Saturday, May 27, 2017

Summer Lake Trip

The impetus for this trip to the Summer Lake area was Jeanette's desire to get here before Spring had passed us by. On Sunday May 21, we made the drive down I-5, over the Willamette Pass, over to Gilchrist where we stopped for lunch in our RV, and on to state highway 31 through Silver Lake and on to Summer Lake. At Silver Lake we had actually come up with the brain storm of going up to camp at Thompson Reservoir, but a few miles on the badly separated pavement caused us to abort that idea.   

Our stop for the day was the Summer Lake Rest Area.  This is an oasis in the surrounding desert area, and where it's possible to pause and park for up to 18 hours in a 24 hour period.  This is one of 57 State of Oregon Rest Areas where free over night parking is allowed, and possibly the best one we have used.  

Belding Ground Squirrls were our closest neighbors. These three could be the squirrel equivalent to the Thee Bears. Thier numbers greatly exceeded the number of traveling visitors and indeed the total population of Summer Lake.

I love the morning sun at 6:30, filled with bird song and fresh air. The empty park revealed we were the only persons to enjoy this Rest Area for the night.

After a great breakfast at the Lodge at Summer Lake, we spent the day driving and birding  on the Summer Lake Wildlife Area Loop Route.  Jeanette is shown here using her iPhone to call in some birds along the Anna River. Check out our Observation List here for out species total and photos.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Treasure-trove of Birding

American Goldfinch

Watching birds leads to a treasure-trove of information and experience.  It's akin to falling down the rabbit hole as in Alice in Wonderland. You are drawn into a world beyond your understanding. A world of art, history, and science, all interwoven and connected. It may start out simple enough, you observe a bird, perhaps in your yard and a question comes to mind, "what kind of bird is that?" That may lead to interaction with another person to seek some understanding, or perhaps borrow or purchase a book about birds.  Next you discover it would help to have binoculars. Then, you may need a better camera with a zoom lens to be able to get a photo. As you begin to build on your knowledge you realize that males and females may look different. There are seasonal changes, some birds are around all year, but some only in summer, some only in winter.  Some eat bugs, some eat fruit, some eat fish, some even eat other birds.  And you are drawn even further into the vast world of birding.  Different birds for different locations. Birds species on the decline, other species on the move and expanding. Seasonal changes of nesting, fledgling, and migration. The more you see and learn, the more questions surface.      

Yesterday morning my wife Jeanette, our dog Buster, and I all went for a bird walk at a nearby park, Wallace Marine Park.  During our walk along the river through towering cotton-wood trees, Jeanette spotted and I photograph this female American Goldfinch nest building, in a brier patch of all places! It sort of crystallizes for me our birding experience. Consider if you would, that we have seen many nesting birds over the years of our birdwatching, but this was the first time to ever find a nesting Goldfinch. Granted they are common enough, with great numbers easy to observe at back yard feeders, but nesting has always been a vague mystery. But to get to this simple trail side treasure has taken a culmination of experiences, study, and technology.  Our hand held smart phones contain applications for bird sounds as well as drawings and photographs to aid identification.  My digital camera with an 83 zoom lens allows photos to be taken for closer observation, identification and sharing. All of this converged in yesterday's sighting identification and photo of this female nesting American Goldfinch. This treasure hunt of birding is something Jeanette and I have found to be an all  encompassing experience, even life-changing, and we are very grateful.   

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Johnson Pond

Jeanette using her iPhone to call in a bird

This week we are taking advantage of the good weather to do a loop on the Oregon Coast. Our first night's stay was in the Safeway parking lot in Roseburg.  This morning our plan was to drive Highway 42 to Bandon and bird at Face Rock State Park hoping to find some Tufted Puffins, but along the way while driving between Myrtle Point and Coquille I spotted a sign for Johnson Pond County Park. I seemed to recall that it was an e-Bird Hot Spot, and when I mentioned it to Jeanette, she said lets check it out.  Turns out it was an excellent impulsive decision, and we spend the rest of the morning birding there and having lunch.  We love the flexibility of the RV life style and serendipitous experiences we tumble into. Tonight we are camped in Bulllards Beach State Park and will make a second attempt tomorrow to look for Puffins.  Below are some of the birds we enjoyed at Johnson Pond.

