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Encountering the wild, and glimpsing the future, at Circle Creek

In celebration of the 15th anniversity of NCLC’s acquisition of Circle Creek Conservation Center in 2019, staff and a supporter share their Circle Creek encounters.

Petty humans

I remember one late afternoon last fall going out to a patch of invasive yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) to revisit the weed photo point we established there. It’s a little way north of the barn, past the Legacy Loop and near where the meadow, forest, and creek all converge. As I tromped through the soggy brush at the forest’s edge, I startled a barn owl from its perch in a big spruce tree, probably previously sleeping. I marveled for a moment, trying to get a better look as it swooped off almost ethereally to find a more peaceful space. Just a few steps later, I immediately spooked a nearby herd of elk with another crackle under my boot. Again I stopped, to watch the collective tonnage of ruffled beasts rumble past, the big six-point bull steadily bringing up the rear to cast a wary glare at my uninvited disturbance.

As the dust settled, I made my way to my destination, conducted the photo monitoring, and headed back. In what seemed like almost the exact same place, the barn owl suddenly reappeared, again flushed from its spot in the canopy above, now doubly interrupted from its evening routine. I stood in awe for another moment as it alighted to another branch farther away. I wished briefly that I had had my camera with me, but then decided I wouldn’t be able to get a good shot anyway. I’m not exactly a particularly clumsy fellow, but so easily and accidentally disturbing such graceful creatures did make me feel like a member of a particularly clumsy hominid species. Though it may be anthropomorphizing, I just imagine their annoyance at this lumbering bipedal, needlessly disrupting their day. Petty, clunky humans.

NCLC Land Steward Eric Owen
(Photo of barn owl by Edd Deane)


Taking time

I first met Circle Creek 10 years ago when I was an AmeriCorps Conservation Team member with The Nature Conservancy. I helped plant thousands of trees and shrubs in the floodplain over the course of several winters and springs. I remember trying to work as quickly as possible to get as many trees in the ground before spring came. While I was frantically planting, Neal Maine calmly walked by and simply said, “Nature doesn’t rush.” I still think about that when I am feeling overwhelmed.

I also remember being completely enamored by the skunk cabbage in the swamp. I don’t think I had been around such lush and abundant swamp lanterns before. And then, of course, I remember sleeping in the barn on some bales of hay, years before the Trails and Barn Team performed their magic cleaning spell. It was pretty gross. I saw rats while I was in my sleeping bag. But I also heard the peaceful sound of rain on the metal roof and coyote calls in the early morning.

NCLC Stewardship Director Melissa Reich


On the Boardwalk

In January 2016 I was able to spend two weeks on the coast; my mother-in-law has a beach house in Seaside. Every day, in midmorning or early afternoon, I would go for a long walk at Circle Creek. My partner and I are birders, and we’ve seen lots of birds there, from red crossbills and northern pygmy owls in the trees to white-fronted geese in the open fields. I’ve watched elk herds move through the forest and listened to them communicating with their funny call-and-response whistles.

One afternoon I was walking the Wetlands Walk when, about 50 feet ahead, I saw a bobcat step out of the forest and onto the boardwalk ahead of me. I saw it before it saw me; it seemed to be batting at something. Then it spotted me, but rather than dash off, it first took a couple of steps my way. Then it seemed to lose interest and it veered off into the woods.

What had been a lovely and silent walk at Circle Creek suddenly became even more memorable. It’s a special place, and I am grateful for NCLC.

Robin Gill, Scappoose
(who wants to remind NCLC supporters that they can direct their Fred Meyer reward points to NCLC, as she does)


Watching a baby forest grow up

Sometimes when the morning light is just right on my drive north on Highway 101, I look across the Necanicum River to Circle Creek and see the hundreds of trees that were planted several years ago and imagine the forest corridor that will be there in the not-too-distant future. I am continually reminded of the impact of planting trees, and I am delighted that my morning commute affords an opportunity to watch Circle Creek’s riverside forest grow up!

NCLC Development Director Lorraine Ortiz


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