Oak Creek Wildlife Area Elk

Each herd is led by a dominant mail, most of whom have retained their enormous antlers well into March.  Yet despite the enormous number of these animals more and more continue to stroll down from the huge hill behind the feeding ground. What a thing to see!

Have you ever seen an elk herd of close to one thousand animal? Well if you visit the winter feeding event at Oak Creek Wildlife Area in Naches you will! For both adults and children it is truly an amazing, highly entertaining, and educational sight. Located in Naches on Highway 12 in Yakima county this practice has been going on for many years. I was surprised, however, at how many of my friends were unaware of this yearly occurrence. The past year was adversely affected by COVID disease restrictions but that is now over. I am sorry for not putting this out earlier but getting through snowy White Pass this winter prevented my visit more than once. The winter feeding season usually begins about January and goes on through March. For more details about the time to visit and information about the wildlife are I recommend this website:

Upper Valley Bulletin Board

And even if you miss the elk feed there is still a lot more to see and do in the wildlife park. That area is a wildlife wonder and geological observation experience. It is my favorite place in Washington state.

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Pigeons

One of the main differences between these species is the longer tail of the Band-tail, the white mark on its neck. The beak of the Rock Pigeon displays a white mark. Rock Pigeons, however, are know for their color variations, while the Band-tails are very consistent.

Yes, they are a common avian, but like all animals they have a couple of interesting facts about their life. Here in the Northwest we often see two species – the Rock Pigeon, also commonly called a Rock Dove, and the Band-tailed Pigeon. The Rock Pigeon, like hundreds of other animals in our country, was introduced from Europe a couple of hundred years ago. The Band-tailed Pigeon is our native breed and regular inhabitant of western Washington. From my experience the Rock Pigeons seem to love life near the coast; in fact, the pictures above were taken on the building of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center during my visit there this weekend. The Band-tailed Pigeon was photographed in my backyard, where they pop up quite often. Both of these birds possess a unique talent – they “milk” their babies! Mom and dad both do this using a secretion from their esophagus called crop milk. Not many other bird species do this but it is more common among the doves.

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Northwest Salamander

Also commonly known as the Northwest Brown Salamander, this fairly large member of the order Caudata is a species of the Ambystomatidae family. This family of amphibians are called mole salamanders due to their preference to burrow underground. Although they range from sea level up to 10,00 feet and are common here in the northwest, these big guys are not often seen, thanks, of course, to their underground, under everything preference. Although I’ve seen them on our property before, this particular specimen was a surprise. Doing some yard work right after our rare December snow season, and yet still in the middle of freezing temperatures, my wife discovered this one under a stack of leaves in our front yard. Somehow this animal had toughed it out and survived despite not being way underground. I have other photographs of a Northwest Salamander in my book “Let’s See What’s Under There.” That one is almost 10 inches long, so this one probably has some more growing to do. And I’ll do my best to make sure it gets there!

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Great Tiger Moth

When the weather begins to warm up you are likely to see a common and colorful variation of moths on your outdoor wall known commonly as a Tiger Moth.  According to Merrill Peterson’s “Pacific Northwest Insects” ( a wonderful book) there are 9 different species of Tiger Moths. Each of them have noticeable color variations but one in particular is quite distinctive. Some time ago I caught photos of that one – the Great Tiger Moth. Of all the Tiger Moth family members the Great Tiger Moth boasts the most resemblance to the big cat, and looking at one head on easily demonstrates where that common name came from.

My Bearded Dragons

These reptiles are active climbers add something in for their preferred exercise. A “hot rock,” overhead heat lamps and lights, plus a small water container are necessary. That little thermometer is a big help, especially now in this winter weather. Recently I’ve had to add an outside electric heater to keep them warm overnight.

Here on my website I usually only highlight information about wildlife and nature native to our Northwest territories. Several months ago, however, I got quite curious about a very popular species of lizards native to Australia. I had seen them in pet stores numerous times and questioned on zoological sites so often I went to PetSmart and bought a couple of Bearded Dragons. 6 Months of experience later I would like to pass on what I’ve learned. To begin with these are these most tame, hand friendly reptiles I’ve ever had experience with. I’ve raised iguanas, geckos, chameleons, boa constrictors, and a dozen other serpent species but none have been so easy to handle as my bearded dragons. I do not know why. That requires some more research, but it certainly is one of the reasons they are so popular as pets. I hope this companionship continues because these lizards can reach almost two feet in length and ten years of age. I’ll have reptilian friends for a long time. As you see from the photos above their sizes are currently quite different. Both of them were about three inches long when purchased last July but now (tail included) one is over four inches and the other over nine inches long. The larger one was more aggressive right from the start, so that is probably the reason he outgrew his partner. It could be a male – female difference. More to follow on that. The common care data bout them is true. They like mealworms and crickets, but are also very fond of lettuce. And as they age their preferences for each have changed. In the first couple of months I had them the big guy totally ignored veggies and his small friend liked it. Now those preferences have switched. Both still eat insects and lettuce, of course, I am just now surprised at the big guy’s new eagerness for veggies. Enclosure temperature for these desert origin animals is important. Yes, they do prefer at least 90 degrees so make sure you have a heat lamp and reptile hot rock in the terrarium. Finding overall care for them is not difficult but here a couple things you may not find:

