Monday, December 8, 2008

Back in the Wetlands Again

Saturday, Dec. 6 was a beautiful day around Sandpiper/Grimes Ponds. Here are a few photos of Cedar Waxwings enjoying apples, Mallard, Robin, Red-tailed Hawk, Green-winged Teal, and GBH.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Red-legged frog and Green Heron photos

WREN recently received two fantastic photos from Steve Reed of Albany. The first is a Red-legged frog, which habitats wetland areas of the Willamette Valley. Steve found this one in a pond in an old forest growth area of the upper Siletz River.

The second photo he sent is of a green heron apparently doing yoga! Thank you Steve!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wetland Wander

By Carrie Karl, WREN Education Assistant

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weather: A canopy of clouds and light rain.

Matt Benotsch, from The Nature Conservancy, lead eleven people along a fire break in the Willow Creek Natural Area during this Wetland Wander. As we travelled Matt narrated the battle unfolding before our eyes between forest and prairie. The struggle for space is constant. Humans have played a deciding role in this battle beginning with the Kalapuya thousands of years ago. The Kalapuya used fire to cultivate food sources and the plants we see today now depend on fire for survival. Without fire, the Tufted Hair Grass would ebb away and the Oregon Ash would dominate.  As this battle is waged there is considerable beauty to behold. As we looked out over the prairie we watched a Northern Harrier swoop low hunting for a mid morning snack. At prairie edges we glimpsed Pacific Green Tree Frogs, a Rough Skinned Newt and a Southern Alligator Lizard hidden amongst the grasses and fallen leaves. Restoration technicians today utilize fire to help the prairie and forest to maintain their space. As areas are burned or mowed, a mechanical way to mimic fire, there is balance and a forging of habitat for a diversity of life. 

Friday, November 7, 2008

A play of color

by Carrie Karl, WREN Environmental Education Assistant

The change of seasons is upon us, fall is in full swing and this year it brings a myriad of color. Our palette of vibrant summer greens has given way to brilliant oranges, yellows and reds. The three pigments that are the main characters in our fall play are chlorophyll, the greens, carotenoids, the yellows and oranges and anthocyanins, the reds and purples. Chlorophyll and carotenoids are always present in the leaf of the tree. Anthocyanins are produced during the fall.

As fall begins in the West Eugene Wetlands temperatures decrease and nights grow longer signaling to plants the approach of winter. Plants reflect this change in season by beginning to seal off their leaves via swelling of a special layer of cells at the base of the leaf called the abscission layer. As this layer swellschlorophyll and carotenoids, are trapped. The ensnared chlorophyll continues the process of photosynthesis producing a build up of sugar in the leaf. Sugars combined with bright light produce the anthocyanins. As the chlorophyll is exhausted the carotenoids and anthocyanins are exposed painting the landscape with bold strokes of color.

Many factors influence the brilliance of fall color. However, the best color occurs after a period of dry, warm sunny days with cool crisp nights. The nights must remain above freezing to allow for a slow swelling of the abscission layer which prevents the sugars from moving out of the leaf. The more sugar in the leaf, the more brilliant the anthocyanins. Carotenoids, however, are always present in the leaf and as a result are usually the same from year to year.

The beauty of the fall colors persist beyond the tree. When the nights cool enough to allow for the abscission layer to swell completely, the leaf is then forced off the tree. The tender leaf tissues would not survive the winter so the tree must shed them. These cast offs will decompose providing nutrients to the soil or food for organisms. The color will eventually fade exposing the tannin, browns, that lie beneath.

The drama of the fall play lies in the passing splendor of the colors, and yet, the real story is the leaf. It sustains the tree while it graces its branches during the summer producing food for survival. As fall begins the leaf radiates its inner brilliance and with the start of winter it falls to the base of the tree replenishing the forest floor and the place, the tree calls home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Oregon Rain Beetle

With the cool weather and rain comes the Oregon Rain Beetle. Today (Monday, Oct. 20), I saw 4 beautiful males flying along the Amazon Headwaters trail in the rain. The females do not fly. These Scarab beetles are in the genus Pleocoma, and there are several species in the northwest. The larvae are external feeders on the roots of trees and have a very long life cycle estimated at 9-13 years. Thirty-five years ago there was a push to make them the state insect but they lost out to the Oregon Swallowtail. Look for them when you are hiking in the woods.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

National Public Lands Day 2008 -from bird blinds to burritos

An old Native American proverb says "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Perhaps this past Saturday, on National Public Lands Day, people around the country repaid a little of the interest on that loan. Here in Eugene, nearly 80 community members rolled up their sleeves to help clean-up and enhance the Stewart Pond Natural Area in the West Eugene Wetlands.

