Date: December 8, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: Thought I’d share some of the things we’ve observed on local streams and fish returns lately.
So far, as of December 8, we have had ~64 salmon seen returning to Miller/Walker Creeks at the Cove. A mix of coho and chum. Coho returns were down drastically this year. Chums are still coming in, but in a trickle compared to past years. We have observed chum spawning and have seen redds we suspect are chum.
No chum seen jumping in Puget Sound this year…..unlike as we’ve seen in the past.
We are keeping track of fish sighted in Miller/Walker on a daily basis via a spreadsheet, so we can see the “run profile”, unfortunately we aren’t keeping track of chum and coho separately, which could be a next step.
To my knowledge, we haven’t seen evidence of pre-spawn mortality in the few coho that have returned this year.
There were coho seen (and videoed) in the restored area of the Port property on Miller Creek this year, up to 160th.
Coho and chum have been seen returning thru the restored salt marsh / man-made beaver pond on the Cove property….making me think they reared in the pond as fry.
Many fry have been observed feeding in the restored pond throughout the season. We also have 4-5 mergansers living in the pond for the last month….good meaning enough food to attract them….bad that their eating lots fry and cutthroat in the pond. Mother nature at work.
Found a stick last week on Miller Creek at the Cove. It was 18” long, 3” diameter, and stripped of bark, both ends obviously chewed off by a beaver. Do we have a new beaver in Miller Creek?
Otter observed and photographed in Cove Pond. Also many mallards, widgeons, and a few bufflehead.
Date: December 6, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: Three Chum seen at the Cove. All alive. One big guy jumping in the pond. One female in the pond inlet stream silt pond. And one female in Miller Creek behind the Cove building, downstream of the bridge under a huge natural log jam.
The total count of fish seen at the Cove this season is at 64.
Observation: Monitoring Workshop #3 occurred this evening at the ERAC Building in Burien. 11 citizens from across the watershed and representatives of local agencies completed their discussions on how to expand monitoring of water flows, water quality, and habitat in the basins. Basin Steward Dennis Clark will use the ideas and priorities of the group to draft recommendations for further monitoring.
Date: December 4, 2008 Location: Burien ERAC Building Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Monitoring Workshop #3 occurred this evening at the ERAC Building in Burien. 11 citizens from across the watershed and representatives of local agencies completed their discussions on how to expand monitoring of water flows, water quality, and habitat in the basins. Basin Steward Dennis Clark will use the ideas and priorities of the group to draft recommendations for further monitoring.
Date: December 3, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: The weather was clear, dry, overcast, tide out, 47 degrees F, streams flowing at normal with clear water. Two salmon seen in the Cove pond. One leaping (twice), one cruising. Couldn’t tell the species, but suspect chum based on size. Saw two carcasses in Miller Creek just above confluence with Walker. Both dead chum, one female (~8lbs.), one male (~10lbs.), both had adipose fins. Not sure if they’d spawned….a little too ripe to check. One salmon redd (egg nest) seen in Miller Creek just above the bridge behind the Cove. Rather large, suspect a chum redd. The fish count at the Cove building as of December 2 read 50 fish, substantially below normal.
Date: November 29, 2008 Location: Walker Creek at the Normandy Park Swim Club in Normandy Park
Source: Jim Pitts Observation: Jim saw two salmon in Walker Creek where it flows through the Normandy Park Swim Club in Normandy Park. Once salmon spawn, they die and their carcasses provide food for other creatures and eventually nutrients to the stream. Because of the frequent high flows in the creeks, salmon carcasses often are washed downstream before they can be eaten or decompose, robbing the stream of a valuable resource. Jim staked the carcasses to the bottom of the stream to hold them in place against the high flows.
Chum salmon carcass from Walker Creek. Credit card provides sense of scale. Photo courtesy of Jim Pitts.
Chum salmon carcass that has been staked to the bottom of Walker Creek at the Normandy Park Swim Club. The carcass has been secured to keep it from being washed away. Staking the carcass will allow other organisms to feed on it and the rotting carcass will release valuable nutrients into the stream. Photo courtesy of Jim Pitts.
Date: November 25, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks Basin Source: Dennis Clark Observation: The last two months have seen high profile news stories on the fish and people of the Miller and Walker Creek basin.
The Port of Seattle captured on video several coho salmon that migrated up to the reach of Miller Creek on Port property. This reach was among those restored as part of mitigation for construction of the third runway. Stories included:
Andy has been contacted by people around the Sound who saw these stories and were inspired to learn more so they can take better care of their creeks!
Date: November 22, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: Checking back on the last set of complete spreadsheet records, the fish count total on November 22, 2005, was 129. This year we’re at 43 on the same date at the Cove. Runs have picked up lately and chum salmon are starting to show. Returns seem to be a bit later than in the past and also down in quantity.
Date: November 21, 2008 Location: Miller Creek upstream of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District in Normandy Park Source: Brett Fish Observation: Two chum salmon carcasses seen. One male, unusually large for Miller Creek at about 28" in length, and a female at about 24". Unable to determine if they had spawned as the mid sections of both were chewed on (gutted), eyes missing as well but bodies still limp. No redd (egg nest in the gravel) was located.
Date: November 21, 2008 Location: Walker Creek near 8th Ave. S.W. in Normandy Park Source: Jim Pitts Observation: I went exploring behind my house in the Walker Creek ravine and found two partial fish heads. So some of the Walker Creek fish made it at least this far.
