Friday, August 31, 2012


The first change of color is starting to show in the aspens. The nights are noticeably cooler.  Our time to leave has arrived.  After Jeanette conducts a training session in the Gift Shop tomorrow morning for the incoming volunteers, we will disconnect our motor home from where it has sat the last two months and head out. We will be going to Bend first to visit with family and friends for a few days before heading back home to Elkton.  We have had a great summer here at Collier Memorial State Park. We have enjoyed working with some wonderful people, both volunteers and staff members, and we have met many wonderful campers too which we now count as friends. The opportunity to lead nature hikes and to be able to bird on a daily basis has meant a great deal to me.  It will have to go on record as one of my best summers.  Change is sometimes hard for me, but I am encouraged to think that new opportunities must be out there for us to discover.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blossoming Rabbitbrush

The old giving way to the new is a universal truth that is very evident in the campground today here at Collier Memorial State Park.  The volunteer hosts that have been camped to the left of us pulled out this morning, and their replacements are due this afternoon.  The volunteer host on our right will be leaving tomorrow morning with their replacement due in that afternoon. I have been struck with how the new fills the void of the old in the plant world too.  The bright red berries of the wild WaxCurrant which have added so much color for the past month or so are completely gone, but now adding fresh color are the bright yellow blossoms of the Rabbitbrush which has waited until August for its turn to blossom.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

The New Cascade Ramblings

If you have tried to use Cascade Ramblings in the last couple of months to look up a favorite trail, or critter, or wildflower, you probably gave up because of how slow it was operating.  It was reported to me by our server that the software was too old and hanging up. It has operated great for the past 12 years since my son Michael built it for me, so it has been a bit of a mystery, and a solution was beyond my grasp. However, my step-son, Tony Turino (shown above) stepped up to move the site to a new server and build a new Cascade Ramblings with newer and more flexible software. It has a different look and feel to it, but all the data is there and it operates lighting fast.  More changes are in store, Michael is going to make some artistic adjustments, and I’m sure Tony will have some more tricks up his sleeve.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Final Days of Summer

The final days of summer are upon us at Collier Memorial State Park. The Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, as shown in the photo, have fattened themselves up from a summer of gorging themselves on campground handouts, probably now having doubled in weight. The Douglas Squirrels are busy with their pine cone harvest high in the tall Ponderosas. Gone are the Cliff Swallows and Barn Swallows who have been so busy all summer with their mud nests under the bridge. And today for the first time I didn’t hear the persistent call of the Western Wood-Pewee that has been so common on all my bird hikes. The wildflowers are fading too, dull reminders of the bright July colors along Spring Creek. The end can be felt among the volunteer hosts as well, where the conversation is about their leaving day and their next assignment. The final days for Jeanette and I are somewhat up in the air, we are not sure as to our exact last day, nor are we clear on our next adventure. But considering that we came to Collier to help out for a week in June, and that we are still here, you can safely conclude that we have had a good summer.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Ones That Get Away

In this photo the bird got away a millisecond before my shutter clicked.  And that’s the way it always is. Birding is a lot like fishing; the best stories are always about the ones that got away, as in this case the one I didn’t get a photo of. I was having a slow birding day on my hike up the Williamson River Trail; it was almost half over before I starting writing down any bird sightings. And, then I spotted what turned out to be a Green-tailed Towhee! It was extra exciting because it was a new addition to my life list. I failed after about three attempts to get a photo, and then it flew out of sight. I was determined to get a photo so I decided to try calling it in with my iPod.  I dialed up the Green-tailed Towhee call and gave it a couple of tries.  No response, then I noticed an approaching shadow overhead that swooped in and landed in the tree.  It was a Cooper’s Hawk, an eater of small birds, who had come to investigate the Towhee call.  It took a puzzled look and me, turned around, and flew off.  They both got away without a photo, the Green-tailed Towhee and the Cooper’s Hawk.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hotel Pygmy

