Number cruncher to share best places to find county’s birds

The Christmas Bird Count and various research projects have created an almost-unimaginable amount of data on birds, their migrations, locations during various seasons, and trends.

What most of us need is a translator that can apply the numbers to Snohomish County. Pilchuck Audubon Society’s Rick Taylor is the man for the job and the presenter of “Spring Birding in Snohomish County” at the April 14 Pilchuck meeting.

He has lived and birded in Snohomish County for 16 years, is the co-compiler for the Edmonds Christmas Bird Count, and is one of the curators for the soon-to-be released online version of “A Birder’s Guide to Washington.”

He and his wife, Tina, have seen more than 175 species in each of Washington’s 39 counties, quite the accomplishment. Taylor recently spotted a Say’s phoebe, only the second sighting of one in Snohomish County.

Taylor uses data to identify the 20 hottest birding locations in the county. He’ll discuss the most likely times and locations for some of the county’s most sought after migrants, and show how to mine the wealth of data in eBird to ensure that you hear about the latest noteworthy bird finds.

The presentation will include a look at the evolving technologies that provide weekly migration forecasts, and Taylor’s strategies for getting record-setting results during the May 19-22 Big Sit, Big Day and Big Month for the Pilchuck Audubon Bird-a-Thon.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Everett Firefighters Hall, 2411 Hewitt Ave.

Growth spurt. Our state’s wolf population grew by 28 percent last year and added at least two new packs, according to an annual report of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. By the end of 2016, the state was home to a minimum of 115 wolves, 20 packs and 10 successful breeding pairs documented during surveys conducted late last year. The findings draw on information gathered from aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks, and signals from radio-collared wolves in 13 packs.

On the bookshelf. My parents lived on their Maryland property for about 60 years. I played in a sandbox butted up against an enormous oak tree. I collected acorns, scratched an itch by rubbing my back against its rough bark and was entertained by squirrels dashing around it to the sound of claws on bark. I sat under its shade on hot and humid days, raked its leaves and even talked to it.

A few decades later, sitting under that same tree on a hot and humid summer day, I realized that my childhood oak was huge only in my imagination, not enormous in fact. Now, unless the new owners have taken it down, it would be about 100 years old.

I wonder how it’s doing with the changing climate. Insight to that question has been delivered in the form of Lynda Mapes’ “Witness Tree: Seasons of Change with a Century-Old Oak” (Bloomsbury).

Harvard Forest is a world-class woods that draws researchers trying to understand the clues to a changing climate. Mapes, an environmental reporter for the Seattle Times, was here on a fellowship in science journalism, spending a year with a red oak and the life that it sheltered and supported.

“Witness” covers the history of forests, personalities, and the language of leaves, which tell us that climate change is already altering the seasonal timing of the woods, the leaves leafing out earlier, the frost coming later. This, she writes, is an “observable fact,” a trend that could lead to radical changes for trees and humans.

Mapes has created a fine read that merges a sense of wonder with the nuts and bolts of science, history and future possibilities.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or songandword@rockisland.com.

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