Western gull (Larus occidentalis)

The Western gull is a large, white-headed gull that lives on the west coast of North America between British Columbia and Baja, California. This species is an exclusively marine gull that is seldom encountered inland. It nests on offshore islands and rocks along the coast as well as islands inside estuaries. Within nesting colonies, long term pairs aggressively defend territories whose borders may shift slightly from year to year, but are maintained for the life of the male. The Western gull typically lives 15 years, but can live as long as 25 years.

Western gulls are omnivores and eat a variety of things including fish and other aquatic invertebrates. Like many other gull species, Western gulls drop hard-shelled items from the air to break them on hard surfaces. The Western gull is highly opportunistic and will steal unguarded eggs or chicks of other species. They will also situate colonies near sea lion breeding colonies and scavenge dead pups.

Because of their opportunistic nature and adaptability, gulls can thrive in urban environment. However, living in close proximity to human environs means these birds are also subject to abnormal environmental pressures. For example, when their normal sources of food are diminished, gulls are quick to take advantage of an easy food source such as a trash and leftover scraps. By exploiting unnatural food resources their population may be growing larger than it would normally thus upsetting the ecosystem balance. Next time you visit the beach be sure to take your extra food home and pick up any trash to prevent Western gulls and other seabirds from eating foods outside their typical diet.

Pacific Madrone – (Arbutus menziesii)

While traveling in coastal Oregon keep a lookout for a tree that really stands out with it’s red bark and broad evergreen leaves. Various confifer trees dominate the coastal range but if you look you will notice the Pacific Madrone. Madrone is a broadleaved evergreen tree and a member of the heath family (Ericaceae). It is distinguished by its smooth trunk, orange-red deciduous bark, white flowers, and red berries. It is utilized by wildlife, especially birds. It can grow to a height of 80-125 feet tall and although rare may grow up to 4 feet  in diameter. Pacific madrone produces seed as early as 3 to 5 years of age. Trees begin flowering in early spring, from mid-March to May, depending on the elevation. The blossoms are dense, drooping clusters (terminal panicles) of small, white, urn-shaped flowers. The fruit is a berry (0.3 to 0.5 in.), which ripens in the fall, turning from yellow-green to bright red or reddish-orange.The wood is also used for furniture, flooring, turnings, paneling, veneer for hardwood plywood faces and core stock, pulpwood, and firewood.

For a pdf fact sheet about the Pacific Madrone from Oregon Department of Forestry see https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Documents/ForestBenefits/PacificMadrone.pdf

 

For some more cultural/spiritual thoughts about the Madrone see http://www.arbutusarts.com/sacred-trees.html

“On the British Columbia West Coast, the Salish Nation also honors the Arbutus Tree as their Tree of Knowledge because it knows how to find the sun. It twists and turns and somehow knows to drop one branch when there is not enough sunlight and it is shaded and it will grow a new one where the sun can reach it.”