News from Paul Snoey

March has been a very wet month.  Thursday, March 16th was the first dry day in some time. The sun came out and began shining on the red alder trees in Abrams Park in the early afternoon.  A little breeze picked up and a cloud of pollen was suddenly released.   Trees like alders do not use insects or hummingbirds for pollination. They broadcast so much pollen that it is bound to land on the female catkins of other alders.  Alders put out more pollen that any other plant this time of year.   For those that are allergic to alder pollen, it is a miserable time.

Paul’s photo shows very graphically the flow of pollen.

Update on Erosion

The photo above is of a 90 foot meander below the Heron Ridge Bridge that has been eroding away for the last decade or so.  It is almost breeched in two places and likely will be completely gone in a few more years.  This section of Gee Creek has been lowering, widening, and straightening for some time.  It looks terrible and it will get worse.  To have a restored creek through town will require extensive erosion control.  Having a healthy creek with clean water, restored fish runs, with trees and native vegetation would be a great asset for our community.  First, something must be done about the extreme erosion happening to the stream banks.    – Paul Soney

Update on the Salmon Incubator

Paul Snoey writes: On Wednesday morning, January 11th, the Lewis River Hatchery called to let me know I needed to pick up the salmon eggs for the incubator at Rieman Road.  We were told earlier that they would be available at the end of January.  With the cold and deep snow it was a challenge to get the eggs in the incubator.

They were well developed but it stayed cold through the end of January and the first week of February and they didn’t develop.  It finally warmed up this week with the heavy rain.

When I checked the incubator this morning the eggs had almost entirely hatched and most had dropped down through the grating.  A small group was still on top of the grating and I was able to get this picture.

They will stay in the incubator living off their yolk sacs for several weeks.  When ready they will swim out the overflow and into the stream.   They will stay in the creek for about a year and then head down the Columbia River to the ocean.

Last year was the first year for the incubator on Rieman Road and it was very successful putting thousands of fish into the stream.  This year should be a success as well.    In March groups of juvenile fish should begin appearing in Abrams Park.  Last year many seemed to like hanging out under the bridges going into Abrams Park.

It’s exciting to think that in a couple of years some adults may return.    We are most appreciative of Mike and Linda McCanta for letting us have the incubator on their property.

Rains Erode Stream Bank

The photo below is of the damage to the stream bank after the heavy rains a couple of weeks ago.  The stream bank eroded enough that many of the sixty trees planted here are likely to not survive.

Another  area  flood watch and winter storm watch has been issued for tomorrow morning thru Monday morning.

The city will be building a trail along this section this year.  If the creek continues to erode the stream bank then the trail may be compromised very soon.   I will let you know what happens.                      –Paul Snoey

Shiny Geranium Update

Paul Snoey and Tevis Laspa began digging out the geraniums at the post office a few weeks ago and on Sunday they finished.  No doubt a few more plants will still come up.   Most of the geraniums on the north side of Pioneer between the roundabout and downtown have been removed.  The rest will be removed with the help of a public works employee.  Of the four acres on Les Greear’s property, four of us plan on treating it twice.

Keith Rutz, the Habitat Restoration Coordinator with the Friends of the Refuge, says that shiny geranium was located and treated in the Carty Unit last year.  He states it is spreading in the refuge along deer trails.  He will return in March and begin treating again.

The surveys done so far have only shown a very limited presence in Ridgefield, so the efforts to contain it seem reasonable.  If the efforts are successful then it makes sense to continue.  If this plant is still expanding in our area then it would not be worth any further effort.

This plant could have a very negative impact on both Allen Canyon Creek and Gee Creek Watersheds.  It is a bit like a little green tsunami, covering the ground so densely nothing else can grow.  According to the US Department of Agriculture, once established, it is unlikely that shiny geranium can be eliminated.    Information from Paul Snoey

Weather update from Paul Snoey

I have not seen a single robin since Wednesday.  Nor have I seen a chickadee
or some of the other local birds.   I’ve put out water and food for the last
several days as the web sites suggested. The food is quickly gobbled up by
crows and starlings.

Next, in all this mess, is heavy rain and warming expected Tuesday.   This
afternoon the National weather Service issued a flood watch for our area
from Tuesday morning through Wednesday evening.  I don’t think we are going
to have it too bad in Ridgefield but there could be a problem with stream
bank erosion.   The photo below, taken this afternoon, is of a section of
Gee Creek with active stream bank erosion. –Paul

Help the Birds

The snow storm that hit Tuesday evening was the largest we’ve had in several years.   It left a foot of snow on the ground in the Ridgefield area, closed schools and public offices, and with the continued cold will likely last until midweek next week.

The photo above is of a robin eating fruits from a tree on Pioneer Street.  These fruits have been available for several months and are only now being eaten.  It suggests that they are only being eaten because the birds have little choice.

