Seasons In the Skagit: Winter

Hello and welcome to 2017 everyone! I am very pleased to greet you in the new year and share with you some of the changes we have recently seen in the Skagit. As we start winter and a new cycle around the sun I invite you to embrace the beginning of our calendar year and perhaps start phenological practices of your own. Welcome to winter!

Highway 20 is very quiet in the upper Skagit. Massive icicles are hanging from the rocks in the Gorge. Most of the trees are bare and almost no birds are heard singing in the branches. Winter has settled into the Skagit Valley. As fall ended and winter began we saw some notable phenological events in our watershed:

  • Nov. 19: Four Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) feeding on fish carcasses across the river from Cascadian Farms. Eagle sightings are increasing.
  • Nov. 21: Washington Pass on SR 20 closed for the winter.
  • Nov. 25: Mt. Baker Ski Area opens for the season.
  • Dec. 3:Daniel Dubie (C16 M.Ed. graduate student) saw approximately 20 Bald Eagles at the Samish Flats!
  • Dec. 4: The first snow fell at North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center.
  • Dec. 8: Nine Bald Eagles spotted on the drive between the Blue House and the ELC, two of which were juveniles.

Although it may seem quiet in the valley and upriver there are still many things changing around us, whether we notice them or not.

Phenology at North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center

My peers and I in C16 document many phenological changes on a weekly basis as a part of our residency coursework. We have three plots we monitor, two at the ELC and one in Marblemount. Here are some of our findings and notable observations:

Common Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)




Diablo West Trail (looking East)




Western Dogwood (Cornus sericia)




Sharing the Changes

As we move forward into another year I hope to share more of our phenological findings and practices with all of you. To start, I have created a story map that documents some of the events we observed during the summer and fall. Along with this map I will be posting regular phenology installments on the NCI grad program blog. I look forward to sharing the story map and other postings with you soon. If you have any questions about our phenology work or how you can grow your own practice please let me know and comment below.

Winter well.

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an eternal summer.” -Albert Camus

Written by Smokey Brine, Phenology Graduate Assistant
Title photo courtesy of Angela Burlile. All photos within blog courtesy of Smokey Brine.

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