Throughout the year, I send periodic emails called “Campus Updates” to PAWS staff and volunteers to keep them apprised of wildlife activity here on our campus in Lynnwood, WA. I am always amazed at the diversity that can be found on our modest, 7-acre site. During 2011 the Campus Updates featured 443 photos representing 39 bird, 2 mammal, 4 spider, 15 insect, 2 plant and 1 slime mold species.
I went through all of the photos from the 2011 Campus Updates and pulled out my favorites to share with you. The first shows the fruiting bodies of the Stemonitis slime mold that was growing on a downed tree in front of the wildlife center. I think of them as nature’s Koosh® balls.
I photographed many American Robins on PAWS's campus in 2011, but I focused a lot on a pair that had a successful nest attached to the wildlife center’s deer shed. This is my favorite photo of the male and his bright orange breast.
The image below shows the female of the breeding pair on the nest. I didn’t notice the beak sticking out from under her (indicated by the red arrow) until I uploaded the photo to my computer. I found out later there were three babies in the nest.
I love the parent bird’s posture and the look on his face in the photo below. I know I’m anthropomorphizing, but he looks a little taken aback by the demanding young in front of him.
Another robin pair that built their nest in front of the wildlife center lost their eggs to crows before they hatched. It was fascinating to watch the nest building process though.
Speaking of crows, at least three pairs of them nested successfully on PAWS Campus in 2011. In the late summer, I encountered this fledgling who appeared determined to clean every last berry off of our Elderberry bushes.
Although I did not find the location of any hummingbird nests this year, our local Anna’s Hummingbirds clearly had a successful nesting season. I encountered this fledgling when she was feeding on Red Currant blossoms along the walkway that leads to the wildlife center.
Still young and naïve, the hummingbird was very tolerant of my presence. She was also extremely focused on the blossoms in front of her.
Hopefully this bird will have a nest of her own on PAWS Campus next spring.
A Bushtit family successfully raised a brood in the salmonberry bushes along the wildlife center front walkway last summer. The nest was right next to the path, but most people didn’t see it because it was so well camouflaged.
I was excited to see this fledgling Pileated Woodpecker on campus. I was unable to find the nest this year, but this young female proved that our resident pair of pileateds had another successful year. This is exciting because these woodpeckers are listed as a State Candidate species. This means their populations have declined and they are being closely monitored to determine whether or not they require the protection of Threatened or Endangered status. The yearly nesting success that these birds are experiencing here on our 7 acres can only help make their overall population situation brighter.
My favorite Pileated Woodpecker encounter on PAWS Campus in 2011 was with the male of our breeding pair. He was actively feeding on an alder snag, and he was putting quite a bit of force into each blow.
In fact, he was striking with so much force that the feathers of his crest flew forward every time his beak struck the tree. I know these birds are well adapted for this, but all I could think was “ouch!”
The woodpecker also gave me a great view of his impressive tongue as he extracted insects from the holes he was making in the tree trunk. Note that his crest is back in its normal position in this photo.
While the photo below is not technically all that great, it is still one of my favorites from 2011. This is because it shows a female Hutton’s Vireo trying out her partially completed nest in the rhododendron bush right outside the wildlife center’s front door. Ultimately the vireo pair decided not to use the nest, but it was exciting that they had even considered it since this species is a rare sight on campus.
Bewick’s Wrens appeared frequently in the 2011 Campus Updates. This image of a wren on a spare tire is one of my favorites as it gives a good sense of the bird’s tiny size.
I like this Bewick’s Wren photo because the twigs behind the bird make it appear as if he has giant antennae.
Both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees were common sights on PAWS Campus in 2011. This bird was one of a mated pair of Black-capped Chickadees that successfully nested in a tree along the wildlife interpretive trail. I loved the pose of the bird in this shot, but I also really liked the colorful buds surrounding him.
