WALK THIS WAY
Free City Walks around Seattle

Come walk with us. We are leading free fun and interesting urban nature walks in the greater Seattle area.

Our next walk is on July 9, 2017. We are busy designing it right now and will announce all of the fun details here soon! 

Or, to get our walk announcements delivered right to your in-box, subscribe in the box on the left side of this page. Share with your friends. They are free and fun!

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Eleven signs of spring in the Pacific Northwest

Spring Azure Butterfly.© 2017 Curt Given/Given Photography  

  1. Earlier dawns
  2. Budding trees, despite the iffy weather
  3. Flocks of birds flying overhead
  4. Croaking frogs
  5. Appearance of butterflies and other insects
  6. Sun tracking higher in the sky
  7. Blooming wild daffodils
  8. Birds singing and displaying mating behavior
  9. Warmer sunshine
  10. Hummingbirds are back
  11. Baby plants poking their heads out of the ground

A Sweet Little Guide to Nature Me For You

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A Simple Way to FEEL MORE JOY in your life

© Cary Given/Given Photography 2016

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Journal Archive
Monday
Feb032014

'Tis the season for Snow Geese and other wintering birds

Snow Geese, © Curt Given 2010It was unexpected. The rise of feathered chaos as a huge mass of white birds lifted off in unison from a farmer's field accompanied by their crazy cacophony of honking. Conversation was impossible. I laughed out loud, knowing it was a one-of-a-kind moment. 

I was standing along a rural road in the Skagit flats area watching a thousand plus flock of snow geese feed and rest in a farmer's field. I can only guess that the flying chaos was caused by some unseen predator. 

Every winter I take this fun little day-trip, really an adventure, which always reaps BIG rewards.

The best part is that you can do it in a few hours and end the day feeling quite satisfied while enjoying a cozy dinner at one of the charming little cafes or brew pubs in La Conner, Bow-Edison, Conway or Mount Vernon.

So, bundle up, fill your thermos and pack your sense of adventure for a glorious day of viewing some pretty spectacular birds that spend the winter in the Skagit flats area, located about 90 minutes north of Seattle, just east of Mount Vernon.

Snow geese, swans, snowy owls, and eagles are at the top of your list. 

Snow Goose, © Cary Given/Given Photography 2014Approximately 65,00 snow geese make epic migrations from the Canadian and northern Alaska tundra to spend the winter here in Washington state. Two other distinct populations of snow geese migrate to eastern and central areas of the U.S., as well.The geese begin arriving in November and stay until late March. 

And, as you can imagine, they put on quite a show. 

These splendid birds congregate and feed in large areas of the Skagit flatlands, which is a large floodplain of nice fertile land. The flats are made up primarily of farm fields, brackish marshes, creeks and tidelands that border Puget Sound inlets. And the birds love it.

The area is marked with many crisscrossing farm roads and huge flocks of snow geese can be seen in the fields anywhere along these roads. See where to find the birds below.

The geese spend their nights in the bays near La Conner. For an extra thrill, you can stand on the dikes that border these bays and watch group after group of geese fly inland to rest and feed for the day. Quite a beautiful sight at sunrise.

Tundra swans, Skagit flats, Washington, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2014A great number of trumpeter and tundra swans spend the winter in the flats, too. About 10,000 of these migrate from northern areas. These graceful birds congregate in smaller groups, but are no less fascinating to watch. It seems to me that they really love foraging in the mud. Their beaks are often covered with long tendrils of muddy grass. If you're interested in distinguishing the difference between a tundra and trumpeter swan, check out Sibley guides.

Snowy Owl, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2014As you cruise the farm roads, you might be lucky enough to spot a Snowy Owl. These are large beautiful birds whose feathers are mostly white, helping them blend into the frosty ground. They migrate here from the arctic tundra. You can often find them sitting in a farmer's field or perched on a piece of driftwood near water. They stand perfectly still, usually sleeping from their nocturnal activities.

Bald eagle calling, © Cary Given/Given Photography 2014Although Bald eagles and hawks are common in the Skagit flats, it feels anything but common when you spot one. Their wing spans and flying talent are always amazingly acrobatic. You'll probably see eagles and hawks throughout the flats as you cruise the roads.

Hope you are inspired to take on this little adventure...it's so worth it.

Where to find the birds

Start by taking exit 221, Conway/La Conner and drive west about .2 miles to Pioneer Highway and Fir Island Road. Turn right onto Fir Island road and cruise the next 5 miles looking for geese and swans. Good viewing can often be seen at the Fir Island Farm/Hayton Reserve and the Snow Goose Produce Market. Your chances are pretty good at seeing wintering flocks somewhere in this area. If not, continue to cruise other Fir island roads, including Moore and Polson. Overall, you can explore the grid of roads that are bordered by Mount Vernon to the east, La Conner to the west and SR-20 to the north. 

Once you've found the geese and swans, head to the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for some great eagle viewing. (Although you may have seen one by now because they fly all around the flats.) But for a nearly sure thing, head north to SR 20. Cross the highway at the Farmhouse Inn onto Bayview-Edsion Road  and head north for several miles to the reserve.