  • Enclosure temperatures that drop below 80 degrees will not kill them, but do not let this continue for too long. Below 80 degrees they stop moving and eating.

  • When they are new born little guys, daily feeding is important but after they have reached about 6 inches, missing a day or two of food does not excessively harm them.

  • They make a mess! Now this is something pet shop folks may tell you know about. At least once every two weeks I have to thoroughly clean their terrarium. The large, very obvious, poops cannot and should not be ignored. Due to this I measured and cut a piece of canvas for the terrarium floor. This I can take out, spray it clean, dry it off, and put it back in fairly quickly.

  • The electric “hot rock” I bought came with a waring not to use it on anything but a glass aquarium. Fortunately the terrarium I had was something I built from glass.

  • Another thing to keep in mind is that these reptiles do require cricket and mealworm food, and that means you will be purchasing these insects quite a bit. I’m in the process of learning how to raise my own. More to follow on that.

Snoqualmie Falls

Want to visit a remarkable state park during your holiday break? One that’s not far away, easy to get to, and not buried in snow thanks to a lower elevation? I recommend Snoqualmie Falls. The Snoqualmie Waterfall is 270 feet high, very wide, and astounding in intensity of flow. The waterfall and the river it falls into are amazing scenes. An easy, child safe, pet friendly hiking trail takes you to beautiful views of the fall and the Snoqualmie River. But that’s not all. Along the way you will come very close to extraordinarily interesting trees, some of which are sprouting up from old growth. Some of these things don’t even look real! Hence my inspiration to take and display these pictures. There is one thing I want to caution you about, however. The park has a fairly small parking area at the entrance so a week day visit is probably best. But even on busy weekends visitors generally move in and out quickly. So just sit tight and wait – you’ll get in – and it will be worthwhile.

Sunny Mallard View

Once again I want to share a view of a common animal in a unique setting. This time a mallard duck. Of course, we’ve seen these popular waterfowl all over the place. In addition to their spread throughout America they have s surprisingly worldwide distribution. More to follow on this very successful avid, but for now I just want to share the effect of just the right sunlight. The generally bright blue head of the male turns green. And although you normally see them swimming, they do step out of the water from time to time. That’s when, sunlight permitting, you will see their amazing bright red legs. It surprised – and delighted – me!

Dark-EYED JUNCO Thanksgiving!

You’ve probably seen this cute little bird many times in your backyard or elsewhere, and not just in Washington. The six sub species of Juncos live throughout Canada, the United States and into Mexico. Observe them for any length of time and you will quickly become aware of their ground feeding preferences of seeds and insects. And you will likely see more than one or two of these birds. They usually gather together in small flocks. But even the most common animal is sometimes observed doing something unique. And if you have your camera handy it is worth the picture – exactly what I thought when I took this shot. I’ve seen Dark-Eyed Juncos over and over but this is the first time I observed a cute little momma feeding her baby. I thought it was a great one for Thanksgiving. Wish you a happy one!

ID Wildlife Sample

I had the opportunity to visit Idaho last week. When my day job was over I naturally headed out to the nearest open space. The first thing I ran into was this young coyote. Note how well it’s fur color blends into the tumble weeds and other vegetation. The wild canine displayed its typical behavior by curiously staring at me for a while before running off and disappearing. Being the log turn over guy I am, I also rolled over the first one I found and got this interesting shot. I thought I had only managed a picture of little white termites, but when I developed the photo I noted the small centipede grabbing one for dinner. These little centipedes are are seldom more than one inch long and extremely common around the Boise area. If you have any issues with termites around your home, here’s a way to control them – and their service is free! They can’t help much with coyote control, however.

Dragonflies!

A pair of mating Cardinal Meadowhawks make babies while  a Widow Skimmer shows off its amazing wing apparatus.

I happened to be in West Virginia  a couple of weeks ago at the Camp Dawson National Guard center. Doing my usual thing during my lunch break I headed out to the open area in search of wildlife. I love all species, of course, but dragon flies are one of my favorites. The pond where I settled down when it was time to dine was loaded with these fascinating insects. More details to follow, but for now I want to share these photos in order to show the complexity of their wings. I LIKES it!