Posted in Birds and other fun topics

Look Upward and Dream

Never know what you will see if you look up into the sky.  Here are a few shots of the forest from a prone position in the leaves.

To the tree tops view
To the tree tops view

How often do you look into the sky and the tree tops?  I dare you to lay down in the forest floor and behold the sights.

After you look up to the sky what did you see?

Posted in History and other topics

50 years ago – Where were you?

This has been a tougher week for us Baby Boomers than most of us could imagine. It is like it was yesterday even 50 years later.  Every where I turn, media has another story about JFK’s life and demise.  Over the years I have choked back tears when I talk of that day but now it is all flooding to the top.   How come a person I never knew brings emotion similar to the deaths of my parents and grandparents?

It was a defining moment to coin a phrase.   That really does not do this moment justice.  Let’s go back 50 years….

It was a Friday, I was 10 years old and I was sick.   Not sure what it was but I was staying at home that day in bed.   My mom had some meeting to attend for her door to door sales job.  She left me with toast, tea and little mandarin oranges at my bedside.   That older black and white television was on and I lay there watching that feeling rather poorly.  Little did I know I would be on the cutting edge of the most tragic moment in our generation’s history.

Reruns were on.   I think it was I Love Lucy.   Then the screen went into a news flash.   Yes it was that CBS screen we have seen in the last couple of days.   They did not have live cameras in those days so it was a text only screen.  Flat graphics that today would be laughed at.  The voice said that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.  The day unfolded from there and now to be truthful is a sort of blur except one other moment.   I saw Walter Cronkite takes his glasses off and bite back tears to tell the nation that John F Kennedy had died.

I don’t really remember how the rest of my family reacted.   I do remember sitting in my room watching his funeral go down the road in Washington DC, John Jr saluting and the veiled Jackie.  I was a moth to a light bulb and could not pull away.

Let us move forward a few years.   Times had changed.  We were not the Leave it to Beaver – Father Knows Best type of nation any more.  My generation was released from our parents dream they created in the ashes of the Depression and World War II.   The genie was out of the bottle.  We found that the death of our president had darker shadows all around it.  Conspiracy shrouded us and the trust of our government was broken.  That trust that our parents had built up from saving the world from both war and economic failure was not ours.

We found our voices to tell everyone loudly we didn’t agree with war and discrimination against race and women.  For me I adopted a lifestyle so different from my parents.   The day I graduated and turned 18 I moved in with my new family.   They were other young people like me and we became what many of the day called “Hippies”.   We lived on 5 acres and did what we could to live more in tune with nature.   But more important we didn’t trust “the Man” and never hesitated to speak up that our government was not perfect.  That it needed to be overhauled and listen to us.

Looking back, we made change but it really did not change in many ways.

Today, here I am at home again.   Not sick but taking a vacation day not realizing I would be watching the TV.   Reliving it all again and  not able to stop.

I think I will go have a good cry now and then carry on with the good fight.

Posted in History and other topics

50 Years ago – End of Camelot

No crow stories this week and next. Instead, I am going to tell my story of 1963 and JFK’s assassination.  Let me start today by setting the stage for you.

I was 10 years old and in 5th grade.  A shy awkward girl who was dyslexic before they knew what that was but worked hard to overcome it because I loved to read and do math.  I fell down on the play ground regularly and wore glasses.   Do you get the picture?   Today I would be a nerd and was certainly not part of the “in crowd”.

Life wasn’t all that bad though.  I had good friends and teachers.  Growing up in the 60s was free of fear and childhood was never scheduled.  We went outside to play all day and ran through the neighborhoods like wild creatures till our mothers called our names out the back door for dinner.   I walked to school rain or shine from the time I went to kindergarten until my girlfriend in High School got a car.   That is right, at 5 years old I walked to school by myself or with a friend.  We used to make up games of the ghost lights from cars in the dark foggy mornings as we walked to Elementary School.