Date: November 21, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks basin Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: One of the great challenges of stewarding streams in urban areas is the continual intrusion of invasive weeds. Invasive weeds, particularly non-native weeds, typically grow in monocultures and crowd out native trees and shrubs. Some of the most pernicious include Bohemian knotweed, purple loosestrife, policeman’s helmet, and giant hogweed. While not as widespread as weeds such as English ivy and Himalayan blackberry that usually occupy us at restoration sites, these other weeds are particularly worrisome. Many property owners do not recognize these weeds or have the ability to control them.
These noxious weed control efforts were made possible thanks to funding from the Port of Seattle, with additional financial support in the 2008 season only provided by the King Conservation District. I will be working with partner governments to find funding for control in future years.
In the meantime, you can help by taking advantage of the great information at the King County Noxious Weed website to identify and then control these and other weeds on your property, regardless of where you live.
Date: November 19, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: Total salmon count at the Cove now at 26, all coho. Chum have not yet shown up. Also saw five coho: one coho female in the silt pond, three coho (two hens, one buck) headed up Miller Creek below the Miller/Walker confluence, and one large coho buck jumped twice in the “beaver pond.” Coho were 4 to 7 lbs. Adipose fin could not be observed (if adipose fin is missing, fish came from a hatchery). No signs of pre-spawn mortality so far this year. Great!
Also saw one 6” cutthroat trout in Walker Creek behind the tennis courts. A coho smolt (~2”) immediately attacked a spider thrown in the lower silt pond. Tom McCann saw a school of 4”-6” “salmon-like” fish in the area just below the salt marsh. It was impossible to positively identify the species. Hopefully Chinook smolts coming in from the Puget Sound nearshore to feed???
Two hooded mergansers (male & female) have been in the beaver pond for a week. The bad news, they eat small fish; the good news, they think there’s plenty in the pond to keep them around. Many widgeons and the normal contingent of mallard ducks.
Miller and Walker Creeks were running about 6” above normal flows.
Date: November 18, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Christine Terry Observation: I was at the Cove yesterday with Mr. Matthews' class. Our group saw four salmon amd Mr. Matthews' group saw a salmon actually spawning! Add 5 more salmon to the count!
Date: November 17, 2008 Location: Walker Creek at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: A 10-foot long salmon emerged alongside Walker Creek today as Andy and Burien artist Kathy Johnson coaxed a salmon out of a log bench at the Normandy Park Community Club (private property) in Normandy Park. Check out their fine work in the photos below.
The salmon bench when completed. Photo courtesy of Andy Batcho.
Close-up view of the head of the salmon bench. Photo courtesy of Andy Batcho.
The artists Andy Batcho and Kathy Johnson at rest on their work with sculpting tools in hand. Photo courtesy of Andy Batcho.
Date: November 5, 2008 Location: Miller Creek at SeaTac International Airport in SeaTac Source: Port of Seattle Observation: Port staff have captured on video several coho salmon that reached the Port of Seattle property on Miller Creek. This footage shows fish that have successfully migrated several miles upstream and reached a stretch of stream restored as part of the construction of the third runway at SeaTac Airport. View the salmon video.
Date: November 5, 2008 Location: Miller Creek at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Samantha Brower of the Environmental Science Center (external link) and I brought 40 students from Madrona Elementary School to see salmon at the Cove. We started at the last bridge by the mouth of Miller Creek -- no fish. We moved up to the next pedestrian bridge over Miller Creek in the forest -- still no fish. At the third bridge, the one closest to the clubhouse, the kids thought there were no fish there either. But I noticed a fish upstream and so told the kids to continue being quiet and to watch. And then the kids saw them -- a pair of coho spawning about eight feet upstream. When the female turned on her side to fan the gravel, the kids oohed and ahhed. It was the first time any of them had seen adult fish in the wild, spawning no less. Our field trip also included a visit to the Walker Preserve, to see a real forest in the heart of the city, and the S. 144th St. restoration site in Burien, to see that it is possible to heal urban streams. It was a good day for kids and adults alike!
Date: November 3, 2008 Location: Miller Creek upstream of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District in Normandy Park Source: Brett Fish Observation: Three crimson coho males swam past the "Fish House" at 4 p.m.
Date: November 3, 2008 Location: Walker Creek at 13th Ave. S.W. ("Snake Road") Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Observed three coho salmon in Walker Creek between the culvert and the Swim Club fence at 1:30 p.m. The female was making a redd (egg nest) in the wider channel north of the gravel bar. At least one male was holding station next to her. Every 30 seconds or so, the hen would turn and fan the gravel, sending clouds of silt downstream. The third coho, hovering downstream, was probably a male but I can't be sure. This weekend marks the first substantial rain we're seeing this fall so hopefully these fish are the first of a large group of spawners that will begin to move in during the next several days of rain. The fish appeared to be behaving in a healthy manner, with no signs of the distress that precedes pre-spawn mortality. Walker Creek was flowing swiftly and clear although marked by its customary tannic (tea) color.
Although hard to see, this photo shows two spawning coho in Walker Creek between the 13th Ave. S.W. culvert and the swim club fence on November 3. The stream flows from left to right. A male and female coho are in the right half of the photo.
Date: November 2, 2008, Noon Location: Miller and Walker Creeks at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: After about 1/2” of rain last night and this morning, I observed:
Miller and Walker Creeks were running about 6” above normal flows.
There was evidence that Miller Creek had run about one foot above normal and had dropped by Noon.
At the junction of the two streams, Walker Creek was running “tannic” (tea) in color, but transparent. Miller Creek was very turbid (read: gray/black in color) and not transparent. This same effect could be seen where the outfall of the pond (Walker Creek water) meets Miller Creek. (Basin Steward note: Turbidity on Miller Creek had diminished by November 3 at 1:30 p.m.)
