Happy spring everyone! Winter proved to be quite the formidable season. At the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center we experienced heavy weather events, slides in the Skagit Gorge and even a snowy Mountain School session. As we move into spring the days are longer, the sun shines a little more often and the buds are bursting on the plants in the Skagit Valley. It’s getting greener every day!
After a quiet yet eventful winter, the road to the Environmental Learning Center is becoming busier. Snow slides occasionally blocked travel routes upriver, rain fell persistently in the lower valley, and snow-covered leaf buds stayed dormant, waiting for warmer days. As early as January, however, signs of spring were emerging in the valley. As winter ended and spring began we saw some phenological changes in the Skagit:
- Feb. 9: A snowslide closed SR 20 at Newhalem. All WA mountain passes were closed.
- Feb. 18: American robins (Turdus migratorius) are seen up valley.
- March 18: Two western meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta), rare migrant birds in the Upper Skagit, are seen near Diablo on the same day as a Brewer’s blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) and a red-shafted northern flicker (Colaptes auratus).
- March 20: The official start of spring is marked by the Spring Equinox. Violet green swallows (Tachycineta thalassina) and Ruby crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) are first seen in the Upper Skagit.
- April 3: The daffodils (Narcissus) are blooming between Sedro-Woolley and Marblemount.
- April 9: A black bear (Ursus americanus) was spotted in Diablo.
- April 14: There are open leaf buds on a dogwood (Cornus s. occidentalis) in Marblemount.
Phenology at the ELC
As spring progresses, the 16th M.Ed. graduate cohort (C16) are busy documenting phenological changes on a weekly basis at the Environmental Learning Center and in Marblemount. Here are some of our findings and notable observations:
Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)
Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)
Blue House plot (facing northwest)
Sharing the Changes
As we move further into spring I find myself easily overwhelmed with the innumerable changes happening all around. If you are like me and find the many overlapping birdsongs and clustered plants hard to differentiate, here are two helpful resources that will hopefully aid in your species identification: the Cornell Lab Bird Guide and the UW Burke Museum botany and herbarium collections. I hope this season brings renewed energy and spirit to all in the NCI community.
Written by Smokey Brine – Phenology Graduate Assistant
All photographs courtesy of Smokey Brine