upcoming storm. There's no way most of those fluttering leafy bits will hang on after the next few days of wet, windy, cold weather. I know, I know... it happens every November, but I hate to trade this vivid leafy beauty for the drama of storms and stark tree silhouettes. At least until a wonderful Winter walk reminds me how much I love the quiet beauty of that season.

Photo: Green leaves turn to gold...

Photo: Yellow leaves shine like spotlights in the landscape...

Photo: Neon colors are show-stoppers in the landscape...

Photo: Coulon Parks's buildings are wonderfully eye-catching

Photo: The park's sailing fleet is put away for the winter.

Photo: Bare tree limbs reveal an interesting nest - I wonder whose home?

Photo: Year-round resident Canadian geese look well-fed and content 

Photo: Local gulls are quite fearless and cheeky as they beg for food

Photo: Ivar's fish and chips plus seafood chowder is a traditional stop at the end of a park visit... unless we are tempted by neighboring Kidd Valley's burgers instead.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seattle Japanese Garden in Fall

Photo: Cloud Reflections in the Koi Pond at the Japanese Garden (photo by RL))
Exuberant Fall color grabbed my attention, drew my eye and the lens of the camera immediately at the entrance to the Japanese Garden located in the Washington Park Arboretum. The sky may have been overcast today but the landscaped 3.5 acres were a riot of color as vivid golden-orange leaves of lace-leaf maples contrasted with the bright yellow display of ginkos and the deeper crimson hues of several other species. 

The garden's technicolor display may have peaked a week ago or more. Several early-turning trees were already bare while others held leaves with fading hues, no longer brilliant, their edges going brown and crisp. Without a distracting cloak of neon-colored leaves, branch structure is highlighted, then smaller details clamor for attention.

I love walking through this tidy little garden in any season, any weather. Form, pattern and texture have a constant presence to share with anyone who takes the time to pause and observe. But today, it was all about dramatic punches of color highlighted against a background of evergreen trees and mosses, color so vivid it was as though a spotlight shined here and there and there...

Seattle holds many wonderful parks (link), but the Japanese Garden and Kubota Garden are high on my list of favorites. Set aside some time to explore a few, and remember to take your camera.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Osprey in the Yard

More precisely, the osprey was in a tree, but just barely. How DID that large bird balance all of its bulk on the slender, flexible, topmost leader branch of our cedar tree? and WHY was he in the area? Neighbor Marcie reports that osprey are common around the lake, sighting them frequently near the Rowing Center. How is it that this is the first osprey we have ever seen or heard locally?  An osprey's call is distinctive, loud and piercing enough to draw the attention of even non-birding humans. It was this repeated high-pitched call (link) that prompted us to stop and look up. The bird remained in place for ages, perched comfortably atop a 65-foot tree, long enough for us to grab the cameras and snap off a series of shots to use for identification. 

The wicked-looking curved beak indicated the bird was a flesh-eating raptor, but it definitely was not an eagle or a hawk. A comparison of our shots with some bird book photos and several on-line images indicated it was an osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Click here for a brief but interesting article about osprey. 

For some impressive still images of osprey in flight, visit Graham Owen's website, or check out this brief BBC YouTube video of an osprey fishing (link). These birds are impressive, sitting still or in motion. Capturing an image of an airborne osprey might become a new photo challenge, paired with my ongoing effort for improved eagle action images (link). 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Garry Oaks and Duwamish Canoes

It was a typical quiet weekend morning with our energies focused indoors on house-related projects when a series of unusual background noises caught our attention. Rhythmic shouts and occasional thumps, human sounds apparently not mechanical, grew louder and closer. One long canoe, then another passed the house, heading south and approaching the shore near a local park. Curious, we grabbed the cameras and headed to nearby Martha Washington Park to investigate. There were two overlapping activities taking place, both reflecting history and current day concerns. Two canoes paddled by members of the Duwamish Tribe arrived at the park as a group of conservation volunteers gathered to clear underbrush from a stand of Garry oaks (link). 

I knew that oak trees lined the park's shoreline, but have never thought much about this species or their history beyond gathering a few baskets of fallen oak leaves for Autumn decorations. 

Photo: horse chestnuts in a bowl of oak leaves
It seems Garry Oaks are native to Puget Sound, with large groves once widely distributed throughout the region, but now harder to find as development has displaced them. They are magnificent trees, and Martha Washington Park and Seward Park boast two groves and volunteer groups who work to keep them healthy. 
Field notes

Garry oak(Quercus garryana)Puget Sound's only native oak, this striking deciduous tree has white-gray furrowed bark and round-lobed leaves. Resistant to fire, the oak withstood frequent burnings by Native Americans who used fire to manage the growth of desired plants and berries. Oak acorns were a staple food for those who visited and possibly lived along the shore between today's Seward and Martha Washington parks. They pounded and soaked the acorns to leach away bitter tannins.

One branch of the Duwamish Tribe has ties to the lake (link) and the land around it, the one-time prairie that still holds some Garry oaks,  aggressive patches of blackberries and used to support camas and other harvestable plants. This tribe, though small in number, is an active group that continues its long fight for federal recognition.  

The land, the Garry oaks and the Duwamish paddlers share a history and a somewhat uncertain future. I like to think both were celebrating and celebrated at the park this weekend.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Buick Emerges

After all these years, fifteen or more, my 1972 Buick Skylark convertible came out of the garage, into the sunshine, and is moving again. Moving, but not exactly self-propelled, not yet. After years of hanging out inside, under a protective tarp, it was time to send her off to the auto shop for a check-up, time to get her running again. Then what? I don't know yet. 

