Sunday, June 30, 2013

Working the Plan

Early this year when we turned down several volunteer opportunities we were forced to ask ourselves, “Where did we really want to volunteer next?”  The answer was, we would like to volunteer somewhere on the Oregon Coast during the hot time of summer. At the top of our list was Beaver Creek State Nature Area.  Today we experienced the results of following through with what we wanted; we arrived at Beaver Creek State Natural Area.
This is where Beaver Creek flows into the ocean at Ona Beach.  This morning it was foggy and 65 degrees, a mile up Beaver Creek is where the Welcome Center is located, and and where we will be staying, it was sunny and 70 degrees. It stayed in the mid 70’s here today and I know the Willamette and Umpqua Valleys were in the 90’s.  I think our plan has worked out just fine. 
 More photos and details tomorrow.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Unpacking and Repacking

This is what is going on now.  We are unpacking and cleaning the motor home from my trip to Collier Memorial State Park, and repacking the motor home for our next volunteer job which starts Monday. We will be volunteering for the months of July and August on the Oregon Coast at Beaver Creek State Natural Area.  Located about half way between Newport and Waldport, Beaver Creek State Natural Area is a relatively new Oregon State Park, having just opened in 2010.  We will be staffing the Visitors Center which is located about a mile up Beaver Creek from Highway 101. Because our motor home is on the small side and two months is a good block of time we have to be very discerning on what we take. One other complication for us is that we are renting out our home for part of the time that we are gone.  So I’m finding the process a little confusing, packing up the motor home, and at the same time leaving our house presentable for someone else. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More on Nesting

It rained all morning yesterday and the Chemeketans wisely decided to cancel their trip, which left me free to do anything I wanted.  In the afternoon the rain let up for a few hours and I got out to check specifically on the Warbling Vireo nest, the Pileated Woodpeckers, and the Bald Eagle Nest.  It took some time for me to find the Vireo’s nest even though I was staring at the exact tree.  Goes to show how well nests are camouflaged. When I did finally find it, it was empty but soon the Vireo appeared and I got a good look at the bird. They are very drab and could be taken for a Flycatcher except for the prominent white eyebrow. Next it was on to look for the Pileated Woodpeckers. They were a no-show, as were any other woodpeckers, but I reasoned that being cavity nesters it probably made a lot of sense to just stay put in their dry tree holes.  I did see Western Bluebirds which I had missed before and Tree Swallows at a nesting snag. The treat of the afternoon was the Bald Eagles.  There is so much going on in this photo. I recommend clicking on the photo to enlarge.  You can see the adult perched in the upper left hand corner, and below you will find the two juveniles, one out on a limb on the left side, and on the right side the other juvenile on the nest.  If you look closely to the right of the adult there is a Steller’s Jay. The jay was completely obsessed with harassing the adult eagle, attacking and carrying on with no deference to the huge size discrepancy.  Interesting enough, the eagle has to have already been there for a couple of months.

I am posting this from my mobile office, the motor home, at the Wood River Wetland waiting for the rain to clear.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nesting Report

I spend the day yesterday scouting Collier Memorial State Park and the nearby Wood River Wetland for birds in preparation for leading bird hikes for a group of Chemeketans. It was great fun to check out nesting sites that were in use last summer when we here.  The Black-backed Woodpeckers did not return to their tree they used last year right in the campground, nor did I see any activity of the Western Bluebirds at the snag they used in the meadow. But the Northern Flickers are possibly using their tree on Spring Creek, and a mother Common Merganser had 8 chicks in tow swimming up Spring Creek. There was no sign of the Osprey on their nest site towering over the creek.  Cliff Swallows were very active with nest sites under the bridge of Highway 97.  I head an exchange between two Pileated Woodpeckers at the same junction on the Williamson River Trail that I saw and photographed two juveniles last summer. On this day, they kept calling back and forth and then the one on the right flew in close enough to see and photograph.  It was a female and my guess is the exchange was between her and a juvenile expressing a warning.  The biggest news is that the Bald Eagles nest on the Williamson is being used this year. I spotted two young birds on the nest with an Adult standing guard. The young ones hid as I approached and reappeared when I left. And then there was this nest in the above photo.  I didn’t have a clue, but luckily when I e-mailed my friend Matt Hunter, he knew exactly, a Warbling Vireo

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Casino Camping

For some time I’ve kind of wanted to take advantage of free camping at a casino parking lot.  Tonight that opportunity presented itself, and here I am parked for the night at the KLA-MO-YA Casino along Highway 97 North of Klamath Falls.  There is more to the story of course.  We have been planning for several months now to join friends from the Chemeketa Outdoor Club from Salem for a few days of camping and birding at Collier Memorial State Park.  They arrive Monday and leave on Wednesday. We made reservations to come a day early on Sunday so that I could get an idea of what was going on in the bird world.  Yesterday, Jeanette was informed by her doctor that she has Shingles, so she elected to stay home. My plan was still to leave Sunday morning and drive over to Collier, but after looking at the weather and seeing the forecast of rain I began to think of options.  A closer look revealed that the rain was coming in late Sat night building to a 90% chance by 10:00AM.  It occurred to me that if I drove over this afternoon I would be ahead of the rain, and then by Wed the rain would be gone.  The reason this is important is that I just spent 2 days cleaning the motorhome and dirty spatter of rain sounded like a wasted effort.  What I didn’t take into consideration or think was possible, was that the campground would be full! This casino is close by, the parking is free, and I needed diesel anyway.  I’ll see how this works, its quiet now.   

