Nature Notes

Mount Rainier National Park

Vol. II September 3, 1924 No. 11

Issued weekly during the summer months, monthly during the remainder of the year by the Nature Guide Service.
F. W. Schmoe,
Park Naturalist.
O. A. Tomlinson,

By Park Naturalist F. W. Schmoe

During the week the Naturalist had occasion to visit Paradise lakes and was surprised to find there great five inch bird tracks. They could be none other than those of the Great Blue Heron, a bird that very rarely visits the high valleys.

A few days later at a little pond near Paradise river we had the good fortune to meet the track maker himself face to face. He was not shy but went on with his frog spearing while we photographed him reflected in the water at a hundred feet. At one time he was frightened by a quick movement and photographed in the air. After making a turn or two he alighted in the meadow a hundred yards away and was soon thinking frogs again, at any rate he soon started for the pond. For years I have known his characteristic flight but I had never before seen him walking except in the water. He has a strange gait. As he strided across the meadow I got the impression that his head and neck were in a very great hurry but that his legs were hesitating and having trouble in keeping pace. He watched the photographer so closely that he fell awkwardly into a narrow but deep ditch and had to flop out with his wings. Soon he was at his fishing again and later the same day a Nature Guide party under Park Ranger Fogg had opportunity to study this interesting wader.

The Great Blue is the largest of the herons standing forty to fifty inches high with a wing spread of four feet or more. They are great fishermen, spearing their prey with heavy five inch beaks as they wade along the edge of the lake or stream. Their flight is rather heavy but they move evenly along with crooked neck and slowly flapping wings.

By Park Naturalist F. W. Schmoe

To most people it is surprising to know that with the wonderful forests found covering two-thirds of Mount Rainier National Park there are only seventeen species of trees. One of the most interesting although not particularly common is the yellow Alaska cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) which grows in the Park on high damp ridges, Northern slopes, along streams and in basins at the heads of valleys where it finds the supply of moisture it demands.

Outside the Park it is found from the coast of southern Alaska to the mountains of Washington and Oregon. At four thousand feet on Rainier conditions are found similar to those of its normal range in Alaska altho the species occasionally grow as high as 7000 feet elevation. Here however it never reaches more than a few feet from the ground.

There are two trees with Arbor vita like foliage in the Park - the Western Red Cedar and the Alaska. They may easily be distinguished by the light bark, yellow-green foliage and sparse, pendant branching of the yellow cedar. The cones are inconspicuous - almost round the size of a grape, the wood is yellow, close-grained, has an aromatic odor and is very durable. At sealevel in Alaska it is not hard but due to the slower growth in the mountains, it is harder, takes a high polish and is used in cabinet work. The framework and lobby furniture of Paradise Inn was made of cedar trees from the silver forest where they were killed 35 years ago by a fire and have since weathered to a beautiful silver gray color. The tree is not available in sufficient quantities any place to be of importance commercially.

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