This morning while Jeanette and I were birding and walking our dog Buster at Fairfiew Drive Wetlands we met a lady walking her dogs. Here first question was "Are you Cascade Ramblings?" Well yes, how would you know? Her name is Stephany Smith and she met us a couple of years ago in Tuscon Arizona at Gilbert Ray County Park. Here is a link to a post for some of our time there. As it turns out she is a regular reader of our blog, and completely unknown to us, has kept track of us and even knew that we had a new van. Beside the obvious common interest in dogs, and possibly birds, she also has an RV, a Lazy Days. After several questions concerning our Roadtrek Zion we gave her a tour. She was particularly interesting in our Pico chairs that fold up into such a small space.
Jeanette has been busy making new designs and improvements in our Roadtrek Zion. This finished product in the above photo is some rear storage space. First she designed and build a shelf made of slats, and then today on a trip to The Container Store in Tualatin we found these three perfect storage boxes. It is quiet a challenge, often daunting, to prepare such a small space as the van to live in for the winter months we plan on traveling around California and Arizona.
In the lower photo is our rear twin-bed set-up. She has spent literally weeks working away selecting material and sewing to make a comfortable sleeping arrangement. This project, finished earlier this week, includes two memory foam mats covered with removable slip covers and matching pillow slip covers. This is actually a second design, the first she deemed a failure. Luckly she forged on and came up with this beautiful finished set.
I seem to have gotten behind in posting. I guess in part because we have been so busy trying to get the van arranged to our liking. We have taken a couple of trips to the coast to escape the heat and test out the van. I'm going to post a collection of our two most recent trips
Fort Yamhill State Heritage Site
On Tuesday August 28th we took off early in the morning for a one nice stay at the coast. It was going to be in the high eighties in Salem. Buster's impatience led us to make Buell County Park on Mill Creek our first stop. We had the park to ourselves and got in a good bird walk. Our second stop was at Fort Yamhill State Heritage Site, where we got in a second walk and made up a second bird list. Our third stop was on the Salmon River Estuary at Knight County Park. Here we had lunch, rested in the shade and made up our third bird list of the day. In late afternoon we drove over Cascade Head to make our night parking at Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site and have dinner at the Hawk Creek Cafe, which for some unexplainable reason was closed!
Knight County Park
Our second trip to the coast started on Tuesday September 4th. Our first stop to accommodate Buster was the Riverview Park in Independence, and surprisingly again we had a great bird walk. We continued on to Corvallis and over the coast range towards Newport, but turning at Toledo to stop at a favorite of ours, Paddle Park on Yaquina Bay. Here we spent some time relaxing at I used my mobile office set-up to catch-up our bird lists and photos. Leaving Paddle Park we drove along Yaquina Bay, and then over the Yaquina Bridge, stopping on the south end at a favorite fish place to purchase a shrimp salad and a crab salad for lunch which we stopped at the South Beach Day Use Area to enjoy. After lunch we continue south on Highway 101 to Walport, stopping at Governor Patterson Memorial State Recreation Site for a good walk on the beach and a bird list. Our night parking was back in Walport at an undisclosed location.
Our second day on this trip we headed north on Highway 101 making a stop at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area to park at a very scenic spot that we used two years ago and seems to be mostly overlooked. Here we spent a good part of the day relaxing, taking short walks, having lunch, and catching up with computer time. Our dinner plan was to stop at Moe's in Otter Rock. Again we found a closed restaurant! Checked out some spots at Depot Bay and elected to park for the night at Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint. Leftovers for dinner and a glorious sunset.
Yaquina Head view point
Sunset at Boiler Bay
Conclusion: Three days and two nights, zero for camp fees, 25 dollars for lunch, 50 dollars for gas. Great weather and scenery. Biggest disappointment, the Girard On-demand water heater. Unbelievably impractical to the point we will probably be replacing.