No fish were observed with a through examination of both streams. 6 coho have been seen in Miller/Walker Creeks thus far, all approx. 2-3 weeks ago at the last rain event. Four coho have been seen on Miller Creek at the “Fish House” above the sewer plant thus far.
No fish were observed jumping in Puget Sound. (Note: The resident that lives at the mouth of Miller Creek has said that he sees fish jumping in Puget Sound every year prior to them entering the stream. I have seen fly fishers catch and release numerous coho salmon one-quarter mile north of Miller Creek when the fish are jumping in the Sound.)
Date: October 29, 2008 Location: Normandy Park City Hall Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Monitoring Workshop #2 occurred this evening at Normandy Park City Hall. 10 citizens from across the watershed and representatives of local agencies further discussed how to expand and coordinate monitoring of water flows, water quality, and habitat in the basins.
Heungkook Lim from the City of Burien, Dave Evans, and Kevin Alexander (left-right) work with a map to show where additional monitoring should occur at the October 29 workshop.
Date: October 25, 2008 Location: Fox Creek (beneath the Sylvester Bridge) in Normandy Park Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward
Observation: On Saturday, 10 volunteers removed what may have amounted to a ton of trash from the ravine beneath the Sylvester Road bridge in Normandy Park. The ravine is home to Fox Creek, a tributary that flows to Miller Creek, joining it at the Southwest Suburban Sewer District plant. Years worth of illegal dumping had left a mess below the bridge. In fact, this area was the only known serious trash problem in the entire Miller/Walker Creek stream system. While some of the litter along Fox Creek was simply unsightly, other trash such as car batteries and electronics contain lead that had the potential to leach into the water. King County Fire District 2 (external link) crew Ernie, Dave, and Jim helped out by installing ropes to the bottom of the ravine, using their winch to haul up 13 (!) tires, and belaying Jim Burrows so that he could safely clean a steep slope. City of Normandy Park Public Works crew will dispose of the trash, recyclables, and hazardous waste (TV monitors, car battery). The following citizens volunteered: Andy Batcho, Councilmember Clarke Brant, Jim Burrows, Tony Cassarino, Dave Evans, Brett Fish, Chris Gower, Councilmember George Hadley, Stuart Jenner, and Colin Nardine. Washington Conservation Corps member Liz Esikoff also participated. Thank you to all who contributed to this successful stewardship day!
Looking up Fox Creek during February 25, 2008 stream survey. Sylvester Road bridge is in the distance. Trash in the stream included 13 tires, a car battery, computer monitors, TVs, bicycles, and two car doors.
On October 25, volunteers accessed the Fox Creek ravine beneath the Sylvester Road bridge using this slope. King County Fire District 2 installed a fixed line (not visible) to allow people to descend and ascend safely.
Jim Burrows puts his mountain climbing experience to good use in the urban heart of Puget Sound. King County Fire District 2 crews belayed Jim from above so he could safely climb down the slope to pick up illegally dumped trash.
Here the volunteers make a chain gang to pass big pieces of trash -- broken computer monitors, bicycles, signs -- out of the stream and to a staging area beneath the bridge. Fox Creek flows through the bottom of the ravine down to Miller Creek.
Some of the trash raiders of Fox Creek in front of the pile of debris they collected beneath the Sylvester Road bridge. Photo by Brett Fish.
Jim Burrows stands next to a pile of trash gathered from the ravine. This pile represents only one-quarter of the total amount of trash collected on October 25!
Chris Gower stands next to the trash container filled with some of the debris removed from the Fox Creek ravine on October 25. Several large trash bags were also filled with recyclable aluminum cans and glass. Hazardous waste -- principally TVs and computer monitors -- will be disposed of separately.
Date: October 18, 2008 Location: Miller Creek at S. 144th Way in Burien Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: On Saturday, volunteers returned to a stretch of Miller Creek in Burien where restoration work began last October (see 2007 blog entry). The eight experienced volunteers planted 300 Sitka willow stakes, three Oregon ash trees, eight western red cedar, and 10 Stika spruce. We also did a bit of weeding to reduce the amount of non-native, invasive vegetation. The following citizens helped: Jim Burrows, Merry Ann Peterson, and Kevin Alexander of Burien; Colin Nardine of Normandy Park; and Emily Ausema, John McCartney, Dave Waters, Chads Simkins, and Raymond McCullah. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped!
Photo of volunteers planting willow stakes and trees along Miller Creek at S. 144th St. in Burien on October 18.
Date: October 16, 2008 Location: Miller Creek upstream of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District in Normandy Park Source: Brett Fish Observation: Here they are -- the first photographs of one of the first adult salmon returning to Miller Creek this year. Brett Fish took photos of this coho salmon -- probably a female -- in Miller Creek just upstream of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District Plant. Let's hope she finds a mate and makes a good redd (egg nest)!
Date: October 13, 2008
Location: n/a Source: Seattle Times newspaper Observation: Seattle Times reporter Richard Seven profiled Andy Batcho and his decades of work on Miller and Walker Creeks at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park. Read this excellent article (external link).
Date: October 7, 2008
Location: Walker Creek at Snake Road (13th Ave. S.W.) in Normandy Park Source: Tony Cassarino, Stewards of the Cove Observation: The first reported salmon of the season was seen in the pool in Walker Creek between Snake Road and the Normandy Park Swim Club. It was a coho (silver) salmon estimated at 4-5 pounds. Andy Batcho has been recording the date when fish are first reported in the streams. Over the last eight years, the first report has always been during the first two weeks of October so this fish was right on time.