Friday, June 21, 2013

Home and Back to Routine

We arrived back home to Elkton from our California trip on Wednesday. That afternoon and Thursday was pretty much a blur of unpacking, cleaning, and catching up with yard and house work.  Today began to feel more like a normal day, we started with a 6:30 AM bicycle ride with friends David and Joan who are both training for Cycle Oregon, then morning coffee with more friends at Tomaselli’s.  Jeanette had a doctor’s appointment, but I took Buster on his walk and my bird walk.  This is where the normal routine kicks in. Buster and I walked down to the city park and I checked on the Osprey nest, then we continued on out to the Elkton Community Educational Center to also check on the nesting Western Kingbirds and Bullock’s Orioles. On the way back we climbed down to the river to check out possibilities and spotted two Green Herons, one of which is shown in the above photo.  They are smaller than the more often seen Great Blue Herons and have a shorter neck and shorter legs.  They also don’t tolerate people as well and so it’s always a treat to get to see one and appreciate their beautiful coloring.  Ah yes, birding and routine, that has a good solid feel of normal.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

...more on Colusa

I put together yesterday’s post about Colusa late last night, but we had such a great stay and there is more to share, so I’ll post a bit more. In the above photo Jeanette is shown this morning enjoying her morning coffee at our parking site before we left on our journey back to Oregon. The story of the present success of the Colusa-Sacramento River SRA has some interesting layers.  It is well known that the state of the California State Parks is a mess or maybe better put in shambles. Lack of funding has forced them to close many parks, or at best stay open with a reduced work force that cannot possibly keep up with maintenance and upkeep.  We are keenly aware of their dire straits as we travel though the state and attempt to use some of their parks.  Colusa however stands out as a shining example of another direction.  The operation of the park has been taken over by the small City of Colusa.  They have installed a full time campground host (who was friendly and helpful), the grounds are well kept, and the rates are low.  In most California State Parks the rate is 35 dollars a night for a no hook-up site.  At Colusa the rate is 26 dollars, less 2 dollars for a senior discount.  Bear in mind that we only paid 13 dollars because of the ENROUTE CAMPING with the senior discount, and add to that we had the parking lot to ourselves. That equals a couple of happy campers!  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Colusa-Sacramento River SRA

We are camped tonight at the Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area, a tiny park, but with a big fancy name. We discovered this park several years ago, and have used it many times as a stop-over to and from the Bay Area. Hidden away beside the forgotten river town of Colusa, it’s about eight miles off of busy I-5, and worth every mile in terms of peace and quiet. This afternoon on our arrival we discovered a new feature, ENROUTE CAMPING.  This allows a fully contained RV to park for the night in a parking lot for a lesser fee, in this case 15 dollars, less 2 dollars for senior discount. The deal is you have to be gone by 9:00AM because it may be needed to be used as a parking lot.  This is a California Department of Parks and Recreation program and good at 17 locations.  We can’t wait to try some of the other locations at this bargain price.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Over the Golden Gate

Yesterday’s travels took us on the narrow windy route along the California Coast south of Fort Bragg and over the equally hilly twisty route to Cloverdale before joining 101 and our stop for the day at Novato. It’s a route I’ll probably never do again in the motorhome. The beauty of the Mendocino Coastline is undeniable, but getting there or back is the next thing to a nightmare. Today I was quite surprised to find the trip over the Golden Gate Bridge (photo by Jeanette) and through San Francisco much easier! We are now setup in the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA.  We have a nice site, the weather is perfect, and we are awaiting the arrival of Tony, Maggie, & Bobby for two nights of camping.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Laguna Point

We are enjoying a day without driving and staying a second night at MacKeericher State Park. This morning we took a walk out to explore Laguna Point, which you can see was a little blustery. We spent a couple of hours wandering the trails of the headland and counting birds.  Nothing much different in the way of birds, but in the afternoon while walking Buster I saw and photographed a Lesser Scaup which is very unusual for this time of year.  He should be much further north by now.  Tomorrow we will be traveling on with our overnight stop scheduled at Novato RV Park which is where we stayed in Oct 2011 to attend Tony and Maggie’s wedding.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Birding Lake Cleone

