This summer, all are invited to learn about the reptiles, squirrels, plants and bats who call Moran State Park home.
The Friends of Moran is reinstating its Walks and Talks program that first launched in 2019. It was put on hold in 2020 but is now back and more robust, with 42 offerings led by 17 scientists and the addition of four Music in the Park concerts.
“The pilot program was successful and very well received,” said FOM Director Christian Oldham. “It’s also the park’s centennial so it’s a way for us to marry the two, encourage people to come out to the park and get more outreach.”
The objective is to provide free, educational opportunities for Orcas families and members of the public as well as park visitors. The walks and talks are on a variety of cultural and natural history topics. They start June 16 and run to the fall. No registration is required.
All participants are asked to follow current COVID-19 safety protocols. The talks run for one hour unless otherwise noted. Three of the programs that were very popular previously will be available to the public as a “research station” over a period of several hours in order to maintain social distancing.
Local science organization Kwiaht is partnering with FOM on the project, providing both speakers and financial resources. FOM also received funding for the events during the recent Orcas Island Community Foundation’s GiveOrcas campaign.
“Our whole philosophy is that through these kinds of programs and engaging with people we really encourage folks to learn more about and respect the park as a public resource,” Oldham said. “It’s more than just a place to camp. If we can connect people in some way with the place through something they are interested in, whether it’s birds or reptiles or flowers, they are more likely to care for the park.”
The summer concert series will feature local musicians and highlight natural history. All concerts will begin at 5 p.m. at Cascade Lake and are free. They kick off on Saturday, July 31 with Brograss followed by Tow Away Zone and The Daves on Saturday, Aug. 14, Irthlingz and Tom Rawson on Thursday, Aug. 26 and JP and the Okay Rhythm Boys on Saturday, Sept. 4.
In other Moran news, the Summit Gift Shop is currently open and will be moving into the new visitors’ center building over the next few weeks. Construction on the facility began in June 2020 and is slated for completion at the end of June. To sign up for the Friends of Moran newsletter, visit https://friendsofmoran.org/
“Moran is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the county,” Oldham said. “You have such a big change in elevation that communities of plants and animals are different and you get a quite few species in the park that you don’t see elsewhere in the county.”
Walks and Talks schedule
How to Be a Citizen Scientist, 10-11 a.m. at the Cascade Lake Day-Use Shelter, Sundays, June 20 through August 8: Do you like spending time outside learning about wildlife around you? Have you always wanted to be a scientist? Interpretive naturalists Rachel Baker and Deanna Bugel will teach all ages how they can be citizen scientists.
The Iconic Stone Tower Tour, 2-3 p.m. at Mt. Constitution Summit, Friday, June 18 and Saturdays, June 26, July 24, August 14, 21, and 28: Learn about the fascinating history of the iconic Mt. Constitution Stone Tower. Rolf Eriksen, tour leader, has been the dedicated tower expert for many years.
Bea and Cindy’s Mor’n S’mores, 5-6 p.m. at Cascade shelter, Friday, June 25: Camping out means cooking out, and here are a few great ideas for you to try. Simple pleasures over the fire, a propane stove or a solar powered oven!
A Sense of Place: Nature Awareness and Contemplation, Cold Spring Shelter on Mt. Constitution, 10-11 am, Sunday, June 20 and Sunday, Sept. 19: Join Minor Lile as he leads a series of contemplative programs timed to coincide with the seasonal solstices and equinoxes. The program includes a brief talk followed by a field exploration.
Junior Ranger program 10-11 a.m. at the Cold Springs shelter, Saturdays, June 26 through August 14: Join interpretive naturalists Rachel Baker and Deanna Bugel as they discover the ways a Junior Ranger can have fun with hands-on learning, exciting games, funny stories and great ideas on how to safely enjoy and help conserve Moran State Park and the world around you. Please wear shoes good for a small walk-about. For ages 4-12.
Wildflowers and their pollinators, 1-4:30 p.m. at the first turnout on the road to the Summit, Wednesday, July 7: What makes Mt. Constitution special? Unique alpine meadows that occur nowhere else in the San Juan Islands! Drop by the temporary research station on the road to the Summit and chat with Kwiaht botanist Madrona Murphy and ecologist Russel Barsh, as they observe native pollinators in one of Mount Constitution’s scenic meadows. This station will be staffed for several hours, so if it seems a bit crowded, come back a little later.
Forage Fish and Their Link to Salmon and Orca Whales, 4-5pm at Obstruction Pass (meet at the beach) Friday, July 9: Explore the beaches and marine environment of Obstruction Pass State Park with near-shore habitat biologist Tina Whitman of Friends of the San Juans. Wear comfortable shoes that can get wet.
Newts & Frogs & Salamanders, Oh My!, 9 a.m.-noon, on the Mountain Lake trail, Friday, July 16: Join Kwiaht’s herpetologist Christian Oldham for an introduction to the wonderful world of Moran State Park’s amphibians. Come learn about the fascinating lifecycles of our native amphibians and meet some of them in person at the research station.
Squirrels in Moran State Park and on Orcas Island, 6-7 p.m. at Cascade Lake Day Use Shelter, Friday, July 16: Join Wildlife Biologist Joe Springer to explore the lives of squirrels of Moran State Park and within the San Juan Islands. It is possible that Northern Flying Squirrels are here, too, but they aren’t seen as they are completely nocturnal and live in the dense coniferous forest.
Medicinal Plants of Moran State Park, 6-7 p.m. at the Cascade Shelter, Sunday, Aug. 1: Join Kristy Bredin to take a virtual walk through the park and explore some of the plants you’ll find there and unearth their medicinal secrets.
Bird Sleuth! Birds of the alpine woods and meadow, 1-4:30 p.m. at Little Summit (park at Little Summit turnout and walk up the short loop trail), Saturday, Aug. 7: Join Kwiaht ornithologist Joe Behnke at the research station for an afternoon of bird-watching at one of Mount Constitution’s most scenic overlooks where alpine meadows, woodlands and rocky outcrops meet.
The Forest Fantastic! 6 – 7 p.m. Meet at flags near the ELC; park near ELC beach, Friday, Aug. 20: The forest is a living, changing entity. Find out more about the four dominant tree species that make up our island forests. Use all your senses to get to know them like old friends with Carolyn Cruso, naturalist and environmental educator.
Shinrin-Yoku, Forest Bathing Stroll, 11-noon at Cascade Falls Trail parking lot, Thursday, Aug. 19: Experience the physical and mental health benefits of shinrin-yoku, the traditional Japanese wellness practice of forest bathing. Shinrin-yoku practitioner and guide Flavia Wagner will take you on a slow, intimate exploration of Moran’s forests that will engage all five senses.
Bats’ Night Out! Bats over Mountain Lake, 8–9:30 p.m. at the bulletin board outside the ranger residence at Mountain Lake, Saturday, Aug. 21: Join Kwiaht ecologist Russel Barsh for an introduction to the eight species of bats that roost in Moran, followed by an opportunity to see bats flying over Mountain Lake by moonlight. Eavesdrop on them using special electronic equipment that makes bats’ ultrasonic echolocation chirps audible. This event is only possible one night each year.
Moran State Park in Photographs: Recent and Historic, 6–7 p.m. at Cascade Lake Day-Use Shelter, Thursday, Sept. 10: Enjoy Peter Fisher’s collection of historic and recent photos of Moran State Park.