As common as Spotted Towhees are on campus, they only occasionally appeared in the Campus Update in 2011. This is both because they are wary, and because the tend to hang out in low bushes and shrubs where the shadows make it difficult to capture them in a photograph. The photo of this male sitting in a Mountain Ash tree was the best one I got all year.
Golden-crowned Kinglets were plentiful on PAWS Campus during the fall and winter months of 2011. This was my favorite kinglet image. The brilliant yellow on the kinglet’s crown looks like it has been painted on.
Many Yellow-rumped Warblers visited the PAWS Campus in late winter and early spring. I took this silhouette shot as one of the warblers was hovering and gleaning insects from the blossoms on a maple tree. I like how you can faintly see the splotch of yellow on the bird’s chin and the stripes on the wings near the body.
Another favorite silhouette shot from 2011 was this one. Can you guess what the bird is?
If you guessed that the silhouette belonged to a Downy Woodpecker, you were correct. Here’s another shot of the same species from 2011 showing the bird’s namesake downy feathers on his back.
Almost every spring, a male Black-headed Grosbeak arrives on PAWS Campus. I usually hear him singing for several weeks, and occasionally catch glimpses of him, high in the trees by the retention pond. This year though, he flew down and began foraging in the Indian Plum bushes next to me as I was walking along the driveway. It was a treat to see him so close, although he seemed a bit suspicious of me.
The summer of 2011 was very disappointing weather-wise. The temperatures rarely approached anything that I would consider warm. On one of the rare sunny days in July, I noticed this Band-tailed Pigeon sitting high in a tree behind the wildlife center preening himself. He looked as happy to see and feel the sun as I was that day.
The local crows served as my assistants in finding birds of prey on the PAWS Campus in 2011. They were especially vocal about this visiting Barred Owl that stopped by in August. The owl had clearly been mobbed by crows in the past though, because he knew how to choose a perch that provided him excellent protection from being dive-bombed.
This young Cooper’s Hawk caused a bit of a stir over the summer when he took an interest in the birds in the wildlife center’s songbird aviaries. This photo was taken as he was sitting on top of an aviary trying to sort out how to get at the birds on the other side of the wire.
The hawk was very persistent, and we eventually had to cover the top of the aviary with a tarp so he could no longer see the birds. He seemed very confused by the whole situation, but he moved on after the tarp was put in place.
One of the funniest wildlife encounters I had on PAWS Campus in 2011 involved a young Eastern Gray Squirrel that was apparently confused about which things were edible and which were not. As she was burying what appeared to be a piece of bark, she realized that I was watching her.
She then moved her burying spot slightly, so it was obscured from my view behind the tree, but she still thought I might want to steal her prize. She plopped down in front of the spot where she had buried the bark and gave me an “I am on to you!” look as she munched away on what looked like a clump of dirt.
In April I had a close encounter with this Raccoon along the PAWS dog walking trail. A color version of this photo was included in the Campus Update at the time, but I like it much better converted to black-and-white.
I wasn’t sure that this Green Shield Bug (aka Green Stink Bug) was even aware of my presence until he assumed his defensive posture and started exuding this drop of smelly liquid.
Another favorite insect encounter in 2011 was with this charismatic individual. I still have not properly identified him/her.
Last but not least, we have a photo that fascinated some people and gave others nightmares. I encountered this pair of dome web spiders in late August as they were going through their courtship and mating. Looking through my macro lens, I could see the male spider’s hematadocha (indicated by red arrow below) expanding and deflating. It was a fascinating process to observe, and I was thrilled that I actually managed to capture it in a photo. It’s a good reminder that the tiny wild creatures around us are every bit as complex and interesting as the much larger furred and feathered varieties.
Make a point to watch and listen for wild animals whenever you are out and about. The more you tune in to your surroundings, the more amazing things you will discover. Also, do what you can to protect, improve and restore the wildlife habitat around you. As the abundance of wildlife that benefits from the habitat here on PAWS's Campus can attest, every single square foot counts!