Nature Notes: Phenology of the North Cascades Ecosystem
North Cascades Institute’s resident graduate students have the unique opportunity to live at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center for the majority of the Environmental Education graduate program. Living in North Cascades National Park has more than a few perks. The backcountry is just a few steps outside of our back door and thousands of plant species and a diversity of wildlife are our neighbors. Living here also allows us to experience first hand the phenology of the surrounding ecosystem. As part of our graduate work, we take note of these environmental changes as we experience them. It may not be possible to accurately convey the magic of this experience, but we combined a brief list of our observations from autumn 2014 in an attempt to do so.
Larch needles beginning to turn on Maple Pass
- In mid September, the vine maple leaves at the Learning Center began turning.
- On the 21st a pika was seen dragging a false hellebore stem across Heather Pass trail.
- Among the talus slopes near Heather Pass, a Northern flicker was heard and later sighted. Larches at Heather/Maple Pass were just on the brink of turning.
- On the 27th black bear tracks were observed in the snowfield below Colonial Glacier.
Hydnellum peckii mushroom, certainly one of the most striking we’ve seen!
- First week of October: the area around the Learning Center received record rainfall.
- Early October: Summer Chinook salmon observed spawning in the Methow River.
- Oct. 20th: pikas observed in talus slope below Cascade Pass.
- Oct. 22nd: Sourdough Creek started flowing into Diablo Lake.
- Mid to late October: the upper Skagit Valley’s array of fungal species were in full display.
- Oct. 25th: the Oregon grape plants around the Learning Center trails no longer had berries.
- Oct. 27th: black bear was seen on the Learning Center campus.
- Oct. 28th: three mule deer (two does and one yearling) seen on the Learning Center campus.
- Throughout the month: snow geese observed migrating down the Skagit Valley.
- Nov. 11th: snow goose mates and goslings seen during a paddle on Diablo Lake, and black bear tracks were seen at Sourdough Camp.
- Nov. 14th: a pika peeped at Heather Pass, and big leaf maple leaves crunch under feet at the Learning Center.
- Nov. 22nd: bald eagle seen circling Ladder Creek Falls area in Newhalem.
- Nov. 23rd: Highway 20 closes access to Washington Pass due to several slides and heavy snow.
- Nov. 26th: first snow at the Learning Center (1200 feet).
Iced over roads by Buster Brown field
- Dec. 2nd: multiple mammal tracks observed in the snow and mud on Diablo East trail: rabbit, possibly mink or fox, and deer.
- Dec. 5th: almost stepped on a Douglas squirrel frantically running across path by the library at the Learning Center.
- Dec. 12th: a windstorm and increased risk for landslides in the Skagit gorge caused graduate non-profit class to be dismissed early, and grads headed down valley for winter break.