It’s the same thing with berries on holly trees.  During prolonged periods of cold with snow on the ground some holly bushes in Ridgefield have been stripped of their berries.  The fruits may not have the nutritional value that more available foods may have.

Fruits remaining on trees can ferment after the first frost and become toxic.   Deep snow means a challenge to wildlife that cannot forage for food on the ground.  Robins eat fruit but also worms, insects, and spiders. Robins don’t feed from bird feeders but will take food scattered on the ground.   The Audubon society recommends putting out foods such as chopped apples, grapes, and raisins.  They will take meal worms that can be purchased in pet stores as well.

Since the deep snow and cold are going to last for a time, it makes sense to help wildlife by putting out food for them.  Scott and Kathy Hughes have food for birds and squirrels at the hardware store and Petco has mealworms.  Robins and other birds need a water source to drink and bathe so if it’s not too cold a birdbath can provide water.  An upside down garbage can lid filled with water works as temporary birdbath.

Thanks to Paul Snoey for this information.

Shiny Geranium a Threat

This fall the road through the woods to Allen Canyon Creek through Les Greear’s Ranch suddenly turned bright green with the autumn rains.  It has been taken over by a small weed called shiny geranium which is something new in Ridgefield.  Not only has it appeared suddenly but it has taken over several acres.

Shiny Geranium - close up

Shiny Geranium – close up

This plant has only been in the Pacific Northwest for a couple of decades but is rapidly expanding its range in both Oregon and Washington.  It is a threat to natural areas because it can crowd out native vegetation. The seeds appear during our fall rains.

In Ridgefield it was discovered in the landscaping at the post office north parking lot and two adjacent properties.  On Pioneer Street it is begun establishing itself west of the 45th Avenue roundabout to the Gee Creek Bridge.

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A search for it in the rest of town and south of town has not shown a single plant.  Because it is only in a few places so far there is a good chance there can be some control if it can be eliminated.  We have notified the city of its presence and Clark County Weed Management.

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The Post Office has given us permission to have volunteers remove it by hand and I have written a property owner on Pioneer for permission to remove it from his property. If this plant can be eliminated from the Pioneer Street right-of-way and from the few properties where it’s been found, then there is a chance it can be prevented from spreading.  If it gets into natural areas such as along Gee Creek it could take over vulnerable areas and be very difficult to remove.

Clark County has produced a brochure:  Shiny geranium brochure (PDF)

Written by Paul Snoey

Cooper’s Hawk

coopers-hawk

From Paul Snoey:

If you drive up Bertsinger Rd, andclimb up the hill After a few turns, there is a house on a corner that has a gazebo in the front yard.

In driving by last week-end I saw a large bird fly across the yard and land on the railing.  It was a hawk and it was excited.  It flew from side to side across the gazebo and even flew down to the floor twice and jumped around.  It was staring intently at the ground both inside and outside the gazebo.  It was on the hunt.  After several minutes it gave up and flew away.

The refuge office helped to identify the hawk from the photos as a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.  It looks very much like its cousin the Sharp-Shinned Hawk and the two young hawks are hard to tell apart.  Both birds are agile predators of small birds.   They both have learned to stay near bird feeders much to the dismay of bird lovers who put out food to attract song birds.

Who knows what this hawk was after but there were many walnut shells on the railing and Coopers do sometimes take squirrels.

Clear Water in Allen Canyon Creek

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The photo above is of Allen Canyon Creek at the bottom of Allen Canyon.  The photo was taken Tuesday morning October 18th.  It was a pleasant surprise to see it running so clean and clear after the heavy rains we’ve had.

The new housing subdivisions near Pioneer and N 45th Ave are in the Allen Canyon Creek watershed.  The clean water is in part due to proper erosion control practices and properly functioning storm water facilities.  Doing things right makes for healthy watersheds and streams so that’s pleasing.  In a few weeks a few Coho may return to the site where Les Greear maintains an incubator.

Allen Canyon Creek is a very small stream that now dries up with the summer drought.   That is the most serious problem this creek has.   There are several dams with ponds upstream which provide water for stock and for homeowner’s enjoyment.

It’s possible that by working with the owners of these ponds flows can be restored. Even a small flow would make a difference.

Construction of new Storm Water Main Begins

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Tapani Underground has begun replacing the 12” storm water pipe that serves the north end of old town with a 24” pipe.

The larger pipe size will prevent flooding and will allow more connections to be made to improve drainage.  There will be no treatment of the storm water on this section and that is disappointing.

Public works director Bryan Kast has stated the new line is being built in such a way as to make installing a treatment facility easier at a later time.  If things had been done differently, however, upsizing the line and having treatment could have been part of the same project and the costs would be much lower.

The improvement in water quality will have to wait.  —Paul Snoey