I’m inside an unfamiliar tab at wdfw.wa.gov — Wildlife Viewing.
As obsessively as I click through the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s angling and hunting pages on a daily — hourly — basis, I’ve never been inside this section.
It feels a little like I’m peeking behind their camo curtain and seeing a bunch of butterfly-net-waving biologists.
“What is Watchable Wildlife?” a header on the page asks me rhetorically. Next to it is a big list of where and how to go to see critters.
The latter one seems silly — ummm, go to the freakin’ woods, down to the water or out in the sage and open your eyes, duh.
But then again, maybe not everyone in Washington is as familiar with the state as I (think I) am.
The reason I’m on this page is that Amy just called. She whipped out plastic again this morning and bought 70 bucks worth of stuff at the local Audubon store and now wants me to find instructions on how to build things.
“It’s on Fish and Wildlife’s site,” she prods.
Spring has sprung — that’s what the dandelions tell me, never mind snow in the forecast — and Amy’s got an itch to turn our breadbox of a backyard into certified wildlife habitat.
With moose a no-go, that means tweety birds (which our son, Kiran, will love) are in, and Roundup to battle the weeds sprouting between the paving stones is out.
“Spray them with white vinegar instead,” Amy says.
So far we’ve tacked up a couple nesting boxes for chickadees, hung some suet and dropped a ridiculously expensive bird bath in the ground by the plum tree.
Never thought I’d spend $50-plus on a glorified spa for starlings.
But I go along with it because A) it gives me credits for hunting and fishing gear down the road and B) it, of course, makes meine Frau happy.
To give Haus Walgamott a Bavarian look, we’ve also made planter boxes for our windows.
Well, I should say Amy made the boxes.
Turns out she’s a far, far more competent carpenter than I.
All her boxes turned out beautiful and straight.
The one I screwed together was warped — and it wasn’t because I got bad cedar over at Dunn Lumber or something.
I don’t know, but maybe German engineering isn’t just in the cars, but the genes too, you know?
Amy also asks me to email Dad about how to make hummingbird nectar, and when he gets back to me, it comes in a flurry of emails that demand attention so that when she calls back at the same moment I tell her that the recipe is simple — “Four cups of sugar and one cup of water.”
“You’re going to kill the hummingbirds, babe!” she exclaims.
Huh? I recheck Dad’s email — make that four cups water to one cup sugar.
I haven’t made much progress on the Wildlife Viewing page for what she needs, however.
It’s just so … I could literally close my eyes and talk you through exactly how to find what percent of riflemen were successful in the 2009 Pasayten general season mule deer hunt, or get you to a PDF for 2008 fish stocking totals for Thurston County lakes, but finding plans for building bat and flicker nests?
But that’s what Amy wants, so I press on.
I actually like northern flickers, but I don’t think they’re gonna come through our yard anytime soon because it has a noticeable lack of dead, bug-bearing trees, and my suggestion on how we could create one earned a sharp look last night. We’ve got a two-trunked Himalayan cedar that is a colossal litterer — dropping dead needles all summer and these sharp-spined chunks of pinecone in late winter and spring — so I say how about we girdle one of the mothers and kill it so juicy ants infest it?
No, she says.
Back to WDFW’s Wildlife Viewing page.
Below the info on the whats, wheres and hows of spying on birds and mammals and whatnot is something that actually catches my eye: WildWatch Cams — game or trail cams, except none, of course, is focused on animals with antlers.
But there is a Loon Cam.
In my book, there are few cooler critters on Earth than loons.
I first heard their crazy chuckle-howl in Maine 10 years ago, then at Lost and Bonaparte Lakes in Okanogan County a couple years afterwards. One of the approximately 10,000 stuffed animals that our boys have is a loon that, when you squeeze it, produces the call.
Nobody’s home at the Loon Cam, but eventually I find a link to “Attracting wildlife to your backyard, Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary, projects, plans, and more…”
And after a bit of fumbling inside that, I find what I’m looking for — “Woodworking projects for Backyard Wildlife.”
Setting myself up for another chance to do battle with cedar and our screwermajiggy, I print out plans for economy bat condos and flicker town homes and back out of the site.
I know for fact that some Evergreen State sportsmen are uncomfortable with WDFW’s softer side, I certainly would like to see folks who access the agency’s lands for viewing purposes pay more for their upkeep, and it’s not like bird house plans aren’t posted anywhere else on the world wide web.
But, for what it’s worth, their wildlife viewing page was worth something.