The Vancouver Water Resources Education Center

Coho Salmon alevin
A recently hatched Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) alevin, still carrying the egg yolk, at the Vancouver Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, USA. February 22, 2014.

A couple weeks ago I went to an amphibian egg monitoring training at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, Washington. While I won’t be participating in the program, which is centered in Clark County, Washington, I thought it would be nice to learn some more about the amphibians of the Pacific Northwest.

We started the day with a couple slideshows and a look at some captive salamanders, before heading out to a local wetlands to look for egg masses in the wild. The Water Resources Education Center was one of my favorite places as a kid, but I hadn’t been back in years.

Vancouver Water Resources Education Center

It’s an outdoor and informal education organization run by the City of Vancouver, right on the edge of the Columbia River and associated wetlands. The mission, as you might expect, is focused on water resources, particular the abundant wetland and river habitats of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a great place to learn about issues facing water resources in the region, as well as to see some of the native fish and amphibians you might not find in the wild.

Near the entrance is an area with a number of tanks and terraria, including salmon eggs and recently hatched alevins like the one above, as well as a bunch of native amphibians like this Pacific Tree Frog or Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla). We didn’t see any of these in the field, but we certainly heard them!

Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla)

I find Western Toads (Anaxyrus boreas) and toads in general strangely charming:

Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas)

Hanging above is a striking yet disturbing Salmon Lifecycle sculpture by local artists Maggie Rudy and Patty Maly, depicting the life cycle of the salmon in trash—such as that which ends up the oceans, negatively affecting salmon and other animals.

Salmon Lifecycle sculpture by Maggie Rudy and Patty Maly

Salmon Lifecycle sculpture by Maggie Rudy and Patty Maly

Moving towards the other exhibits, you pass a large fishtank, which usually has White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) and other fish. Later on, some of the salmon may move to that tank temporarily before release, although they can be aggressive. White sturgeons are the largest freshwater fish in North America, at their largest reaching up to 1,799 pounds (816 kilograms) and 20 feet (6.1 meters) and living over 100 years. In addition to overfishing, dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers threaten sturgeon populations by reducing spawning habitat and blocking passage to and from the ocean.

White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)

I didn’t have time to poke around the main exhibit area, but I think it’s more focused on kid-friendly interactive activities and watershed education.

Vancouver Water Resources Education Center

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Wildlife Care Center Open House at the Audubon Society of Portland

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
A Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) visiting the feeders at the Audubon Society of Portland, Portland, Oregon. February 16, 2014.

On Sunday I went to the Audubon Society of Portland‘s Wildlife Care Center open house with my mother and a friend. I volunteered briefly there in high school, and also spent a lot of time on the trails as a kid, but going back after 10 years of living in a prairie/montane environment was a bit surreal. The trees are so big! There are ferns! So much moss! Everything is green and wet!

Audubon Society of Portland Nature Sanctuary

For the open house, they had all of their education birds out with volunteers, a great opportunity to see all of them and learn their stories. Many education birds end up at organizations either because they were illegally taken from the wild as pets and imprinted on humans or because they were injured permanently, often by cars. However, some, like their Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) Finnegan, were removed from the wild by scientists due to congenital problems that would prevent survival (in his case a deformed foot).

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Hazel, a Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina, is a gorgeous bird, but her coloration is due to vitiligo, a progressive loss of feather pigment with each molt. In the wild, it would harm her survival chances, but due to injuries (probably from automobile impact) she is unable to fly.

Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)

But my favorite of their birds is probably Aristophanes, a Common Raven (Corvus corax).

A volunteer holding a Common Raven

They also had volunteers giving behind the scenes tours of the Wildlife Care Center itself, starting with the kitchen…

Kitchen of Wildlife Care Center

…where they prepare food for rescued birds and occasionally small mammals and reptiles.

Wildlife Care Center

They have a small hospital where they can perform surgery and other medical treatments, with cages for recuperation. Some animals may remain there for other a year, depending on their injuries.

Wildlife Care Center

Some patients are literal flight risks:

Wildlife Care Center

They also have a (very tiny) lab for running blood tests and examining fecal samples. They’re hoping in the future to build a larger facility.

Wildlife Care Center

Most of the enclosures for the education birds are outside. This one is for Aristophanes, the raven.

Raven enclosure at the Audubon Society of Portland

After the tour, we took a short hike down across Balch Creek…

Balch Creek, Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon

…and around one of the loop trails, where we saw a lot of Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata), which is actually in the cypress family rather than a true cedar…

Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), Audubon Society of Portland Nature Sanctuary

…and also a lot of Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza), a common species that tends to grow on the trunks of deciduous trees.

Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza)

The feeders outside the window in the nature center are a great place to observe and photograph common local songbirds, such as the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)…

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

…and Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens):

Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)

I have more photos from the day up on Flickr.