Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Pacificus Borealis Occidens

Do you know this bird and plant?

In 2017, the Loop Trail in the Washington Park Arboretum was completed. As part of the project the upper portion of the Arboretum Creek channel was improved, native Pacific Northwest (PNW) plants were added along the shores, and pedestrian bridges were built where the Loop Trail crossed the stream. I certainly hope you have had a chance to visit and experience these wonderful improvements. 

For example, this native Black Twinberry was planted along the stream in 2017. In the past, I have seldom seen native Rufous Hummingbirds in the Arboretum. However, this Spring, 2020, I was incredibly excited to find this one feeding on this flowering Twinberry, next to Arboretum Creek.

Since native creatures are already familiar with native flora they are attracted by them. Plus, native life tends to co-exist with a wider variety of lifeforms as compared to invasive creatures or plants. As a result, to maximize diversity and help the ecosystem to flourish native PNW lifeforms are a top priority. 

While the Loop Trail project was underway, my friend, and fellow Master Birder, Dave Galvin and I realized that additional improvements were still needed to help the area around the creek to flourish. The stream needed, and needs, year-round water flow. (The upper portion stops flowing in the summer. The water in the stagnant pools becomes too warm to support native fish. The lack of fish explains why fish-eating birds cannot be found along the creek.) Additional native plants will also help to draw a much wider variety of creatures. Plus, removing the lower portion of the stream from the currently stifling culvert will allow a wider variety of aquatic life to enter the creek from Union Bay. 

Note: Thank you to the Washington Park Staff who continue to negotiate with the Washington State Department of Transportation to have the culvert removed. This is expected to happen on or before the new 520 freeway is completed.

With help from many sources, Dave and I started the local non-profit, Friends of Arboretum Creek. Our initial focus has been on returning additional clean, year-round flow to the stream. This year the design options to accomplish this goal are beginning to be evaluated thanks to a grant from the King County Waterworks program (more about how you can help below). Also, Dave has worked, tirelessly, to secure a Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund grant which is helping to envision a truly flourishing Arboretum Creek.

The exceptional local artist and illustrator, Gail Wong, has been hired. With guidance from Arboretum Staff (Thank You to Ray, Wendy, and Amanda.) potential planting improvements are beginning to be visualized as well as some of the lifeforms they are expected to attract. This sketch is just a step along the way to one of Gail's full-color illustrations. 

One of the goals for Friends of Arboretum Creek is to help us all learn to identify both native and invasive flora and fauna. This post, will allow you to demonstrate or improve your knowledge. 

Since the names of lifeforms sometimes giveaway their heritage numbers and scientific names are being used to initially identify the flora and fauna in the following photos. You might take a sheet of paper, write down one through twenty-four, and then add whether that life form is native or invasive. You could also write in their common names if you know them. Otherwise, a key will be provided below with the numbers, eco-status, and common names. Good Luck!

1. Oemleria cerasiformis

2. Trachemys scripta elegans

3. Geranium robertianum

4. Pseudacris regilla

5. Sturnus vulgaris

6. Lithobates catesbeianus

7. The Fish - Misgurnus anguillicaudatus
8. The Bird - Podilymbus podiceps

9. Megaceryle alcyon

10. The Fish - Cyprinus carpio
11. The Bird -  Butorides virescens
12. The Plant - Nymphaea odorata

13. The Plant - Taraxacum officinale 
14. The Butterfly - Pieris rapae

15. The Bird - Setophaga townsendi
16. The Tree - Thuja plicata

17. Lonicera ciliosa

18. Aesculus hippocastanum

19. Rubus armeniacus

20. Acer circinatum

21. Sidalcea hendersonii

22. Sambucus racemosa

23. Libellula forensis

24. Mahonia aquifolium

A special, Thank you!, to Dennis Paulson who has taught me (and probably many of you) about the majority of these lifeforms.

