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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today we arrived in Pleasanton California and are expecting a pleasant couple of days with my sister-in-law Mary Sites. Mary's dog Hollie, and our dog Buster always have a good time together. The weather is a perfect 70 degrees, without wind or rain, a very pleasant day. Mary took us on a bird-walk this afternoon at the near-by Kottinger Park. Here is a link to our observation list. Based on the weather conditions in Oregon, and on the advice of friends there, it sounds like we should stay in sunny Calfornia a while longer.
Since last posting we have driven from the far southern border of Arizona, across the Colorado River, and the Mojave Desert, and up into Central California. On long days of driving I often reflect on the marvels of traveling in this high tech age, and how much we depend on our iPhones. In many ways, a smart phone may be your most valuable piece of traveling equipment. It is an indispensable aid for us and here is why.
WEATHER: We check the weather on our phone daily, as well as the weather in several locations. The above photo, taken at Davis Camp on the Colorado River, illustrates its value. Traveling from the Phoenix area out towards the Mojave Desert, I was clued in to high winds with gusts over 50mph. That is not the conditions I want to be driving in an RV. So, we settled into the protection of a camping site at Davis Camp for another day, and then continued on with normal driving conditions.
NAVIGATION: On this trip we have relied on our iPhone almost exclusively to plan our driving route. I has been indispensable in figuring mileage and guiding us though unknown locations. And of course we use it to find locations for fuel, groceries and miscellaneous shopping needs.
BREAKS: We have found taking breaks during the day along our route is paramount to our sanity. And here is where we use our iPhone to access eBird and locate birding Hot Spots to stop, get in a walk, count some birds, take some photos, and bring down our level of stress from driving. During the past two days we have made stops in cities along our route in Baker, Tehachapi and Delano with city parks that were unknown to us in spite of have traveled this route many times over the years.
OVERNIGHT STOPS: Jeanette found an app that has proven to be one of our most valued tools on this trip, www.overnightrvparking.com. It shows us immediately where we are and all the nearby locations for free overnight parking. And we can look ahead at any area and plan accordingly. Although we blend in stops at campgrounds with hook-ups, being self contained, we often just need a place to park for the night.
STAYING CONNECTED: Using our iPhones allows us the luxury of travel to new and unexplored areas seeking good weather, and still be connected to family and friends although many miles away.
Jeanette's sharp eyes spotted this female Green Kingfisher this morning. Smaller than our common Belted Kingfisher, and with a larger bill in proportion to the body. It is listed as a rare bird here in the South West and found only in a small area of Southern Arizona. This was our last morning of birding here at Patagonia Lake State Park, and we took once again the Birding Trail. Here is our observation list. The Green Kingfisher is the 5th new spices I have added to my Life List while here at Patagonia Lake. This marks the end of the birding blitz we have been on here in South-Eastern Arizona, and one that has us hoping for a return next winter. Tomorrow we turn our route north and drive to Sun City to visit family, brother Mark & sister Kathy, then we make our way back through California with stops with more family and then on to home in Oregon.
Yesterday was rather questionable weather wise all day, with overcast skies, cool temps and high winds. Today with good weather in the forecast we planned to make a long bird walk on the Patagonia Lake State Park Birding Trail. We had been told by a volunteer that the trail was where we would find the most birds. We were out the door before 8:00am dispite the fact the temps were still in the 30s. We took pitty on Buster and let him stay in the motor home. The trail starts on the other side of the campgrounds, so we got a fast walk in to the trailhead. We discovered it was indeed a fantastic area to bird and racked up a observation list of 47 species, which included a Rufous-winged Sparrow, another new addition to our Life Lists. Back to the motorhome, we took Buster for a short walk, had lunch and then rented a paddle boat to try out, and Jeanette made up another list. The two photos below were taken from the paddle boat. After that excusion we drug our tired bodies back to the motor home and spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to recoup.
Fifteen minutes after backing into our camping site this afternoon, not even taking time to hook up the water and electricity, we were out the door and walking to the Visitor's Center were I took this photo of a male Broad-billed Hummingbird. We had no idea what kind of a hummingbird it was. Lucky for us a park volunteer came walking by and told us it was a Broad-billed. Score one more for our Life Lists! Patagonia Lake State Park is the top birding site in Arizona, and we decided almost spur of the moment while in Yuma a couple of weeks ago, that we would make the effort this year to get to Patagonia Lake. In the past it has seemed too far to travel, but now that we are here, we think it is going to be worth the extra driving. We have reservations here until Friday the 3rd. The weather is supposed to take a turn to the worse tomorrow with high winds and a chance of rain, so we made an effort to get in some birding time this afternoon. You can look at our observation list here. The weather started deteriorating with over cast skies and wind this afternoon, but by Wednesday when the weather turns back to good, we plan on turning in a better list.
Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area is primarily about wintering Sandhill Cranes, and we are talking thousands of these large birds. Arizona State Game and Fish Department counted 13,522 on January 6th 2017. Early in the morning flights of cranes take off and leave to fly to nearby corn fields to feed on the left- overs from harvest. Mid-day they return to the wildlife area to rest and congregate for the night, and this is when the spectacular scene occurs, flight after flight coming in to land in the wetlands. We arrived here yesterday at 10:00am and birdered for an hour or so, as the number of cranes grew from a few to more than it was possible to count. By then the crowd of folks who were coming to watch the incoming cranes were starting to fill to full capacity. All kinds of folks, birders, cowboys, old folks and young folks, walked, ambled, and limped to the pond's edge to point and gawk, and photograph. It reminded me of the state fair. We were happy to return to the quietness of our motor home in a parking lot where RVs are allowed to park for up to three days for free. In our ramblings around Arizona this winter several people have recommended Whitewater Draw, and we made time in our schedule to stop here. We love the combination of free camping and bird watching at the same location. It was interesting and we enjoyed it, but once is probably enough. The highlight of our stop actually occurred in the evening when friends Dan and Elaine Scott made a stop here for the night. They are from the Seattle area, and have also been traveling around the south-west this winter, including a short venture across the border into Mexico. It was great to get got up with them and talk RVs.
Today we had the great good fortune of meeting the top birder in Graham County, Jeff Coker. We left the campground at Roper Lake, early and traveled a few miles south to Dankworth Pond, a Arizona State Park Day Use Area. Jeanette and I had a successful hour of birding, around the 15-acre pond and had just returned to the motorhome for a break, when a person came over and asked if he could look at the inside of our motorhome as he was interested in possibly purchasing one in a couple of years. As we started to talk, he suddenly asked, "Are you Jim and Jeanette Scott"? He had been watching our input on birding lists in eBird and guessed who we were. He was here at Dankworth Pond to scout out the birds in preperation to lead a bird walk here tomorrow morning. He invited us to come along on his morning scouting trip. For the next two hours we were completely enmeshed in birding in general and the birds of Dankworth Pond in particular. We have high hopes of keeping in touch as he shops for a van and we continue our birding passion.
We are enjoying our stay at Roper Lake State Park so much. Everyday we have explored a new area. Of course we love it for the birding. Yesterday we turned in a list of 41 different species. But other people appear to come here for an assortment of other reasons, the scenery, fishing, kayaking, biking, or just the camping experience. Below are four photos that I am sharing to try to give you and idea of the beauty of this park.
--and on the last day we found the outdoor hot tub.