There will be many new trails to follow on Vashon in 2019. Some will be literal such as the new loop trail at Maury Island Marine Park opening this year, which includes spectacular views of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound to the north and south. Others are metaphorical trails that lead to education, understanding or activism.
The Vashon Nature Center (VNC) will offer its beach naturalist course again this spring. This is an amazing opportunity to learn all about Vashon’s beaches and what kinds of creatures live and depend on them. The course includes a series of expert lectures by professional marine scientists and weekend field trips to Vashon’s beaches.
Naturalist training is great preparation to volunteer for one of VNC’s citizen science projects such as BeachNET. Volunteers work with scientists to monitor the health of our shorelines. Maria Metler runs this year-round program and welcomes new volunteers of any level. You can get started by emailing her at email@example.com.
Vashon Nature Center volunteers will also be working on SWAG: the Storm Water Action Group in the new year. This project will help monitor changes in stream health due to management improvements from rain garden installations to log jams. Bianca Perla, firstname.lastname@example.org, is running the program this month and again in the fall.
Last year VNC collected DNA from our local salmon and the results should be available in 2019. They should tell us more about where our salmon comes from and answer several questions: Are they a unique population? Did they wander here from larger streams? Were they originally hatchery fish that have returned, or are they some mix of these populations?
If charismatic megafauna are more your speed, VNC will discuss sharks during its quarterly Nature Lounge this spring, and throughout the year it will host a series of scientific talks on the biology and behavior of mountain lions, coyotes, bear and deer.
The Wildcam Vashon program continues in 2019 with cameras monitoring barn owl nesting, coyotes, deer and who knows what else. Anyone can be a Wildcam monitor by contacting VNC at email@example.com.
With the latest Christmas Bird Count under its belt, Vashon-Maury Island Audubon is entering its 30th year and will celebrate its anniversary in June. This month its popular Audubon speaker series continues with the Owls of North America by photographer Paul Bannick on Jan. 15 at the Vashon Theatre. Additional talks throughout the year will focus on topics including birds and climate change and the history of Vashon Audubon.
Finally, if you’ve never been on one of Vashon Audubon’s monthly field trips, make this the year you do so. These free trips are led by master birders Ezra and Harsi Parker on the second Saturday of each month. They know where to see the best birds in each season: seabirds and ducks in the winter, migrants in spring and fall, and shorebirds in the summer. Details on these trips and all of the events above are listed throughout the year in the Field Notes Calendar. Make 2019 the year you venture out on a new nature trail and see where it takes you.
Garry oaks, native to Washington
The very old Garry oak on the Burton peninsula is one of Vashon’s landmark trees and locally known as The Broccoli Tree. Native Garry oaks, also known as Oregon white oaks, range from northern California to Vancouver Island and are the only native oaks in Washington state. They’re both drought and fire resistant making them likely to withstand climate change.
Garry oaks typically grow in dry savannah and open woodland ecosystems supporting many bird and animal species. They thrived in this region before they were named after Nicolas Garry of the Hudson Bay Company because native tribes conducted periodic burns to remove competing conifers and give the oaks room to spread out.
To plant them successfully, dig a deep hole because the taproot must point straight down, water and protect from deer in the early years, and since burning is impractical, mow to keep invasive species and Doug fir seedlings down. Then try to live long enough to see your Garry oak mature.
Bare-root Garry oaks are available online now at the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust Native Plant Sale and the King Conservation District Native Bare-root Plant Sale. Please see the Field Notes Calendar for details.