Earth Sanctuary Nature Reserve
Even on the warmest or windiest days, the woods of Earth Sanctuary on South Whidbey Island are hushed and still. On wet days, rain percolates through the layers of leaves and needles to drip silently onto fern, salal and moss. The canopy stretches over acres, sheltering a restoration project of startling scale. Beneath the branches of firs, hemlocks and alders, 4,800 newly installed native trees and plants are growing up to rejuvenate land logged over just 20 years ago. Wildlife is flocking to the nature reserve, finding homes in the quiet ponds, the boggy fen and carefully preserved tangles of undergrowth.
- Valerie Easton, The Seattle Times
To see videos of the Earth Sanctuary Nature Reserve, visit the Earth Sanctuary YouTube page.
The 500-year goal of Earth Sanctuary is to restore and encourage the forest back to its previous old-growth profile, with mature trees, many canopy layers, and snags and downed logs that provide ideal habitat for birds and wildlife.
At Earth Sanctuary, you'll find forests containing Red Alder, Douglas Fir, and Western Hemlock trees-as well as Grand Fir, Big Leaf Maple, Sitka Spruce, and Western Red Cedar. Beneath the trees there is a variety of shrubs, ferns, herbs, mosses, liverworts, mushrooms, and lichens.
Earth Sanctuary's Fen is a unique wetland ecosystem containing a bog surrounded by marsh and moat. The raised bog is a great rarity in western Washington. The dwarf shrub community is perhaps the most visually striking plant community of the bog. This community - composed of abundant heaths, sedges, ferns and even a carnivorous plant, the sundew - forms a floating mat of consolidated peat.
Birds and Wildlife of Earth Sanctuary
Within the boundaries of Earth Sanctuary lies a rich and unique habitat that provides refuge for a diverse community of animals. The Earth Sanctuary's three ponds, known locally as the "Newman Ponds," and their associated wetland buffers and occupy over 70% of Earth Sanctuary's land. They've been recognized for their importance as waterfowl habitat and designated as a "Habitat of Local Importance" by the Whidbey Audubon Society and the Island County Critical Areas Program.
On any given spring morning at Earth Sanctuary you may see the local pair of nesting osprey and their new fledglings, adolescent and mature bald eagle, a great horned owl, wood ducks, killdeer, tree and violet-green swallows, cinnamon teal and great blue heron, among others.
The forested areas of the Earth Sanctuary provide habitat resources for as many as 90 species of birds. The aquatic environment of the ponds provides a significant feeding ground for birds. And the ponds' protected shorelines, the bog island, as well as the many tree snags (dead and dying trees) provide wonderful nesting locations for birds. Most of these species are perching birds (known for their singing), woodpeckers, hummingbirds, owls, and hawks.