I am the second owner of this old girl, and we have a lot of history together, hundreds of hours of local adventures and one memorable west coast road trip south to Palo Alto for a summer computer institute. Most of these fond memories involve carefree, top-down cruising in the sunshine, and not so much the slipping and sliding on Seattle hills during a rare hit of freezing winter weather. 

RL was a hero when he found this car thirty years ago after my red '66 Chevy Impala convertible was totalled. A Subaru 4x4 traveling at 50 mph ran into the back of the Chevy while I was stopped in traffic. This yellow Buick brought a bright beam of sunshine back into my driving life and we cruised along happily for years. She handled like a dream, and what's not to love about a soft ride and classic lines?

And then...? Then a smaller, sportier, more-fun-to-drive stick shift convertible seemed an absolute necessity, an antidote against the reality of an approaching major birthday. The Buick went undercover in the garage and remained there until this week. 

What's next for the Skylark? her long-term future is uncertain, but it will be comforting to know she is still in great condition in my garage this Spring. I will enjoy driving her again in town, and perhaps someone else will have the opportunity to treasure her soon. 

Photo: This Buick is smiling again!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Old-fashioned Twig Fences

A daily walk could quickly become boring, a thoughtless routine that provides fresh air, exercise and some level of satisfaction in the knowledge that it's a healthy pursuit. Could become boring? maybe, but not lately, certainly not in our neighborhood. Beyond the neon colors of Spring flowers, clouds of petals falling from blooming fruit trees, noisy songbirds darting about in the bushes, waterfront activity around the park shoreline... beyond all that, there's always some small scene to stop a walker in their tracks. 

Today I spotted some raised beds being readied for planting and was intrigued by the twig fences dotting the property. It felt like a step back in time to an era when such handwork was routine, when fencing wasn't supplied by the nearest big box store, and when nothing, even pruned branches, would go to waste.

Now I'm tempted to prune the ornamental fruit trees in our yard and create something with the branches, maybe weave a basket to line with moss and display on the deck. Or maybe I'll put that notion in my Someday File, my file folder of good intentions, and focus instead on 2013 cruising preparation. Spring does force me to make choices.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Winter to Spring Transition at the Market

A Not-Quite Wordless Wednesday post, following Sunday's visit to the West Seattle Farmers' Market.

The day's cool 45 F. temperature felt appropriate for the attractive array of typical Winter vegetables...

... though the cabbages looked more like flowers than members of the Brassica oleracea vegetable family they belong to.

Sunday's surprising blue sky and sunshine felt more suited to the riotous display of these early Spring tulips. What a colorful feast for the eyes.

Spring is coming! just not soon enough.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fast Pheasant Footwork

In recent weeks I've caught a brief glimpse of some long-tailed, two-legged critter dashing along the fence line, infrequent sightings that were more a blur of motion rather than a real sighting. What was that quick-darting thing? Today a pair of squabbling squirrels must have distracted the bird, causing it to pay less attention to me as I sneaked outside with iPhone in hand, trying to capture an image. 

My motion made him cautious, nervous about the antics of the squirrels and wary of my approach. He darted under the rhododendrons, turned toward the squirrels, reversed and headed back toward the lake and finally took flight, clearing the fence and landing two yards away. 

The photos are blurry, but they definitely show a common or ring-necked pheasant (link) racing toward the lake. Now I'm curious to know more about this species, unusual in my immediate neighborhood but common throughout the Pacific Northwest. Did this guy escape from a penned or netted enclosure? Does he live in nearby Seward Park? Will he ever return now that I have startled him? 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: A New Year

How did you celebrate the holiday? Parties? Fireworks? We went the quiet route and stayed home last night to watch the festivities on TV. The Space Needle fireworks show was impressive, with some unusual effects lighting the structure as well the sky above it. This morning attention turned to the Rose Parade, the 124th, and I clicked the remote repeatedly to switch between stations and not miss a minute of coverage. 42 gorgeous flower-bedecked floats, created around the theme "Oh, The Places You'll Go!", traveled the 5-mile parade route, interspersed with 21 impressive equestrian units and 33 bands strutting their stuff while they played in the unseasonably chilly weather. Brrrrr, you had to be hardy to camp out on the curb all night along Orange Grove, Del Mar or Colorado Avenues.     

Seattle's blue sky lured us out of the house for a trip to Alki Beach, for our own parade along the sea wall and lunch at Spud Fish and Chips. Sunshine brought crowds of people to West Seattle today. People of all ages were taking photos, scuba diving, kayaking, jogging, walking their dogs, strolling and biking all along the waterfront. It was that kind of day, clear and crisp at 34 F, a day to enjoy being active outside.

And then there was lunch...

It wasn't health food, or even heart-friendly fare, but this tray held a lot of history along with the chowder, clam strips and chips. Spud has been an institution at this location in Seattle since it's founding in 1934, four years earlier than well-known Seattle competitor Ivar Haglund. I remember Spud as the first place I saw someone sprinkle vinegar on their fish and chips. Vinegar?! Oh yeah. 

Photo: The clam chowder was rich, velvety and comforting on a chilly day.

Photo: Lightly breaded and fried crispy, these clam strips rock! 

All that was missing was a pint of beer, but the day was probably too cold to enjoy one. I know we needed another long walk, or maybe a long nap, after we finished this lunch.

One last celebration today, again in front of the television, as I cheered Stanford on to victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl Game. Sorry Badgers, you played a good game today, just not good enough.