Tree Swallow

Purple Martins

Marsh Wren

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Peter Courtney Bridge Opening

Yesterday was the "soft" opening of the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge in Salem. We have been waiting for this event for it seems a long time, and were very excited to be able to use this new bridge and trail that connects the Salem Riverfront Park with the Minto-Brown Island Park.  It is now possible to walk from West Salem, cross the Willamette River on the historic train bridge, continue through the Riverfront Park, cross the Peter Courtney Bridge and walk the miles and miles of trails in Minto-Brown. We turned this event into an opportunity for a bird walk. The south end of the bridge actually touches down on the Minto-Brown Island Park--North Basin Conservation Area, which held the former settling ponds for the Boise-Cascade Paper Mill. They now make up a wonderful wetlands for a great variety of birds.  Here is a link to our Observation List with bird photos for our walk.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Birdwalks at Salemtowne

A higher than normal volume of rain in the Willamette Valley continues to attempt to cramp our style of living. However, we are not defeated easily and try to get in a bird walk every day. I've been leading weekly spring birdwalks at Salemtowne during this month of April.  This mornings rain dampened the number of participants, but eight brave people showed up anyway. We have met every Sunday at 8:00am for an hour and have had as many as eighteen people.  We have walked a variety of routes and seen a good number of bird species.  Todays number was our highest at twenty six species. You can check out today's observation list here. It's been a good social event and I hope to repeat next Spring.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Columbia River Gorge - Then & Now

We have just returned from a trip of four days in the Columbia River Gorge.  It's an area that holds many memories for Jeanette and me, starting with our Honeymoon Bicycle Tour in May of 1993.  We  returned there many times in the following years on bike tours, day hikes, and backpacks.  Spring is our favorite time to be there and enjoy the fantastic wild flowers. 

Horsetheif Lake Campground - May 1993

Horsetheif Lake Campground - April 2017
Times have changed, in 1993 our transportation was bicycles and we had the campground to ourselves. It was very quiet.  This year we traveled in luxury in our RV, the campground was full by night fall and our neighbors with an alcohol fueled party where up chopping wood until 1:30am in the morning.

In March of 2006, we took Buster on one of his longest hikes on The Dalles Riverfront Trail.
This year a greying older Buster, a little braver, hiked a total of four miles. Spring is a little late this year, maybe as much as a month.  Snow banks still can be seen along I-84 near Multnoma Falls, and the major wild flowers have yet to bloom. Guess we will just have to return again.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Return of the Osprey

The Osprey have made their annual return to the West Salem area.  I was made aware of their presence on Thusday by email and photos that my neighbor Lou Nelson sent me. She happens to drive by the nesting site on Murlark Avenue several times a week, and Thursday March 23rd was her first sighting of this season.  Last year Jeanette saw them for the first time on March 20th, and the year before I noticed them on March 25th.

I went by the nest site this morning and took this photo.  I was lucky enough to be there at the time the male brought in a stick to the platform.  When I first got there the female, which is the larger one on the right, was alone on the nest and crying out loudly.  Suddenly the male, which is the smaller one on the left, appeared and flew down to the nest with a large stick.  If you look closely at the photo (clicking on the image will enlarge it) you can see the stick that is on the top, and also notice the scrutiny in the look of the female.  This is a ritual they will preform many times in this next week or so as they build an acceptable crude network of sticks for their nest.

I checked out all six nesting sites that I keep track of in West Salem this morning.  Of the six, three where occupied, but only the one on Murlark is to the building stage.