The 60s are a distant place from life now.  We were a middle class family and moved into a new rambler house in 1960.  It had three bedrooms, one bath and a family room. Small by today’s standards and rather plain. We played in the septic tank drainage ditches for a couple of month in the back yard.   Downtown Seattle was where we went shopping (no malls) and to get there we drove on city streets.  No freeway existed and I actually rode my bicycle on I-5 (Southcenter Hill area) before it was opened.   We had a rotary telephone on the kitchen wall with a 20 foot cord.  That way you could cook and talk but couldn’t get much further than down the hallway.   Our Dad caved and finally bought us a color television.  It was in a blond wood cabinet and was hooked up to the antenna on the roof.  I think we got about 7 channels.   But I got to see “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights in full color at last.  The old black and white was put into my bedroom with rabbit ears.  I got a fairly good picture in my little room.

On a bookcase in the hall was a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica.  I always had a curious mind and read several books a week.   That encyclopedia got worn out looking up things for school papers (hand written even in High School) and a few forbidden things like sex.   We went to the local library every Saturday and I usually was found reading through the National Geographic Magazines.  Facinated by far away places but also seeing things that in the 60s were taboo to talk about.  I spent a lot of time at my maternal grandparents.   I have a fond memory of laying on my bed reading.  Grandma came in and said “turn the light on or you will go blind reading in the dark”.   Here I was engrossed in reading “Exodus” by Leon Uris.   Remember I was a nerdy child and my mom used to joke about how I would rather be reading than babysit.  My fiends loved holding babies, I was not interested in them at all.

At school we were lined up for vaccinations that were required and given to us for free.  There would be an uproar now if the school touched children now.   We had civil defense drills so we would be prepared for the nuclear bomb attack from Russia or Cuba.  This was where we all trooped into the gymnasium and laid down on the floor like cord wood.  We put our arms over our heads.  The cafeteria lady said she had a good lamb leg in the freezer to feed us all.   Not sure how that would have worked since there were over a hundred of us little urchins.  The gymnasium was also the place of Christmas plays and fitness tests.  In the fourth grade I played the moderator who was suppose to be a space person visiting earth.   The fitness tests had us showing how many push-ups we could do and how far up a rope we could climb.   I always climbed to the top of the rope since I was a tom boy.

Not only was I a Girl Scout and we went camping and learned all the wonder of the Pacific Northwest forests but I also marched in the Seattlettes Baton Corp.   I was part of the Junior division and we won several contests plus marched in parades from the Daffodil Parade to the Junior Seafair Parade.  We won the Seattle Worlds Fair Baton contest in the Junior Division.   I remember a Saturday practice where the coach asked me to be the leader.   I froze and shook my head no.   I was too shy and so unsure of myself.  Funny how she knew I was a future leader.

Me in the 1960s.
Me in the 1960s.

The Space program was super special when I was growing up.  The world stopped when a spaceship was launched.  They rolled out the black and white televisions into the classrooms and we watched them.   I saw John Glenn do his first orbit this way in 1962.  And jumping ahead beyond 1963, I have a vivid memory of sitting with my boyfriend’s family watching Armstrong land on the Moon in July of 1969.   We were glued to the TV and so proud of our country and it’s accomplishments.  We were fulfilling the dream that Kennedy had set us on.

So, life was simple and it was a time of innocence for us kids.  Next week I will tell you how my life changed forever on November 22, 1963.   Those days of Camelot ended and we were shook to our core how this could happen to our President.

Posted in Crows in Renton

Mega Renton Crow Roost

Crow Gathering at dusk on 16th SW Renton
Crow Gathering at dusk on 16th SW Renton

The Roost in Renton is visiting the corner of 16th and Lind SW every night around quitting time.   Dusk seems to bring them from all directions but I see more coming from the North than South.  The trees in this parking lot are brilliant red/magenta and make some vivid pictures.

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Continuing the research on why they flock here to this corner I have found some more information to share.  This is  through the help of our Safety Manager at work and Liz Stewart from the Renton Museum.  I have sent off some requests for information to others but am still awaiting responses.

First, if you read the historical information (courtesy of HistoryLink.org) on the man who platted this area into Earlington Gardens Addition, you will find he was a real estate shark.   Clarence D. Hillman’s MO (mode of operandi) was to plat both desirable and undesirable land and then sold it to poor folks, some sight unseen.  He did this in several areas around Seattle and made himself very wealthy.

