Beauty in the Greenbelt: Wildlife

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

I have been excited to see the wildlife in our restoration site increase. During a break in one of the April work parties, a student and I sat quietly on a recently-built platform. In addition to gazing at the trees, shrubs and ground covers in the planting area in front of us, I heard and saw many birds. I felt so much peace as I took in the sights and sounds.

We spent part of that work party building wood chip rings around plants. (Those rings will help keep the ground moist during the dry summer months.) In the process of building the rings, we used up the wood chips in two wood chip piles that were located on the site. At one point, when I sat on the ground near one of those areas, I noticed insects (gnats?) coming out of the remains of the woodchips. As I watched, four robins flew to the area and started feasting on them. They didn’t seem to care that I was sitting so close to them.

When I walked into the Greenbelt in mid-May, the first thing I saw was a hummingbird. Many of the shrubs we’ve planted are supposed to draw hummingbirds, but this was the first one I’d seen. In addition to the robins and the hummingbird, I’ve seen lots of sparrows, chickadees, crows, flickers, and a few blue jays.

Later that day, as I was getting ready to leave the Greenbelt, I saw a small rabbit and baby bunny in front of me. To the right of them were two robins looking for food and to the left two squirrels were scurrying around. Again, I felt a sense of peace and was very grateful to be able to witness this scene.

Single yellow swallowtail butterflies, like the one in the photo at the beginning of this post, have flown through the site for two years, but one day last month I had a quick glimpse of an orange one. I’ve also seen bumblebees, honey bees, mason bees and wasps.   

Last week there was a dead mole on one of the paths. I felt sad to see it. I don’t know how it died but was thankful that the person who was with me buried it. I know there are raccoons on the property, because I’ve seen their droppings, so maybe that is what caught and killed it.

I’ve seen rabbits several times recently. They have usually been munching on a particular type of weed. I decided to leave a patch of them for a while hoping they would stick to that diet rather than munch on the shrubs and ground covers we’ve planted. I haven’t seen any rabbits for the last week though, so maybe the weeds have gotten too tough for their taste.

A few days after I took the photo above, I saw ladybugs on the weeds. Then I noticed there were aphids. Someone recently had seen an aphid on a plant and told me that ladybugs would show up soon, because lady bugs eat aphids. I also noticed that there were three types of ladybugs on the plants. I wondered if these were actually the same type of ladybug but were at three different stages of development; i.e., baby, youngster, mature.

I’ve tried to take photos of the rabbits, birds and squirrels, but they almost always take off before I can get a shot. Probably if I sat down and quietly waited, I would be able to take more photos, but when I sit down, I usually see weeds that need to be removed so continue with that never-ending task.

Yesterday I saw the bug in the photo below, a large dark black beetle and a dark black centipede. Several days before, I had seen an unfamiliar winged insect.

I love watching the many forms of wildlife. I hope my descriptions give you a taste of the excitement and the peace I feel as I witness them moving into our Greenbelt site.

A Visit to the Nature Sanctuary: September 2018

I first visited the Nature Sanctuary, which until this year was called Kuzhitura Farm, in 2014. It is located south of the Amritapuri ashram. That was before I had a blog, so I don’t have photos from that year. The photos below are from my 2015 visit.

(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

The gardens have changed so much over the years. The volunteers have overcome so many obstacles. Their persistence was well worth it; entering the property yesterday  was like walking into a magical wonderland.

When I turned onto the path that leads to the sanctuary, I noticed that there were plants lining the borders of the path. Many of them were potted roses. I don’t know what the other plants were.

When I reached the entrance, I saw two new signs.

I walked into the lush wonderland.

There were so many beautiful flowers.

Plants grow so fast in the tropics. There were some rudraksha trees in this garden that were planted a year ago. They have grown 4-6 feet since that time. I’ve been excited that some of our Seattle Greenbelt trees grew 6 inches this year.

There are numerous turtles on the property. When I visited these gardens in January of 2018, the volunteers were installing some tubs for baby turtles to live in. The babies would move or be moved to bigger ponds when they got older. This is what the tubs looked like 8 months ago:

I was amazed at how different the tub area looked on this visit. It was so dense with vegetation. I could barely see the blue tubs.

The ponds were not easy to spot either. The photo below shows one of them:

A volunteer asked if I wanted to see some of the turtles that are living in the bigger ponds. Of course, I said yes. Once there, he told me that we could feed them treats; if we called to them, they would come. When he called, a turtle that was about the size of my palm responded right away. It would not take the food from his hand though. He said that the turtle might respond more readily to my voice. He was right. The turtle came to me right away and took the pellet from my hand. Once he ate it, I offered him another one, and he took that one too!

I learned that there are turtle eggs all over the property. When the eggs hatch, the babies find their way to water. So no one carries them to the little tubs, they find them on their own.

Later, I learned that the nature sanctuary does not have any problem with mosquitoes because there are tadpoles that eat the mosquitoes when they are in larva stage.

I saw butterflies that day and in the past and I’ve seen bees and dragonflies in these gardens. If there are tadpoles then there must be frogs! I wonder what other kinds of wildlife are in the sanctuary.

I could have stayed there all day and not have seen everything that there was to see. I look forward to my next visit.

To read the previous posts in this series click here.

Twenty Pounds of Cigarette Butts

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This past Saturday, thirteen members of the Seattle area part of the PNW Litter Project made it possible to keep 20 pounds of cigarette butts out of landfills, waterways and stomachs of birds and other forms of wildlife.

Cigarette butts are way more toxic than you might think. They are NOT made of cotton, they are made of cellulose acetate tow and they can take decades to degrade. Investigators in a San Diego State University study once discovered that if you put fathead minnows and top smelt in a liter of water that also contains a single cigarette butt, half of the fish will die.

We have been picking up cigarette butts for the last three years. This particular work party was held in the International District of Seattle and was in honor of Kick Butts Day, an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. The event is organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored by the United Health Foundation.

The weather forecast for Saturday was dismal, one inch of rain was predicted. Nature graced us however. While it was cold and windy and everything was wet due to the rain that had fallen the previous night, there was no rainfall during the 1 ½ to 2 hours we worked.

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I like to believe that Mother Nature was pleased with us because after we finished, the wind died down and it was sunny for a good part of the day!

Tomorrow I will be packing up the 20 pounds of cigarette butts and mailing them to TerraCycle where they will be turned into plastic pallets!

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