Podcast! From the Okanogan to the Sea

with Lynda Mapes of The Seattle Times

In this interview-style episode, Lynda Mapes of The Seattle Times joins OHA in discussing her newest book, Orcas: Shared Waters, Shared Home. From Tonasket to the Salish Sea, our ecosystems are connected by the water and the wildlife that travels through our region. Learn about salmon, orcas, and the people whose lives revolve around the aquatic habitats of Washington on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you normally listen!

And here is a story from Anna, Nature Detective!

Anna surfaces briefly, then glides back underwater, swimming against the current. It is a fast current, and the cold, clear water feels just right against her red sides, her glinting scales. She is headed upstream, back to the place she was born.

As she makes her way upstream, away from the ocean, she is thinks back to the last time she was in fresh water.  Anna barely remembers that trip downstream four years ago, she was so small! As she swam from the river to the sea, the waters gradually got saltier. She knew she had arrived in the sea because the water moved differently – in and out and in swirls, pushing every which-way. She had to get used to that salt, the currents, and the new animals and plants she swam past, and there was no time to dilly dally.

There was lots of food to eat in the sea, but there were also lots of creatures that wanted to eat Anna and her salmon friends! She found her way out to the deep water, where she could hide from the big barking sea lions and the huge bald eagles that pounced from above. Anna snacked on whatever came along – fish, water bugs, anything, really. Out in the deep water, Anna felt a little safer – she could swim fast and deep and she could swerve like a champ! Black and white orcas were everywhere. They were there in the deep water, they were there in the shallow water, they were close to land and out in the open sea. Always on the prowl, the orcas were fast and somehow knew right where the salmon were, even in the dark. As time passed,  Anna got bigger and faster and smarter.

One day something told her it was time to head for home, back through the shallow sea to the river mouth, where that fresh water smelled so familiar…

Anna woke with a start. “Mom, I dreamed I was a fish! A salmon! And I was four years old, just like me, but I was really OLD. There were rivers in my dream, and the ocean, and other fish, and sea lions, and orcas! Can we go to the ocean?” Anna’s mom said, “wow, what an exciting dream! You know what we should do? We should go down to the river – I bet we can see salmon in the Okanogan River right now!” “Yeah, let’s do it!” Anna yells.

As Anna and her mom watched the big salmon holding their position in the river’s current, they thought about the lives of these big fish and the cycle of life for the salmon and all of the people and wildlife that depend on them, like the orcas in Anna’s dream. Soon, these surviving big fish would lay their eggs and then die, but even then they are a part of the system, their bodies nourishing the plants and animals that live in and around the rivers. How amazing is that? Anna announces, “I love salmon. I want to learn all about them and I want to be their friend.”

To learn more about salmon, orcas and the rivers that connect them, check out the new Highland Wonders Podcast episode: From the Okanogan to the Sea, featuring a discussion with Lynda Mapes about her new book, Orcas: Shared Waters, Shared Home, co-published with the Seattle Times.

Additional Resources:

Learn More:

Read the Book! Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home by Lynda Mapes

Find an Exhibit! Seattle Aquarium: seattleaquarium.org/exhibits/Orca-shared-waters-shared-home

Learn Even More:

Okanogan River Sockeye: https://animalbiotelemetry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40317-021-00262-y

Okanogan River Spring Chinook: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/west-coast/endangered-species-conservation/upper-columbia-river-spring-run-chinook-salmon

Fish Water Management Tool: douglaspud.org/about-us/district-videos/

Colville Tribes: colvilletribes.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=ac4721130e424df786eb06dbbb4a5880

Take Action to Protect Land and Water:

Okanogan Highlands Alliance: okanoganhighlands.org

Okanogan Conservation District: okanogancd.org/

Note: There are many local organizations to help landowners protect and restore their land and water – Google Search is your friend!

Write to Your Senator:

Senator Patty Murray

154 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

Senator Maria Cantwell

511 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

Or find your senator’s contact information: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

Okanogan Ice Islands: Nunataks

…with George Thornton

Join us here on January 7th, 2022 (or on our main homepage) for the link to join the event from home via YouTube.

Click the button above to go straight to the Okanogan Ice Islands: Nunatak event on Friday, January 7, 2022. The presentation will begin at 6:30 (but you will be able to check in and get situated starting at 6).

Beyond the beauty of Chopaka, I’ve come to know the mystery behind the unusual collection of Arctic tundra remnant on the peak. I’ve wondered what it tells of our past and  whether it offers a glimpse  into  our future.” -George Thornton

High, craggy peaks rise to the West of the Okanogan. These mountains are home to unique plant communities, and our glacial history holds a clue as to why and how those plants come to live where they do. The changing climate endangers these indicators of  our glacial past. In this edition of Highland Wonders, we will discuss various theories about local natural history and ecology using Chopaka Mountain as a primary example of several nearby Eastern Cascade peaks. 