You can watch for all kinds of waterfowl as the road follows Padilla Bay or get out and walk the Padila Bay Shore Trail. Once you reach the interpretive center you may see eagles in the tall trees across the road from the center.

This is a great place for a restroom stop and the center has awesome displays. If you still have not seen eagles, try the March Point area. Head back to SR-20 and turn right (west). Follow a few miles to March Point. You can often see eagles perched on old pilings out in the bay or tall trees on the point. 

If you like this article, please click the share article button below or send it on to a friend.

Happy Birding!

Thursday
Nov212013

Morning at the Market

Last week, in anticipation of Thanksgiving, I spent a morning at the outdoor Ballard Farmer's Market with my daughter Tiffany. We happily wandered, browsing stalls that were packed with veggies and bursting with color.

As we filled our bags, Tiffany so aptly described how we both felt--that we were very much a part of a community. All coming together in a loving spirit, sharing, conversing and connecting.

Here's a look at this wonderful market.

 

Colorful festival banners are staked up at both ends of the Ballard Farmer's Market, setting the upbeat tone of this popular place. The market is open every Sunday, year-round. 

 

Vegetables are the big sellers and this time of year the stalls are loaded with root vegetables. Perfect ingredients for a big pan of hearty soup. Check out this delicious Creamy carrot and sweet potato soup recipe from Cooking Light. My very talented daughter, who is a high-school teacher, taught her students how to cook this in her nutrition and wellness class. 

 

We saw bins and bins of big, plump market squash. Always perfect for roasting.

 

Vendors at this market get pretty artsy with their displays. We particularly loved this giant pile of beets with bags of fingerling potatoes at its base. Amazing that it didn't topple over. 

 

Baskets of always sought out herbs are tucked among the vegetable bins. The smells are heavenly.

 

The market is staged for several blocks down the center of Ballard Avenue, which is located in the cool historic district of Ballard. Quirky shops, popular restaurants and eclectic bars line both sides of the street. 

 

Although hundreds of people visit this market, the crowds are manageable so you have plenty of room to browse inside the vendor tents.

 

It wouldn't be a farmer's market without a beautiful selection of low-cost, just-picked flowers. These fall bouquets were particularly stunning. 

 

This is definitely a dog and kid friendly place. Lots of families and dog owners were among the shoppers, adding even more character to this bustling market. 

 

Many of the vendors are from small farms, and participate in community supported agriculture programs. Boistfort Valley Farm has 70 acres of organic vegetable, herbs and flowers. They deliver freshly harvested produce at drop-off stations around the Puget Sound area. 

 

More and more people are buying organic these days and many farmers are meeting that demand. You'll find a large selection of certified organic produce among the stalls.


A nice display of organic herbs and veggies.

 

The farmers and helpers working in the stalls are awesome. Friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable. You really get the feeling that they farm from the heart.

 

Not only did we get great fresh vegetables, we sampled a few really good wines. And they were so good we both bought a bottle to take home.

 

 

You'll find a lot more at farmer's markets than produce. Free range eggs and poultry, wild fish, artisan cheeses, honeys, bakery goods, orchard fruits and home-grown teas are all part of this wonderful local market . 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday
Nov082013

PICTURE IT WELL: Letting go 

Buckeye Tree and Maple leaves, © 2013 Curt Given/Given PhotographyLetting go of your need to control is one of the best ways to feel empowered.

Seems kind of counter-intuitive, but according to emotional well-being experts, it's an effective way to feel liberated.

How often have you felt left out, been afraid to take a risk or felt like you disappointed someone? Your initial reaction might have been to try to fix it. Force an outcome. 

Next time you're struggling like this, take a step back. 

Then ask yourself these powerful questions to help you get beyond your immediate need for control.

How is this belief or behavior helping me? What purpose is it serving? Is this stress making me happy? Is it fulfilling a need? What am I trying to accomplish? 

Chances are, you'll discover that whatever has been making you suffer, is all about your need for trying to control the end result. And it's holding you back or limiting you in some way. Definitely not really serving your best interest.

That is is your motivation to let it go. Move on and open up. Know that you can only control yourself.

Then the real power comes. Freedom.

(Picture it Well are photographs that symbolize some aspect of personal wellness. The brief text is meant to inspire, get you thinking, and/or show you the healing power of nature.)

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More Picture it Well posts

See the abundance in your life

Dig into your roots

Play it up in the new year

Do one thing

Reflect for growth

Tuesday
Sep102013

Start your week with a day off

It's like getting a brand new outfit for the party. It's way better than driving to work a new way. And the anticipation is sweeter than your daily nibble of chocolate. You'll look forward to it all weekend.

Monday. (Or, whatever day begins your week.) A day to yourself. No kids. No work. No obligations. Freedom.

And if you're thinking Friday would be better. It's not. You'll end up treating it just like Saturday and it won't feel as special. But, when Sunday night comes along, after two days off, you will feel rested, fresh and excited at the idea of having one more day.

Have I got you interested? I used every cliche in the book (one more) to try to convince you!

So give it a go. Make those arrangements now. I guarantee you will love it. 

