Archive for May, 2011

Spring Clean Success!

Spring Clean at Yesler Swamp was a Sunday-morning success. Even the weather cooperated as the sun made a brief appearance. Friends and neighbors – ranging in age from 3 to 73 – dug out a mountain of blackberries, improved the trail with loads of chips, and cleared out two good-sized bags of garbage! Everyone especially appreciated the contribution of several youngsters who worked hard collecting trash and hauling chips.

The goal of Friends of Yesler Swamp is to restore native plants to Yesler Swamp, minimize human impact to this special environment, and conserve the abundant birds, waterfowl and wildlife that live in the swamp. Thanks to everyone’s hard work, Yesler Swamp is on its way to recovery!


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Sunday May 22, 2011 10—12 noon

Friends of Yesler Swamp and UW Botanic Gardens invite you to join SPRING CLEANUP at Yesler Swamp!

    We are partnering with Seattle Public Utilities Spring Clean Up to pick up litter, improve the wood chip trail, and remove invasive plants.
All you need to bring are work gloves and energy! Trash bags and tools will be provided.
Enter Yesler Swamp from the east parking lot of the Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle.

Everyone is welcome. Refreshments will be served!

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Arriving by Canoe

Image courtesy of Tim Kuhn, Seattle photographer.


In early March, I joined Scott Schuldt for an incredible journey around the shores and waters of northern Seattle. Scott is a local writer, artist and scientist, and the author of The View from the Canoe, a multimedia project on the waters of Seattle.

We began with a portage to Lake Union, and passed through the shipyards and houseboat docks that make up a busy, floating neighbourhood. Then, through Union Bay and the cut, where Scott pointed out a whole rookery of cormorants, lazing in the sun. The bridges loomed overhead, murmuring echo chambers of sound and shadow. There is something comforting about paddling a small boat under a broad thoroughfare, then gliding out the other side into the sunlight. We talked about the changes the water has seen, and will see, and how human civilization gives up much of its past in the detritus at waters’ edge.

When we reached the swamp, Scott showed me the Yesler Swamp beaver lodge from a new angle, and pointed out the fresh tracks, chew marks, and green branches on the lodge, all of which indicate an occupied lodge. It’s good to know that the local beavers are still in residence, particularly as we continue with restoration work in the swamp.

I left the trip feeling energized and re-engaged with our lake and its inlets– a strong reminder that while we struggle to restore one small corner of our habitat, it remains a part of the indivisible whole, linked to the flux of the lake, the drifting pollens and seeds of the land, and the far-voyaging paths of our migratory birds.

Thanks to local wildlife photographer Tim Kuhn for the beautiful image. You can find more of Tim’s work on his Zenfolio page.

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The Birds of Yesler Swamp

Wilson's Warbler (by Doug Parrott)

Connie Sidles reports on recent bird watching in Yesler Swamp . . .
Yesler Swamp is not a place of grand vistas or wide, sweeping views of nature. It is a place of twisty trails, hemmed in by plants who seem bent on regaining the ground they have lost to vigorous weeding by volunteers. You have to watch your step in here. Tree roots the size of speed bumps zigzag across the path. Cut logs installed as stepping stones are slippery when wet, and they are always wet. It’s dark, too, where the willows weave their spidery branches together overhead. They clack, you know, when the wind blows.
And yet I know of no place in all of Seattle more filled with the intimate beauty of nature. Here, you and the wild are close — nose to nose, as it were. I discovered this yesterday as I was edging my way along the oozy trail. Spring has come late this year, the coldest in Seattle’s recorded history. Birds that would normally have migrated long ago held up somewhere south as long as they could. Now, in mid-May, they are coming in a rush, stacked up at the Fill like airplanes waiting to land at Sea-Tac.
I figured Yesler Swamp would be an irresistible draw for the insectivores: the warblers, vireos, and flycatchers that are my favorites in all the bird kingdom. I set down my camp stool where the north loop emerges into a rare open space, and waited. Within a minute or two, I heard the unmistakable song of a Wilson’s Warbler, singing almost in my ear. Wilson’s Warblers are tiny bundles of sunshine: bright yellow underneath, shaded yellow on the back, topped by a black yarmulke on the head. Who knew there were Orthodox warblers? They’re gorgeous birds, but I have to admit, they don’t have much of a song. It’s more a hurried series of chirps strung together without much variation in note. If you can imagine a klezmer singer doing rap — that’s a Wilson’s Warbler.
Nearby, another bird not noted for operatics was hunting for flies: a Pacific-slope Flycatcher hard at work. Pacific-slope Flycatchers are birds of the shady forest. So nondescript are they as to almost defy identification: brown on the back, grayish in front, a couple of whitish wingbars, a white eye-ring. That’s about it. Their “song” is equally plain: a high-pitched peep/pause/peep-peep/pause/PEEP. This is music?
Maybe not, but it is surely magic. For both these birds have flown all the way from Central America to come to this one spot, in the heart of a big city. Here, they find the seclusion they seek to make new warblers and flycatchers, to continue the cycle of life to the next generation. It is here that they sing their little all, and it is here that they share their lives with those of us willing to stop a moment and listen to the symphony of life all around us.

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Yesler swamp can be penetrated all the way to the present east and west terminus of the temporary Yesler Swamp Trail. The beaver lodge is active and the ducks are tame and not afraid of the kayak. This time of year the lake is at it’s highest. If a permanent trail is going to connect the east and west temporary trails, then it will have to either go over an access for boaters or follow a greener path.


West end of temporary trail

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