The oppressive smoke and heat that has plagued the whole state for weeks has finally changed to cooler more reasonable temperatures and clearer skies. And today started a change in routine with using our new van as a second vehicle. It's smaller size lends itself to be parked in the drive way and be used on a daily basis. Today we started what may be a new routine. While Jeanette took the car to pickle ball, I took Buster to the near by Brush College City Park. There are several advantages to this plan. Buster is a real creature of habit, and because we have taken him on enough morning bird walks through the years that this is now his daily expected routine. We find that every one's day goes best when Busters expectations are met. This morning worked out great, Buster got to leave the house on an adventure, we went to the park, I got to look for birds, and he got to check out the smells and squirrels. I'm also hoping taking him for a ride in the van everyday will help with his newly developed travel anxiety. Below are some of the friends we met at the park this morning.
Our maiden voyage in our Roadtrek Zion produced mixed results. We enjoyed the cool weather of the coast and the van proved to be a handy vehicle to drive, park and live in for three days and nights. The electrical system continued to impress us, we were able run the micro-wave, vent fan, lights, furnace, and charge my laptop and our phones, and by the last morning we even discovered we could also run our electric heater, all without being hooked up to electricity.
But we did have a few hiccups. The on-demand water heater did not produce any hot water. Absence of manuals for not only the water heater, but the TV and DVD player lead to frustration. And then our dog Buster has developed an increasing anxiety while riding in a vehicle.
The bright spot for us was stopping at Waxmyrtle Campground on the Silcoos River to camp with our friend Glenn. It's always a relaxing experience to spend time on the trails, and enjoy the great variety of wildlife in this bit of paradise in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
This is our first night's parking spot at Boiler Bay State Wayside in our new-to-us Roadtrek Zion. We left yesterday morning to escape the heat of the Willamette Valley for a few days to enjoy some cool temps along the Central Oregon Coast. A combination of fog and smoke hide our ocean view here, but the cooler temperature makes up for it.
We picked up the Zion from Johnson RV in Sandy on Thursday, trading in our 2014 Leisure Travel Van for this 2017 Roadtrek Zion. There are a myriad of reasons we traded, but one big one that we are really enjoying is complete independence with electricity. This starts with powerful long lasting 400 amp lithium batteries. The batteries are kept charged by 300 watts of solar panels, or a second engine driven alternator, A 2000 watt inverter changes the direct current of the batteries to alternating current which powers all our electrical needs including micro-wave and air-conditioning. In simple terms we do not have to hook up to what is called shore power to charge our batteries or run our appliances. In other words we do not need a campsite with hook-ups.
We will be meandering along the coast line, birding as we go, parking where we want, enjoying the temperatures and the views, with no dependency on campgrounds or hook-ups.
We finally picked up our RV today, it's been in the body shop in Klamath Falls since our encounter with a deer on Highway 97 on June 28th. We had no idea how dependent we were on the RV, and addicted we were to the freedom of the RV life style. We are relieved beyond measure to have it back.
After receiving a call yesterday afternoon at home in Salem to let us know that our RV was finished, we rented a car and drove down to Klamath Falls this morning. Our eyes we pealed to the side of the road as we drove down Highway 97. No deer were seen, but there was evidence of at least 3 other impacts that had taken place recently.
We are set up this afternoon in the campground at Collier Memorial State Park, where we are in site B-29, the only empty site when we got here shortly after lunch time. With every mile we drive, and every system we use in getting camp set up our confidence continues to build, and the worry and concern fall away layer by layer.
Tomorrow we make a fresh start up the death corridor of Highway 97, and over the Willamette Pass to home. Stay tuned for our next surprise.
Despite this being the dog days of summer and that forest trails are devoid of beautiful blossoming flowers, there is still color to be found in fruiting berries. This beautiful red berry is on a Hooker's Fairy Bell plant, one that I noticed this morning during a dog/bird walk at Darrow Bar, a Willamette Green Way Access Point, just a couple of miles north of where we live in Salemtowne. Hooker's Fairy Bell has another close look alike called Smith's Fair Lantern. They are easy to tell apart when the flowers are in bloom, as the flowers on the Smith have long straight pedals, as opposed to the Hooker's have curved "hooker's hips." With the flowers long gone I was stumped as to which plant I had here and had to do more research. As is turns out, Hooker's has small hairs on the top and edges of the leaf and stem, only noticeable if you get an up close look. The berries of this Hooker's Fairy Bell are considered possibly poisonous, so it's best to just enjoy their beauty.
