We went to the Lyons City Park today, one of our favorites. Lyons is a small community along the North Santiam River east of Salem. It's a spot we "discovered" fourteen months ago and have been back many times. In fact, to date we have identified 50 different species of birds. It apparently is our secret spot for birding because I have never read or heard of anyone birding there. Maybe the name puts people off, instead of being known as a refuge or a preserve, or a nature area, it is simply a city park, and perhaps that conjures up images of play grounds being over run with kids, skate boards and swing sets. It is in reality a birding oasis. The center piece is an old log pond as shown in the top photo which in winter holds many migrating water fowl.
In addition there is a series of ponds built by industrious beavers that puts most park architects to shame. Even if you are not interested in birds it is worth the effort to walk the park and marvel at the complex system of dams and ponds. The end result is a haven for all kinds of birds to be enjoyed year around.
A Great Blue Heron waits patiently for a frog or fish.
A pair of Wood Ducks attempt to slip by unseen.
A male Downy Woodpecker searches for bugs in the moss.
Yesterday was my first volunteer day back at Salem Audubon Nature Reserve. In addition to some other chores I took time to take some photos. The Reserve has a good population of native Indian Plum and it's bright white blossoms were the first to catch my attention.
The next blossoms I noticed were the violets. After some research I believe they are English Violets, an alien not native, however their beautiful cover on the ground give evidence of spring.
A plant that I was the most excited to find was the Giant Trillium just getting ready to blossom.
And I almost overlooked a plant that's easy to take for granted our native Oregon Grape.
The echoing rat-ta-tat-tat of a woodpecker is always a wake-up call to me of spring. Today when I stopped by to check out the birds at the Salem Audubon Nature Refuge, that sound was one of the first things I heard. Looking to find the source, I discovered this Northern Flicker pounding away on one of the snags we had planted last year with the artificial nesting cavities. As soon as the flicker flew away I approached to examine his work, expecting to find he would have been working on enlarging the cavity. But no, he had merely been banging away on a hard bare spot. Which reminded me that this is just what they do each spring. In fact flickers are well know to bang away on the side of houses or metal flashing to make as much noise as they can in order to call attention to any interested females. As I walked further into the Reserve I heard another woodpecker noise, so loud I halfway expected to find a huge Pileated Woodpecker. After some searching I finally found the source and to my surprise it was this Red-breasted Sapsucker shown below. I've never considered Sapsuckers big noise makers as most of the time they make shallow drillings just through the bark to collect sap. But this bird was banging away on an old dead tree top, probably hollow, which gave off a resounding call across the Reserve. I do love the sounds of spring, they always put a smile on my face.
We spent the day visiting Jeanette's son Sean in Portland. After a hardy breakfast we went for a hike on Powell Butte. Clear skies gave us fantastic views of snow covered Mt Saint Helens, Mt Adams and Mt Hood, but harsh winds blowing down the Columbia Gorge caused us to only make a short circle of the top. After warming up in the car and consulting we decided to seek out Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge hoping for some relief from the wind due to its protected location on the Willamette River. We took the Bluff Trail out and back for a three mile trip. This was a first visit for all of us, and although we had a short bird list, we enjoyed the warm sunny afternoon out the wind. A male Wood Duck won the photo of the day contest.
Here I am planting a tree on the banks of Rickreall Creek this morning. This is actually a pictorial way to announce that we are back home in Oregon. We arrived home to West Salem yesterday afternoon. In checking my e-mail last night I noticed that there was a volunteer event to plant native shrubs and trees along Rickreall Creek Trail in Dallas this morning. My dear wife in the spirit of encouragement said to me, "why not." So off I went early this morning in my pick-up, gloves and shovel in hand. Because we enjoy walking and birding on this trail so much, known officially as the Rickreall Creek Trail System or RCTS, it felt good to give back to it's continuing development and improvement. Hopefully years from now when my grandsons push me along the concrete walkway in my wheel-chair I will be able to point at a tree or two and say "I remember planting that tree". By the way it's great to be back in Oregon where there is water in the creeks and rivers and green grass along their banks.
