Swifts Night Out this Saturday, September 13, 2014 by Leslie Seaton

 And they came back! The sky was filled with them.

In the fall and spring, Monroe, WA, is the spot to observe some of nature's delightful weirdness. Small birds called Vaux's Swifts (pronounced "voxes") use a local chimney as a roosting spot during their migration. 

Not just some birds or a few birds but A LOT of birds. Last night's count was over 10,000, all descending at dusk within a few minutes into a single large chimney. 

The birds put on a group aerial display that is beautiful and strange and sort of even slightly magical even though it's just a completely explainable natural phenomenon. Taking a trip to Monroe to see the swifts is something I look forward to every year. 

You can see it any day at dusk during migration, but once during the fall season, Monroe makes a fun community event of it, with informative displays, a bird chat, spaghetti feed, crafts for kids, more. If you are free this Saturday, consider checking it out!

And if you can't make it this weekend, it's still worth a visit on a non-event day. See the Monroe Swifts site for the most recent count and to learn if the swifts are still flying. 

Highly recommend!

Click here for a full gallery of the swifts

Three years ago today: May Valley Trail by Leslie Seaton

 Slug. I am assuming banana.

Not every trip to the woods is a picturesque sylvan ramble. Sometimes one is instead grimly stepping around horseshit, mating slugs and corpse plants. Like this visit three years ago to the May Valley Trail. Preview below, full gallery here. NSFSW. (Not Safe for Slug Work due to graphic nature of some of the slug pictures. Probably safe for human work.) 

May Valley Trail, August 5, 2011

July encounters with flora and fauna by Leslie Seaton

I am about to post another "three years ago today..." post, and felt like I ought to just insert a quick "not three years ago" note just to break it up a little. I'll be posting more in-depth galleries of each of the below, but here are some highlights of the flora and fauna I met in July, including seals, raptors, chimps, a really aggressively affectionate elk, grizzlies (ok the bears were just via second-hand tales), peanut butter trees, berries, bees (of course).

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Three years ago today: Cascade Head Trail by Leslie Seaton

Three years ago today, I was down in Lincoln City, OR, for a weekend planned around a seaweed foraging class. The class was on Sunday, so on Saturday, I decided to do a hike in the area. I lucked out with happening upon this Cascade Head Trail, a very beautiful Nature Conservancy hike.

As I note in the full gallery (click here for that), at that time, I usually specifically avoided hikes with any elevation gain, but this time, I think I forgot to check, and by the time I figured out what was happening, I was already sucked in by the beauty and trudged on. It's really not that much elevation gain, but for me it was a stretch.

This hike was perhaps the beginning of my Slug Awareness, and although it was another year and another hike (Bridal Veil Falls) that truly kicked off a desire to challenge myself more with hikes with elevation gains, I still look back at this as yet another turning point in my relationship with the outdoors. 

It was also the first in what has become an accidental annual tradition of doing a view hike on or near my birthday. Last year, once I realized I'd done a view hike for three years in a row, I decided this will be a new tradition, the Getting Up There Annual Birthday Hike. This week, it's my birthday again, and I've got a couple hikes planned Thursday and Friday of this week, and I'll report back on that trudging later.

Click here for the full gallery.