We choose to go to the coast on Monday after what I was sure was the mad house of Sunday. It was a good decision and in part because we were in the car, not the motorhome, we discovered some new birding locations.
Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy
I found this new location on eBirds Hot Spots, and it is a real gem, small but compact, and loaded with birds. Amazingly this is tucked away in busy crowded Lincoln City. This is a must return. Here is our observation list complete with photos.
Rocky Creek State Park
Rocky Creek State Park in located on the south-side of Whale Cove. Just installed this month is a new observation deck looking over Whale Cove. It was a slow day for ocean birds in the cove, but we will be back. A scope would be handy here. Be forewarned that this trail lacks signage and takes persistence to find the observation deck at this time. I'm sure Oregon State Parks will improve the trail and post signs to direct people in the near future.
Depoe Bay City Park
Depoe Bay City Park is not actually new to us, we have been enjoying it for several years. It too is hidden away and overlooked for the most part. A wonderful trail follows up along the creek from Depoe Bay into thick coastal forest. The thing we discovered here is that when the afternoon winds pick up on the ocean, this is a great little protected escape. Here is the eBird Hot Spot.
Finding ourselves with out a motor-home since the 28th of June, and for probably the rest of July, is for the birds. As Dr. Seuss would say; "We do not like it, not one little bit". We didn't fully appreciate how much we were dependent on using the motor-home to escape from the boredom of home and summer's high temperatures. Continuing oppressive heat, and lack of an RV to escape to the coast for days at a time, is forcing us to change our schedule around. We get out and get our birding done in the cool of the morning before retreating to the air-conditioning of the house. In this sense, we are trying to save our summer by focusing on the birds. This worked out pretty good yesterday, we were down to Wallace Marine Park a few minutes after 7:00am and were rewarded to a good couple of hours of birding. As we walked across the railroad foot bridge I spotted a Peregrine Falcon atop the bridge, the first of two for the day. The second Peregrine was spotted under the Center Street Bridge.
Peregrine Falcon under Center Street Bridge
We continued to see and photograph a good number of birds as we walked through the Salem Riverfront Park. Our turn around point was the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge. As we neared the top of the bridge, Jeanette though she recognized a Killdeer calling. It did not sound exactly right, and then she spotted three Spotted Sandpipers, and adult and two juveniles.
adult male Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper are members of the plover family, and like the Snowy Plover that we have a good amount of experience with from our volunteer work on the Oregon Coast, it is the male that gets stuck with caring for the juveniles. In this case we got to watch him as he try to control and direct two juveniles.
juvenile Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpipers. like the rest of the Plover family, which for example includes Killdeer, make their nest right on the ground. The day the chicks are hatched they are very functional and almost immediately walk out of the nest. Dad then begins the important task of oversight, protection, food, and keeping them hidden. This could be this chick's first day.
We spent five days and nights living in Klamath Falls after our disastrous deer strike on Thursday July 28th. We spent our nights in our motor home where it was towed, Excel Auto Body, and our days visiting local parks and birding.
After picking up our rental car on Friday we went birding at two local e-Bird Hot Spots, Lake Ewauna Nature Trail and Moore Park. You can see the lists and photos by clicking on the high-lighted words.
Sunday we made a return trip to Collier Memorial State Park and hiked the River Loop Trail in the morning and again spent the afternoon on the banks of Spring Creek. Our plan each day was to spend as much time as possible away from the motor home which got very warm in the parking lot on the exposed south side of the body shop.
Great Egret - Spring Creek
Monday we made a trip to Dunsmuir, California and to the Railroad Park Resort to deliver cake and gifts to grandson Bobby for his birthday. We had a nice brunch there and a good hike at the near by Hedge Creek Falls Trail. Then we returned to Klamath Falls for the night.
Tuesday we packed up our rental car, a Kia Soul, said a sad good-by to Serenity our motor-home, and drove home to Salem where we will wait out the time it takes for repairs to be complete.
