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Wildflower Resources

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Susan Ballinger’s suggestions for resources that can help in your wildflower explorations.

April is a great month to explore our region’s shrub-steppe to see blooming wildflowers. A first step is to identify lands and trails that are open to the public. For the Wenatchee Foothills Trails, visit the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust (CDLT) website for a trail map. Or, stop by a local Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management office to get maps and hike suggestions from their friendly front-office staff. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife offers a great publication, North Central Washington: Wildlife Viewing Map for Highway 97 that identifies 36 public land sites between Ellensburg and Oroville for watching wildlife and often, wildflowers. The Wenatchee Outdoors website offers 9 local hike ideas in their guidebook under ‘Nature-Flower-Birds.

Once you pick a location, it is nice to take along a list of wildflowers documented at that site. The Washington State Native Plant Society (WNPS) offers native plant lists by county with 41 for Chelan, 8 for Douglas, and 32 for Okanogan county. A fun way to study-up at home before venturing into the field is to use on-line photo identification guides. The University of Washington Burke Museum Herbarium has stunning photographs and detailed descriptions of all Washington plant species. Locally, CDLT offers a localized searchable photo field guide to over 60 of the most common wildflowers in the Wenatchee Foothills.

One of the best ways to learn wildflowers is to go on a guided trip. Across Washington, there are 12 native plant society chapters, including the Wenatchee chapter, and each offers a series of free wildflower walks available to the public, all listed on the state website. Locally, several wildflower walks are offered in mid-May by the Leavenworth Birdfest and by the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust. Plan to take a self-guided tour any day at the native plant demonstration garden located at the Okanogan & Wenatchee National Forests Forest Supervisor’s Office at 215 Melody Lane in Wenatchee. Thirty-two species of native wildflowers and grasses are labeled and easily visible in the artistically designed garden.

It is helpful to have a wildflower photo field guide to carry with you when you hike. Three good options for our region include Northwest Dryland Wildflowers: Sagebrush and Ponderosa (Northwest Wildflowers Series) by Dana Visalli and David Hancock (2005); Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary by Ronald J. Taylor (1992), or Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest by Robert Parish (1996). Request these through the North Central Regional Library or at a local bookstore.

A handy tool to carry in the field is a ten-powered hand lens that allows you to look closely inside flowers. These are available at local orchard supply stores and range from $10-45. Be sure to bring along a camera, pencil and field notebook to gather information to take home to help you identify the species. Sketch a picture of the entire plant, indicate the size, and record the type of soil. Draw a detailed picture of the flower, including the internal parts. Later, use your notes with on-line resources to make a best-guess at identification. Please don’t pick our native plants. Leave them in their habitat to serve as food and shelter for animals, to allow for seed production, and to be lovely flowers for the next visitor to enjoy. To keep from trampling our native plants, stay on designated trails and avoid cutting switchbacks and using shortcuts.

A good way to introduce children to native wildflowers is to take them to “Coyote’s Corner” at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center. An array of pressed plants are displayed in a colorful room painted to represent local habitats. You can download full page coloring sheets of many native wildflowers. Visit the Wenatchee School District website to view several slide shows featuring native wildflowers. These resources are used by teachers to prepare students for their annual 1st grade science field experience hiking in a local shrub-steppe preserve.

Learning about wildflowers is a great way to increase your enjoyment of being outside in our diverse and scenic landscape. Let the bright yellow of blooming balsamroot entice you to get out this month to see the wildflowers!

Here’s a sample of guided walks and natural history programs around our region this spring, all free and open to the public!

Riverside
Okanogan Conservation District invites the public to help plant 10 kinds of common native shrubs along the Johnson Creek banks in Riverside, north of Omak. April 15 and 16. Call for details.
Contact: Jenni Remillard, 422-0855, Ext. 100

Methow Valley
Okanogan chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society offers a series of wildflower walks throughout the region during spring and summer. The walks are led by local experts who like to educate others about plants.
Contact: Sandra Strieby, 997-2576

Leavenworth
The May 12-15 Leavenworth Bird Fest offers bird and wildflower field trips, including a Sauer Mountain walk on May 13 and two Ski Hill walks on May 14. Call after April 29 to reserve your spot as these trips fill quickly.
Contact: Chamber of Commerce, 548-5807

Wenatchee
Wenatchee chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society offers two public wildflower hikes. Call trip leaders for more information. On June 26, Julie Sanderson (662-5261) will lead a 3-mile walk to Clara Lake. On July 2, Ted Alway (548-4384) leads a 4-mile hike to Wedge Mountain.

