Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Painting the Colors of Winter

Over President's Day weekend, John Adams, a Northwest watercolorist, led a 2-day watercolor course at the new Ecology Classroom at the Basecamp. The course introduced art into the classroom for the first time! With the sun streaming in the windows, it was a perfect Saturday morning for painting.

John's demonstration
John demonstrated his favored method of painting where he gracefully representing trees near and far and a looming mountain with few simple strokes. Instead of using cool blues, purples and turquoise to represent our chilly winter landscape, I was surprised to find John's brush dipped in the warm tones of alizarin crimson, cadmium red and yellow.

 Most participants painted a similar scene using John's techniques, but each piece reflected the personal style of each painter. It was a beautiful way to start the long weekend and gave inspiration to each of us to continue learning and painting through the end of winter!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bald Eagle Surveys- Winter Foraging

Last Sunday, January 27th, the North Cascades Basecamp lead another successful wintering bald eagle survey in the valley. After spotting our first eagle, a 1st year juvenile, within minutes of meeting at the Barn in Winthrop, we took off. This winter, there seems to be fewer eagles in the Winthrop to Mazama area than last year. This is likely due to a small to minimal run of steelhead migrating back to the hatchery this winter, which differs from last January/February.  It also could be the result of a minimal deer mortality, since the deer have easy access to food this year; With hard winter years, there are more deer mortalities and therefore increased food resources for these scavengers. Another theory is that deeper snow in the Winthrop area during the winter pushes the eagles down-valley, looking for more food and foraging opportunities.    Regardless, we took off south to find eagles.
A 2-year juvenile perched shows off its beautiful mottling. 
We began to spot bald eagles along the East Country Road near Twisp where the cows are calving, leaving the fields littered with placentas, a nutritious meal for a bald eagle.  There was also an unidentified carcass (most likely a deer) in the field, which also attracted attention from eagles, ravens, and crows. In total, we saw 17 bald eagles at this site. Several were perched in cottonwoods around the field’s perimeter, while others feasted on the carcass. There was a nice array of juveniles at the field. The group got great views of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year olds, allowing us to see the progression in plumage, beak, and eye color.
An adult bald eagle watches over a carcass.
If you look close you can see the
blood on it's face! 
As we continued south along East 20 and 153, we saw 7 more eagles perched in trees near the river. We finally pulled over and discovered one of the night roosts the eagles are using this winter. From 4:45PM – 5:10PM we saw 22 birds fly in to the area to spend the night. We saw 12 of these eagles (6 adults and 6 juveniles) fly to into a portion of the night roost right off the road. As they perched, they noisily communicated with each other. We also saw 8 eagles head up a valley about 200 meters further south. These eagles were most likely headed to a different night roost, although we lost sight of them behind a hill, and do not know where exactly they ended up. We are excited to find out in upcoming surveys!

Want to join us next time? We are heading out again on February 10th and 24th,1-5:30pm; cost is $20/person.  Email, or call (509)996-2334 for more information.

Family Weekend at the Basecamp!

The basecamp has been host to many this winter. We have seen friends coming up for a weekend of skiing, honey-mooning couples beginning their wedded life, and families making a tradition of winter skiing with their tots.
This past weekend, a lively bunch came to the Methow: six couples including my and Catherine’s, the biology intern, parents! The group from Capitol Hill in Seattle has returned to the Methow for over two decades. The group of 12 or so adults were all those whose families and children grew up with Catherine and myself in our corner of Capitol Hill.

Many of the children from that group are now in school or working around the country, and the group has changed to a jovial group of adults. Catherine and I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with and parents and friends.
After leisurely breakfasts, accompanied with many cups of coffee, some went skiing, other read books and others enjoyed quiet moments to relax and take in the winter landscape. It tickled the group to reminisce about the ski trips at the basecamp 20 years ago
Instead of playing guitar, enjoying conversation, or going to bed early, evenings used to include intense snow-ball fighting, fort making, sledding, and bedtime stories. Up to ten children under age 10 would take the lodge by storm. One parent said it was their chance to let their city-kids be wild for a weekend and tire themselves completely.
This weekend included lots of laughter, love and good food. Here’s to many more winters in the Methow, Seattle families!