Tonight we are parked for the night at the Walmart in Cottage Grove, Oregon. After an afternoon of driving from Grants Pass where we had work done on the motorhome by Henderson's, we stopped in Cottage Grove for a couple of hours of birding and dinner with our friend Eddie Harrod. This is our third Walmart stop on this Trip. First was in Tulare, California on a day we weren't able to make good mileage because of fog. The second was in Surprise, Arizona on a day filled with too many other things to be able to drive to a campground. Not all Walmarts allow overnight parking, but those that do I really appreciate. It provides a good option for the traveler. Some times there are not RV Parks or campgrounds in close proximity to where you find yourself. Other times it just makes economic sense. With a completely self contained RV it sometimes seems unnecessary to pay $30 for the night when you have no real need for additional electricity, water, or sewer service. It also makes economic sense for Walmart. RVers who spend the night normally spend some money. I can't think of a single Walmart I've stayed at over the years that I haven't done some shopping. So tonight, I just want to say----Thank You Walmart.
When we left our campsite at Lake Solano County Park this morning we thought our stop for the night would probably be Redding. But we made such good time today even after a stop for fuel, groceries, and lunch in Anderson, that Redding seemed to soon. So we ventured on thinking perhaps Weed. But as we began to climb the grades around Lake Shasta our energy began to sag. Jeanette suggested that we stop at Castle Crags State Park. I was pretty sure the park would be closed, but agreed to humor her and stop. Dang if she wasn't right,---again.
It seemed like summer when we stepped out of the motor home at the entrance. We ventured on to seek a campsite not knowing what we would find. Site 26 was the first empty site we saw, but it was necessary to assure ourselves it was the best one, and because the camp ground was completely empty, that meant we had to inspect a lot of sites.
The next thing I would have lost money on was cell service. We have been plagued with poor cell service in a number of wonderful campgrounds on this trip. But again I was wrong.
Here we are in a wonderful woodsy campsite, with the temperature at 70 degrees, and great cell and Internet service. Plus, I almost forgot a two dollar discount for seniors, making our total $23. No one can ask any more for a good stop.
On our way south this winter we stopped to camp at Lake Solano County Park near Winters California. We found it to be a perfect location to camp and bird. We stopped again last night, and now over a month has past and there is a feeling of Spring in the air. Peacocks strut their stuff through out the campground. Male Common Mergansers are with the females. I also spotted this Mallard pair splashing a lot, and by the time I got my camera focused he was already on top "doing the deed". If you look closely you can see he has her by the nap of the neck, you may be able to see her eye barely out of the water. As I watched all kinds of bird behavior going on today, I kept reflecting on a TV program that we watched last night with Morgan Freeman on Shakespeare's play The Taming of The Shew. It was easy to read into the bird behavior all the dynamics in the male and female counter parts.
Last month on our travels south we stopped in Pleasanton to visit sister-in-law Mary Sites and took our dogs Buster and Holly birding at Shadow Cliffs Regional Park. You can read that post here. Now we have reversed our route and are making our way north back home, and this morning we took the dogs again to Shadow Cliffs. We had a fantastic morning of birding and scored an even higher number of birds, click here for the list. Below are a selection of the birds we observed and photographed.
This park located between Merced and Turlock, was our destination yesterday. Thousands of people a day hurry past on busy Hwy 99, unaware that McConnell State Recreation Area lies a short distance away along the Merced River. Not a soul was there when we arrived, no rangers, no camp host, no campers. We had the place to ourselves. We breathed in the silence and recovered from a tense morning of freeway driving and fog. We had lunch on the picnic table and strolled through the park counting the numerous birds. Exploring further we walked to the beach area on the river where fish were busy spawning in the gravel beds. The temperature was perfect in the 70s. What's not to like about this park? Neglect. The grass badly needs to be mowed, the restrooms sit doors wide open, showers are marked in-operable, vehicles and machinery sit idle in a deserted work area. It looks like this was once a vital park, but for some reason every one has walked away. It is a California State Park and as we have seen too many times for budgetary reasons or what ever their parks are in a depressing state of neglect. We have enjoyed the solitude though and we do have Internet! During a stroll at dusk we heard and located a pair of Great Horned Owls, a great treat and the highlight of our birding experience here.
I snapped these two photos last evening while walking down to the lake shore from our campsite in the Tule Campground at Lake Success. The upper photo is a pair of Western Grebes starting up their mating ritual. The lower shows some White Pelicans surrounded by hundreds of Common Mergansers.