Chelan-Douglas Land Trust has published a wildflower brochure available at trailhead kiosks at Horse Lake Preserve, Day Drive and the Jacobson Preserve. Visit its website to use a photo identification guide to 60 common plants in the foothills. Contact: Kathy Pevin, 667-9708

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests supervisor’s office, 215 Melody Lane. Take a self-guided tour any day at the native plant demonstration garden, where 32 species of native wildflowers and grasses are labeled and easily visible in the artistically designed garden.

Tonasket
Okanogan Highlands Alliance offers an educational class featuring the natural history of the region on May 6. Spring and summer interpretive hikes and restoration work parties will be listed at okanoganhighlands.org/education.
Contact: Julie Ashmore at julie@okanoganhighlands.org

Twisp
Methow Conservancy hosts a First Tuesday Lecture Series, offering a free community lecture, presentation or discussion focused on natural history, ecology or conservation topics.
Contact: Mary Kiesau, 996-2870

Add birding to your life list

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January 2011, Connecting With Nature, NCW Greenways
by Mark Oswood

Birds are perhaps the most watchable wildlife — present everywhere, identifying characteristics visible at a distance and an achievable challenge.

There are an estimated 60 million-plus birders in the United States, ranging from beginning backyard birdwatchers to experts who pursue hard-to-find birds in hard-to-get-to places. Some of these folks are solitary while others are more gregarious, looking for birds and sharing the joy in what they find.

Beginner to expert, solitary to social, most birders share a common bond: curiosity, a love of the outdoors and an interest in learning.

Birding is a lifelong sport in which all can participate.

What kind of birder are you? Do you travel? The trees at a dreary freeway rest area might hold a never-before-seen bird or provide an uncommonly close look at a common bird. The balcony of your hotel room might provide a perch to see an osprey gliding by, fish in talons. Maybe you are, like Thoreau, someone who travels far by staying close to home.

Do you know that the American robin has at least five distinct songs and calls? The possibilities of what you can see in your own backyard or neighborhood are enough to last a lifetime.

Your travels, at home or far away, will make thousands of memories, but what will you use to contain the memories? The brain is leaky; you need paper.
A “unit of memory” in your journal might include the birds that you saw or heard, the context of place, date, weather and maybe any notions that arise.

You might write: “At Hydro Park, cold evening near dusk, 13 December, 2010. I walked along the short grass near the river.

A great blue heron rose up from the river’s edge with the usual irritated-sounding call and looking ancient, like a pterodactyl.”
Sketches and quick paintings are natural adjuncts to the words in your journal.

For those of us unburdened by artistic talent, even diagrammatic sketches of markings and flight patterns can help with later bird identifications, when reference books and the Web are at hand.

There are excellent books on nature journaling, all full of hopeful evidence that art skills sufficient for nature journaling can be learned.

You might search for books by Clare Walker Leslie, Hannah Hinchman or Susan Leigh Tomlinson. Better yet, visit Heather Wallis Murphy, a local master of nature journaling, at her website, www.wildtales.com.

Your journals will, over the years, become repositories, not only of memories but also of valuable scientific data.

Your records of birds seen year-to-year can reveal changes in habitat, weather patterns and shifts in predators or diseases. Stacking the years on top of one another reveals the choreography of the seasons: arrivals of birds from wintering areas, first blossoms of flowers, eggs in nests, berries ripening, departures for the south.

Your journal entries become more powerful when joined with those from others who record their sightings.

We invite you to share your observations of birds and help us all learn more about their numbers, distribution and habits.

You can participate in a nationwide event, the Great Backyard Bird Count. You can also add your bird observations to the online nature journal for our region at www.connectingwithnature.org.

Mark Oswood is a retired biology professor but a beginning birder (old dogs can be lifelong learners). He is president of the NCW Audubon Society (www.ncwaudubon.org), a local chapter of the National Audubon Society dedicated to conserving and restoring natural ecosystems for the benefit of birds and people.

This piece is also published in the Wenatchee World at www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2011/jan/03/add-birding-to-your-life-list/

IRIS