Monday, October 2, 2017

Greater Yellowlegs

Yesterday we made a trip to Fairview Drive Wetlands near the Salem Airport for a birdwalk.  I was hoping for some water and some new migrating water fowl or shore birds after a long dry summer.  There wasn't much water, but to my great suprise I did get the one bird I was hoping the most to see, a Greater Yellowlegs.  Jeanette and I have been birding at Fairview Wetlands for 19 years now.  We started walking there from our house on Reed Court in 1998.  Birding was mainly an excuse to get in a good walk.  For fun we started making a list of the birds we would see between our house and the wetlands.  In October of that year we spotted four to six birds we weren't sure of with long yellow legs and a strange high pitched cry.  I spent a lot of time looking at bird books before I could conclude that they were Greater Yellowlegs.  Now all these years later when ever we think of birding at Fairview Wetlands, it brings a smile to our faces as we recall the Greater Yellowlegs and their piercing call.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ducks in a Row

I'm the kind of a guy that likes to have all my ducks in a row, possibly that's one reason I like this photo taken a couple of days ago at Lyons City Park of these ducks all standing in a row on a log.  What initially caught my attention were the two spectacular males shown in the middle. They are a Wood Duck on the left, and a Mallard on the right. I can't remember ever seeing these two different species sharing a log at the same time.  To add to the uniqueness  of this photo,  flanking the male Mallard on the far right is a female Wood Duck, and flanking the male Wood Duck on the left is a female Mallard.  All the ducks may be in a row, but they are certainly not in order, and to a guy that likes order---well what can I say. I like the photo, and they all seem to be getting along, maybe diversity is a good kind of thing.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Revisiting Waxmytle Campground

Truth be told, this trip was just an excuse to spend time in our motor home, Serenity.  We love the sense of freedom and adventure it provides.  We had had a rainy week, so our first thought was to head for a drier area like the east end of the Columbia Gorge.  But as we were packing-up we discovered that I-84 East Bound was still closed between Troutdale and Hood River because of the Eagle Creek Fire.  How about the Washington side?  Highway 14 was open, but closed to all vehicles of 10,000 lbs, we are 11,030.  How about Summer Lake?  A look at Trip Check showed snow on the Willamette Pass.  That left us with some area on the Oregon Coast, which we had already visited a good deal this summer.  We settled on camping at Waxmytle Campground, a long time favorite of ours.  It's a place we have enjoyed camping, hiking, birding, and volunteering.  The additional appeal for us is that our good friend Glenn is the current campground host.  

Eight o'clock the next morning Glenn, Jeanette, myself, and Buster headed out on the Waxmyrtle Trail for a morning of birding.  Although not the birdiest, we did eventually get a good list of birds which you can see here.

Glenn is finishing up on two and a half years as serving as a volunteer on bird surveys, plover patrol, campground maintence, and campground host.  He takes off the end of the month for parts unknown in the southern direction. We hope to catch up with him this winter and get to do more birding together.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Camping at Lake of the Woods

Here is our campsite, #2 in the Aspen Point Campground at Lake of the Woods.  We made a stop up here for two nights on our way from the wedding at Collier Memorial State Park to Henderson Line-Up in Grants Pass. (We had an appointment at Henderson's to install rear Koni shocks on the Serenity, which by the way we are really impressed with the improvement.) This camping in the tree forest was our first opportunity to test out our new solar system.  With the hot weather, having shade was a necessity, but possibly a problem for the solar system. We found that even in shade some electricity is still being generated and with careful use we still had all the electricity we needed to keep laptops and phones charged. We made the big plunge to install solar this summer, in an effort to give us more days of dry camping without the dependency of being hooked up to electricity.  The experts on solar here in Oregon are AM Solar in Springfield, but they were not able to work us into their busy schedule until December. We wanted to be in Arizona by then so that was a no go.  Fortunately they have trained certified installers that they could recommend and we connected with Scott Harris of Urgent Care RV Repair & Solar, a mobile installer, who spends his summers in Newport.  He was able to install a solar system for us on August 16th.  We have not been connect to shore power at home since then, which in two more days will be a month! We loved our time at Lake of the Woods, even with some smoke in the air, the cooler temps were welcomed.

