Monday, July 29, 2013

Bob-tailed Sparrow?

No, this is actually a Song Sparrow that is molting and has lost all its tail feathers.  Its pretty easy to fall into thinking that these summer days are a little boring in the birding world, most of the birds around us we have already identified, it’s too early to get to see the new fall arrivals , and yet there are some very interesting things that are taking place.  During the last couple of weeks Matt Hunter has alerted us to watch for birds with missing feathers and the molting process that goes on this time of year. As is turns out, all birds go through a molting process at least once, some twice a year.  It’s important at some point that their old worn feathers are replaced.  For migrating birds, this time of year is crucial so that they get new feathers before they start their migration south.  However, Song Sparrows are year around residents, so I’m not sure what the importance is to this timing.  We have seen this Song Sparrow hanging around the feeder for the past week.  My first thought was that there had been a narrow escape from a predator and in the process had lost its tail feathers. My second thought was that perhaps it was a chick that had left the nest before growing tail feathers.  After consulting with a couple of experts it was decided that this is just a part of the molting process. If you look close at the photo you can see a number of the other feathers are in state of disarray. Soon it will have all new feathers and look perfect once again. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Distractions and Interruptions

A high percentage of our visitors to the Welcome Center at Beaver Creek State Natural Area come with questions regarding hiking the trails. We have discovered it is really helpful in giving out advice to have actually hiked the trails. We have come to understand that the map has some errors and we have also made some false assumptions. To have a better understanding our goal yesterday morning was to hike the perimeter trail, called the Beaver Creek Loop Trail. We had hiked most of it previously, but not the complete loop and we also wanted some idea of the time it would take. To this end I explained to Jeanette that we would be concentrating on hiking, not stopping to look and count birds. But, about halfway around the loop our attention went to a male Western Tanager feeding a demanding juvenile, this along with hearing numerous Pacific Wrens, watching Great Blue Herons, and spotting Wilson's Warblers was too much and I had to start making a list.  Shortly after that, Jeanette asked for the clippers and took some time to clip away at some of the intruding blackberries. Still, we made the loop in an hour and a half and have a more accurate knowledge of the trail.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Red-shouldered Moth

I took this photo on Wednesday, but it wasn’t until Friday that I was able to figure out an identification.  Thanks to the Internet, Facebook, and Chris Pace of Elkton, it was determined to be a Red-shouldered Moth. On Wednesday Jeanette and I were hiking on Bear Meadow Trail, one of the more remote trails of Beaver Creek State Natural Area. We were primarily looking and counting birds, when my attention was caught by the bright color contrast of this moth feeding on Tansy Ragwort. I was further intrigued because I would have expected to find the Cinnabar Moth, shown in the lower photo, which is commonly used to fight the noxious Tansy Ragwort.  The Red-shouldered Moth is unusual enough that I have not been able to find information in any paper book guides, only the Internet. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Day Off

Today was a “day off”, and we didn’t have any doctor appointments or have to go shopping for groceries, so we just got to play.  We spent the morning hiking and exploring trails in our trail system.  In the afternoon we got out the inflatable and went on a little expedition in Beaver Creek Marsh. Now it’s time to rest. If you look close at the photo you can see the Welcome Center in the background.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rewards of Hiking

This is an Elk that I photographed yesterday morning out of a herd of ten I came upon at an undisclosed location in the Beaver Creek StateNatural Area.  (Exact location available with an appropriate bribe) Anyone who spends much time hiking, even in remote locations, will realize what an unusual opportunity it is to see Elk up this close and with them standing still long enough to photograph.

In my volunteer position as Host at the Welcome Center, I am asked lots of questions about the trails and hiking.  I hand out a map and explain some of the options, but I’ve decided being able to give them firsthand information from actual experience would be the best.  To that end I have set a goal for myself to hike all the trails here at Beaver Creek SNA this summer. There are almost twenty different trails, of which I have hiked five.  Yesterday I added a couple more, and to my great surprise was rewarded with the Elk sighting.