Yesterday afternoon we detoured off of Hwy 99 to Porterville. As we climbed the hills west of town toward Lake Success I was mentally composing in my head my blog post with a title of something like, "Success at Last". Jeanette and I had been wanting to visit a list of Corps of Engineer Parks above the San Joaquin Valley for a number of years. It felt like yesterday afternoon we were finally getting to camp at one of these lakes. The campground was beautifully landscaped with only a scattering of campers. Sites included water and electricity and our cost with a Senior Card was only $15. But as the afternoon wore on into evening we were faced with a grim reality, no cell service. It may be a sad commentary on our life, but the reality is we are dependent, perhaps even addicted to phone and Internet service. No cell service means no calls, no one can call us, we can not call anyone. It also means no Internet service which means no e-mail or Facebook, but more importantly it means no weather reports, no route planning or campground locating, and no blog posting. It was a pretty bleak evening, not a success at all.
At the recommendation of Ranger Dean at William Heise County Park we have ventured down the west slope of the Laguna Mountains today to another San Diego County Park, Dos Picos Regional Park. We are sold on camping in county parks in general, and San Diego County Parks in particular seem to be a perfect fit for our style of camping. This campground is well manicured in a setting of oak trees and green grass. Upon our arrival today at Buster's insistence we went for a hike on the nature trail as shown in the photo. This park also has a nice pond which we were able to add a lot of water fowl to our San Diego county list. We have enjoyed great hikes every day for the last five days in San Diego County, but tomorrow we begin our push north, driving around the east edge of the greater Los Angeles area, up the Cajon Canyon and out into the Mojave Desert. Stay tuned we will try to keep you up-todate on our adventure.
This is a California Thrasher that I photographed during this morning's bird walk on the Oak Canyon Trail. Although not what I would call a good photo, it is the best I had for the day, and is a significant photo because it is the only species of Thrasher in this area and a new one for our trip. We have been seeing both Curved-bill and Crissal Thrashers in Arizona, but the California Thrasher was a new one for us. This morning's bird walk was our best of our four days here in William Heise County Park at 27 species. Our most spectacular observation of the morning was watching three Red-tailed Hawks chase off a Golden Eagle. We have enjoyed our stay here at William Heise Park. It seems to meet all our requirements; a good campsite in a quiet campground, good opportunities for hiking and birding, and most importantly good cell service, and absolute necessity for us. Tomorrow we travel on to another San Diego County Park, Dos Picos near the town of Ramona for a day or two. From Ramona we will begin our migration back north, with plans to be in the Bay Area by next weekend.
We hiked the Desert View Trail here in William Heise Park this morning up to Glen's View. From the top we were supposed to be able to see down to the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley to the east, and to the west San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. Both directions were covered in a layer of fog so not visible. It was a great hike never the less, in fact one of the best hikes we have taken this winter, and we have been on some good ones. It was cool when we left camp this morning some time after seven, so a brisk pace was in order. Our concentration was on hiking not birding, but we couldn't help but hear and enjoy the delightful song the the Wrentit, the varied melody of the Bewick's Wren, and the simple note of the Phainopepla. Ravens swooped by catching updrafts, Red-tail Hawks held steady looking for prey. But still we pressed on to the summit. There is something about the exertion of hiking and achieving summits that renews my spirit. In a way I'm psychologically as well as physically escaping and climbing above the morass of the daily cares of life. From the summit I get a different perspective on the life that goes on below and of its problems. I always descend the trail renewed with a new sense of calm and confidence.
I strikes me as a little strange to be hiding out in the mountains in the winter to escape the heat, but here we are tucked into a shady camping site at William Heise County Park at 4200 ft. Our temperature today is a comfortable 70 degrees. This park is in our comfort zone in so many ways. We enjoy temperatures in the 60 and 70s, but beyond that we like a quiet campground which this indeed is. We also like vegetation, and birds, and trails, which this park has in abundance. We got in a nice hike this morning on the Fern Trail. It was three miles, but had a number of climbs up and down to the point we felt like we had a good work out. My bird list was rather small at 16 species, but that included 32 Acorn Woodpeckers. At 1,000 acres this San Diego County park has enough to keep us occupied for a while as we wait for the temps to cool down a bit at the lower elevations.