We were zooming along Highway 97 at 65 mph right with the traffic, when two deer jumped in front of us, I managed to miss the first one, but couldn't avoid the second. To give you the background, leaving Salem this morning, we had stopped at Safeway to pick-up a custom made birthday cake for for grandson Bobby's sixth birthday. We were to meet up with Bobby and his parents and other grandparents in Dunsmuir California at the Railroad Park Resort where we had RV reservations for Sunday and Monday. Our route was over the Willamette Pass with Thursday and Friday nights at Collier Memorial State Park with some birding with our friend Glenn, then on to Lake Juanita for Saturday night before arriving for the big birthday on Sunday. That was the plan, put in place with days of planning and packing, but instantly changed with the thud of a deer to the front of our motor home. I pulled to the side of the highway to check and discovered the grill and right-hand head light demolished and fluid gushing out of the engine compartment. Engine, air-conditioning, and transmission cooler radiators where all damaged.
The first call was made by Jeanette to our insurance company. They said we had no collision insurance. What!!! Hopefully this will be straightened out today. The insurance company had no suggestions for a repair facility or towing company. Klamath Falls was the closest town at 51 miles to the south of us, so we called Courtesy Auto & RV Center in Klamath Falls, they did not do body work but recommend Excel Auto Body and also Ace Towing. An hour and a half later Ace Towing was hooking us up as in the above photo.
We are now parked at Excel Auto Body, shown in the lower photo. Not bad, free parking and WiFi. We hope to get a rental car today, and by Monday be at the Railroad Park with birthday cake and presents.
A week with temperature forecast to 90 degrees in Salem caused us to block out our schedule and head to the coast. Our friend Glenn was camped at Waxmyrtle Campground, so it was a no-brainer to start there. Waxmyrtle is a Siuslaw National Forest Campground located on the Siltcoos River south of Florence. We first met Glenn three years ago this month while we were volunteering in the Snowy Plover program and both camped at Waxmytle. He, in turned, started volunteering here. This past winter he stopped volunteering and started traveling, and we have literally spent the last six months catching up with him and birding. In Arizona we met up at Davis Camp in Bullhead City in December, then Lake Havasu State Park, then Cattail Cove State Park, then Oxbow Campground. He spent the rest of the winter in Texas where we did not go, but when he got back to Oregon we spent a week birding in the Salem area, and later joined him camping and birding at Indian Ford Campground near Sisters. We arrived here at Waxmytle Campground yesterday afternoon, and of course soon after getting set up we went birding. The above photo was taken at Lagoon Campground, just accross the road from Waxmytle. It's great to spend time together birding again.
I took this photo yesterday morning at our overnight parking spot in the Ray Benson Sno-Park on the Santiam Pass. As you can see we are parked in the shade, but we were also over-shadowed by Hayrick Butte and Hoodoo Butte the two volcanic formations in the background. I am always amused when I see these two buttes together and remember that I once read that they probably had their names switched by some hapless cartographer. I was also reflecting on the person of Ray Benson, he never let the inconvenience of a artificial leg stop him from a successful business career in Salem, or keep him from enjoying the outdoor adventures of snowmobiling. This large Sno-Park is a wonderful tribute his influence to winter recreation. In the Santiam Pass Area, the Oregon Department of Transportation has 9 Sno-Parks set aside for winter recreation (link). In past years I have enjoyed x/c skiing out of most all of them. But now, I find them quite handy for another use, overnight parking with an RV. Void of snow and ice, they set idle from now until winter, large level parking lots, great for an overnight parking spot. So, here is a tip for fellow RVers, consider a Sno-Park on your next trip through the Cascades. You can't beat them for convince or cost. On this six-day trip, we spent four nights in campgrounds, our night here was by far the quietest.