Friday, July 19, 2013

An Inquisitive Look

This little squirrel seems to be asking, “are looking at me?”, or “what are you doing?” I was actually out roaming around looking to get some bird photos, but this little Douglas Squirrel seemed willing to pose so I took over thirty photos of him.  I discovered that in the early morning before the Welcome Center is opened and people are around, that the wildlife seems a little freer to use the area. In particular, the Steller’s Jays and the Douglas Squirrels were both quite boisterous in their claim of ownership of the Welcome Center. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Falcon Chicks

Yesterday was a day off for us, so while Jeanette had a perm in Newport, I checked out Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. The draw for birders right now is these Peregrine Falcon chicks in their “scrape”.  I learned that yesterday that they do not technically make a “nest”, but place a little bit of material in a “scrape”. The chicks are replacing their down with feathers, making quite a messy area as you can see in the photo with bits of down all over the place. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Colorful Suprise

I was quite surprised to find this image in my camera today, it’s one I had taken a couple of days ago, and never checked out. On that day I had taken Buster for an afternoon walk on the Beaver Marsh Trail and was zeroing in on this brightly colored Cardinal Meadowhawk Dragonfly when I was interrupted by a noisy family coming along the trail.  The commotion chased the dragonfly away, but I managed a grimaced smile and walked away cursing my luck. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Magical Evening

We were dead tired tonight after a busy afternoon at the Welcome Center, but Buster had other ideas as he had been cooped up in the RV all afternoon. He wanted to go for his evening walk, and was so persistent, that we finally gave up in total frustration and went for a walk.  We took a short route that we often do down to the Beaver Marsh Trail.  We could hear the song of the Common Yellow-throats that we so often enjoy on this trail, and the Swallows were busy swooping for the last bugs of the day.  All of a sudden we heard the unmistakable grunting noise of a Virginia Rail, and then another one answered on the other side of the trail, a third chimed in from a short distance further.  Jeanette got out her iPhone and using a birding App attempting to lure them into further conversation.  Three times I was close enough to see the grass move, but never spotted a bird.  That’s the way it is with Virginia Rails, easy to recognize by their grunts and clicks, but usually impossible to see.  We forgot all about our frustration with Buster and embraced the magic of the evening. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cascade Ramblings goes Big Screen

For the past two weeks at Beaver Creek State Natural Area we have been using the large screen wall monitor in the Welcome Center to display (via a live cam) the inside of a bird box which contained baby Tree Swallows. Today they fledged and left, leaving us will an empty nest. This afternoon, Brian Fowler our Ranger, connected the monitor to the Internet which, for me means that I can now display Critters and Wildflowers from Cascade Ramblings. This makes it helpful to show visitors photos of certain birds or flowers, or as in this post an Eight-spotted Skimmer.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


This Dragonfly is an Eight-spotted Skimmer that I photographed yesterday on the Beaver Marsh Trail. Dragonflies are numerous in the marsh of Beaver Creek State Natural Area.  The shallow, slow moving waters of nutrient rich Beaver Creek provide excellent habitat for them to reproduce and live. This in turn provides a good food source for the birds and particularly the swallows.  Dragonflies have been the favorite insect for us to observe being fed to the baby Tree Swallows on our live cam in the Welcome Center. They are large enough that everyone can have a bite.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spotted Towhee

This is a juvenile Spotted Towhee, not the most handsome bird, still wearing the typical drab colors of baby birds, which I am sure is important for their survival. Spotted Towhees are one of the birds we hear singing the most frequently and consistently from our camp site here at Beaver CreekSNA. But yesterday I had a brand new experience with Spotted Towhees when this juvenile appeared out of the bushes at the Welcome Center.  Birding guides don’t seem to ever include photos of juveniles, so I had no idea what a juvenile looked like, but luckily for me this juvenile appeared with a parent who also feed him.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beaver Creek Loop Trail

Every day we open the Welcome Center at noon and man it until four. This leaves our mornings free to explore, hike or bird or whatever. The Beaver Creek State Natural Area is well known and used for kayaking and canoeing.  What is not as well known or used as much are its many miles of hiking trails.  A complete network of trails is available to test all levels of hiking abilities. Yesterday morning we choose to check out the Beaver Creek Loop Trail. It’s an easy trail to follow and kind of forms a loop around the border of the trail system.  We were delighted to find the trees and shrubs filled with singing Wilson’s Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and Swainson’s Thrushes. About half way around our route we came to this foot bridge that crosses Beaver Creek and connects to the Beaver Marsh Trail, a seasonal trail that is probably only accessible during the end of summer. On the far side of the Loop Trail we took an alternate route using the North Beaver Trail.  This short connecting trail has a more remote feel to it and we saw lots of Elk signs, skidding hoof prints and fresh poop, that indicated we had missed seeing them by only minutes.  As we finished the Loop we also spotted fresh bear scat.  We are looking forward to exploring more of the many connecting trails soon. Click here for a trail map. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Changing of the Guard