Date: October 3-4, 2008
Location: Walker Preserve in Normandy Park Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: On Friday and Saturday, 18 volunteers removed invasive English ivy from the Walker Preserve and planted 55 native trees. On Friday, 11 members of the Washington State Veterans Conservation Corps (external link) and Normandy Park Park Board member Paul Cooke participated. The VCC previously helped at the Miller Creek restoration last October 26 (see 2007 blog entry). On Saturday, the following citizens helped: Jim Burrows, Dwight Fagothey, Merry Ann Peterson, and Kim Shulze of Burien; and Shawn McEvoy, Deb Mutter, and Colin Nardine of Normandy Park. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped on both days!
This work continued efforts by volunteers on March 22, June 7, and July 19 (see entries for these dates below) to remove ivy from inside the loop trail at the west end of the Preserve. Thanks to the work of all the volunteers this year -- and that of an unknown local resident in 2007 -- most of the ivy has been removed from the large loop at the end of the trail. To add more conifers to the healthy forest of deciduous trees, the volunteers on Friday and Saturday planted 37 grand fir, 10 Douglas fir, and 7 western red cedar trees. These conifer trees will improve the diversity of plant species and habitats in the Preserve where it straddles the ridgeline between Miller and Walker Creeks.
Veterans Conservation Corps crew do the hard work of removing English ivy from the forest floor in the Walker Preserve on October 3, 2008. Cleared ivy will be left in piles, where it will decompose.
These 11 members of the 2008-2009 class of the Veterans Conservation Corps helped remove ivy and plant native trees at the Walker Preserve on October 3, 2008. Jeremy Grisham (second from right), who graduated from the 2007-2008 VCC program at Green River Community College, organized the work party.
Volunteers (and Normandy Park Mayor) Shawn McEvoy (external link), holding plant, and Kim Schulze plant a Douglas fir to improve the mix of plant species in the Walker Preserve on October 4, 2008.
Volunteer Deb Mutter doesn't let a little rain deter her as she plants a grand fir tree at the Walker Preserve on October 4, 2008.
Date: September 24, 2008
Location: Burien Community Center Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: How do we know about water quality, water quantity, and habitat conditions in Miller and Walker Creeks? What monitoring has been done in recent years? What monitoring is necessary to allow for analysis of trends? Can we better coordinate existing monitoring?What additional monitoring would we like to do in the future? And how are we going to use all the data that have been and will be collected? Five years from now, will monitoring give us the information we need to evaluate the health of these stream basins and make good decisions about future projects, programs, and policies?
This evening, 15 people from across the stream basins met to begin answering these questions. This was the first of three public workshops that will rely on the knowledge and expertise of local citizens and agency staff to make recommendations about future monitoring. Ultimately, the monitoring is intended to provide information on how well we're doing in improving the health of the land and water in Highline for the benefit of people and fish.
Date: September 13, 2008 Location: Miller Creek upstream of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District in Normandy Park Source: Brett Fish Observation: Stewarding the land and water in the Miller and Walker Creek stream basins benefits the entire ecosystem of which people, fish, birds, and other wildlife are parts. As evidence of the latter category of watershed residents, take a look at this curious neighbor photographed by Brett Fish.
Date: August 9, 2008 Location: Miller Creek near the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: The Duwamish-Green Chapter of Trout Unlimited (combined Des Moines / Elliott Bay / So. King. Co. TU Chapters) combined with the Normandy Park Cove Stewards of the Cove (external link) to perform the U.S. Forest Service method of stream survey on 2,500 feet of Miller Creek on the Cove property (from the mouth (saltwater) to 12th Place S.W.). The survey gathered hundreds of data points that indicate the health and condition of the stream, including: riffle-to-pool ratio, pool quality index (width of pool, depth of pool, amount of overhanging vegetation, large woody debris (tree trunks and root wads), substrate (sediment) type, habitat 100 feet on either side of the stream, habitat types including riffles, runs, pools, and glides, and channel width and depth. These data will be compared to the same survey data collected in 1993 by the Trout Unlimited Chapter to see what improvements have been made to the stream during 15-years of stream restoration work. The data also will help determine where additional improvements are needed. The crew was broken into three teams and performed the survey in three hours. Estimates to have this work done professionally were $5,000! Team members were: Dr. John Muramatsu (Pres. T.U. Chapter), Andy Batcho (past T.U. President & Cove Steward), Al Miller (past T.U. President), John Richardson (past T.U. V.P.), and “Stewards of the Cove” members Art Kawaguchi, Pat Pressentin, Gary Gabler, Ron Ebbers, Ron Johanson, Dave Evans, and Dan Rue.
Volunteers from the local chapters of Trout Unlimited and from the Stewards of the Cove who participated in the stream survey of Miller Creek on August 9. Photo courtesy of Al Miller.
The volunteers also placed a log in the creek on August 9. Logs provide structure by helping to create pools where young fish can feed and take shelter. Photo courtesy of Al Miller.
Date: July 2008 Location: Walker Creek near the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: The annual silt removal maintenance of Walker Creek occurred this month at the Normandy Park Community Club "Cove." The sediment removal took place on the side stream from Walker Creek that feeds water to the man-made "beaver pond" at the southwest corner of the property. Much silt migrates down Walker Creek into the pond inlet each year and without the maintenance work, the pond would fill with silt very quickly. Prior to removing the silt in this 40 foot section of side stream, the fish in the section were carefully captured and relocated. Approximately 150 coho fry and a dozen or two cutthroat trout were captured in the 40’ section of stream. Amazing productivity for this small section of water! The coho fry looked like “little footballs”….big and fat! At approximately 2” long & 1” deep, they’re eating very well! The cutthroat trout were 3” to 6” and beautifully colored. The pond rears hundreds (thousands?) of coho fry and sea-run cutthroat trout.