Join OHA and George Thornton, high school teacher, botanist, and lifelong nature enthusiast, on January 7, 2022.  George has lived his entire life in the Okanogan. He taught for 33 years, worked summers doing vegetation surveys for the Forest Service, and has hiked  and explored most of the north Okanogan area.

We hope to see you there online!

Podcast! Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan

with Helen Lau, botanist with the US Forest Service

Anna, Nature Detective. Illustration by: Diana Weddle

Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) is thrilled to announce the start of season 2 of the Highland Wonders Podcast: an opportunity to learn about the natural history of the Okanogan from the comfort of your home, car or skis! Over the course of this winter, monthly episodes will focus on the life that makes the Okanogan such a unique and beautiful place, starting with the Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan! You can find episodes here, or wherever you normally get your podcasts.

Each episode will be accompanied by a nature detective story, where a younger audience can follow along as Anna, Nature Detective, uses her imagination and explores the podcast’s subject.

The stories and podcasts will be posted to the OHA website (okanoganhighlands.org) and on the following podcast apps: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts and RadioPublic. Please read, listen (rate the podcast on your favorite app) and enjoy!

Anna, Nature Detective

Season 2, Episode 1: Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan

Last year, Jack the Nature Detective took us along on his adventures in the Okanogan Highlands, as he explored with his family and learned all about local wildlife, from grouse to bats to owls to bighorn sheep to common loons. This year, Jack is off to kindergarten, and in a solemn ceremony that took place at the end of August, Jack presented his cousin, Anna, with her very own Nature Detective tools and an official badge. Let’s get to know Anna!

Anna is a different kind of Nature Detective than Jack. Where Jack is cautious and careful, Anna is daring and precocious, where Jack is quiet and observant, Anna spends half her time singing and the other half chatting. Where Jack is particular about calling things by their proper name, Anna makes up her own names for her discoveries. She LOVES animals, and she is the kid who can catch the cat that no one else can. She loves exploring things close up, touching them, peering at them through her Nature Detective hand lens. Sometimes, things that can’t run away suit Anna’s detective style best, and so, this month, Anna finds herself exploring the mushroom world!

“Hey mom, what are these slimy things?” Anna hollers from the back yard.

“Ohhhh noooo, not again!” her mom remembers back to the week before when Anna brought two heaping handfuls of deer droppings into the kitchen. She runs outside to find Anna poking at a perfect circle of mushrooms growing in the backyard. “Oh, how pretty!” Anna’s mom says “I think that’s called a fairy ring.”

Anna gasps, “a fairy ring? Made by fairies? Let’s check it out!” She pulls out her hand lens and looks at the top of one mushroom. It’s smooth, brown and slippery. She looks at the stem, tan and shaggy. Then she looks at the underside of the mushroom top. “Wow! What are those stripey things?” Anna and her mom look carefully at the mushroom, and then Anna draws what she sees in her notebook. Later on, they look in a book and find that the top of the mushroom is called the cap, the stem is called the stem, and the stripes underneath the cap are called gills.

“So… mushrooms have gills… like fish. And a cap, like an umbrella. And I don’t know why, but they grow in a circle like a fairy would make. I’ll call this a Fairy Gillyhat!” Anna says. Anna and her mom go and wash their hands, because, as their book told them, some mushrooms can be poisonous. From that day on, Anna finds mushrooms all over the place – growing on tree trunks, in the grass, on logs in the forest, everywhere! But why are they everywhere? And why are some poisonous, but some you can eat? What do mushrooms eat? Anna has lots of questions, and luckily for her, Helen Lau, of the US Forest Service has lots of answers in the latest episode of the Highland Wonders Podcast!

Learn all about Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan (and catch any Season 1 episodes that you may have missed) at: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Moose In Washington: Living on the Edge

…with Carrie Lowe of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Friday, September 24, 2021 at 7:15pm at the Tonasket Elementary School Parking Lot

Photo Credit: Carrie Lowe

Moose: they live alongside us, from the valley floor to the highlands, and despite their  enormous size, are only rarely seen. Join Carrie Lowe, wildlife biologist with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn about the life history, population trends and challenges facing moose in our area.

Carrie Lowe works with game and nongame species in Spokane, Lincoln, and Whitman Counties.  Prior to coming to Washington in 2013, Carrie spent time teaching at an outdoor science school in North Carolina, and worked on a variety of research projects, including loggerhead sea turtles in Georgia, mesocarnivores in the Sierra Nevada, black bears in Louisiana, grizzly bears in Montana, and bighorn sheep in Hells Canyon. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Hope College in her hometown of Holland, MI and her M.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

 Join OHA in a unique, free community event – enjoy Carrie’s engaging in-person talk from a blanket, a camp chair or your vehicle, listen through your FM radio!

