Riverside Ramble, with UFDs and a Cameo Appearance by My Cat

Seattle’s about to do its Memorial Day thing, where it gets all cloudy and probably rains. But today, it graced us with one perfect summery day. So I nipped down to the river for a ramble before coming back to hang out with the cat.

Sammamish River from bridge at The Park at Bothell Landing

The river’s been pretty well tamed down here. There used to be a fair amount of boat traffic, and the river got dredged and straightened for flood control and transportation purposes, if I remember the sign right. It’s thoroughly domesticated now. And once Lake Washington was lowered, it lost its purpose as a highway of sorts. You’ll see the occasional small boat and plenty of kayaks, but no commercial shipping.

Bridge over untroubled waters

The riverside trail is wide and paved, with mountain bikers zipping by, and birds singing lustily in the trees, but showing themselves to a photographer only long enough to go “Ha, ha, you’ll never get your camera aimed in time!” before flying off into thick vegetation. I heard a woodpecker, and lots of songbirds, and saw some raptors soaring before the buggers soared behind the trees and didn’t come back out. There were little brown birds, one of which I caught on camera. You’ll probably tell me it’s some sort of invasive sparrow.


Here’s a cropped image for those who wish to identify. I just like the large one because it’s got that strange red patch on the tree, and shows what I contend with trying to photograph birds round here.

LBB closeup

Someday, some genius will make a camera that understands what you’re trying to do, so that when I’m shouting, “No, no, don’t focus on the leaves and twigs! I want the bird! The bird!!” the camera will go, “Oh, right, sorry” and focus on the proper bit.

It did a fantastic job with the beaver-chewed tree, though.

Beaver's been busy

I think the little bastards have designs on damming the river, as if the river hasn’t got enough problems. This was a fairly large tree, too. Evelyn told me the young beavers out East get all cocky and hey-look-at-me and fell very big trees which they then can’t do a thing with because they can’t drag them off to build dams or lodges, and the older beavers laugh and are all like, “Silly youngster, see if you laugh while we cut down small trees now!” The poor large tree that died for nothing just lies there in a sad heap, although I’m sure there’s plenty of fungi and insects and other critters that find it very useful indeed. Just not useful for the beavers.

The beaver's handiwork

I did a project on beavers in elementary school. I remember doing the research while we were driving back to Indiana in the middle of winter, through blizzards and freezing rains and all sorts of things, because Grandpa had had a heart attack. I’d read a bit about beavers, and then set that aside to watch my father trying to navigate increasingly awful roads. Then we got to Indiana, and I forgot all about beavers because my grandma and I were exploring the possibilities of hospital food and gift shops, and telling Dolly Parton jokes. My grandfather turned out to be fine. I think he was a little embarrassed we’d come all that way in the winter just to see him in a hospital gown.

He and I never discussed beavers, either, that I recall.

Beaver tooth marks

I’d never actually seen a beaver in my life. But when we got home, I put together a nice project, complete with a papier-mâché beaver pond and dam and lodge, which drove my mother frantic, because we had a hard time running down papier-mâché. And I didn’t remember a single damned thing, aside from the fact that beavers build dams and lodges, and they do it with their teeth. Can you imagine? You’re a construction worker, and all you’ve got to work with is your teeth. That makes beavers pretty darn impressive in my book. And I’m always delighted when I come across their handiwork, even if it does turn out to be something done by a youngster who hasn’t quite grasped the concept of not biting off more than you can chew.

I also think “busy as a beaver” is something of a misnomer, as the only beaver I’ve known intimately was a lazy sod who never did manage to dam Forbes Creek.

Anyway. I spent an inordinate amount of time enjoying the beaver-chewed tree, and then stalking a bird that I heard rustling round in the bushes nearby. I got only this one shot.

Busy bird

It’s things like this that are making me consider doing a “Sasquatch Birds” series, because they remind me of that faked Sasquatch film where you can barely see the Sasquatch, except for glimpses. Only that was because it was some dude in an ape suit, and I rather doubt this is some dude in a bird suit. If it is, he was really damned small and he had feeding behaviors nailed. This small avian dinosaur was delightedly scratching around in the leaf litter on the bank finding nice things to eat. I just wish he’d found them in one of the areas with fewer bushes. Ah, well, I think it was a robin, anyway. So much for mystery.

So I ended up at Blyth Park, which is just a little ways down the river from The Park at Bothell Landing, and the grass was so full of daisies it looked like it had recently snowed daisies.

Daisy field with river

Blyth Park is on a bit of a bluff. If you go down the stairs, there’s a place where you can see a little bit of the glacial deposits everything stands on, cut by the river, but it’s not much. Just a handful of pebbly outwash. Considering that’s pretty much the only geology not covered in thick vegetation on this walk, it’s better than nothing, but it just didn’t seem worth photographing this time round.

And then there was the old trestle bridge, and the kayakers. I can’t see kayaks without missing Evelyn now.