Volunteers began to gather shortly before 9 a.m. enjoying coffee and pastries and chatting.

Tania Siemens with the Nature Conservancy came out and informed participants about invasive species in the WEW and talked about the new Early Detection Volunteer Initiative.

The young ones checked out the animal pelts, tracks, and fake scat at WREN's table.

Full of hot beverages and pastry, the eager group assembled and listened to a welcome from Eugene BLM District Manager Ginnie Grilley.

Matt McRae with the City of Eugene Stream Team and Holly McRae with WREN then laid out directions for the work ahead. Raring to go, the volunteers split up into several groups to slice up the work load. There were the camas bulb planters and blackberry removers, the litter clean-up crew, shade cloth installers, and bird blind constructors and painters.

They huffed and puffed...

And dug...

and pounded...

and scraped...

and posed...

and yanked


And when we were all done, we had plenty to show for it! Here is what we accomplished:
The exisiting bird blind was revamped, and made more inviting for visitors.
Over three truck-loads of trash were removed from the site.
Over 300 camas bulbs were planted on the oak knoll.
Over 2400 sq.ft. of shade cloth were installed to attack reed canary grass.

A lot of litter cleaned out-satisfying!

Shade Cloth laid out and pounded in with stakes

Brand new Bird Blind after completion

Volunteers lunched on burritos and shared their successes.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out and made this day so successful. Congrats to all the partnering agencies who sponsored and individuals who came out from the BLM, City of Eugene Stream Team, WREN, Sierra Club Many Rivers Group, and REI, and Adam DeHeer on behalf of the Institute of Culture and Ecology, who led the camas bulb planting. We hope to see all you volunteers out in the wetlands again soon. Afterall, volunteering is contagious, and there are plenty of opportunities throughout the year. Come out to Stewart Pond Natural Area on October 14 at 9 a.m. for a Wetland Wander so we can admire all this hard work!

Flying things at Sandpiper/Grimes Ponds, Sept. 29,2008

Spotted Spreadwing mating pair

Striped Meadowhawk pair ovipositing. This species oviposits in tandom and often in groups within a small area.

A pair of Striped Meadowhawks ovipositing and a pair mating. They commonly oviposit in grassy areas that will later be flooded by winter rains.

Tule Bluet male

A solitary wasp (~3/4" long). This one, a Great Golden Digger Wasp, feeds on nector. The female digs burrows and provisions chambers with insects such as grasshopper and Katydids. Insects are stung and placed in chambers where a single egg is laid.

Our largest damselfly in Oregon, a male California Spreadwing.

A mating pair of California Spreadwings.

Its been a boom year in the Cascades for the California Tortoiseshell.

Greater Yellowlegs

Friday, September 19, 2008

West Eugene Wetlands Mural at Prairie Mountain School

The students at Prairie Mountain School, a Bethel school for grades K-8 on Royal Avenue, have brought what they learned from field trips in the West Eugene Wetlands into their school. A 7 by 12 foot mosaic of more than 700 fire blown ceramic tiles depicting wetland plant and animals now stands out in the elementary wing entrance hallway.

Students grades 1-5 contributed the unique drawings on the tiles. There are deer, herons, aquatic insects, upside-down bats, fish and flowers of every color imaginable and even a squirrel driving a four-wheeler!

The Prairie Mountain PTO funded artist-in-residence Kay Irish who helped the kids create the mural. Many of the tiles were fired in the school’s kiln before Kay put them all together over the summer.

Many generations of students will take pride in this mural that illustrates the wetlands around them that they explore and enjoy each year.