Rainbow Bay with Brown Mountain in the background

Monday, September 11, 2017

Birding at Wood River Wetland

We have been hanging out in Klamath County for the last several days, attending our nephew Matt Scott's wedding, and squeezing in as much birding as possible. From last night's parking sight at Kal-mo-ya Casino we drove to our morning destination for birding at Wood River Wetland, the top eBird Hot Sport in Klamath County. We have birded here a couple of times in past years, so we knew to expect a good number of birds. We usually encounter a variety of people on the trail.  Some come to walk their dogs, some to fish, and some even to hunt.  In fact today we saw three hunters on mt. bikes coming back with what I think we Canada Geese stuffed in their backpacks.  But today we also actually came across some birders.  We could tell they were the real thing because they not only had binoculars, but also spotting scopes, and would stand for long periods of time identifying birds in the trees, in the bushes and out on the water.  Jeanette who has the uncanny ability to engage anyone with-in a 20 yard radius in conversation, soon had these guys by the ear asking all kind of questions. Turns out they are the top two eBirders in Klamath County, Dave Haupt (on the left), and Kevin Spencer (on the right). They were a huge help to us in nailing down species that we hadn't gotten a good enough look at to be sure on the identification. Here is a link to our observation list.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Northern Goshhawk

Today we had a lot of things going on, so we squeezed in a short mid-morning walk for Buster and to make a quick bird list.  For convenience we went to nearby Wallace Marine Park.  Our normal route for walking around the ball fields looked a little congested so we elected to take a different route next to the river that we could make into a short loop.  Midway through the loop we spotted a large bird fly into a tight mix of cottonwood and big-leaf maple trees.  Looking with our binoculars we thought it was an immature Cooper's Hawk, it was for sure too big to be a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Just to be on the safe side I quickly took some photos so that I could get a closer look. When I got home and down loaded the photos into my laptop, I started to check some birding guides to confirm that our bird was a Cooper's Hawk, to my great surprise I began to realize we had a juvenile Northern Goshawk.  Neither Jeanette nor I had ever seen a Northern Goshawk before, so a new bird for Cascade Ramblings and a new Life Bird!  Further research revealed that this species is normally found in the high Cascades, and when seen here in the valley, it is usually in winter.  I'm guessing with the all the wildfires and smoke problems in the Cascades that it has fled here to the valley for better conditions.  Goshawks are bigger than a Cooper's Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk, in fact they are only surpassed in size in the hawk group by Golden and Bald Eagles.  This fits with our first impression of a big bird.  Here is our eBird checklist.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Where Has The Time Gone.....

Tomorrow is the last day of August! Where has the time gone?  I noticed yesterday that I had written only one blog this month, and for the last two months I have only posted three per month.  What has happened?  This is from a blogger who, for example, did 20 posts for the month of August in 2010. It could be blamed on aging, my brain is now past three quarters of a century old. But the other reality is I am busier posting to Facebook and eBird than I was in 2010. I had joined Facebook in 2008, but I'm sure I didn't post much.  Now, in addition to my own FB page, I manage two other additional pages, Salem Audubon Nature Reserve, and Salemtowne Birders.  I didn't join eBird until 2011 and and at that time I probably tried to put up a bird list once a week.  Now I post to eBird at least once every day, and also try to add to the new feature of photos.  Bottom line I'm spending a lot of my time on other media in place of my blog.

This photo is of a lone juvenile at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve. I saw it today take a practice loop to a tree,  abort a poor attempt at landing on a limb, and have to circle back to the nest. This is the last juvenile of three to leave this season's nest, and I was struck by where has the time gone.  It has been a fascinating year to watch the Osprey, from the arrival of the parents this spring, their courtship and nest building, the birth of the chicks, the effort of the mom and the dad to feed and protect them, and now only one juvenile is left, and it too will soon be heading south.  Where has the time gone?  Well it rolls on day by day, month after month, season upon season and year after year.

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 removing fecal sack


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