Kayaks on the river

I was briefly tempted to rent one for old time’s sake, but it probably would have gone very badly for me, as I don’t yet know how to steer.

Then it was time to wander back, as I was beginning to starve. I saw a seagull perched atop the Bothell Landing bridge, which for some strange reason tickled my fancy.

Seagull sentry

And there’s a spot where you can almost always count on ducks, although no ducklings just now, alas. I wandered over for a visit, and admired their iridescent heads, which in this light were bluer than I’d ever seen them.

Sleepy rapists

Of course, I can’t see a male duck anymore without thinking of odd genitalia and calling them rapists. Thanks, Ed. Just for you: the most demure rapist I’ve ever seen.

Demure rapist

I like the way their heads go from ultramarine to teal, depending on the angle at which sunlight strikes them.

Off home, then, to spend quality time on the porch with kitteh. She becomes a complete porch addict in the summer time. We hung out there, and ate bread and cheese and watermelon and strawberries and pineapple, and finished off with a bit of gelato, which she helped with. She snuggled in with the New Hampshire rocks, which are currently homeless due to me not having created shelf space for them yet.

Kitteh and NH rocks

I treasure these lazy summer days. Seattle doesn’t give us many of them, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. At least the air isn’t like a blast furnace five seconds after spring arrives. And it smells wonderful, and sounds delightful, and when it’s just me and my kiddo basking in the sun, it’s perfect.

I hope, my darlings, that you end up with a collection of perfect summer days.

Riverside Ramble, with UFDs and a Cameo Appearance by My Cat

9 thoughts on “Riverside Ramble, with UFDs and a Cameo Appearance by My Cat

  1. rq

    Beavers are absolutely amazing engineers. They pack their dams with mud and grasses that make them extremely difficult to break down (everything gets woven together so that you can’t just remove one piece, everything needs to be untangled and it gets messy).
    When I was growing up, we’d make regular trips to the beaver stream to break down the dam, because it would flood the forest floor almost up to our backyard and the mosquitos would be nuts. They (the beavers) were fast, too – if we tore it down one day, in two days it would be back up and just as impressive. Sometime in early autumn we let them leave it up to have a nice deep pool of water for hibernating needs. But I’m still amazed by the intricacy of beaver work – no plans, no permits, but with simple materials and a whole lot of effort, they could make a water-proof wall taller than my dad.
    And apparently they ARE busy, doing most of their work underwater, but supposedly they’re constantly fixing and improving their structures, just not at times when humans are around to see.

    And the first bird is a species of sparrow again, I think. The more reddish ones are ones more partial to forests rather than cities.

  2. 2

    Sounds like somebody is ready for a more advanced camera:

    Someday, some genius will make a camera that understands what you’re trying to do, so that when I’m shouting, “No, no, don’t focus on the leaves and twigs! I want the bird! The bird!!” the camera will go, “Oh, right, sorry” and focus on the proper bit.

    These have already existed for a long time: some cameras have a simple collar around the lens that you turn to adjust the focus. Something like an Olympus Pen or Nikon 1 could be just the ticket. With a little practice you spin the collar past the focus point, then back past it the other way, then back to it stopping precisely on the proper bit. Squeeze the shutter release and the image is captured.

    Best of all, you never have to negotiate with some piece of software second-guessing what you want. It’s your brain, your hand, the subject and the camera.

  3. 4

    The first UFD is a song sparrow, I think. One of the native species adversely affected by the house sparrow of the previous UFD post. Still pretty common.

    The second one is a rufous-sided towhee, as I will insist on calling it. The ornithologists have, as their wont, changed the name apparently so it’s properly a spotted towhee. It’s appropriate that you caught it on the ground; they spend a lot of time there kicking the leaf litter back with their feet to find food.

    I’m betting there were, in fact, ducklings. All your mallards are males, who don’t take part in child-rearing. The females and ducklings may have been back in the shrubbery. Come August, when mating is not on the agenda, the male mallards will lose their green heads for a while. They also lose their flight feathers and are unable to fly for a couple of weeks.

    Also — KITTY. One of ours was going nuts about an hour ago so I tossed a blanket over her. She’s still under it, sleeping.

    Thanks for the UFD posts; I really enjoy them.

  4. 5

    There used to be a fair amount of boat traffic, and the river got dredged and straightened for flood control and transportation purposes, if I remember the sign right.

    I wouldn’t be surprised. The Sammamish reminds me a lot of the Delaware Canal, which was constructed along the Delaware River so small barges could carry stuff between the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia back in the 19th Century.

  5. 6

    The Sammamish River didn’t even used to be considered a river. It was better known, until pretty recently, as the Sammmamish Slough. Another place I should visit one of these days.

  6. 7

    Hi Trebuchet,
    What about the gull then? My guess is one of those annoying North Western things that hybridise with anything. (possibly not with Mallards though).

  7. 8

    Probably an immature Glaucous Winged Gull, since that’s the common species around here. Definitely an immature regardless. I wasn’t aware of them hybridizing, I’ll have to look that up!

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