Questions? jen@okanoganhighlands.org

COVID Precautions will be in place: social distancing, individually wrapped desserts available by donation

2021 Annual Membership Meeting: June 24 4:30pm on Zoom

Join us via Zoom for OHA’s 2021 Annual Membership Meeting! Check in on recent and upcoming events and our work in mine monitoring, habitat restoration and education. Ask questions, share ideas, and visit with OHA’s board and staff.

We will also be conducting elections for three board positions – OHA’s seven board members are elected by the membership and serve for 2-year terms.

We hope to see you there!

For the meeting link, send an email request to: info@okanoganhighlands.org

Looking for Trail Stewardship Opportunities?

Over this past year OHA has connected with a group of organizations and agencies who are all invested in caring for trails in northeast Washington. Kristin Ackerman (Pacific Northwest Trails Association) has been instrumental in making sure that Okanogan County is included in the trails coalition (thank you Kristin and the PNTA!) One outcome of this effort is a website, created by The Tri-County Economic Development District where you can look and find LOTS of opportunities to volunteer for trail work (including OHA’s trail work parties), both near and further afield in NE Washington.

Click here for the online calendar created and maintained by of trail work parties (including OHA’s trail days).

Tuesday Trail Days! May-July, 2021

The snow has melted in the highlands, flowers abound, and we are excited to get out and help care for the lovely highlands trails again! In the next couple of months OHA will be out hiking, scouting trail needs, helping to clear the trails, getting some exercise, and enjoying nature and each others’ company. We will keep our groups small and respect physical distancing. We can’t wait! Below are some details about our upcoming trail stewardship events. We hope you will join us!

Trail Day Goals

  • Clear the trails of grass and branches
  • Improve the trail surface (tread) as needed
  • Make notes of other trail maintenance needs
  • Have fun, get some exercise and enjoy the day

Trail Day Calendar:

Note: We may add some days depending on trail needs, but we wanted to give you something to put on your calendars. And now…let us present… OHA’s Tuesdays on the Trails! 

Trail Day Details:

  • Transportation: travel in family groups or social bubbles (see links above, in the calendar section for Google Map directions)
  • Things to bring: lunch, water, snacks, work gloves, sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
  • Optional things to bring: bug spray, sunscreen, hat, hand tools (loppers, pruners, garden hoe, etc.) that you like to use or think will be helpful

Complete the OHA Volunteer Survey for email reminders and more event details


Intelligent Trees: the Documentary, Drive In Film!

Join OHA in learning about how trees (yes, trees) communicate, and leave with a whole new perspective on forests!

This event is free (thanks to our sponsors, George Thornton and Lee Miller), but space is limited, so reserve your space by clicking here.

Come Early (6:45-7:15) to park and get set up. Sound will be broadcast through your FM radio.

Film starts at 7:30

If you would like to help OHA provide free educational events to our community by sponsoring one of our drive-ins or educational events, contact Jen and Sarah at: info@okanoganhighlands.org

Can’t wait to see you there!

Podcast! Washington’s Not So Common Loons S1:E5

Who would have thought that our very own Okanogan Highlands is a great place to view one of the world’s most charismatic and endearing bird species? Although not many common loons nest in Washington any more, breeding pairs and chicks can be found on several highland lakes throughout the summer months and into the fall. This month’s Highland Wonders Podcast features Daniel and Ginger Poleschook – dedicated researchers, educators and advocates for common loons. They share what they have learned over 26 years of studying the species and getting to know the individual loons that inhabit our local lakes. Enjoy!

Jack, Nature Detective, Season 1, Episode 5: Washington’s Not-So-Common Loon

Illustrated by Diana Weddle

One warm spring day out on Bonaparte Lake, Jack the Nature Detective is fishing with his dad. Suddenly he hears a strange noise, “it sounds like a cross between a wolf’s howl and a chicken’s squawk.” Jack squints across the lake and he can’t believe what he is seeing! It’s a…a…penguin? It’s a very large bird, anyway, and black and white. What else could it be? Jack keeps watching. The bird is swimming around like a duck and keeps diving under water in a very penguin-like way. Jack is puzzled, though. He wonders aloud, “I thought that penguins live on the bottom of the globe, and we live closer to the top. If this is a penguin, it is very far from home. How could this be?”