Jeanette, Buster, and myself are spending a few days in Central Oregon to bird with our friend Glenn Pannier. We are camped at Indian Ford Campground, primarily because there is cell service. On Friday morning we drove over to the Metolius River for some birding. We parked at Camp Sherman and walked down the West side of the river, crossing at the Allingham Bridge and hiking back up the East side to reward ourselves with a sandwich at the Camp Sherman Store. You can see our bird list by clicking here. In my mind the Metolius River area boarders on the sacred, I have visited it trails and campgrounds for almost 50 years now. I've hiked, backpacked, photographed wild flowers and birds, cast flies for trout, slept in tents, and RVs, and have always felt I was someplace very special. It still felt like that on Friday as we walked along the river. Besides the unbelievable scenery, I was filled with so many wonderful memories of past experiences. I am hard pressed to think of any area more special, more of my days need to be spent here.
This is the photo I took this morning, Sunday at 7:31AM, shortly after we got home from our trip to the coast. As you can see compared to the previous photo taken on Thursday the baby has grown considerably, and the wide bill is very prominent. According to one source that I read, the eyes will open on the forth to seventh day. We still have four eggs unhatched, who knows what happened to the sixth egg. Because it has been at least three days since this baby was hatched, I'm beginning to think the remaining eggs may not be viable. Violet-green Swallows continue to circle and threaten to enter the nest box, so my parental anxiety is still at a high level.
Success, we have our first baby Western Bluebird! This photo was taken this morning at 8:04AM. I've been keeping close tabs on this nesting box in our front yard this week in anticipation of some hatching. My worry has been the continuing daily circling of Violet-green Swallows that appear to be threatening to enter the Bluebird nesting box. The Violet-greens had a nesting box of their own also in the front yard. But after doing a nest box survey over two weeks ago I discovered that they had not even started with any nesting material, where as the Western Bluebirds had not only built a nest, but had eggs. So in an effort to to get rid of all the Swallow protest, I moved their nesting box to the back yard. Yet, they continue to swoop and cry and create all kinds of havoc. We are off to the coast for a few days, so I won't be able to check the box until we get back. I'm hoping the other eggs will hatch successfully and the Swallows will be kept at bay.
We continue to worry daily about our nesting pair of Western Bluebirds. The Violet-green Swallows are still hanging around and creating lots of congestion in the front yard, even after I moved the box to the backyard, and the female Bluebird seems to spend way more time than we think she should away from the nest. I checked the nest yesterday while they were away and they still have 6 eggs. This is what I observed this morning, the female left and she and the male spent time at the suet feeder, then they flew off. After a while the male came back, looked in the box, and then went in the box. He then came out, and quick as a wink she was in the box. It takes 2 weeks for incubation, and that dead line will be coming up this next Monday. So for now---we still have our fingers crossed.
Jeanette asked me this afternoon if I had seen the bluebirds today. They seem to come and go, and we are not really sure if anything is going on with the nest or not. "No", I replied, "I don't think I have". I went to my den window to double check myself, and after looking around the front yard and staring at the blue bird nesting box for awhile I thought I might see a head inside of the entrance. I got my binoculars and watched as the female squeezed out the opening and flew off to a street lamp post. As I continued to watch she flew back to our front porch gutter, and then flew off to the west in the direction of a green-way. I decided this was the time to find out if anything was going on with the nesting box. I got Jeanette, gave her my cell phone, and we made a quick inspection of the box. To our complete surprise and astonishment we discovered these six eggs! Western Bluebirds lay eggs at the pace of one a day, so this has been going on for at least six days. Incubation takes two weeks, so we will try to wait patiently and keep our fingers crossed that they hatch successfully. By the way, we did a complete inventory of the rest of our nesting boxes, two that have had swallow activity were completely bare, the third had a House Sparrow start up nest, which got emptied.
Our good friend John West went to Cattail Cove State Park today to get this photo of the Great Horned Owl chicks. Notice, on the far left is also an adult, which I would assume is the mom. My guess is the chicks hatched some time around the first week in March, and will probably not be able to leave the nest until around the middle of May. Even though they can fly then, they will still be dependent of being fed by the parents for a couple of more months. Owls hatch asynchronous, meaning not at the same time, and this is evident if you look at this post and the former post, you can see the three chicks are of different sizes.