His subdivisions ranged from Hillman’s Schoolhouse Division, Greenlake Division, Kilbourne Division, Lake Front Division near Seward Park, South Shore Addition, Woodland Park Addition, Stinson’s Addition, and Evan’s Addition. Hillman did not limit himself to Seattle. He went into unincorporated areas such as the Rainier Valley where he platted Hillman City. He also laid out Kennydale (named for his wife, the former Bessie Kenny) and Hillman’s Mountlake Terrace.

The local newspaper ran articles about buyers who felt cheated and Hillman sued the paper for libel. U.S. District Attorney Elmer E. Todd was not fooled though. He tracked Hillman’s activities, until Hillman began to use the U.S. Mail to defraud his customers. Mail fraud was a federal offense and Hillman was indicted in August 1910.

In the January 1911 trial a jury convicted Hillman of 13 counts of mail fraud and he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Hillman appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld the conviction and sentence in 1912. Hillman served 18 months at McNeil Island. His family waited for him in the opulent Hotel Coronado in San Diego.

This brings us back to Earlington Gardens.   In looking for old photos of the area my Safety Manager sent me a link to the King County Flood Web Page.  There we found photos of the December 1946 flood that covered the entire valley.   I am assuming this was not the first time this had occurred and that is why Earlington Gardens, Hillman plotted, never was fully developed.   Here are two photos showing you how bad the flooding was.   Since then extensive work has been done to protect the valley from floods.   The area is now built up with many warehouses and businesses in an area that was once not practical to build on.

Dec 1946 Flood - Renton - Grady Eastward view
Dec 1946 Flood – Renton – Grady Eastward view
Dec 1946 Flood - Renton - LongAcres area
Dec 1946 Flood – Renton – LongAcres area
Posted in Crows in Renton

Murder comes to Roost

Renton Crows come to Roost at dusk
Renton Crows come to Roost at dusk

It is the season for the Crow Murders to flock to large roosts at dusk.  This behavior is happening where ever Crows exist.   I have the pleasure of observing this every fall in Renton right outside my office window.

This is a fall and winter behavior primarily.  During the spring and summer breeding season they will remain in their personal territories but as the young get more independent they go to the large roosts.   There are several theories on why they do this.  I personally like to give my crows more personality and think they do this to share information, find mates, catch up with family they don’t see regularly and of course sleep together for protection from their enemies.

There is a good article on the University of Cornell’s web site ( http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm ) In their FAQ section they lay out what researchers think crows are doing.   Their key points are:

  • They gather together in a favorable spot for protection.  Kind of like humans in a hotel where they are together but really don’t interact very much.
  • The next comparison is “the wagon train” theory.   By their being all in one place they are gaining safety in numbers.   Like the Oregon trail wagon trains forming a circle at night for protection.
  • Then there is the Information scenario.  Kind along my assumption above where they do exchange info on where good food is.  Or they follow better fed crows to their food source to gain some of the goodness.
  • The next idea is around food too.  They gather where a good source is so they can eat before dispersing.  This would be agriculture areas or garbage dumps.

What i find most interesting in the Renton flock is they are going to the same place year after year.   As I am driving towards I-405 northbound each evening, I see them flying to the area of 16th and Lind.  They come in small and large groups.   Some stopping along the way but in the end they gather in this several block area pecking in the leaf clutter and grass inside and outside of the parking lots there.  When it gets more dark they will head to their final roost.

This phenomenon has brought me to research what was there before the current office buildings and parking lots.  I do not believe the why they gather theres is the parking lot.   They are using their hereditary memory passed from crow to crow to come back to this spot for some reason.

In my quest this last week or so I started drilling into the intranet for maps and history of the Renton area.  I found the Renton Museum and read through their information on-line.   Nothing really jumped out to me so I sent them an email explaining my research project.

From that inquiry I received  the most wonderful reply the next day from their Museum Director Elizabeth Stewart.     http://rentonwa.gov/rentonhistorymuseum/  She sent me the following clues.  As in any research they are not the final answer but leads to follow and even raise more questions.

