April 27, 2010

Fishing Spears, Edible feast and Bird language outing

Last week was a week of celebration and learning. Students of the Alderleaf Certification program spent a day learning how to make and using primitive fishing spears with Frank Sherwood. Our last day with Karen Sherwood was a day of feasting and celebration of all the green growing things. Then our week came to a close with a final bird language class in a exciting birding hotspot.

Matt and Kelley are stoked about making and practicing with the primitive fishing spears! Their grins say it all.

Like a bowl full of sunshine, gathered dandelion flowers await being dipped and cooked up as fritters. Karen inspired everyone to add their own touch to the wild food that was gathered and prepared for eating. The meal included a wild greens salad, a cattail stir-fry, stinging nettle pesto and cattail pollen crapes with elderberry syrup.

A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds!

Our week came to an exciting close with a trip out to a birding hotspot in Seattle called the Union Bay Natural Area. Despite its relatively small size, this spot has tons of birds and other wildlife. Some people have record over 180 species of birds observed in this area.

One of the many high lights of our day was observing a killdeer defending her nest against predators. When Steve Nicolini and I ventured too close to her nest, she tried to lure us away from it by feigning an injury (as you can see in the photo above). To our surprise, however, when the whole class came close to the nest she did something very different: she stood over the nest and scolded all of us. This makes sense, as with so many humans plodding around there was a good chance someone would step on her eggs!

Some of the other students also had a chance to observe a red-tailed hawk getting mobbed by a crow and a red-winged blackbird, as well as observing a bald eagle catching a gadwall duck. It was possibly one of the most exciting bird watching days of the year!

Track & Sign Evaluations for the Alderleaf Crew

The Alderleaf Wilderness College Certification Program students have been very busy this spring. Two weeks age, they completed taking the Track & Sign evaluations put on by the CyberTracker International organization. These evaluations are meant to assess the ability to recognize and interpret wildlife track and sign. They also provide an incredible opportunity for students to learn more about tracks & sign, and are a great deal of fun to boot!

The test is taking in a variety of locations throughout western Washington state. Here is one such location along the Snoqualmie River. Here students are studying a set of river otter tracks and pondering which foot and which side of the body it is on!

Here is a beautiful set of tracks found by the edge of the water. Who left these little footprints?

We are thankful to have had this opportunity to learn more about tracking! Special thanks to Casey McFarland (our evaluator), to everyone who assisted and to all who participated in the process. It was an amazing experience!