Sunday, August 13, 2017

Osprey Fledglings Being Fed

It's easy to notice in this photo an Osprey bringing a fish to the nest, but there are many layers to the story of what is actually going on here.  The photo was taken today at Wallace Marine Park during a standard route we take that circles the soft-ball complex.  When we first started we spotted a juvenile sitting on a light pole, and then found another juvenile on the nest which is built on top of a large cluster of lights. We noticed an Osprey fly in and possibly leave a fish in the nest.  This happened a second time as we cicled the playing fields, and the bird on the nest seemed to be eating the fish.  As we were about to complete our circle,  some crying from the juveniles allerted us to a possible feeding coming up.  The juvenile off of the nest flew to the nest, and then a third Osprey which had been sitting on a nearby power pole flew to the nest at which time I got this photo.  This is the dad with the fish, and it appeared that he waited on purpose until both juveniles were on the nest to bring in the fish.  The juveniles have fledged and are able to fly, but dad at this point is still bringing them fish to eat. Hunting for their own fish is the next skill they will have to learn in the next few weeks before taking off for probably Central America for the winter.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Butterfly Mass Migration


Why traveling to Bend this weekend for the Scott Family Reunion, I noticed bugs starting to smack on my freshly cleaned windshield.  I soon realized that there was an unusually high number of bugs, and as I glanced to the right and left, I noticed that they were orange colored butterflies.  My first guess and fear was that they were Monarchs.  I pulled off Highway 22 at the Cold Springs Snow-Park to park and see if I could get a photo.  It turned out to be a little more difficult than I imagined, even though there were hundreds if not thousands, because they were in constant flight. I was relieved they weren't Monarchs, but was not sure what they were.  Later that evening, after looking through a couple of phone apps, I determined that they were California Tortoiseshells. Ironically, the California Tortoiseshell is the first Critter entered into Cascade Rambling years ago. The next day one of the family members pointed out the dead butterflies in the grill of my motor home. 


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Observing Western Bluebirds

Earlier this month I received a report of nesting Western Bluebirds along the first fairway of the golf course here in Salemtowne were we live.  I took an exploring trip on July 7th and found the nesting box and took some photos of the male and female busy with their obligations of feeding and removing fecal sacks. Today, July 20th, while on a morning birdwalk I discovered a juvenile feeding on insects along the 8th fairway, proving that we have successful fledglings.  Up until this year I am not aware of any nesting bluebirds here in Salemtowne.  In general Western Bluebirds  are not expected to be seen in urban areas, but are said to prefer rural areas with large fields, so this is all very exciting to me.

 male

female

male removing fecal sack

juvenile

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sharing Sitka Sedge State Natural Area

Friends Judy & Gary Disnsmore mentioned the other day that they would like to see Sitka Sedge.  We share intrests with them of birding, RVing, and bicycling.  We originally met them while I was leading bird walks at Lake Havasu State Park in Arizona during the winter of 2012-2013.  We have stayed some-what in touch, and as they are currently volunteering at Fort Yamhill State Park, it's easier to meet up.  We agreed to meet them at Neskowin on Sunday evening where we had dinner together at The Beach Club Bistro and parked for the night at Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site. On Monday morning after breakfast we traveled to Sitka Sedge for a morning of bird watching.

Sitka Sedge Trail

Great Blue Heron

Greater Yellowlegs with a fish

Long-billed Dowitchers

Although we came to see the birds we also enjoyed other wildlife like this handsome buck.

 and this young one.

To finish up our morning of birding we had an impromptu lunch at nearby Clay Myers State Natural Area.  Great freinds, great bird walk, & great lunch. You might notice that another thing we have in common is that we both drive Mercedes-Benz vans! 