Fifteen years ago we bicycle toured Imperial Valley and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We were discouraged at the time from taking the infamous Banner Grade up to Julian, never mind their world famous apple pies. I think another time we might have been thwarted by snow, but today we fastened our seat-belts and drove our motor home up the steep crooked grade to Julian, and Jeanette finally got her pie! It seemed a fitting reward for yesterday's stress. We had driven from our campsite at Centennial Park across the Arizona desert to Blythe California where we stopped to do laundry. From there we traveled south planning to stop for the day at Palo Verde County Park. However in the passing years the park has seriously degenerated, plus there is no cell service! We journeyed on to my back-up park, Wiest Lake County Park near Brawley. But to get to Brawley you have to drive through a very desolate land which includes the Algodones Dunes. As we drove the temps began to climb reaching close to 90 degrees. For some time due to operator confusion our air condition was not working. But we had to sweat our way on. Eventually around 3:30 we arrived hot and tired at Wiest Lake. All buildings were locked and not a single park personnel could be found. We settled for parking in the day-use parking lot. After dark a host showed up and told us we could not park there. He did allow us to move to the tent camping area for the night. At daylight we fled across the Imperial Valley and the Anza-Borrego Desert to seek the cooling temperatures of the higher elevations in the Laguna Mountains. Jeanette is shown with our pie to-go because we were too full to eat it after our spinach and feta cheese omelet. We ate it with ice cream later in the after-noon in our campsite at William Heise County Park. More on the park tomorrow.
A desert sunset forms the background behind the dark silhouette of our motorhome this evening. We are camped in Centennial County Park, located off of Highway 60 about halfway between the towns Wickenburg and Quartzsite. This is a small La Paz County park that is part golf course part RV park. Coast is $14 for a site with water and electricity. We arrived here mid-day, and after lunch took a short bird walk on their nature trail. We were impressed with the number of birds we saw despite being the slowest time of day. We have high hopes for a lot of birds in the morning.
We had a need to stay one more day at Lake Pleasant Regional Park to be able to receive a delivery from UPS of an air mattress we ordered from Amazon due to our old mattress having developed a leak. Reservations were over for our campsite in the Roadrunner Campground, so we decided to explore our options. One options was shore-line camping which only cost only $12, but rising water levels made us a little uneasy. Another option was semi-developed campsites in the near-by Desert Tortoise Campground. Semi-developed means a site without water and electricity, but they are only $20 a night compared to the $30 we had been paying for these conveniences. After a driving through the three separate loops in the in the Desert Tortoise Campground we found this delightful lake-side site in the Pallet Loop. Only one other site was occupied in this 13 site loop. We had it all to ourselves except for two passing coyotes, one of which we watched hunting squirrels.
Today's earlier post was a new milestone for the Cascade Ramblings Blog, it was the 1,111 post since the blog's start in August 2009. My thanks go to my son Michael Scott who build the blog for me as a birthday gift. Today also marks the one month we have been gone from our home on this winter exploration. Some notable birding facts are; during this past month of January we have birded in three different states, eleven different counties, and identified 132 different species. Febauray marks the 15th year of my retirement from Capitol Toyota. This is also the 20th year that Jeanette and I have traveled south during the winter. Our first was a one week stay with my parents in an RV park on the Salton Sea in March of 2005.
Our friends Dan & Charlene have joined us for a couple of days at Lake Pleasant. They are in-route with their pick-up and 5th wheel from their home in Bend to visit family in Texas. Yesterday, Jeanette's sister Patty and her husband Kordell drove up from their house in Surprise to hike with us. After a quick consult we decided to hike to the top of Yavapai Point via the Pipeline Canyon Trail. I choose to leave my binoculars and camera in the motorhome to lighten my load and stay focused on the five mile hike, which meant I had to use my iPod for photos.
Pipeline Canyon Floating Bridge
Yavapai Point Trail
view of Lake Pleasant
Lake Pleasant is 10,000 acres, making it the second largest lake in Arizona. Eighty precent of its water is pumped here from the Colorado River and stored for water use in the greater Phoenix area. After our hike our friend John West joined us for lunch at the Scorpion Bay Marina.
After a couple of days of rain, we had a dry morning yesterday and got in a two hour bird walk. We are camped in the Road Runner Campground at Lake Pleasant Regional Park. From our site, number 37, we walked up to the Visitor Center and then took a two mile ramble on the Roadrunner Trail. Birds were a little scarce compared to the other two Maricopa County Parks we have just stayed in. We could only come up with 14 species. This Rock Wren was one I was able to photograph. I like the organized names in the Wren Family, most of their names give you a clue to where you will find them, in this case on the rocks! Other descriptive wren names are Canyon Wren, Marsh Wren, House Wren, and Cactus Wren. The Cactus Wren has been the most consistent wren over the past two weeks here in the desert. It is the largest and most vocal of the wrens and usually found on top of a Saguaro Cactus, cackling away. Although I did not get a photo, during our walk we saw a pair of Cactus Wrens building a nest in a Cholla Cactus. Incidentally the Rock Wren in the above photo, a shyer quieter bird, was also hanging out with its mate. Spring seems to be arriving in the desert in spite of the winter like weather.