Posted by: atowhee | May 31, 2019

WILD TIMES AT ONE BIT OF CITY PARK

Note: there is no information about the wetlands online.  It is not mentioned in the official city web-page for Joe Dancer Park, though there is a picture of the wooden sign.

June 4

Summer is the mode if not the calendar date at the Joe Dancer Park Wetlands.  In profuse bloom now are cow parsnip, dandelions, white and pink clover, purple vetch—all are invasive plants from the Old World.  Another introduced plant, the Himalayan blackberry, is just beginning to open its first blossoms, on the far end of this year’s new canes, each pregnant with many buds.  Already some leaves show the filigree of summer, spaces eaten away by insects feeding on this season’s new leaves.  Among the plants so treated so far are the blackberries, white oak, bigleaf maple, Oregon ash and alder. Does nothing eat dandelion leaves except people?

This week I located a singled poison oak plant in the wetlands, leaning into the shade of a nearby tree.  Its seed was likely carried there by a helpful bird.

At Joe Dancer Park today there were mechanical mowers running back and forth across the soccer fields and poison spray warning signs.  More herbicides to be dumped into the environment. Technology and capitalism have combined to make physical labor seem regressive and worthless: machines and chemicals are the order of the order. Far better to poison the planet than do actual work, right?  When I was a kid we handled the annual thistle invasion of our farm thus:  I would take the machete and go chop down each thistle stalk, then sprinkle table salt on the bare stalk stub.  The salt would kill the roots where the thistle’s life is centered.  The next rain would dilute the salt until it was negligible.  The small amount of salt I used was far less than what came with each milk cow’s urination or the collective deposits of our twenty-five ewes.  No chemical residue, no carcinogens added to the ground water (which we drank from our own well).  The chopped stalks would go into a gunny sack and then be burned.  We could have buried them but even then efficiency had its pernicious sway.

The mowers and the sprays have not obliterated the local insects.  Several swallows sped past the mower and criss-crossed it path and the nearby lawns.  All were flying just above the ground, picking off insects disturbed or exposed by the mowing process.  In previous days there had been only a single  pair of Barn Swallows in the same fields.

As usual there was a male Anna’s Hummingbird in the vicinity of the wetlands’ southwest corner where there is running and then standing water.

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jun 4, 2019. 9 species

American Crow  X
Violet-green Swallow  1–not often seen here, drawn by the mowers?
Barn Swallow (American)  7
Swainson’s Thrush  1
American Robin  9
European Starling  X
Purple Finch  X
Song Sparrow  4
Spotted Towhee  2

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jun 2, 2019. 13 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  X
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  1
American Crow  X
Tree Swallow  1
Barn Swallow (American)  2
American Robin  X
European Starling  X
Lesser Goldfinch  2
American Goldfinch  2
Song Sparrow  6
Spotted Towhee  X

June 1   Today the dog and I walked through the dry parts of the “wetlands” and stepping on pennyroyal plants released a mentholated aroma into the still air.  The pennyroyal now forms a dense ground cover in the dry parts of the area.  There are millions of individual stalks, each encircled with many tiny, fuzzy mint leaves full of the pennyroyal perfume.  Later this summer they will bloom and the miniature forest will be abuzz with small bees and butterflies.  Those small flowers will all release the pungent scent into the air without any intervention from you or me or the bees which will be attracted.

Today we encountered both species of chickadee and both species of goldfinch.  Two woodpeckers were noted as well.

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jun 1, 2019. 14 species
Collared-Dove
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
Northern Flicker  1
California Scrub-Jay  1
Barn Swallow (American)  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  2
American Robin  4
European Starling  2
Lesser Goldfinch  6
American Goldfinch  3
Song Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  1
Black-headed Grosbeak  1

May 31,  The Joe Dancer Park wetlands in McMinnville are on the way to becoming a seasonal marsh.

White alder, bigleaf maple, white oak, black cottonwood, Oregon ash, serviceberry, blackthorn, ponderosa, Doug fir, hawthorn.  Baldhip rose, red ozier dogwood, blackberry, at least three willow species it seems, teasel, various thistles, dandelion, three clovers, plantain, cattails where there is standing water, vetch, Queen Anne’s lace.  Clearly the conifers were planted.  The firs are doing fine with wet roots but several of the ponderosa in wetter spots are dead or dying.  I believe that the oaks are either planted by jays or are offspring of the huge mother oaks just across the path on the wetlands’ eastern edge.  The maples and many of the other trees got there without man’s direct help.  The southeast portion of the area is now an ash thicket, result of many airborne seeds from along the nearby river’s forest fringe. The tallest trees are already two of the cottonwoods which will overtop everything there except maybe a Doug fir or two.

I believe I saw a female Red-winged Blackbird there this morning which would surely imbue this spot with a true marshy character.  If the trees continue to form a canopy and shade the undergrowth this location may eventually attract Bullock’s Oriole and Warbling Vireo in addition to the birds I saw today. In past years I have found Common Yellowthroat here…after breeding season.  Last fall the spot had a vagrant Clay-colored Sparrow on migration.  So far there are no resident wrens or woodpeckers or Wilson’s Warbler but as the undergrowth gets denser… The sign on the western edge of the wetlands has an image of a Great Blue Heron.  So far that’s the only one that has been seen here by me in four years.

For the marshy evolution to continue it is important that the city park department not intervene, or mow, or spray “unwanted plants” with herbicide.  At this point nature and her agents—birds, insects, rodents—will decide what grows, what survives, what doesn’t belong.  Just up the hill the Water and Light Department went through their woods and took out all the underbrush, leaving a sterile environment for most small animals, not to mention all the shrubs and other plants they killed.

The doe I saw today will certainly approve of the wetlands’ variety of browse.

Joe Dancer Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 31, 2019. 11 species

Barn Swallow (American)  1–feeding over the soccer fields
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Swainson’s Thrush  1–calling from riparian forest corridor
American Robin  1
European Starling  X
Lesser Goldfinch  3
Chipping Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
Spotted Towhee  3
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Black-headed Grosbeak  4


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