Posted by: atowhee | July 7, 2019


There is a burned out, mostly rotted trunk that would inspire Henry Moore or Brancusi.  Nature’s art is not artifice but the process of reusing and the way that shapes (literally and figuratively) the material of things once living.  That could be you or me, or tree.SCUPLTED (2)

Old stumps are platforms for new life.  The forest left to itself regenerates, recycles, revives.  No forest is eternal.  Volcanoes, continental drift, meteors, climate changes—all mean even the oldest forest is new in the eyes of the trilobite.  Life on land must at one time have been a revolution unthinkable.

There are numerous large, ancient stumps along the Smith Creek Trail.  Surely they pre-date the founding of the park in 1931.  That would make them a century old or older.  Now they are encrusted with newer life: mosses, ferns, small trees, some with trunks a foot in diameter.  The old, slowly rotting trunks become stages for new performers.  Some may come from those parental roots.stump

M-ROOM2 (2)Fallen trunks are also incorporated into new generations of forest plants (and animals though the insects, other arthropods, molluscs, chipmunks and other small critters are not often seen):log

Along that trail komorebi  is various, intense on this sunny afternoon (July 5) and much to be felt and studied.  Vine maples, fir, understory trees of various kinds, mosses that sheath many lower fir limbs, each lends its specific weight and shape to the light coming from above.

There is an ancient Douglas fir near campsite #9.  The tree’s main trunk was broken off decades ago.  Now more than twenty limbs have become a pipe organ of parallel trunks all reaching for the sky.  My five-foot tall wife, Kate, stood before the enormous trunk which is about eight feet in diameter.  The image shows that many of the secondary trunks begin more than ten feet above the tree’s base.LIMS TO TRUNKS (2)

My wife, Kate, stands before the tree for scale.  She is five feet tall.  Not only is the base of the tree’s trunk much greater than that, several of the secondary trunks now reach over fifty feet into the air.  And its occupation of space in the canopy is much greater than it would have been with a single, main trunk.

The Golden-crowned Kinglet was not amused by my playback of kinglet music.  He came down from the canopy, crest erect, fury in his tiny eyes.  I stopped playback and he vanished almost as easily as he appeared from the limbs and needles where he dwells.  A curious Pacific Wren came in to see what the fuss was about but did wish to display his presence which I noted only as a brief brown streak across the trail at two feet elevation. I’m not sure what the pale, stringy-looking insect was that he held in his beak from some photos.

Many fruiting plants here: salal, elderberry, yellow raspberry?, osoberry, Pacific and red-osier dogwoods, even trillium has a center seed pod where the three leave branch from the upright stalk.  The broadleaf lupine is rich with fuzzy bean pods.  Not sure who would be brave enough to try to get into those? Here are the yellow berries and Pacific dogwood:

Shade and water loving plant along Smith Creek with huge maple-like leaves and needles along stalks and leaf branches.  Some eight feet tall.  Seem to be perennials but die back each winter.  Got a photo.

The tree sitters here are the waxwings who may gather in any treetop any time of day.WAX TRIO (2).JPG  There are the male grosbeaks who sings there, mostly dawn and dusk; the boss crow who uses the high perches as look-out spots so he misses nothing that could lead to a snack or other corvid pleasure.  Steller’s Jays.  The red-breasted Sapsucker male who uses one particular dead snag about thirty feet high as sentinel post, drum and territorial marker.

The Violet-green Swallows have claimed locations that might be used by Barn Swallows in less forested habitat.  Here the violet-greens nest under the eaves of the camp toilet building, and the same at a nearby small park office building.  The adults are busy overhead all day long, the babies old enough to squeal for food and their bright yellow gapes shine out from the shaded nesting locations. Adult birds returning with food cannot not miss those signals of “feed me.” In the last image one adult arrives as the first one departs:

I believe this first bird is a recent fledgling, no white stripe above the eye…yet.

Townsend’s chipmunk and brush rabbits were all about the campground.  At dawn they fed and roamed at will.  As the hominids began moving about.  Then they become secretive.  At night other critters move about.  Somebody left five-toed prints on my daughter’s picnic table overnight.   There were no visible claw marks. The prints were rounded, not elongated so that eliminates some suspects.CHPMK1 (2)

There is a species of forest ant that mounds detritus up to three feet thick around the colony’s entrances.  They also cut thoroughfares through the grass in openings or clutter on the forest floor.

Last, and never least, the boss crow…and his pushy cousin:CRO1 (2)

Silver Falls SP, Marion, Oregon, US
Jul 5, 2019
17 species

Band-tailed Pigeon  1
Red-breasted Sapsucker  X
Canada Jay  3
Steller’s Jay  X
American Crow  X
Common Raven  X
Violet-green Swallow  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  X
American Dipper  2     one adult and one juvenile near the South Fork Silver Creek Bridge at campground entranceDPPR-BRID3 (2)olden-crowned Kinglet  1
Swainson’s Thrush  X
American Robin  X
Cedar Waxwing  X
Dark-eyed Junco  X
Song Sparrow  X
Common Yellowthroat  1
Black-headed Grosbeak  X

Silver Falls SP, Marion, Oregon, US
Jul 3, 2019
19 species

Rufous Hummingbird  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Red-breasted Sapsucker  2
Northern Flicker  X
Canada Jay  4
Steller’s Jay  X
American Crow  X
Common Raven  X
Violet-green Swallow  X
Pacific Wren  X
Swainson’s Thrush  X
American Robin  X
Cedar Waxwing  X
Purple Finch  X
Dark-eyed Junco  1
Song Sparrow  X
Common Yellowthroat  X
Wilson’s Warbler  X
Black-headed Grosbeak  X


  1. Lovely. I felt I was there! Forgot to say that I had the squirt gun all ready and aimed for what I thought at a glance was the cowbird. Luckily I realized it was begging from its parent, a spotted towhee…………

  2. The yellow raspberries are likely salmonberries. The maple-leaved plant with needle-like thorns on the stems/trunks and on the underside ribs or the leaves sound like Devil’s Club.

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