1. Indian Plum, Native
2. Red-eared Slider, Invasive
3. Stinky Bob, Invasive
4. Pacific Tree Frog, Native
5. European Starling, Invasive
6. American Bullfrog, Invasive
7. Oriental Weatherfish, Invasive
8. Pied-billed Grebe, Native
9. Belted Kingfisher, Native
10. Common Carp, Invasive
11. Green Heron, Native
12. Fragrant Water Lily, Invasive
13. Common Dandelion, Native
14. Cabbage White, Invasive
15. Townsend's Warbler, Native
16. Western Red Cedar, Native
17. Orange Honeysuckle, Native
18. Horse Chestnut, Invasive*
19. Himalayan Blackberry, Invasive
20. Vine Maple, Native
21. Henderson's Checkermallow, Native
22. Red Elderberry, Native
23. Eight-spotted Skimmer, Native
24. Tall Oregon Grape, Native

* Of all the lifeforms which I labeled invasive, the Horse Chestnut is the most debatable one. Since trees have longer lifespans and are slower to mature than other flora, they are not as quick to invade. For example, the non-native collection trees in the Arboretum are selected and expected to be non-invasive. 


Virtual Community Meeting

October 15th at 5pm

Goal: to explore flow options for reconnecting Alder, Alley, and Arboretum Creeks.
The possibilities are endless. Your input is desired!

Access Instructions at https://arboretumcreek.wordpress.com

Sponsored by Friends of Arboretum Creek


In case you are wondering about the title of this post, Pacificus Borealis Occidens - it is Latin for Pacific North West. My belief is that people who choose to live in a place have a responsibility to learn and know the native flora and fauna. Without a fundamental knowledge of the local lifeforms, it is impossible to gauge the impact of one's decisions. Ignorance and indifference to local life leads to "cloned" city-scapes with no obvious connection to the natural world that surrounds and sustains them. Love and appreciation of the local lifeforms will lead to more places like Union Bay!

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city and Black Birders are welcome!


Going Native:

Without a well-funded Environmental Protection Agency, it falls to each of us to be ever more vigilant in protecting our local environments. Native plants and trees encourage the largest diversity of lifeforms because of their long intertwined history with our local environment and native creatures. I have been told that even the microbes in the soil are native to each local landscape. I hope we can inspire ourselves, our neighbors, and local businesses to respect native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. I have learned that our most logical approach to native trees and plants (in order of priority) should be to:

1) Learn and leave established native flora undisturbed.
2) Remove invasive species and then wait to see if native plants begin to grow without assistance. (If natives plants start on their own, then these plants or trees are likely the most appropriate flora for the habitat.)
3) Scatter seeds from nearby native plants in a similar habitat.
4) If you feel you must add a new plant then select a native plant while considering how the plant fits with the specific habitat and understanding the plant's logical place in the normal succession of native plants.

My intention in my weekly post is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms. 

By the way, my friend Tom Brown pointed out that the application named 'Wildflower Search' is extremely helpful. Click on the highlighted link to see for yourself.

Which species of crayfish is this? Is it native to Union Bay?


Scroll down for the answer.


Signal Crayfish: Yes. It is native to the PNW and Union Bay. This cell phone photo was taken from above Arboretum Creek at the point where it disappears into the underground pipe - below the Wilcox Pedestrian Bridge. Clicking on the name will take you to a very informative pdf which, among other things, explains that the white joint on the claws indicates this crayfish is a native Signal Crayfish. (Brief video below.)


The Email Challenge:

Over the years I have had many readers tell me that Google is no longer sending them email announcements regarding my posts. Even more frustrating when they go to 're-sign-up', hoping that will enable them to once again start receiving the announcements, they get a message which says 'Sorry, you are already signed up.' Google has not responded to my requests for help with this issue. 

My functional workaround is to set up my own email list and each week I manually send out a new post announcement. If you are experiencing the issue and would like to be added to my personal email list please send me an email requesting to be added. Thank you for your patience!

My email address is: LDHubbell@Comcast.Net


Signal Crayfish Video:


  1. One of your very best educational posts, Larry. Liked the plant quiz a lot---very helpful.

    Max Warner

  2. One of your very best posts, Larry. Especially like the plant quiz. Very helpful.

    Max Warner