Daily Observations

Great Blue Heron

As the semester is winding down, it seems my work days are getting a little busier. It didn’t help that the warming weather made conditions a little sloppy, I’ve been continuing to fight off a cold, and Melissa spent the day yesterday writing and working on ceramics. However, today I did get out and go for a hike up to the West Valley of Indian River. It was a good trip with Scott the director of the outdoor center on campus, and Matt, a student. When we were first talking about the trip, there was so much snow it seemed likely that we would need snowshoes. This morning it was a balmy 44 degrees or so, and there had been a lot of melting that took place in the last 36 hours, so we decided to forgo snowshoes. As it turned out, that was a pretty good decision. They were not necessary and would have been annoying to carry. We went up to visit the big hemlock tree. We ended up taking one of the most direct routes I have managed to it. It took us a little over 2 hours to get up there and probably an hour and a half or so to get back.

Weather: Temperatures have climbed the last couple of days. Today they managed to stay in the low-to-mid 40’s. The forecast called for some pretty strong winds this morning, but they must have died down before I got up and out a little before 8am. There was some wind in the valley as we hiked, but not a lot. Every so often while we were hiking it felt like we would walk through an exceptionally warm spot. This seemed to occur primarily near openings in the forest. After we discussed it for a bit, we concluded that it must be eddies of warmer air that were mixing with the cooler air near ground level. Since we were in the forest, the trees probably kept the warmer air that had moved in with the front from mixing easily with the colder air underneath the trees. This was probably aided by the fact that cool air is more dense than warm air.

Birds: I have been hearing people talk about a heron at the flume lately, but until this morning, I had not seen it. We were planning to meet at Rasmuson and I got there a little early, so I wandered over to the flume. The bird was unexpectedly tolerant of people walking by. I would not have known this, except someone walked by while I was standing some distance away. After that, I walked up on the bridge and the bird just ignored me. I did see the heron catch a couple of fish while I was watching.

There were several eagles along the river as we were walking up, especially the west fork. They were there to eat the coho salmon that are still remaining in the river.

There was a flock of Pine Siskins (possibly with Redpolls mixed in?) in the alders near the water treatment facility by the trailhead.

Other Notes:

I had not previously noticed just how deeply rotted the large hemlock tree is. I don’t think it could be cored and aged accurately at all. Clearly the rot doesn’t go all the way through, but it does go well into the middle of the tree; it almost made me wonder if it could be hollowed out to make a My Side of the Mountain style dwelling. It might still be a bit small for me, but probably for someone shorter, it might work.

We saw the remains of a couple of salmon near the river and a couple more still swimming. One set of remains was basically blood and colored snow where the eggs had been. The other was a partially eaten fish. I did not realize there were still fish up here this late in the year, but I guess I am not surprised since last year there were lots of them lower down in the river the second week of November.

There were some recent deer tracks in the snow in many places in the west valley. There was also a bit of a deer trail that we followed, though enough melting had occured in the last couple of days that individual tracks were not evident. In a couple of locations we found places where it looked like a deer had curled up and layed down. The snow was partially melted out in a circular shape with the center having a little less melt than the rest. I gave a quick look for deer hair, but was not able to see any. Maybe they don’t give up their hair easily in winter. There were not any tracks leading up to or away from the spot except for a set that went through it. They seemed to have pretty clearly been made well after the snow was melted out. Of course, with all the melt that has occured, I suppose the deer could have laid there a day or two ago and it’s tracks would have been pretty much gone.

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