On Friday, September 25, OHA held a special edition of Highland Wonders – a drive-in movie screening of The Beaver Believers, a feature documentary. It was a clear, cool autumn evening with the moon hanging in the sky, and we were able to gather (while maintaining social distancing precautions) to watch this inspiring film. If you missed it, reach out to director Sarah Koenigsberg through her website, https://www.thebeaverbelievers.com/ to find out how you can see this fantastic film. You too, can be a beaver believer!
Due to COVID-19 we were not able to hold our summertime Highland Wonders field trips. But never fear! Artists have shared techniques, instructions and their artistic process by video so that you can watch, enjoy, learn and, if you like, create nature inspired art right in your own back yard. Many thanks to Ken Vander Stoep, Claudia Makeyev, Sadie and Emma Hanley and Owen and Andrew Weddle for inspiring us to observe nature and to create!
OHA kicked off the summer’s of 2020’s Highland Wonders with a Weekend Birding Challenge! The official event took place on May 30-31 but if you want to participate, choose any consecutive two days that works for you! We will send you a bluebird box kit when you share your results.
There are two challenge options. Choose the one that fits you best, or do both! The challenge runs from Saturday, May 30 to Sunday, May 31. Send your results to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, June 1.
Challenge 1: Keep a list of the bird species that you see in your yard or wherever you may be. Take pictures if you can! Send your approximate sighting location, species list and pictures by Monday, June 1 to email@example.com. An anonymous donor is giving OHA $5 for the first 40 species identified! Let us know if you’d like to add to the pot!
Attached below is our “Birding Care Package” with lots of fun resources for watching, listening to and caring for our local birds. Also attached is a tried-and-true bluebird box blueprint, from local bird box expert Dale Swedberg. In the near future we will be assembling bird box kits to distribute to interested community members, and we will also provide a “how to” video for assembly and care of the boxes. Let us know if we can put you on the list to receive a kit!
Everywhere you look in the Okanogan Highlands you can see evidence of the movement of glaciers. The trick is knowing what to look for! On March 6, CWU geography professor Karl Lillquist used local landscapes and landforms to demonstrate how glaciers and other factors shaped our region during the last glaciation in our area, 12,000-18,000 years ago.
Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) and Okanogan Land Trust (OLT) are excited to be co-hosting three-part series of educational events focused on geology. OHA hosted the first event on Friday, March 6th, when Dr. Karl Lillquist returned to Tonasket for the Highland Wonders presentation. OLT will host the second event at some point in the future, but it has been postponed to protect public health. When we are able to resume public events, Bruce Bjornstad will present as part of the OkaKnowledgy lecture series in Okanogan. The third event, also led by Dr. Lillquist, will take participants on a field trip in the Highlands, hopefully this summer! All three events will highlight the fascinating geological processes shaping our hills and valleys. The indoor events are free and open to all; the field trip will require pre-registration with priority given to OHA and OLT members. Anyone can become a member!
Friday, March 6, Community Cultural Center of Tonasket: Dr. Lillquist led the audience in “explor[ing] the origins and evolution of landscapes and landforms in the Okanogan Highlands.” He described how the Okanogan Highlands landscape has been sculpted over time by glaciers and other forces. Specifically, he explained how “The Okanogan Highlands, [which is] characterized by rolling uplands, punctuated by a diverse array of valleys…has been shaped by various tectonic, weathering, landslide, stream, glacier, and wind-related processes.“
Dr. Lillquist is a professor in the Geography Department at Central Washington University, and has vast experience exploring and teaching about the geology of our state. His area of expertise is geomorphology, a field focusing on landforms and how they originated. Throughout our three-part series, we hope that you will join us in looking at the Highlands landscape through geologic time — you might never look at our highland hills and valleys the same way again!
Highland Wonders events feature the natural history of the Okanogan Highlands and surrounding areas. OHA offers educational programming on the first Friday of the month from November through April. The presentations, which start at 6:30 pm, are free to the public (donations are welcome), and clock hours are available for educators. The events take place at the Tonasket Community Cultural Center, and dinner is available before the presentations. (meat and vegetarian options available, $10 a plate).
An Edu-tainment event about People and Beavers Rebuilding Watershed Resilience …Naturally!
METHOW BEAVER PROJECT & OKANOGAN HIGHLANDS ALLIANCE are pleased to invite you to join special guests Julie Vanderwal, Ken Bevis, Sandy Vaughn & Sarah Koenigsberg for an evening of music, engagement, joy & learning about people & beavers teaming up for watershed restoration!
