Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sandy River Delta

The Intertwine, a nonprofit seeking to connect urban folks with the nature that surrounds us, is helping to coordinate a series of "Eco-Blitzes", as an alternative to the more traditional "Bioblitz".  A "Bioblitz" is an event where a coordinated effort is made to create a species survey for a natural area that is as complete as possible, in a 24-hour period. Experts are typically recruited to lead teams of citizen scientists to find all the plants, animals, fungi, etc. that live there, including nocturnal animals. The data is used in many ways in conservation efforts, because the first step is often to know what there is to protect.  We had participated in a Bio-Blitz in Forest Park surveying amphibians (there's a short segment about it filmed by OPB here, and we were excited that Jasper got to appear in it!).  

We attended the first Eco-Blitz at Vancouver Lake and found it to be very different.  Instead of a scientific focus with a goal of documenting as many species as possible, the focus of the series is really educational. People of all ages are lead by volunteer experts to explore the diversity of a natural area, with a focus on a particular type of animal or plant. Before we attended our next Eco-Blitz at the Sandy River Delta, organizers had supplied us in advance with a species list.  We signed up to survey mollusks, and since we have participated in freshwater mollusk surveys twice with the Xerces Society, I assumed we'd be looking in the water.  The organizers contacted me to let me know that the focus would also be on amphibians, so I assumed they would be looking for aquatic salamanders and larvae.  Instead, we kept dry and looked for terrestrial salamanders, snails and slugs. 

I know the Sandy River Delta is a famous spot for bird watchers. I've been reluctant to go there because I know it's also used as an off leash dog park.  I've known two kids whose faces were mauled by off leash dogs, and have a friend who had to take a neighbor to the emergency room after her off leash dog unexpectedly bit him. And I've also seen off leash dogs attack each other to the total surprise of their owners.  So I have always stayed clear, thinking it far better to leave the park to folks who mutually agree it's worth the risks.  Going there with a large group of people on a survey seemed like a perfect chance to see this lovely spot with less worry.  I had actually very much underestimated the popularity of this spot with dog owners.  Both the dogs themselves and the substantial amount of dog poop make other places much more suitable for parents to bring their kids. But it is definitely a beautiful place.  One of our guides is a conservationist who pointed out huge improvements that have been made there with hard work from many volunteers, clearing out invasive Himalayan blackberries and planting trees in stages several years apart.  We found lots of salamanders (all the ones in my photos are long-toed salamanders) and plenty of cute snails.  
Long-toed salamander.
Robert geranium.
Pacific sideband snail.
Long-toed salamander.
Long-toed salamander.
Wild rose.
Long-toed salamander.
Galls left by Diplolepis polita, or rose leaf gall wasps.  The wasps lay their eggs in a plant, injecting it with hormones that
cause the plant to form a protective gall around the eggs.  
More rose leaf galls.
Wild rose.
Buttercups.
This eye-catching bug is a pale green weevil.
Camas.

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