The rangers had mentioned something to the effect that the lawn might need mowing.  I wasn’t much in the mood to mow, and Jeanette was wishing she didn’t have to be stuck in the Welcome Center. We agreed to switch positions.  I had a relaxing afternoon talking to visitors about the park,  it's trails, kayak opportunities and birds, and Jeanette had a ball riding the lawn mower!  Am I a lucky guy or what? 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Swallow on the Hunt

One of the more interesting things to see at the Welcome Center at Beaver Creek State Natural Area is a nesting box of Tree Swallows.  There is a remote camera setup in one of the nest boxes that is connected to a large screen TV inside the Center which allows visitors to watch and listen to what’s going on inside the box. Yesterday afternoon I decided to try and get a photo of the adults coming or going from the nest.  I got lucky and caught this adult, probably the male, just as he was jetting from the box to hunt for more bugs to feed their hungry brood of six young ones. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kayak Tours

Yesterday was our first day of working at the Welcome Center at Beaver Creek State Natural Area which is open 12 to 4. We had a busy afternoon with over 30 visitors.  One of the things we learned is that one of the busier aspects of the park is kayaking on Beaver Creek. From the Welcome Center we watched lots of kayakers navigating through the marsh.  Oregon State Parks also conducts daily kayak tours Thursday through Monday on Beaver Creek. The cost is twenty dollars and they supply the kayak (shown above), life vest, paddles, instructors and guides. All trips start at South Beach State Park. Call 541- 867-6590 for reservations.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mike Miller Trail

Today was a day off for us, so we went hiking and birding at Mike Miller Park in Newport.  This forty acre Lincoln County park is located on the South end of Newport on 50th Street. The dense coastal forest of spruce, hemlock and fir combined with a thick understory of rhododendron, salal, and huckleberry effectively block off the surrounding civilization, giving a wilderness feel to the trail. The downside of that was it gave the birds lots of safe cover, preventing us from getting good views to make a proper identification on a number of birds. We will be back.  Plus, we discovered two spur trails, one short one called the Emery Trail, and a longer one, the Wilder Trail which climbs up to the Wilder Estates and the new Oregon Coast Community College. Photo below
--- a male Hairy Woodpecker.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Misty Mornings

 Misty Mornings are what we are growing to expect here at the Welcome Center at Beaver Creek State Natural Area.  And with the inland valley currently baking away daily with temps in the 90’s we are considering ourselves very fortunate.  We are also getting a sense of what our responsibilities will be and an idea of what our daily schedule will start to look like.  We have the responsibility of opening the gate each morning at 8:00, which allows visitors access to the parking lot and grounds, but the Welcome Center which we will man does not open until 12:00, leaving us with basically free mornings to putter or bird.  We think today might represent a typical morning for us and start to be routine; after unlocking the gate we went birding for a couple of hours, around the Center, and down on the marsh. Below is a Common Yellowthroat, one of three males that we saw this morning.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Settling In

This is our RV site at Beaver Creek State Natural Area, which will be our home for the next two months.  It’s located adjacent to the Welcome Center which we will man 12-4 Wed thru Mon. We got set up and a little acquainted yesterday. We really like Brian, the ranger we will be working with, and love the surrounding area. We were surprised to learn that we have access to two kayaks, which you can see Jeanette trying out in the lower photo. We have many miles of water way to explore in the marsh, so should be fun.
There is very poor cell phone and internet service here at our site, but we have Wi-Fi in the Welcome Center building which is what I am using at the moment. This morning we will have an orientation meeting at South Beach State Park, which is the managing park for the 5 or so state parks in the area, and we will meet the rest of the volunteers and learn more about our responsibilities.