Neighborhood Walks | 8.30.2015

I love fall, and this week it’s finally starting to feel like that time of year. I get giddy when I go outside and all I can smell is the sticky-sweet scent of cottonwood leaves, and 70°F feels markedly cooler than it did 6 months ago, and a few of the maple trees have one single branch that is changing to red.

This has been a strange year for Seattle’s weather, and it seemed like the heat and dryness of this summer was going to last forever. However, unlike our usual Augusts, which are the sunniest month of the year, we had a huge windstorm here last weekend and it has been mild and damp ever since. Strong winds always knock out someone’s electricity around here (it seems like every power line is nestled into an entire grove of trees), but our windy weather usually waits until November when the leaves have fallen. Gusts of over 50 mph did some damage in our area because of how heavy the leafy branches were. We lost power on Saturday for about 12 hours; some of our friends lost theirs for a few days. I have never been more pleased with myself for my procrastination – we still had our camp stove and flashlights out from our last trip, so our night was easy!

By Sunday morning the wind had died down, and I was curious to check out how our neighborhood had weathered the storm. The three of us walked our usual 3 1/2 miles around our wetland and were surprised to see how much damage had been done.

Fallen Tree

Walk: 65°F | Sunny, Windy | 1-3 pm | 3.5 miles | Bothell, WA

Our street was entirely blanketed with branches. Tall trees like this cedar lost their tops, while many of the smaller ones were uprooted.

Wetland Restoration

Amusingly, one spot that was unaffected is this open pond that is being restored with new logs from a nearby clear-cut.

Bothell Mallard Ducks

Our usual animal friends in the swamp didn’t seem to mind the wind, which was picking up again. Swallows and hawks were riding the breeze and mallard ducks were exceptionally numerous.

Mallards in Flooded Field

Seriously. They were everywhere.

Fallen Trees

I was disappointed when we came to the halfway point of our walk. One street was completely blocked by these trees which had taken down some utility poles, and an entire stand of alders had toppled over my favorite side-trail. It’s hard to believe how powerful a good gust of wind can really be.

Windy Cattails

As we turned around the wind increased quite a bit, so we picked up the pace to get home. All of these downed trees were a good reminder to take inclement weather seriously. On our way, though, we made a few more friends.

Bothell Grasshopper

The wind must have been blowing the big grasshoppers out of their hiding spots. We found about a dozen of them, some too fast to catch, some still stunned by their unexpected flight. My daughter was pretty pleased to be able to actually capture one herself and feel its sticky little legs on her fingers.

As we finished our walk home we talked about the storm’s destruction. It’s a little sad to see so much change in our familiar wetland, but also amazing to witness the power of nature. I’m looking forward to observing the spots we visited over the next few weeks and months. The half of the broken cedar that is still standing may become a popular spot with the pileated woodpeckers and northern flickers I have seen there in the mornings, and now that the stand of alders along my favorite path has fallen I will be able to more clearly see a stream that I only had glimpses of before. As always, I can’t wait to get outside again.

Areas visited: My neighborhood trails.

Species observed: Mallard Duck, Barn Swallow, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-legged Grasshoppers

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