(Steward's note: This sediment removal work is performed annually as part of a careful-designed plan for stream restoration. The project sponsors follow state and local regulations regarding work in and adjacent to the stream, including obtaining all permits in advance. In general, sediment plays an important role in streams and only in a few specific situations, as at the Cove, does removal provide net benefits to the stream ecosystem.)
Date: July 19, 2008 Location: Miller Creek at S. 144th Way in Burien Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Well, the dog days of summer are truly upon us. Our treasured local species, homo volunterus, heads for the beach or the mountains at this time of year. Nonetheless, three volunteers -- Councilmember George Hadley, Andrea Lindsay, and Kevin Alexander -- turned out to help weed the native plants along the south side of Miller Creek at the S. 144th St. restoration project. Morning glory (bindweed) was the biggest problem, with some of our red osier dogwoods completely covered by it. Once the morning glory was carefully pulled off it, our native shrubs have a fighting chance. We also dug up Himalayan blackberry but there was not a lot of it -- the volunteers last October did a good job of grubbing out the root balls that are the source of new shoots.
Date: June 30, 2008 Location: Miller Creek in Burien and Normandy Park Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Today I joined with the King County Noxious Weed Program staff to walk a portion of Miller Creek. The Noxious Weed staff were surveying for weeds such as policeman's helmet and knotweed. (The Noxious Weed staff had previously obtained permission from owners to cross private property.) I joined the Noxious Weed staff to help in their task, look for potential restoration sites on public land, and do a bit of weed control of my own focused on English ivy climbing trees on public land.
We walked, crawled, and slithered down the creek from SR509 in Burien to the Southwest Suburban Sewer District plant in Normandy Park. Here are my observations:
The creek looks nice. On a day where the temperature reached about 80 degrees F. elsewhere, it was considerably cooler and pleasant walking along the shady stream. The mostly native vegetation is verdant and smells great. Birds -- mostly robins -- flew past us. At times, we would forget we were in the middle of a bustling urban area.
I did not see any fish in the stream until we were downstream of First Ave. S. in Normandy Park. This doesn't mean that there weren't any fish in the Burien portion of the creek, of course. After crossing under First Ave. S., I saw gradually increasing numbers of fish -- probably coho salmon about 5-6 cm long -- as we proceeded downstream toward the sewer plant. Several times I saw fish 10-12 cm long darting about -- my guess is they were cutthroat trout. It's hard to tell when they zip about so quickly! The difference in numbers lower down could be because it was easier to see them in the stream given the stream profile and substrate (there was less silt) or because there were simply more fish, or a combination of these two factors.
Caddisflies were the aquatic insect most frequently seen. Carefully turning over rocks revealed one mayfly larvae but nothing else. This did not constitute a thorough survey, of course. Nonetheless, the lack of diversity and relatively few insects seen during this ad hoc sampling is indicative of a stream with serious ecological problems.
There is not a lot of leaf litter in the wetted area of the stream. This is important because the organic matter from leaves provides food and shelter for aquatic insects that in turn feed juvenile fish.
There are segments of the stream where there is a lot of English ivy climbing the trees in the ravine along the creek. Killing this ivy by cutting it at the base of the trees will save these trees from premature death.
Thanks to aggressive knotweed control efforts in previous years, we saw mostly only individual, random plants. This is a very positive observation because it shows that this aggressive plant is well under control along the stream. Policeman's helmet is more prevalent and will require control several times this year.
Here are some photos from my stream/weed inspection:
The photo above shows Miller Creek looking west from inside the First Ave. S. culvert. Due to its length, slope, and design, adult fish find it challenging to migrate through this culvert. It's a long walk for people, too.
Here's a mouse I found crawling around inside the Miller Creek culvert under First Ave. S. It was a very agile little rodent to avoid sliding down the culvert sides into the stream.
Here is small (4 cm long) salmon fry in Miller Creek in Normandy Park. It was resting, protected from the current by surrounding rocks.
Here are several caddisfly larvae in Miller Creek in Normandy Park. The caddisfly are the two small cylindrical objects in the center-left and center-right of the photo. The legs of the caddisfly are visible at the top of the insect on the left; the legs are visible at the bottom of the insect on the right. These caddisflies are inside cases they constructed of silk and bits of sand, silt, and twigs. Caddisflies are occasional prey for juvenile salmonids.
Miller Creek in Normandy Park. Note abundant native shrubs overhanging the stream, providing shade and a home for terrestrial insects, many of which fall in the stream and become prey for juvenile salmon.
Photo of Miller Creek in Normandy Park where Southwest Suburban Sewer District reconstructed the channel in September 2007. The reconstruction was done to protect the main sewer line from erosion. The stream looks and appears to function well thanks to the care taken in doing this project.
One of the biggest threats to stream habitat in the Miller and Walker Creek basins is the spread of English ivy. Ivy has completely covered the trunks of these tall trees along Miller Creek in Normandy Park. As it climbs further into the canopy, the weight and "sail area" of the ivy will make these trees more vulnerable to being toppled in high winds. The ivy also can constrict the growth of the trees, causing them to die.
Date: June 29, 2008 Location: Strawberry Festival in Burien Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Improving Miller and Walker Creeks depends in large part on enlisting many of the people who live, work, and play here in our efforts. A key step is increasing awareness that the creeks exist and that actions -- whether on the banks of the streams or miles away -- have an impact on water quality and quantity. Consequently, I teamed up with staff and volunteers from the Seahurst Environmental Science Center to staff a booth at the annual Strawberry Festival in Burien this weekend. Over 200 people stopped by to view the displays and talk with us. We hope many of them will look at their watershed with a new perspective and act to protect our water.