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Exploring Sitka Sedge

Hot temperatures of over 100 degrees has driven us to the coast for a few days to escape the heat. We made a stop this morning to learn more about Sitka Sedge State Natural Area, located North of Pacific City. We hiked a beginning portion of the trail, but the morning heat was building fast with a high forcast in the 90s, so it was a short one.  But it's a winner and I'm sure we will be returning many more times on cooler days.
The parking lot has yet to be developed.

A nice gravel path runs out through the wet lands.

Great Blue Heron

Swallowtail Butterfly

Friday, June 23, 2017

First Osprey Chicks

This as been an intense year of watching the Osprey at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve.  It's the fourth season we have had nesting Osprey. Each year I learn a little more, so by now I have some idea about whats going on and what to expect.  The first Osprey sighting in the West Salem area this year was on March 23rd at the Murlark Ave nest site. At the Reserve it was April 5th when the male showed up. It has been a record year for rain, which meant that the nearby Williamette River, the Osprey's main food source, ran high and muddy much longer than normal, making fishing by the Osprey almost impossible.  There was little evidence of fishing success and they looked gaunt, causing a good deal of worry on my part. Now all my worries have vanished as we discovered we have two chicks in the nest. I was at the Reserve on Wednesday the 21st and had no indication of any chicks, but Thursday the 22nd, arriving at the parking lot with Jeanette we heard the softer quieter call of what we suspected were chicks.  We could see the female striping flesh from a fish, which she seemed to eat herself, but after awhile we noticed she was feeding a chick, which began to get bolder and even started to demand food.  Backing up the days, I am estimating that incubation began about the 10th of May. Fledging should be around 50 days from now.  Last year the first sighting of chicks was the 20th of June. 






Friday, June 16, 2017

Posting Excuses and a Trip to the Coast

If you are a regular reader of this blog, I'm sure you have noticed a decrease in the number of posts.  I'm going to blame it on the continuing changes in social media.  There was a time when all my posting efforts went to my Trip Journal on my web page.  Then bogs came along, and my Trip Journal got neglected because of the ease of using the blog format.  Now it's Facebook that seems to be the quickest and easiest to use, and my life gets chronicled there on an almost daily basis.  However, Facebook seems to act as a giant hole, and can be hard to recover or find anything in a reasonable way.  So, I'm still committed to post to this blog, if for no other reason than a selfish wish to be able to have a record of our adventures.

Driftwood Beach State Recreation Area
Last weekend we make a quick trip to the coast for a few days.  We left the rain in the Willamette Valley on Saturday and spent the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday in glorious sunshine near the beach. Driftwood Beach is one of 57 state wide rest areas where up to 12 hours can be spent "resting" that we are continuing to find and enjoy.

 An early Sunday morning walk at Driftwood Beach did not net very many birds, but I did get this photo of a California Gull.

On Saturday we had traveled down Highway 99 thru Corvallis, taking Highway 20 towards Newport, with a turn off at Toledo to make birding stops at East Slope Park, and Paddle Park. Next was a stop at Beaver Creek Welcome Center where we have volunteered in the past.  We enjoyed sitting out on the deck and talking with the current volunteer and watching the bird life.  One of the many birds we watched was this female Rufous Hummingbird. 

A Sunday morning stop at Ona Beach in Brian Booth State Park was not that productive, the winter storms have changed the course of the Beaver Creek a lot, but I did get this Killdeer photo.

A mid-morning stop at Seal Rocks State Recreation Area gave us lots of birds.  Nesting Western Gulls and Pelagic Cormorants covered the rocks.  Here is a pair of Pigeon Guillemots.

During some afternoon time spent at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area I made sure to stop to check on the nesting Peregrine Falcon. The male was off hunting, the female was hiding out in a cleft of the cliff sleeping, and a lone chick was on the nest.