Alas there were no Pygmy Nuthatches at our sighting snag of yesterday, which I have dubbed, “Hotel Pygmy”.  We could hardly be disappointed though because by the time we looped around to that location on today’s birding hike we had already seen several Pygmy Nuthatches, as well as a White-breasted Nuthatch, at least five Red-breasted Nuthatches, and three or more Brown Creepers, all of which are kind of grouped together. From what I learned from reading yesterday evening, the fascinating thing about Pygmy Nuthatches is that they all hang out together and every one chips in to help raise the young ones. As you can see in the photo that there are several cavities, or rooms, that would be available at this location.  From now on, Hotel Pygmy will be a standard stop on my bird hiking route.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pygmy Nuthatch

Yesterdays “bonus” hiking day was such a success that we decided to do it again, and all three campers that stayed over attended.  It is really a slow time of year with a lot of the migrants leaving or left, so each bird means a lot. Bill Finke pointed out this little bird, a Pygmy Nuthatch, which is a tiny bird of only 4 ¼ inches from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail. This nuthatch and one other were on an old snag with a lot of cavity holes.  What I have since read about Pygmy Nuthatches and their territorial and communal living means that I will be checking this site out again,-- like tomorrow.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bonus Hike

On the basis of my blog,, Bill & Diane Finke from San Jose, California stopped at Collier Memorial State Park to hike one of our trails and look for birds yesterday.  Ken McGinnis, one of our volunteer hosts, directed them to me, and although it was not one of my scheduled days I offered to take them on a guided bird hike this morning.  A little announcing around the campground last night showed more interest, and this morning 6 people showed up for a guided hike up Spring Creek.  It was a bonus for me to be able to lead an extra hike, and a bonus for Bill & Diane as they were able to add a Common Nighthawk to their Life List.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Use of the Williamson River Trail

It was raining yesterday morning when my scheduled Williamson River Trail Hike was set to go.  I waited patiently under the protection of my motorhome awning, and gratefully no one showed.  So today it seemed like a good route for the five ambitious hikers that showed up.  They are right to left, Jeanette’s brother Bill and his son Nathan, a couple from London England, Stephen and Georgie, and Jeanette and Buster.(click on the photo for a closer look at this cast of characters) The Williamson River Trail has been kind of a pet project of ours, starting when we volunteered here at Collier Memorial State Park in October of 2010.  This year we have spent considerably more time and effort into improving and promoting use of the trail.  It was gratifying today to notice the increase in bike tire tracks and foot prints, indicating a growing use of the trail.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Clark's Nutcrackers

A couple of days ago when we were at Crater Lake, in addition to the awesome view, we were treated to the sounds and sights of Clark’s Nutcrackers. It instantly took Jeanette and I both back to a backpacking trip in the high Cascades to Camp Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness.  Clark’s Nutcrackers are very raucous birds that you can’t help but notice. During the day we would watch them pry open pine cones for the pine nuts, storing them in their throat poach until their cheeks were bulging. Then at twilight each evening they would gather into huge flocks and fly to lower elevations to store their nuts for the winter. It’s been some time since we had that experience, in fact 14 years this September, but the unique sights and sounds are still fresh in or memories.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Crater Lake

We took off yesterday afternoon for Crater Lake, it is unbelievably close, only 35 miles from our campsite to the rim.  It was the coolest place around that I could think of to escape the 90 degree plus heat we have been having.  The view of the enormous lake filled crater is always awesome to view.  (Notice the snow at the bottom of the rim on the left side.) The other thing that was impressive is that the parking lot at Rim Village has been moved to behind the buildings and replaced with paths and landscaping.  It makes for a great area to walk and view the crater, a wonderful improvement that restores ones faith in progress.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Spring Creek Nature Hike

I had a record number of 9 persons on my Guided Nature Hike up Spring Creek today. On Sunday mornings for the month of August I am leading hikes here in Collier State Park up Spring Creek with an emphasis on wild flowers. Of course I can’t help pointing out the occasional bird or nesting site, and squirrels and chipmunks figure in for a big part of the conversation too, but for the most part I try to concentrate on talking about the various plants, weeds, shrubs, berries and trees found here in the park. The lower photo shows our two 4 years-olds taking a close up inspection of a White Bog Orchard.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Next Morning

Below are a series of photos featuring the poor youngster that was dragged from his old home and deposited in this second bird house yesterday. This morning I caught him figuring out how to get out of the bird house. And then he had the problem of how to get back in.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Moving Day

