Nature Notes: Winter in the North Cascades
by Chelsea Ernst, M.Ed. Graduate Student
The west side of the North Cascades is experiencing a fairly warm winter, sending the snow line higher than usual for this time of year. Snow down in the Skagit valley has melted completely, reminding staff and grads at the Learning Center of the carpet of green moss that lines the lowland forest floor.
On January 3rd, when a few graduate students returned to Diablo Lake after winter break, 10 inches of fresh snow fell. The layer of new, fluffy snow lent itself to easy snow tracking, and several ungulate and small mammal tracks were sighted on the Diablo East trail. The following day, the melt began and more students and staff steadily returned to their mountain home and workplace. Here are some of their observations from January and February.
Frozen surface of a pond on Thunder Knob Trail
- Jan. 4th: above freezing temperatures and rain at the Learning Center turned snow piled high on steep roofs into roofalanches.
- Jan. 9th: a juvenile and an adult bald eagle dove at each other mid-air near Cook Road in Sedro-Woolley.
- Jan. 11th: snow geese still gathering in wet fields near Sedro-Woolley and Concrete.
- Jan. 12th: a pileated woodpecker was heard at the Learning Center.
- Jan. 15th: the sounds of Deer Creek became softer as less water from higher elevations makes its way down into the valley.
- Jan. 20th: the sun was out at Diablo Lake!
- Jan. 21st: the surface of a pond on Thunder Knob trail was frozen.
- Jan. 25th: with the sun out and temperatures in the 50s, staff and graduate students paddled out on Diablo lake. They saw an American dipper, buffleheads, and common goldeneyes.
Snow bridge over Early Winters Creek near Mazama, WA
- Feb. 1st-8th: graduate students traveled to the Methow Valley and naturalize on the notably colder and snowier east side of the North Cascades.
- Feb. 10th: three female elk were spotted near Concrete.
- Feb. 11th: two harlequin ducks floated on Diablo Lake.