“Your target intersection at SW 16th and Lind Ave SW was platted sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century by Clarence D. Hillman as part of his Earlington Gardens development.  (Hillman also platted and developed Kennydale and other neighborhoods in the Seattle area.)  I cannot find any information that he actually built houses in Earlington Gardens; it’s possible he ran into difficulty because of its distance from Seattle or the fact that it’s so close to wetland or the fact that it had two railroads running through it and was thus less desirable property.  Before Hillman, it does not appear that this land was farmland, which I thought might explain the birds returning.  For the most part surrounding parcels were industrial in nature, owned by Puget Sound Power & Light, Seattle Electric, and Renton Cooperative Coal.”

I want to personally thank Liz for taking her time to send me this information.  Her encouraging words made my day.  In the next couple of weeks I will continue my research on the 16th & Lind property.   Some areas I am working are to follow the tips she sent me, look for the Duwamish Tribe’s villages in the area, drill more into the internet for old maps and ask the building owners on the intersection, PSE, Seattle City Light & Renton Coal (not sure they still exist)  for any historical info they have.

So, be sure to come back and see what I find.   Oh and yes I got your attention by calling the Crow Flock a Murder in my subject line.   A fun play on words.

Posted in Birds and other fun topics

Nature and Derelicts of the Duwamish River

Duck in Duwamish Marsh
Duck in Duwamish Marsh

The Duwamish river is a conundrum of Nature and Industry.   That industry part has not been nice to the river with blight abound.   Despite restoration projects like the small park I visit, there are still a considerable amount of  derelict boats, buildings and people on her banks.   The duck above is floating on the high tide that has filled the recreated marsh and inter-tidal zone.  He and his family bask in the beauty that has been formed here.  However, just a glance to the side one can see the looming industry over this idyllic place.

Mega crane on Duwamish
Mega crane on Duwamish
Reclaimed Marsh on Duwamish
Reclaimed Marsh on Duwamish

A little further behind the trees can be found the remains of old maritime ships.  A crow has found them an perfect place to watch his surroundings.

Crow roost on unknown #1 ship
Crow roost on unknown #1 ship

Some are being used as a temporary dock to moor barges, some are still active and one appears to just be rotting attached to an old dock.  Pictures tell a thousand words, so here is a slide show of these derelicts.

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On the side of the rotting dock is a row of box cars.  In one of my previous posts I talked about them and a shed that was behind them.  That day I was getting shots of the Osprey nest on a light pole on the adjacent property.  “The Shed” creeped me out.  It smelled like something died in it and had lots of rubbish inside a slightly open door.  I did not have the nerve to open it and left wondering if someone died there.  http://wp.me/p1d1cX-Es

Today I had gotten my courage back up and as I walked down the box car row I saw the shed between them.   Low and behold, someone had cleaned out the debris and removed the door.  You can see this shed has some sort of valves and piping and the stink was pretty much gone.  Some of the homeless person’s junk is still around but no dead bodies.   Thank God!!

Shack on dock - cleaned up from homeless storage
Shack on dock – cleaned up from homeless storage

More evidence of homelessness and human dereliction could be found on the paths in the park.   A pile of clothing on a tarp is a sad reminder of this human condition.   I also, went back to a place where I had found a dug out homeless home years ago.   This was with mace in hand but I found they had been routed and only the dug out area left.  The roof and belongings long gone.   Someone has use it recently to enjoy a fire pit but that was all.

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Industrial blight does not end on the river, as I walked down the bike trail next to West Marginal Way, I spotted an old empty derelict building.

Derelict building across from Park
Derelict building across from Park

This is right next door to the new Longhouse – Museum that was built by the Duwamish Tribe.  Believe it or not, this tribe of Chief Sealth (which Seattle is named for), is not recognized by the US government.  They were almost official at the end of the Clinton presidency but when Bush entered office he threw out that ruling.  They have struggled to prove they are real to this day.   Recently, some litigation has gone their way and perhaps in the near future the tribe of this river will be official.

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Posted in Crows at the Beach

Birth of a Camera

Many of you will remember the death of my Kodak camera a couple of months ago.   This weekend I finally bought a new one.  This Nikon Coolpix isn’t as fancy as some but it suits my purposes with 16 megapixals and a 30x zoom.

The very first picture was of my girl kitty GiGi on Friday night, yesterday I played in the backyard with flowers and today my first Crow pictures.  Enjoy the birth of my new camera!

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