Photo showing Basin Steward Dennis Clark talking with Burien resident about Miller and Walker Creeks.
These models of watersheds show how different land uses affect the quality and quanity of water that runs off the land into a "stream." This young Strawberry Festival participant uses the watering can to make it "rain" in the watershed models.
Date: June 7, 2008 Location: Walker Preserve in Normandy Park Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: 5 volunteers braved a cool, wet Saturday to help remove more English ivy from the Walker Preserve. Back in March, volunteers cut ivy from around the base of the trees in the preserve to kill the ivy in the canopy. Work today was focused on getting ivy off the forest floor inside the loop trail at the end of the main trail. It was hard work but advances us toward a healthier urban forest along Walker Creek! (Learn more about why ivy is bad [external link].) Volunteers included Councilmember Clarke Brant, Ron Johanson, Amy Hance-Brancati, and Park Board members Paul Cooke and Bonnie Beyer. Thank you all!
Volunteers removing ivy from the forest floor in the Walker Preserve. June 7, 2008.
Date: April 26, 2008 Location: Walker Creek at the Normandy Park Swim Club Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Volunteers from the Normandy Park Swim Club worked with Basin Steward Dennis Clark to remove invasive plants from along Walker Creek where it flows through the Club's property. Volunteers removed Himalayan blackberry, herb Robert, bittersweet nightshade, and other non-native plants. This work cleared the way for replanting in the fall. During the summer, the Club will develop a planting plan that will select native trees and shrubs that will simultaneously enhance the grounds and improve stream ecology. In the afternoon, kids observed juvenile salmon swimming in the stream.
Date: April 19, 2008 Location: Miller Creek at S. 144th Way in Burien Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Saturday, April 19, saw another successful stewardship project on Miller Creek. In honor of Earth Day, 28 volunteers turned out despite snow, hail, and rain to mulch trees along a stretch of the creek. Mulch – chipped tree limbs -- will help keep weeds down and retain moisture around 300 native trees and shrubs that volunteers planted last October. Volunteers also removed Himalayan blackberry, a non-native, invasive plant that provides poor habitat for birds, wildlife, and fish. AmeriCorps volunteers Nikki Anderson and Emily Ausema brought half a dozen students from Chinook Middle School in SeaTac to participate, following up on their participation last year. Several students from Highline High School also participated. This site was weeded and planted by volunteers last October.
Volunteers filling buckets with mulch to place around trees planted along Miller Creek. Mulch helps keep weeds down and retain moisture in the soil. April 19, 2008.
Emily, a volunteer from Chinook Middle School, planting a Douglas fir seedling along Miller Creek. April 19, 2008.
This is one of about a dozen trees transplanted to the restoration site thanks to a donation from Tanya Engeset. Green flagging on the branch will help distinguish the transplanted trees from previously planted trees, thus allowing us to monitor their survival. Trees planted last fall have pink flagging for contrast. April 19, 2008.
Date: April 16, 2008 Location: N/A Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Want to learn more the importance of controlling English ivy and Earth Day activities across the Highline area this year? Check out my article in this week's Highline Times/Des Moines News (external link).
Date: April 14, 2008 Location: Walker Creek near the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: The constructed “beaver pond” on the Cove property showed significant fish activity. Many coho smolts (~4” long) were observed feeding/jumping in the pond. These smolts will be leaving soon. They have spent 12-18 months in the Walker/Miller watershed. Warming water conditions in the pond during the next few months will likely be the determining factor (plus mother nature’s time schedule for salmon smolts) for moving the fish out of the freshwater environment and into the saltwater of Puget Sound to begin their journey toward Alaska. They will return as adults (hopefully) in two more years, with the peak of the runs returning to the creeks in mid-November. Also saw several sea-run/coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki - named for the explorers Lewis & Clark), a beautiful, highly-spotted fish with an orange slash under the chin. They were feeding actively in the “beaver pond”. These coastal cutthroat are native to the small streams of Puget Sound and “love” the “beaver pond” environment. The cutts spawn in the streams, then rear as juveniles in freshwater, leaving for the saltwater of Puget Sound to find additional food supplies. The cutts usually stay within a few miles of their native streams growing to several pounds, then returning when the salmon enter the streams to eat salmon eggs and fry, prior to their own spawning, which occurs after the coho have completed their spawning activities. Sea-run cutthroat populations in Puget Sound have been on the decline in past years…..it’s good to see those around the Cove property doing so well. Saw a large flock (100 ) of Pacific black brants (Branta bernicla), a smaller (4-7 lb.) goose-like bird, feeding on the nearshore of Puget Sound at the Cove beach. First time I’d seen these birds here.
Date: April 12, 2008 Location: Walker Creek near the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: I observed many salmon fry occupying the newly restored pools of Walker Creek in front of the Cove building. The fry were likely coho and were approximately 1-1/2” long. The fry were feeding actively, grabbing anything that looked like food in a 1’ diameter area around each fish, including eating things floating by on the surface. They missed nothing! It isn’t known if these fry are natural hatch or fish from the recent Trout Unlimited sponsored “Salmon in the Classroom” releases from MarVista, Madrona, and North Hill Schools or both.
Date: March 22, 2008 Location: Walker Preserve in Normandy Park Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: 11 volunteers turned out under sunny skies to save the trees of the Walker Preserve from English ivy. One of the three large "wild" parks in Normandy Park, Walker Preserve protects a portion of Walker Creek. Volunteers removed ivy from the lower trunks of those trees that were infested and from a ring around the base of the tree. This will cause the ivy higher up the trunk to die. In time, the ivy leaves and vines will fall off. Failure to keep ivy out of trees leads to their eventual demise, harming our urban forests and the streamside habitat they provide. (Learn more about why ivy is bad [external link].) Volunteers included Councilmember Clarke Brant, Debbie Burke, Tony Cassarino, Carol Heigh, Ron Johanson, Larry Moormeier, Councilmember Doug Osterman, Mitchell Osterman, Alex Short, Jean Spohn, and Rob Thomas. Thank you all!
