A lovely week of frosty mornings, iced-over ponds, and sunny days.
Week in Review
This has been a fascinating year to observe the approach of winter in the absence of snow! Ponds and lakeshores have begun icing up as nighttime temperatures dip into the 20s, and mornings sparkle with sunlight reflecting on ice-covered leaves and grasses.
And, given that it's almost winter, but leaves still aren't covered in snow, it's interesting to notice the many ways that bacteria, microbes, and fungi are beginning to attack and digest leaf tissue. You could easily overlook these processes but, when you start looking closely at leaves, it's like falling into another world.
This week of delightfully sunny days practically begged us to get outside and walk around a bit. The trails have remained mostly snow-free, and easy to walk, with fantastic views of snow-covered mountains in all directions.
There hasn't been a lot of animal activity lately, so it's common to go on long walks and see only a few birds, but at the same time I've been noticing small flocks of finches and groups of chickadees. There have also been a number of ducks on larger, ice-free lakes and rivers, along with some bald eagles, and a handful of other birds in forested areas.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was finding a mosquito in the house! I didn't get a photo and I wish I could have identified it because it would be interesting to learn what types of mosquitoes are active now.
Other recent observations have included a beetle flying around some snow, an active spider, a patch of tiny mushrooms that an animal had been eating, and signs of beavers gathering food for the winter.
Observation of the Week: Salmon Carcasses
I was astonished to walk along the Methow River this week and discover a number of salmon carcasses washed up on the shore.
While this is interesting by itself, we often overlook the deeper ecological value of these carcasses.
Salmon spend years living in the ocean, feasting on marine life and packing on pounds in preparation for epic journeys that take them far upriver and into the interior of North America.
These fish subsequently spawn and die, while a tremendous variety of animals, ranging from microbes to bears, rely on these carcasses for food. Ultimately, these nutrients end up in the soil, and end up feeding the forests growing along rivers.
In essence, salmon deliver a significant quantity of marine nutrients, that they have spent years accumulating, to inland ecosystems. Historically, millions of salmon made this journey every year, and powered entire ecosystems with their bodies. Even with their numbers greatly reduced, salmon still make a significant contribution, and provide a valuable source of nutrients that help ecosystems remain healthy.