Today we continued our travels south, leaving Hwy 101 at Liggett and climbing over the infamous Liggett Hill and down to join Hwy 1 and wind along the California Coast.  We are now setup at MacKerricher State Park, just north of the town of Fort Bragg for two nights. This is a most impressive park with many recreational options in an outstanding natural setting of ocean, beaches, a lake, and trails, and most important to us, there are lots of birds.  We spent the first couple hours just identifying the birds we could hear and see from our campsite.  But eventually Buster wanted more so we set out on a walk around Lake Cleone and discovered even more, giving us a total bird count for the afternoon of 42 different species.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary

Today on our journey south we stopped for some birding at the Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary. We birded for 2 hours and identified 20 birds, which is not that great, just average, but what was great is that we got two Life Time birds, Allen’s Hummingbird and a rare Indigo Bunting. We would never have known about the Bunting except that two local birders, Holley & Ron Vetter, mention it to us and then were gracious enough to take us to the known location.  Of course the bird did not show, but just before giving up Jeanette played its song on her iPod, some confusion followed as we realized we were now hearing the actual bird sing not Jeanette’s iPod.  We then spotted him and enjoyed watching him sing and pose for a photograph. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Evening Light

The evening sun, light fog, and off shore islands combined to give an almost magical look to Harris Beach State Park last night. To top it off it was a warm shirt-sleeve evening as well.  I took this photo while on a walk on Edible and Medicinal Plants, lead by Interpretive Ranger, Angelia Stewart.  (Notice the daisies and foxglove in the foreground.) It was kind of fun to go on an interpretive walk and listen to someone else do all the talking. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Flexibility is Key

Flexibility turned out to be the key for a successful and enjoyable day.  My original travel plan was to drive only as far as Cape Blanco State Park to bird and camp, but as we drove south along the Oregon Coast we noticed a hard wind from the north was developing.  I knew it would put the birds down and make our camping experience less than enjoyable out on Oregon’s farthest western tip. Plan “B” became checking out a small BLM campground up the Sixes River four miles.  When we arrived there it had a hemmed in feeling and at 10:30 AM it was already 80 degrees. Plan “C” became driving on to Port Orford, perhaps to Humbug Mountain State Park, which sets down in a much protected spot. We knew phone and Internet connection might be a problem.  As we approached the park Jeanette noted zero connection. Now we were up to plan “D”, to Harris Beach State Park at Brookings.  I knew its location right on the ocean would mean cooler temps, and the timbered campground would offer protection from the wind. Its proximity to Brookings would mean phone, Internet, and television reception.  So here we are set up this afternoon in a shady site at Harris Beach State Park, temps in the mid-70, and no wind.  Jeanette noticed some limes that needed to be used before going bad, so being creative as well as flexible, she made fresh squeezed lime-aid! Ah, life is good.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Off to California

We are off on our way for a three week trip to California to visit Jeanette’s son Tony and his wife Maggie and their baby boy Bobby.  We will be meeting up with them next weekend at a KOA campground on Monterey Bay near Watsonville. Because the temperatures along the I-5 corridor in Northern California are in the hundreds, we have chosen to leave a few days early and travel down the coast line where the temps are predicted to be in the 60 and 70’s.

Today was just a short little jaunt of 60 miles from our home in Elkton to Bluebill Lake Campground as shown in the photo.  Bluebill Lake is located just north of Coos Bay in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  It’s a favorite of ours that we have returned to many times to enjoy camping, hiking and birding.  Today did not disappoint us in any way; we are the only campers in this clean quite 18 site campground, and because it’s a federal campground, and I have a Senior Pass, it only costs 10 dollars to spend the night.  We had a great bird walk this afternoon and now are enjoying some quiet time in the sunny mild temperatures.  If you look closely at the photo you may be able to see a little Douglas Squirrel running across the pavement just in front of the motor home.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Luckiamute Landing South

Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area is composed of two separate areas, a north unit, and a south unit. We birded on the north unit last Friday, and Sunday on our way back to Elkton we stopped and birded on the south unit. To read more about it check out the Trip Journal.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Indian Plum

Observing birds closely gets us involved in variety of different aspects of nature.  For example, we are acutely aware of the leafing out of shrubs and trees, because the abundance of leaves make it much harder to see the birds.  We are made aware of the ripening fruit because we see the birds are feeding on the fruit as I have already posted about Cedar Waxwings feeding on cherries. The above photo is of ripe Indian Plums I took this morning while birding in the Dallas City Park. Indian Plum is a native plant. I always look forward to its early blossoms in the spring, but I can’t recall ever seeing the fruit in this dark ripe condition.  I’m guessing that in most cases the birds must harvest the fruit before it turns this dark rich color, perhaps there is such abundance in the Dallas City Park that the fruit actually has an opportunity to ripen.