For more info www.methowbeaverproject.org General Admission – Suggested Donation $10
On February 7, 2020, Jim Hepler, of the Beers Laboratory at WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, joined us to share his extensive knowledge (and humor) of native stink bugs and their life history. He gave an enlightening overview of the diversity of stink bugs found in eastern Washington, and expounded on the challenges and rewards, and all that is known and unknown about these creatures. Jim’s palpable interest was contagious, sparking the curiosity of our local community.
Fun facts: -Stink bugs can drill through nut husks to feast on the nutrient-rich innards -Pesticides are futile in fighting stink bugs since they are constantly on the move into and out of orchards -Stink bugs have very specific relationships with other insects who will lay their eggs inside stink bug eggs or drill through adults’ exoskeletons to feast -Stink bugs are very capable of killing themselves with their own noxious fumes!
Highland Wonders presentations feature the natural history of the Okanogan Highlands and surrounding areas. OHA provides these presentations on the first Friday of the month from November through April. These presentations, which start at 6:30 pm, are free to the public (donations are welcome), and clock hours are available for educators. The events take place at the Tonasket Community Cultural Center, and dinner is available before the presentations.
On January 3, 2020, Dana Visalli kicked off the new year with “Big History: the evolutionary story of the Earth and the life on it, in one hour.” It was once thought that the Earth was static and unchanging, but we now know the opposite is true. Both the Earth and the life on it are dynamic and ever-changing. This is the scientific story of evolution; it borders on the spiritual, and is meaningful to our own lives.
In his hour (plus a few extra minutes), Dana wove together concepts from various scientific fields to make sense of humans’ relationship to other species, to each other, and to our world. Threaded throughout was the hopeful, thought-provoking message that we can do better, and that our intellect is capable of bringing us through the challenges facing the world today.
On Friday, November 1, John Crandall shared “Why Floodplains Matter and what we are doing locally to restore them,” with a crowd of 70 at the Community Cultural Center of Tonasket. For decades, floodplains and wetlands were viewed as “wasted” space and they have been diked, filled, drained, mined, and otherwise altered to make room for increased human activity. These activities disconnect floodplains from adjacent streams, degrading habitat and leaving wildlife, fish, and water to deteriorate. Why do these floodplains matter — what services do they provide, not only for fish and wildlife, but for humans too? What can we do to bring them back into a healthy condition? John Crandall returned to the Highland Wonders series to help answer these questions and to share about a variety of projects happening in Okanogan County that are aimed at restoring floodplain processes and making our aquatic ecosystems healthier — from the quality and quantity of our water to the abundance of our fish and wildlife.
John shared videos and photos depicting the ways that floodplains interact with their waterways, and how spring flooding depends on the shape and structure of the surrounding landscape. Floodplains are crucial to the lifecycle of many fish, who time the hatching of their young to coincide with spring floods because of the protection, food, and downstream push that floodplains and high water provide to young fish. In many areas, human activity (such as road building) has disrupted or changed the structure of the floodplains, reducing their size and cutting fish off from their traditional rearing grounds and/or travel corridors. Projects throughout Okanogan County are working to restore floodplain functionality, to reconnect streams and rivers with their floodplains and provide ways for fish to access flooded areas.
OHA’s bumble bee field trip on June 22, 2019 provided community members with an opportunity to learn about the bumble bee species in our area, their importance to our ecosystem, as well as ways we can help conserve them. In an effort to learn more about bumble bees to improve evidence-based bumble bee conservation guidance, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the Oregon Bee Project, has launched the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas. On a trip around the Okanogan Highlands, Rich Hatfield, Xerces Society conservation biologist, shared information about the Atlas Project, how to participate, and the value that the project will have to our area, both locally, and more regionally. The group conducted a point survey at Lost Lake to help determine the number of bumble bee species living there, along with a rapid habitat survey. More about the survey: www.pnwbumblebeeatlas.org/point-surveys.html
Okanogan County is host to 124 of the 155 butterfly species recorded in Washington. Caitlin spoke about some of the eco-geographical aspects that contribute to this incredible diversity, what species you can expect to commonly find, and some of the more reclusive species to watch for. We also learned how to contribute to ongoing research by photographing and recording data through various methods. Two of Caitlin’s books were available for purchase: Butterflies of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area and Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Washington, both of which were used as part of OHA’s 2018 butterfly field trip.
“The Sinlahekin is one of my favorite places, always changing and yielding new discoveries, yet always familiar. In studying what makes it so unique, I’ve explored many parts of the Okanogan…”