Volunteers removing ivy from the base of trees at the Walker Preserve. March 22, 2008.
Volunteer (and Normandy Park Councilmember) Clarke Brant removing ivy from the base of a Douglas fir tree at the Walker Preserve. Ivy had climbed over 75 feet up the trunk of this tree. March 22, 2008.
The ivy vines Clarke sawed through. Vines this large can strangle trees, cutting off their growth and killing them. March 22, 2008.
Date: March 14, 2008 Location: Walker Creek at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Chuck Schuh Observation: I was making one of my frequent visits to the Cove to check on the poop bags today when I saw my first cormorant at the Cove sitting on the stump in the middle of the duck pond on Walker Creek airing out its wings. Along with the solitary coot, who now thinks its a duck, and loon who have been there for a few months now and the many wigeons as well as the frequent great blue heron visits all of which would seem to indicate a fairly healthy environment.
Date: March 10, 2008 Location: Walker Creek near the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park Source: Andy Batcho Observation: I observed fry swimming in Walker Creek this afternoon. Obviously, given their size, I could not tell if they were “naturally-spawned” or “Trout Unlimited hatchery outplants” from January 19, or if they were coho or chum, but there were quite a few. They’re about 1” – 1-1/2” long and hard to spot. Movement is the first clue, as the fry “spook” when they spot you looking over a pool. When you see movement, then concentrate on the area and you’ll see the fry swimming in the current. I only looked in Walker Creek today. Here’s where I saw them:
A half dozen or so fry were observed just below (6’ – 8’) the ramp to the Cove deck.
Two of the newly created pools in the rehabilitated area in front of the Cove clubhouse had a half-dozen fry in them.
One 5” – 6” fish was seen darting around in one of the newly-created pools. Very likely a cutthroat trout….also likely feeding on fry!
Three fry were observed just below the new foot bridge over Walker Creek.
Two-three dozen fry were observed amongst the new large woody debris installed in Walker Creek, just above the confluence with Miller Creek.
A lady told me she’d seen a 2” fish yesterday in Walker Creek, upstream (30’) from the ramp to the Cove deck. Likely a cutthroat.
Date: March 8, 2008 Location: Walker Creek at the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park
Source: Doug Osterman and Tony Cassarino Observation: The first Stewards of the Cove (external link) event of the year got off to a good start today. 24 volunteers put in 81 hours planting bare-root native shrubs and ground cover along Walker Creek where it wraps around the clubhouse before flowing into Miller Creek. (See photo below.) Working alongside the volunteers was a hired crew from EarthCorps (external link). EarthCorps and some volunteers also removed yellow-flag iris, an invasive plant. These efforts will help improve the riparian (streamside) habitat along Walker Creek, which will particularly benefit the salmonid fish that use this creek.
Date: March 2, 2008 Location: Miller and Walker Creeks upstream from the Cove (external link) in Normandy Park
Source: Andy Batcho Observation: Walker/Miller Creek “Bug Feeding Station” experiment report
A bit of history: The Normandy Park Community Club has been sponsoring Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (BIBI) on Miller/Walker Creeks for the past few years. [These studies look at the number and diversity of species of aquatic insects resident in streams.] The results from these studies show the streams to be similar, with Walker Creek being slightly better for bug production/types than Miller Creek, but both streams show moderate to poor production and variety in favorable “clean water” species.
With that knowledge, we asked several “subject-matter-experts” the question; “What can we do to improve our stream for insects?,” with the ultimate goal of improving salmon rearing capacity of the streams. It seemed to us that, many people measure BIBI, but we have yet to find someone to tell us the steps to “improve” the BIBI.
To that end, Andy Batcho suggested an experiment. We already measure BIBI in three locations, one in Walker Creek, one in Miller Creek and one at the confluence of the two streams so what if we “spiked” one test location with bug habitat ingredients to see if it would have any positive influence on the BIBI scheduled in the late summer of ’08?
Last fall, (’07), we stuffed a few onion sacks with rocks, leaf liitter, salmon carcasses, and clam shells (for calcium to build insect carapaces [shell]). We anchored these bags with re-bar in a side pool near a riffle in Walker Creek on the Swim Club property safely behind a chain link fence to reduce disturbances. We placed groupings of baseball sized rocks downstream and upstream of the “feeding station” to try to measure the distance the feeding station might have an effect.
This afternoon, Sunday, March 2, 2008, curiosity got the best of myself and George Hadley (Mayor Pro Tem of Normandy Park). We went down to the stream to see what if any bug populations were located around the feeding station. Here’s what we observed:
We picked up several of our placed rocks downstream of the feed station on Walker Creek. Almost all of those rocks had life clinging to them, in pretty good numbers, one to half-dozen, some more. They appeared to be the same species (mayfly nymph), but of various sizes and colors, ranging from near white to black. They also ranged in size from barely visible to the naked eye to nearly ½”. George photographed many of them. I consulted my Orvis Stream Guide when I got home, most of what we were seeing were a mayfly nymphs in my opinion, but I have no idea of the specific variety. It would be common for mayfly “clinger” nymphs to be mainly in faster water as they need good oxygenated waters.
While watching the stream we did see one hatch come off. It was mainly white and maybe ½” in overall length. Possibly a PMD (Pale Morning Dunn (Ephemerella infrequens) or possibly a large Trico (Tricorythodes minutes).
