Sunday, September 12, 2010

Golden-Crowned Kinglets and Tree Frog sightings!

Pacific Chorus Frog (AKA Tree Frog) Photo by maxi millipede
What a great week it has been in the Bird-Friendly Landscape! On the evening of Wednesday, September 8th, volunteer Ryan Stickney made the first sighting of a Tree Frog in the landscape while he was mulching near a Evergreen Huckleberry shrub. It took a good look at him and then hopped off into the Sword Ferns....

Then today I made the first sighting of a small flock of Golden-Crowned Kinglets, drinking and bathing in the dish rock of our solar-powered water feature! They moved in and out so quickly I was only able to get a glimpse- click on the photos above and below to enlarge them, then look for the bright orange and gold stripes to see the male version of this tiny songbird. The female is more difficult to spot but she is there behind the rushes below.

Other birds seen and heard today in the Bird-Friendly Landscape were a newly-arrived flock of Oregon Juncos feeding on the Staghorn Sumac seeds, a Northern Flicker calling from one of the Atlas Cedars, a male Anna's Hummingbird "singing" as usual near the top of a snag, and a giant flock of Bushtits in the Birch Trees. These birds are even tinier than the Kinglets, and gather in groups of 30-40 birds during the fall and winter months. They are some of the best aphid-eaters on the planet, and keep all the Birch Trees and other plants in the landscape pest-free year-round. Last but not least, a family group of our resident Chickadees was poking around here and there, finding pest insects to eat and caching seeds in every nook and cranny they could find. Chickadees are one of the only birds in the world that cache food for a winter reserve. We are used to associating this behavior with squirrels and other rodents, but unlike them, Chickadees actually remember where they cache their food! In fact, Chickadees will move their stored food to a new location if they see that another bird has been watching their work... does this remind you of behavior from any other other creature.... such as human beings... isn't it funny how many characteristics we share with the "wild" creatures in the world?

Speaking of humans with great characteristics.... this past week also brought two groups of volunteers from Seattle Works, who gave the landscape a complete weeding and mulching! Wow, what a transformation they made. The thick layer of wood chip mulch will release micro-nutrients and foster beneficial organisms that help the "baby" plants (now in their 2nd year) spread their roots out strong into the surrounding soil, and store lots of energy for next year's growth. It will also protect the soil so that the coming winter rains can be slowly and steadily absorbed, that will enable the plants to become more drought-tolerant when next summer's heat rolls around again. On top of that, the mulch will smother the weed "seed bank" in the soil, and allow these bird-friendly plants to out-compete the weeds that do manage to sprout next spring! The valuable and much-needed work of both groups was led by the intrepid Ryan Stickney, who also led a group at the Magnuson Children's Garden earlier this summer- thank you x 3 to Ryan!

group photos by Joanna Li, Magnuson Community Center staff