Neighborhood Walks – 8.22.2015

When I’m short on time or energy, but still itching to get outside, I take a walk around my neighborhood. Like many of us in the PNW, I’m lucky to live in an area where nature flourishes alongside the city. We have so many easy opportunities for walking, biking, and wildlife watching right outside our doors!

My neighborhood is surrounded by deep peat bogs ringed with tall trees. The mix of wetland and forest supports a surprising amount of animal species. The more I get out and explore, the more I notice signs of creatures I had never noticed before – and the funny thing is, once you spot something new you suddenly start to see it every time you go out! I try to take a walk at least once every week or two, though some weeks I’m lucky enough to make it outside almost every day. Because I have been walking this area so frequently over the last two years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all, but days like today prove that’s just not the case! There is always something new to see, if you’re patient and know where to look.

Squirrel Stuffing its face with berries

Walk: 60°F | Overcast | 7-9am | 4 miles | Bothell, WA

I started through an area with moderate foot traffic. Sometimes if I can get out just after dawn I can see a lot of animals around here – rabbits, coyotes, woodpeckers – but today there were too many people around, so they had already been scared off.

I headed down an overgrown foot trail to a pond that is being newly dammed by a beaver. I have yet to actually see the little guy, but he makes his presence known.

Evidence of a beaver

New beaver dam

I stayed there in the brush for a while. Every time I went to get up I’d hear a new sound and crouch again to listen and identify it. Two belted kingfishers swooped right over my head, calling loudly. More than 50 barn swallows came out around 8 AM to catch the mosquitos (that were eating me alive). A *kerplunk* a few feet away turned out to be not the bullfrog I expected, but a muskrat who wanted to groom his tail a little farther away from me.

I collected a few new birds for my list, then turned back, enjoying the sun which was bright orange behind the smoggy looking clouds.

Before heading home I stopped at a hidden storm pond which usually hosts some gigantic frogs. No frogs today, but an even better surprise – a hooded merganser.

Female Hooded Merganser This is just a shallow, mucky reservoir pond tucked into a nest of cul-de-sacs, but its unglorified status doesn’t stop amazing creatures from visiting. Every neighborhood is worthy of a nature walk, no matter how dull it may seem!

Areas visited: My neighborhood trails.

Species observed: Mallard Duck, Ring-necked Duck,  Hooded Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Virginia Rail, Sora, Belted Kingfisher, Barn Swallow, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Muskrat.

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