Small rocks (golf ball size) were checked, some buried in silt, some free, few or none of these rocks had visible life under them.
A few baseball sized rocks upstream of the feeding station (4’-6’) also had some insect life, but it was a little harder to find rocks with life on them.
A piece of water soaked sunken wood, ~2’ long, 8” in diameter, located downstream (6’-8’) was lifted. The wood was not buried in the sand/silt, just resting on the bottom. This piece of wood had approximately 1-2 dozen mayfly nymphs of various sizes and colors. Other pieces of wood were lifted, if the bottom of the wood was buried in the sand, they had no visible life under them.
We checked a couple of the rocks that were placed in the feed station bag. In the “still water” location the bag was placed it had silted in quite substantially. The rocks in the bag had no visible insect life. We don’t know if this was caused by the amount of silt on the bag, lack of current the mayfly nymph require or for other reasons?
We shook the silt off the bags and left them to lie. There was still a pronounced odor of rotting fish when the bag was raised above the surface.
We decided to move to Miller Creek just below the confluence with Walker Creek to see what bugs might be living there.
There were no baseball size rocks in the area. Some, but few, golf ball sized rocks had one or two very small mayfly nymphs clinging to them.
Moving upstream above the confluence, a piece of wood bark (2’ x 8”) was inspected, it was not firmly fixed to the bottom, but moved occasionally with the current. No life was observed on this wood.
Another piece of wood (1’ x 4” dia.) that was firmly setting on the bottom. It contained two small fresh water shrimp (scuds). One almost white, the other dark green.
Several small rocks were examined, none had visible life on them.
A large piece of roofing tar paper (2’ x 2’) was found lying on the bottom behind a boulder. Lifting the tar paper showed 2-3 dozen mayfly nymphs clinging to the bottom.
What we learned/observed:
Rocks partially buried in the silt/sand serve little or no purpose for insects.
Baseball and larger rocks seem to be preferred by insects over smaller (golf ball) sized rocks.
Wood laying in contact with the bottom, but not sealed by silt provides excellent insect habitat. (Similar to finding spiders & insects under a board on land, better if the board isn’t sealed into the mud, but has living space underneath.)
It seems like there were more insects below & around the feeding station, but that could just as likely be optimism.
Rocks in still and/or silty areas have few or no bugs using them.
Rocks in faster moving water have more insect life on/under them.
We were somewhat surprised to find mainly only one main species of insect. May have to do with how we looked?
Tar paper works as well or better for insect habitat than natural materials in the stream. This says to me that the insects are looking for large surfaces to cling to with proper current flow. Whether they’re “grazing” on the algae on these surfaces, I’m not sure.
So no real conclusions from these observations, other than tar paper seems to be the next LWD for stream restoration purposes.
We’re hoping that the BIBI scheduled for this fall will provide results significant enough to be of merit.
Date: January 19, 2008 Location: Throughout Miller/Walker Creeks basin in Burien and Normandy Park Source: Dennis Clark, Basin Steward Observation: Volunteers from Trout Unlimited (TU) today out-planted 120,000 young coho salmon to about 15 locations along Miller and Walker Creeks. These fish came as eggs from the Soos Creek hatchery near Auburn. Since their transfer, they were raised on the grounds of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District treatment plant in Normandy Park. Since the mid-1980s, the sewer district has donated the facility and well-water that is used to incubate the eggs. Every day, TU volunteers removed dead fish and monitored the development of the young fish. The fish were not fed but instead survived off their yolk sacks like fish in the wild do. By mid-January, the fish -- about 3 cm long -- were ready to be distributed throughout the watershed. Fish are outplanted in Miller Creek, Walker/Sequoia Creek, and Des Moines Creek. Once in the stream, they will face the same challenges that naturally-hatched fish do. A smart, strong, and lucky few will survive and grow for a year in the streams before heading out to Puget Sound. Two to three years later, a small fraction will return to spawn in the creeks. By increasing the number of juvenile fish in the creeks, the TU hatchery operation helps compensate for the high mortality of salmon eggs (in nests known as "redds") and young fish caused by high stream flows in the fall and early winter (such as the December 3, 2007 flood). The pictures below illustrate the outplanting process.
This is the building where the young fish are incubated. Constructed in 1988, it is located on the grounds of the Southwest Suburban Sewer District treatment plant in Normandy Park. Miller Creek is to the right. Trout Unlimited volunteers are cleaning trays that were used to rear the fish. January 19, 2008.
These are the trays where the young fish are raised following their transfer as eggs from the Soos Creek hatchery. Water from a well constantly incubated the 120,000 fish raised during this season. The well water is 13 degrees Celsius, considerably warmer than the creeks at this time of year. The warmer water leads to faster incubation of the eggs than stream water does and avoids the risk of polluted water from the streams killing the fish. Each of the 24 trays contains about 5,000 fish. January 19, 2008.
Trout Unlimited volunteers Russ and John transfer the young coho salmon from a tray into an ice chest. A battery-powered pump oxygenates the water during the time it takes to drive the fish to the stream where they will be outplanted. January 19, 2008.
Trout Unlimited volunteer Ron gently empties a bucket containing 5,000 young coho into Walker Creek next to Ambaum Blvd. in Burien. January 19, 2008.
Juvenile coho salmon just after having been outplanted in Sequoia Creek in Normandy Park. At first, many of the fish show signs of being stunned by the transfer to the new environment but within minutes, most are spreading out through the stream. Their dark color will help camouflage them from preadators such as great blue herons (most of the stream bottoms are darker than shown here). January 19, 2008.