Our ever changing schedule evolved into a stop at Spirit Mountain Casino for the night, thinking a return to Salem in the morning.  However after dinner in the casino and an hour or so of resting in the RV, we decided on continuing on home where we could have TV.  We love the flexibility of the RV life style that we are able to live with our Serenity Leisure Travel Van. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Collier Memorial State Park


Jeanette scanning Klamath Marsh
May 23-25 - On Tuesday the 25 we left Summer Lake to travel over to Collier Memorial State Park, taking the Silver Lake Road over to Highway 97, stopping at Klamath Marsh for a little birding.  This was a great route, hardly any traffic and excelent pavement. Click here for our bird list.

Resting in the shade
After getting set up in the Collier campground in site A10, we spent the afternoon relaxing under the shade of our awning.  We discovered we could just spot birds from our chairs and so started up a bird list.  Later in the afternoon we ventured over to Spring Creek to hike along the cool stream bank and look for more birds.  Here is a link to our Observation List.

Hiking the Williamson River Trail
On Wednesday we made a big push to hike the Williamson River Trail to the Williamson River Campground and back, some five miles or more.  This is a trail we worked on when we worked as Volunteers here the fall of 2010. It was fun to re-travel the route that we have hiked so many times through the years of continuing to volunteer here in 2011 and 2012. Click here for our observation list.  

Birding the River Loop Trail
Thursday morning we got in a good bird walk on the River Loop Trail before traveling north to Sun River for lunch with Kerry and Debbie Kliever, and then on to Bend for an overnighter at my brother Mark's place. You can see our bird list from the River Loop Trail here

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Summer Lake Trip

May 21-23 - 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.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Recap of our Winter Escape

Cooper Creek Reservoir

We arrived back home in Salem Oregon yesterday afternoon, Thursday March the 23rd.  One of the stops we made on our route back to do some birding was Cooper Creek Reservoir just outside of Sutherlin Oregon two days ago. My thoughts over the last few days has been of the statistical nature, thinking  about all the states and counties we have birded in since leaving home on January 10th.  If you are not much in to statistics, you might want to move on to something else, but if you are interested, read on.  Birding kind of drove our trip, and we made it a point to walk and seek out some birds every day. To recap our birding experience: We were gone for 73 days in our attempt to seek some sunshine and escape the Oregon rain, and turned in 114 bird observation lists in 30 different counties.  This involved the four states of Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona. We discovered many new places and revisited many old favorites. In all we enjoyed the combination of the RV life style and the birding experience. I'm sure there are many more trips in our future.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Mystery of San Lorenzo


We arrived here at San Lorenzo Regional Park on Saturday, and by the time we leave on Friday we will have been here a full week. We first found this park in November of 2010. Fleeing the crazy congestion of the Bay Area, we stopped for a night, and stayed for a week. It's an easy place to camp.  At 100 camping sites, there's certainly one to fit any ones taste.  Pull through sites with full hook-ups, sites with water and electricity only, or just plain tent sites.  Rest rooms with showers,  a group meeting building, even a 24 hour laundry. Towering trees provide shade if wanted, open areas provide sun. Miles of trails to stroll or get in some exercise, or in our case, specifically to go birding.  At least three museums provide displays of the agriculture and history of the area.  A train depot with track and train car, farm tractors of every description are spread out through the large day use area, there is no reason to be bored here. This Monterey County Park is huge, in spite of being squeezed between busy Highway 101, the Salinas River and the town of King City, it has the relaxed feeling of being apart from civilization.  Here is the mystery, with the exception of a large group than came in yesterday, we have practically had the park to ourselves. Only a half dozen other sites have been occupied in this 100 site campground.  Why is it the park not full?  We have enjoyed perfect weather with temps in the 70s and 80s.  The rates are very economical.  The little town of King City is convenient for groceries, fuel, or almost any necesiteies. Access is easy off of Highway 101. It's a mystery I continue to ponder, against a backdrop of desert parks in Arizona and other areas of California where campgrounds are crowded to the point of making reservations a necessity.  In addition to campers being a scarcity here, so are volunteers. The mystery of San Lorenzo deepens and continues.