Friday, August 26, 2011

Clouded Leopards at the Point Defiance Zoo

The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, WA, sometimes has members-only events, and last night they had a special event to celebrate this coming weekend's grand opening of the new Cats of the Canopy clouded leopard exhibit. A long line of people waited to see the clouded leopards, and zoo employees urged people not to take too long looking at the leopards. Even though I understood the need to hurry and give others the chance to see them, I felt disappointed we couldn't look at them longer.  We truly enjoyed seeing them, though!

A lot of people waited in line.

While waiting in line, first of all we saw a beautiful adult clouded leopard. . .
(above picture taken by my 10-year-old daughter)

(above picture taken by my 12-year-old son)

(above picture taken by my 12-year-old son)

(above picture taken by my daughter windchime)

(above picture taken by my daughter windchime)
Then we came to the nursery where the adorable baby leopards frolicked. . .

(above picture taken by my 10-year-old daughter)

(above picture taken by my me)

(above picture taken by me)

(above picture taken by my 6-year-old son)

(above picture taken by my daughter windchime)

(above picture taken by my daughter windchime)
I'm linking this post Weekend Reflections.  :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Faces, Flowers, and Fruit

Thank you so much for the get well wishes! I'm feeling a lot better and should be all well soon! My kiddos all got sick, too, and we haven't done much this past week. I am looking forward to us all being back to normal.

Today is the day for the letter "F" for ABC Wednesday, and I'm going to share with you about some of the faces, flowers, and fruit we found while walking on the trails at South Hill Community Park in South Hill, near Puyallup, WA, last month.  The park has two trails -- the South Hill Park Loop Trail and the Nathan Chapman Memorial Trail.  The trails connect and make a very nice place for families to walk through wetlands and forest.  It's a peaceful place, and the trails are paved, flat, and easy-to-walk.  At the park there is a play area, too, for children, and a restroom.

We walked the trails at South Hill Community Park.
(above picture taken by my older son)

The Nathan Chapman Memorial Trail is at South Hill Park.
(above picture taken by my older son)
That day the sun shone brightly in the sky and filtered through the trees creating a wonderfully green and shadowy walk.  We enjoyed seeing the various plants and enjoyed the coolness in the shade, and, surprisingly, we kept seeing faces in the leaves on the ground!  Have you ever had that happen??  Here is a picture of my younger son finding a face on the ground. . .

The leaf has a face!!
Here is a collage of the faces we found that day!

(You can click the collage to see a larger picture.)

Obviously the tree face above is man-made. ;) Do you think someone might have torn the leaves to look like faces?  I had thought it must have just been coincidence that we saw faces in the leaves, but then we kept seeing them.  It was so funny!! 

On our walk we also saw flowers and fruit. . . .

(You can click the collage to see a larger picture.)
Here is a list explaining what the pictures in the collage are, starting from the top left, going to the top right, and then continuing down from left to right:

1. I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but I think the flowers are some type of sweet pea.   There was a field of them, and it was beautiful! (picture taken by me)
2. The berries my older daughter is holding are salmonberries (picture taken by me)
3. My children walking along the trail. (picture taken by me)
4. I think that's a nootka rose! (picture taken by my older son)
5. Those are blooms and unripe berries on a blackberry bush. (picture taken by my older son)
6. The next picture is a red huckleberry bush growing on a tree stump. (picture taken by me)
7. This is a picture of a thimbleberry bush. (picture taken by me)
8. This pretty flower's ugly name is hardhack. It also can go by the name of western spiraea. (picture taken by my younger daughter)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Birds in Our Yard: Downy Woodpecker

I started this post toward the end of last month, and I'm sick today, so I thought it'd be a good time to post it. By the way, I hate being sick when the weather is so gloriously sunny and warm outside. :(

Last month when my younger children and I were walking through a little forest of beaked hazelnut trees in our yard, we came upon this energetic and interesting little bird. I think it's a downy woodpecker, the smallest type of woodpecker we have in Washington state.

I'm linking this post to Camera Critters. :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Barn Hearts and the Missing Swallows

We really enjoy visiting the barns at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA. There are about 6 or so old barns at the park, and there is a lot of history behind the barns.  Fort Steilacoom Park used to be the site of Western State Hospital (the hospital is now across the street from Fort Steilacoom Park). A sign at the park helps explain the history of farming at Fort Steilacoom Park. In 1871, state funding for what was then known as the "Insane Asylum of Washington" was scarce, so they started a small farm to grow food for the patients and staff.

By the early 1900's the farm had grown to about 200 acres. Hospital patients worked at the farm as part of their occupational therapy. My mom told me that many years ago she used to do the hair of a lady who was in charge of overseeing that at the hospital, and the lady felt that the farming activities helped the patients at the hospital. As times changed, it ended up costing too much to keep the farm operations going, and farming ceased there in 1965.

Reading a sign which shares information about
the history of farming on the site of Fort Steilacoom Park

From the sign -- an old picture of the barn seen in the above picture

Each barn is different, and the barns have amazing character.  The Blue Barn is a brick barn with a wooden part at the top which is painted blue.  For some reason, people seem to like to write hearts on the outside brick walls of the Blue Barn.

