Diving into a Toad-ally Awesome Month for Nature

Author: Whidbey Camano Land Trust | 04/05/20
       

Osprey

An Osprey on Whidbey Island prepares to take flight. Photo by Paul Lischeid.

It can be easy to get distracted while traveling on Whidbey and Camano islands in April.

Look up and you might see white heads poking out of nests atop utility poles.

Look down and you might spot a chubby creature frozen in place or crawling slowly on its way to a wetland.

Best advice while on the road: Only watch nature from the passenger seat!

Here are some things in nature you can expect to see or hear around the islands in April:

Look Out Fish! It’s Time for Ospreys to Return

The appearance of the white-headed hawk known as the Osprey is a sign that April is here.

Ospreys

An Osprey defends its nest from another of its kind on Whidbey Island. Photo by Paul Lischeid.

After spending the winter in warmer places such as Arizona and Mexico, Ospreys make their way back to the Northwest to build a nest and raise their young. Ospreys prefer high areas with a wide sturdy base to build their nest: treetops, snags, cliffs, and now human-built structures such as utility poles or cell towers. Highway 525 between Freeland and Greenbank has become a well-known place to spot several nesting Ospreys atop poles.

Ospreys forage almost exclusively on fish. Therefore, it’s important the birds have easy access to shallow, fish-filled waters where they can dive and retrieve food not only for themselves but their young, too. So the lakes, estuaries, and shoreline of Whidbey and Camano islands are ideal habitat for these hawks.

For those rare instances they can’t find fish, Osprey have been observed feeding on other birds, snakes, voles, squirrels, muskrats, and salamanders. All critters that are found on the islands.

The Land Trust has protected several places where locals have spotted Ospreys. Dugualla Bay Preserve, on North Whidbey, provides great birding opportunities — you may even see an Osprey catch a fish! Crockett Lake Preserve, on Central Whidbey, is another excellent spot. While South Whidbey has many places to see Osprey, if you’re hoping for a quiet viewing spot, try Hammons Farm Family Preserve.

Western Toads on the Move

April is breeding season for Western Toads in the Puget Sound lowlands. That means, adult toads are sometimes spotted on roads in the evenings as they migrate from upland forests and other wooded areas to wetlands to find a mate.

Western Toads are generally hard to observe anyway because of their nocturnal nature and due to their declining numbers. This is the time of year when they’re on the move, which often leads to their demise on roadways before they even get back to their natal waters.

Toads lay strings of eggs, which hatch within 10 days. It takes about two months for tadpoles to transform into tiny toadlets. Tadpoles often congregate in great numbers in shallow water.

The Land Trust has protected at least three Whidbey Island wetland properties where toad breeding is known to occur: Dugualla Flats and Crockett Lake preserves and the recently protected Noble Fir Conservation Easement.

White Fawn Lilies in Bloom

White Fawn Lily

Giant White Fawn Lily on Camano Island.

April is the time to see a special native wildflower in bloom. Giant White Fawn Lily (Erythronium oregonium) is a charismatic plant that is relatively uncommon in Island County.

In a normal spring, Barnum Point County Park would be one place to spot this plant, however, the park is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Have you spotted the Giant White Fawn Lily in woods near you?

Giant White Fawn Lily is found in wooded areas from British Columbia south through Puget Sound all the way to northern California. It grows in dappled or partial shade at low elevations in open meadows and woodlands.

The plant generally flowers from March through May and grows to a height of 18 inches. It gets its name from its mottled leaf coloring, which is reminiscent of a fawn.

Share Your Nature Observations
What wildlife behaviors, native plants, or others events in nature do you observe during certain times of the year? Please share your observations by emailing Land Trust communications manager Ron Newberry at ron@wclt.org.

 

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