Our closest neighbors here in the campground at Collier Memorial State Park are actually a family of Douglas Squirrels.  They live in an abandoned bird house less than ten feet from our motor home.  Up until today we had only seen the mom. Although we had never seen or heard any babies you could tell the mom was a nursing female. Evidently today she decided to move.  Might have been something I said, but I suspect it was Buster.  Her method of moving was to grab a youngster by the nap of the neck and drag it to a new home about thirty yards away. This worked on the first one, but she spent the next couple of hours in vain trying to coax and drag any others out of the box. I’m sure there are two more, maybe three. Everything is quiet this evening, we will see what tomorrow brings. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Juvenile Behavior

This summer I have been learning a lot about juvenile birds.  Their plumage is sometimes the same or similar to adult birds, but more often than not it is enough different to be very confusing for making an identification.  But here is a big clue that I have learned, their behavior is usually quite strange. I can’t help but be struck with the similarity to human juveniles.  Anyone who has had kids or spent much time around teenagers will know what I am talking about.

Yesterday while birding at Wood River Day Use area we spent a lot of time observing and photographing a juvenile pair of Red-breasted Sapsuckers in an aspen grove.  One of the strange behaviors we witnessed was this juvenile splayed out flat on a limb.  It reminded me of a teenager sprawled out on a couch, or public bench or god knows where, without any pretention of proper behavior.

The second set of juveniles we watched were a pair of young Red-tailed Hawks.  We first heard them screaming in the distance, and were confused thinking them to be protesting Red-shouldered Hawks.  We later saw them circling and diving in the sky in some kind of mock mating ritual.  And then there was this youngster that flew into a tree very close to us to stare, good judgment overcome with curiosity.  Sort of reminded me of a gawking teenage caught staring, unaware of proper social behavior. It made for an interesting day. (No, I don’t think my grandsons read my blog!)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Williamson River Trail Hike

This morning was my first day of leading a hike up the Williamson River Trail to the Williamson River Campground.  The first person to show up was a lady who had missed the part about a three hour hike and only had an hour to spare. But these two strong lads, Devin and Ben, showed up and we had a great hike.  My idea was that the emphasis would be just on hiking, and not spend any time birding.  But after only a half a mile a big bird flew past us, which on closer inspection turned out to be a Great Horned Owl!  A short distance more and a Great Blue Heron flew up into a nearby tree.  While we were looking at the heron an Osprey made a pass by, and next was a Red Tailed Hawk.  It felt like I was leading a hike at a Disney park where everything shows up on cue. We all had a great time and got a good work out on this five mile hike.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Western St. John's Wort

Today has been mostly consumed with a big effort to get up to speed on wild flowers in preparation for the hike I will lead on Sunday.  It’s like cramming for a final exam.  For the past five years I have been mainly focused on birds, and in that time the names and identification of wild flowers has slipped considerably. So, today I have been busy photographing, and digging through flower books, and searching on Cascade Ramblings in hopes of resurrecting my past knowledge on wildflowers. 
The above photo was taken today along Spring Creek here in Collier Memorial State Park.  I believe it to be the native St. John’s Wort (Hypericum formosum) sometimes called Western St. John’s Wort, or Scouler’s St. John’s Wort. The pleasing thing to me was to find this growing along Spring Creek, because a short distance away along the red cinder shoulder of busy Highway 97 can be seen a similar looking flower called Common St. John’s Wort or Klamath Weed which is a noxious European invasive weed. Once more I have a deeper appreciation for the environs of Spring Creek.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

August Schedule

It's official, my schedule for the month of August here at Collier Memorial State Park will include leading hikes on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  On Fridays I will lead a Bird Hike on the River Loop Trail.  On Saturdays I will lead a longer hike on the Williamson River Trail with great views of the river as shown in the above photo.  On Sundays I will lead a Nature Hike up Spring Creek. Starting at the campground I will discuss our assortment of squirrels, then as we hike along the creek I will be pointing out the various wildflowers, and of course I will also be identifying the birds we see.  All in all it should be a fun month. I should also add that Jeanette will be spending her volunteer time working in the gift shop on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.