A shot of the back of the barn
I think the blue is so pretty.

No trespassing!

You can see this past post for more pictures of the Blue Barn.

I also wanted to mention that earlier this month when we visited the twin barns (also at Fort Steilacoom Park) with the double silos, the cliff swallows I mentioned in an earlier post were mostly gone.  Yesterday we didn't hear or see any of them.  I was so sad at first and afraid something had happened to them.  I think, though, they have just migrated South. According to's page about cliff swallows, they migrate "to and from southern South America in large flocks, over a considerable period of time. . . . The date of fall departure varies from year to year, although fall migration typically begins by early August, soon after the young become independent."   I hope they return next year!

Silos where most of the cliff swallows lived
Here is a past post which contains more pictures of the double barns with the double silos.  This post shows the cliff swallows.  Also check out the "barns" tag to see more barns at Fort Steilacoom Park.

♥ I'm linking this post to Guest Heart Thursday. ♥

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Eccentric Sand Dollar (Dendraster Excentricus)

the sun-bleached test of a dead eccentric sand dollar lying on the beach

When we visited the beach at Burfoot Park in Olympia last month, we noticed a lot of eccentric sand dollars lying on the wet sand.  The eccentric, or Pacific or Western, sand dollars are the only type of sand dollar in Oregon and Washington, and they are only found on the northeastern shores of the Pacific Ocean. They are called "eccentric" because of the off-center star or flower pattern which is positioned toward the back of the animal, and because the off-center position, it can stand itself up by burying its front end partly in the sand and feed on small organisms and other organic matter that pass by in the current (you can learn more about that at The West Coat's Living Sand Dollars). This type of sand dollar can grow up to four inches in size and can live 10-13 years.

We visited the beach when the tide was out (but coming in!), and sadly, we saw many dead sand dollars on the beach, and in one area the sun-bleached tests ("tests" are what their skeletons are called) of dead sand dollars covered much of the ground.  Some, though, were alive.

Sand dollars that are alive are pale gray-lavender to dark purplish black in color, and they are covered with thousands of velvet-textured spines. Those that are dead are light in color and smooth, lacking the velvety spines. This next picture shows a dead one on the left and a live one on the right.

If you, very gently, pick up a sand dollar and turn it over, you can see its spines and tube feet moving.

My older daughter carefully looking at the bottom an eccentric sand dollar.
The velvety spines of the eccentric sand dollar are purple.

My younger daughter is examining a sand dollar in the picture below. . .
Here are pictures she took of a sand dollar. . .
the top (or aboral side) of a live sand dollar

the bottom (or oral side) of a sand dollar

I took this picture of her holding a sand dollar. . .

another picture of the bottom side of a sand dollar

Here my daughter is standing in a "graveyard" of sand dollars. . .
the tests of dead sand dollars

There is one that is alive in the middle of so many that aren't living. . .
the purple one is a live sand dollar

I still have so much to learn about sand dollars.  Researching them has brought up more questions, so I think I might check out a book to learn more!  Here are some helpful online resources about sand dollars:

The West Coat's Living Sand Dollars
The Biogeography of the Western Sand Dollar (Dendraster Excentricus)
Eccentric sand dollar (South Sound marine life)
Sand Dollars on Tybee…Take the Test! -- This focuses on a different type of sand dollar, but has good information about how to "test" to see if a sand dollar is alive. 
Dendraster excentricus on
Sand Dollar on 
Sand Dollar on 
Introduction to the Echinoidea

~* This post is my entry for ABC Wednesday for the letter "E." *~ 
I'm also linking this to Watery Wednesday.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Monarch Butterflies at Burfoot Beach

I didn't realize we have monarch butterflies up here, but we do! On July 31st, a sunny, 75-degree day, our family visited the beach at Burfoot Park in Olympia, WA. Near the end of our visit, we walked along the beach and up to a grassy area a little above the beach to see the Queen Anne's lace flowers blooming there. There used to be a house near that spot, so we had never walked up there before, but the house was gone.

As I approached the Queen Anne's lace, I noticed a pretty orange and black butterfly perched on one of the flowers. It fluttered up and around, and I called out to my children to come and see! It stayed in the same area, flying to different flowers, and my children discovered at least two others as well, and we were captivated by the beautiful creatures. My older son told us he thought they were monarchs.

I checked online when we got home, and I submitted pictures to the Butterflies and Months of North America website, and they confirmed that we had indeed seen monarchs! Here is the entry on that website for our sighting of the monarchs:

Here are some pictures taken that day. . .

Queen Anne's Lace (see the heart?)
(picture taken by me)

Queen Anne's Lace
(picture taken by me)

Queen Anne's Lace and the
yard near where the house used to sit.
(picture taken by me)

picture taken by my younger daughter

picture taken by my younger daughter

picture taken by my older son

A monarch butterfly perched on Queen Anne's Lace
(I think the wings look like a heart in this one!)
picture taken by my older son

A monarch on blackberry blossoms
picture taken by my older son

picture taken by my older son
~* I'm linking this post to Guest Heart Thursday and Camera Critters. *~