I now have photographic evidence of the Great Horned Owl chicks at Cattail Cove State Park! Regular readers of this blog will remember that Jeanette and I spent January and February volunteering at Cattail Cove State Park in Arizona. While there, Jeanette was very fortunate to find the small cave where the female Great Horned Owl was starting to nest. This was on February 3rd. Because the incubation period for Great Horned Owl is approximately 35 days, we were not able to see the chicks before we left at the end of February. Yesterday we received e-mail from Ron and Alison Husak with an attachment of the above photo. Look close and you can see there are three chicks! Alison was on some of my bird walks, and so knew the location of the nest, and took the above photo yesterday. Below is the first photo of the mom on the nest, taken on February 3rd, for comparison.
2018 begins my fifth year of paying attention to nesting Osprey in the West Salem Area. It started with volunteering at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve on Eola Drive in 2014. I was captivated with the Osprey that came to the platform that had been installed by Salem Electric. The next year, returning Osprey to the nest site on Murlark Ave was brought to my attention by friend John West. Then I began keeping track of other sites in West Salem, the site at Patterson Street & 9th, and the site at the ball fields at Wallace Marine Park. Keeping track of the observations and adding photos is made easy with e-Bird, and now I go to a whole new level of craziness, adding names. Another birder/photographer on Facebook has come up with the novel idea of assigning names to the Osprey she photographs to help her keep track. She gives them a name starting with the first letter of the location of the nest site. So here goes for my collection of nesting Osprey in West Salem this year.
Each year it seems the first nest site to be occupied is the platform on Murlark Ave. This female was first observed at the site on March 18th this year. A male has now joined her. I'm thinking Muriel and Merl.
The Patterson & 9th Streets location provided a sighting on March 22nd. Salem Electric has now installed a live cam which can be viewed via You Tube. However if the bird is on the perch as in this photo it is out of range from the camera. This female was photographed on 4/1/18. Patricia & Patrick seem right.
The ball field at Wallace Marine Park has long had an Osprey Nest. This occupying pair was noted and photographed on March 30. Wally sits on top of the pole while Wendy sits on the nest.
The site on Eola Drive NW at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve was the last of the four central West Salem sites to be claimed this year. I believe this to be the returning male from last year. I think Ernie fits him.
I don't know that handing out names helps any in keeping track, but it does make them a lot more personable than just referring to them as "the male" or "the female". Names can always be changed, so if you have any better suggestions, please leave a comment.
The saga of the Osprey nest on Murlark Ave continues. Yesterday morning when I stopped by the queen was on her throne, and it appeared two male supplicants were seeking her approval. They where circling overhead, hovering and making quiet a display. In this photo the male, who I believe is the favored one, came in with a fish for a brief moment and then left. I have watched this behavior before at other nesting sites and what normally happens is the male will perch near by and eat the head off of the fish before bringing it back to the female. This nesting site is currently the best location to watch the Osprey in their annual nesting routine. I have suggested to eBird that it be classified as a Hot Spot, and it is now so designated. This brings attention to the site with other birders, helping them locate and hopefully contribute to the data base with observations and photos.
We have been back home from our winter in Arizona for over two weeks now, and are enjoying birding at some of our old haunts. Today we went to Fairview Dr Wetlands in South Salem. It's on the list of our all time favorites, and possibly our oldest. I checked and we have been birding here for 20 years. Here is the link to the oldest bird list is could find. We were starting to get serious enough that we started to make a written list then. At that time we lived with-in walking distance of the wetlands. We were much more into hiking at that time, more so than birds, so hiking to the wetlands was simply a destination for a hike. It has developed over the years with the addition of wonderful trails and lots of native plantings. A trip there now always brings back a flood of memories from our many birding experiences over the years. Here is the link for today's trip.
The saga of the Osprey nest site on Murlark Ave in West Salem continues. We orginally spotted the female at the nest site on Sunday. Monday we checked, no birds. Today, Tuesday when I checked the female was back on the pilots perch. I stopped to take some photos, and she started giving an excited cry, and then the male flew in with this stick. A fresh cotton wood limb with buds. It seems that they are getting right down to business.