From that day on, Jack watches his mystery bird friends often. There are two of them. He notices that they are good fisher-birds, and that they built a nest on a grassy tuft on the edge of the lake. One early summer day Jack sees something especially amazing. “Look!” he shouts. “One of the birds is carrying a fuzzy little baby on its back!” All of a sudden, the bird starts (what can only be described as) yodeling. She sounds scared and upset. Jack looks up and sees a bald eagle soaring above the lake. As the bald eagle is about to dive, Jack’s mom wades out into the lake waving her arms and yelling, “HEY! GET AWAY!” The eagle moves on, and the mama and baby glide away.

By this time, Jack is pretty sure this amazing bird is not a penguin, but he is still not sure what it could be. He decides, “It’s time to get to the bottom of this mystery.” Back at home, Jack gets to work with his favorite bird book, The Sibley Field Guide (it has, in the Nature Detective’s opinion, the best pictures). Soon Jack realizes that that his hunch was right – the mystery bird isn’t a penguin at all. It is a bird called the common loon! Now that he knows who they are, the Nature Detective can’t wait to learn more! Fortunately, the newest Highland Wonders Podcast is out, featuring Daniel and Ginger Poleschook, so Jack and everyone he knows can learn about common loons and what we all can do to protect them.

Podcast! The Secret Life of Bats, Highland Wonders S1:E4

Jack, Nature Detective with a Townsend’s Big Eared Bat. Illustrated by Diana Weddle.

How do you feel when someone starts talking about bats? Warm and fuzzy? Uneasy? Disgusted? Cautiously curious? In the fourth episode of the Highland Wonders Podcast, The Secret Life of Bats, Roger Christophersen of the North Cascades National Park addresses our ideas about bats, and sparks a sense of wonder at these flying, fuzzy, leathery insectivores. To learn more about bats, how and where they live, and how we all can support bat populations (and why we should), check out the Highland Wonders Podcast wherever you normally get your podcasts! And now, a story from our intrepid Nature Detective. Enjoy!

Jack, Nature Detective: season 1, episode 4: The Secret Life of Bats

Jack’s family is enjoying a weekend camping in the highlands, escaping the heat of summer for a few days, and exploring the forests and lakes of the Okanogan. As they sit around the campfire, they notice something winging through the air in the little clearing, fluttering here and there. It’s flight pattern seems different from a bird, and the creature itself is bigger than the insects that Jack normally sees. “Eek! It’s a bat!” Jack’s mom exclaims. Jack gazes into the fire, thinking.

“What are bats, anyway?” Jack thinks about what he knows about bats, trying to sort them into a group with other animals he knows. Recently, he had a chance to get a close-up look at a bat during the day, as it clung to his house, sleeping. It was definitely fuzzy, with a pointy little snout. 

“I don’t think they are birds because they don’t lay eggs. If they DID lay eggs, how would that even work? They hang upside down, and don’t have nests. The eggs would just crack on the ground! That would be bad.” 

“Are they insects? Some insects are furry, like bumble bees. Maybe bats are insects?” Jack is not sure. He thinks, “Bees and other bugs don’t take very good care of their babies. But I heard that bat moms carry their babies around and feed them.” Jack glances over at his mom, who is giving his little sister a piggy back over to their tent. “Maybe bats are more like people. Mammals. Mammals?!? FLYING MAMMALS?!?! Is that possible?” 

When they get home, Jack asks his mom to look up pictures of bats on the internet. One image of a bat skeleton pops up and Jack notices that the wing looks a lot like a hand – it even has a little thumb! He also notices their ears, “My what big ears you have, little bat!” Jack cackles at his own Little Red Riding Hood reference. So far, the evidence points to bats being mammals. But Jack still has a lot of questions. “Do bats have predators? Why do bats have big ears? Do they hibernate in the winter or go south like birds do? How high can they fly? I can’t wait to learn more!” Luckily, Roger Chistophersen, of the North Cascades National Park has the answers to some of Jack’s questions in the most recent, very fascinating, Highland Wonders Podcast! 

Stay tuned! Jack will continue to solve nature mysteries on topics related to upcoming episodes of the Highland Wonders Podcast. Episodes and stories can be found at: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.

The Backstory on Jack:

Meet Jack, Nature Detective: Jack is inquisitive, skeptical, creative, quirky, determined, and a friend to ALL critters. His observations of subtle clues and brilliant reasoning make him, quite possibly, one of the world’s most talented nature detectives. Like most of us, Jack’s understanding of the world comes from his own life experiences. He is five years old, and his investigative skills are top notch. If you were to stop by his house you might find our Nature Detective in the midst of an experiential study of squirrel movement, or determining the optimal shelter and food stores for his new pet grasshopper, named Grasshopper. Today, we will share a mystery that Jack uncovered in the Okanogan Highlands. What clues can you uncover in the story?

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