Read my latest from the Urban Nature Series about how I spent my last Monday off...

I climbed the narrow winding path curious, wondering where it would lead. Excited too, because so far my exploration of this lush park was filled with nothing short of wonder at its amazing beauty. [Continued...]

Monday
Aug262013

7 ways to make the most out of late summer and early fall

Last week as I kayaked with my daughter on a beautiful local lake, I realized that I was not ready for summer to be over.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul152013

Ten summer lovin' fun ideas for you

I don't know about you, but when summer kicks in with its long warm days, (which can be intermittent here in the Pacific Northwest), I instantly make a mental list of all the fun things I'm going to do. But, by the time mid-August shows up, I've forgotten most of them and done very few. This year I'm writing them down. Here are some suggestions for easy summery things you can do that will keep you enjoying every last warm day.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun182013

PICTURE IT WELL: See the abundance in your life

Experiencing abundance in your life is easier than you think. And an abundant life does not mean having more stuff or more money. According to spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, the secret is that it's right in front of you. No need to seek. Just open up to what is already there.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May152013

Make it a bird walk!

One of the easiest and best ways to enjoy nature is while you're on a walk. Whether you are in a park, wilderness area or your neighborhood, paying attention to nature adds a whole new dimension to your walk. Especially if you watch a few birds along the way. Birds? You might be asking.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Apr302013

New from the Puget Sound Urban Nature Series

At this urban beach park, you'll feel a world away from the busy Seattle metropolis. Panoramic views, a nice stretch of beach and lots of dune grass are some of the features you'll love.  

Read the latest article from my Puget sound Urban Nature Series to find out more about this very cool urban park.

RICHMOND BEACH SALTWATER PARK
  Love the dune grass

And here are three more articles from my urban nature series about local parks that are fun to visit in the spring. 

 WASHINGTON PARK ARBORETUM 
  -Beauty for you

GREEN LAKE PARK
  -Well-loved by Seattleites

VOLUNTEER PARK
  -A jewel in the midst

And to get most out out of your visit, read...

LEARN HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF AN URBAN PARK VISIT
  -Six easy steps

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

Friday
Apr192013

Earth Love - 3 things you must absolutely do on Earth Day

Okay maybe you don't absolutely need to do what I'm about to suggest for Earth Day 2013 (April 22), but if you do, I promise you'll feel more energized and connected with our great big beautiful planet. Get grounded...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Mar062013

A 10-minute backyard nature practice you'll love

"Study nature, love nature, and stay close to nature, it will never fail you." -Frank Lloyd Wright I used to think that I had to take a vacation and travel great distances to experience the beauty and benefits of nature. Visiting a national park or some other type of natural area seemed like the only way. It was a big misconception on my part.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan312013

What's the difference between a seal and a sea lion?

Just as I looked up, it dove under. What was it? I watched for a long time and then movement about 30 feet south caught my eye. I turned, and again, missed it. Just the movement of swirling

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec312012

PICTURE IT WELL: Play it up in the New Year

Red Fox, © Curt Given/Given Photography Are you thinking about setting New Year's resolutions? Well here is one to consider.

Play more.

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, who is known for his extensive research on the importance of play and founder of the Institute for Play, there is a strong correlation between success and playful activities

In his book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Brown claims people who play are more creative. And he says playing is essential to

  • strong social skills
  • solving problems 
  • increased energy
  • intellectual and emotional growth.

The Institute for Play describes play for both animals and humans as "a universal training course and language of trust. The belief that one is safe with another being or in any situation is formed over time during regular play. Trust is the basis of intimacy, cooperation, creativity, successful work, and more."

So this year, why not take your cue from Dr. Stuart Brown and our animal friends and put a few play dates into your 2013 resolutions.

Are you all work and no play? What play ideas do you have for us? What do you think about Dr. Brown's research that shows the correlation between play and trust?

If you like this post, share with your friends!   

Happy New Year! 

__________________

(Picture it Well are photographs that symbolize some aspect of personal wellness. The brief text is meant to inspire, get you thinking, and/or show you the healing power of nature.) 

More Picture it Well posts

See the abundance in your life

Dig into your roots

Do one thing

Reflect for growth

Tuesday
Dec112012

7 ways to get your holiday glow on

If, like me, you find the holiday season a little over-the-top at times, I recommend you check out my own tried and true tricks with a twist of nature. I call them instant peace makers. Just Breathe. This is something you can do anytime.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov212012

PICTURE IT WELL: Reflect for growth

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, © Curt Given/Given Photography 2010When you want to change things up in your life, personal reflection is a powerful way to do that. According to life coach, Martha Beck, reflecting on a past experience can expand your own awareness about your best and maybe not-so-best qualities. But don't dwell or judge yourself harshly. Just think about what you might have done differently from the perspective of enhancing the best in you or changing what did not serve you well. Then move on by integrating that new understanding into your life.

__________________

(Picture it Well are photographs that symbolize some aspect of personal wellness. The brief text is meant to inspire, get you thinking, and/or show you the healing power of nature.)

More Picture it Well posts

See the abundance in your life

Play it up in the new year

Do one thing

Dig into your roots