More info on why Butterflies Puddle

Photo taken at the edge of Gee Creek last week

When butterflies mate the male gives a lot of sodium to the female.  The extra sodium helps with the development of the eggs. Nectar from flowers contains sugar but little sodium. To get the lost sodium back the males will look for wet areas that have concentrations of salt. Although these butterflies are puddling together, they are actually competing. The one that can mate with the most females will pass on more of his genes. The more quickly a male can restore the missing salt, the more quickly he can seek another female. Guys getting together for drinks but looking for females is not unheard of.   – Paul Snoey

Swallowtail Butterflies on Gee Creek

Male Western Tiger Swallow-tail butterflies will sometimes congregate in wet areas seeking nutrients.  The term for this behavior is mud-puddling.  These butterflies were seen today on the west side of Gee Creek downstream from Abrams Park.  There were 32 that I counted with some leaving and new arrivals dropping in on occasion.

Goats at Storm Water Facility

There are about 50 animals in a Bellwood Heights storm water facility on Heron Ridge Drive.  They’ve been eating the plentiful grass from a wet spring.  It’s mostly sheep with a pair of llamas and a few goats as well.  It seems to be a popular place: cars stop, children get out, and they enjoy watching the animals.  Grass is poor nutrition and grass eating animals must eat a lot of it to get the nourishment they need.  This means a lot of manure and urine produced.    This facility has already has had a great deal of manure put in it. You can see it on the ground and even smell it if the wind is right.  This may not be a good thing.  A storm water facility is a place for treating storm water.  The purpose is to remove nutrients and sediments and release it to a water body as clean water.  Having goats and sheep to control vegetation is great in many situations.

Vineyards and organic farms see this as an alternative to herbicides for controlling unwanted weeds and grass.  During times of rainfall surface water from several blocks flows through this facility.  As a consequence of too many animals, nutrients and coliform bacteria could be carried into Gee Creek.   There is rain predicted for Thursday, June 15th.   If there is enough rain to move storm water through this facility, it would be a good day to find out if there is a problem.

Thanks for Paul Snoey for this information.

New Trees Thrive

Tevis Laspa provided 80 cedars and 50 Douglas firs for Gee Creek.  They have been planted in Abrams Park along the creek by the soccer field and below Division Street. Many are also planted in the field by the Heron Ridge Bridge.  The cages and rodent collars were provided by Paul Snoey, who also planted them using potting soil rather than the native compacted clay.  Without cages, most trees would be taken by beavers.

The trees are doing very well this spring.  Our cool wet weather has helped them get a good start.   It is important to keep them from being overwhelmed by brush and to water them the first year if necessary.

Trees benefit the creek by helping to stabilize the stream bank and help the stream stay cool by providing shade.  Shade also helps with controlling many nonnative plants such as reed canary grass and blackberries.

It is estimated that a one hundred year old Douglas fir will have removed 7 tons of carbon dioxide over its lifetime, so the new trees will help our city reduce its carbon footprint.  Part of the restoration of Gee Creek has been to remove plants such as blackberries and knotweed and replace them with native plants.


Milkweed Plants Emerging

Last year Paul Snoey gave away more than 200 plants and seed packets of narrow leafed milkweed collected from the Gorge.  Several of the plants were given to Kay Stringfellow, who planted hers near the entrance to the Pickled Heron Gallery.  Paul has been watching for them to emerge and have wondered if they survived the winter.   In the last few days of warmth and sunshine, they have begun to put up shoots. Others that have planted milkweed  should see theirs emerge soon as well.

Monarch butterflies time their arrival with the emergence of milkweed plants and generally lay their eggs on young plants.  It would be unlikely that monarchs will come this year but as the population of milkweeds grows in the next few years, Ridgefield may get some.

In the meantime, the plants should bloom this year and are an excellent resource for bees and butterflies. They are drought and deer resistant so should do well here in the summertime.  The population of monarchs is still very low but there are many efforts from private people and public agencies to restore them.  Planting milkweeds and pollinator friendly plants free from herbicides and insecticides is something we all can do.

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.


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.


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


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


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.