This is the view from the upper parking lot of Marys Peak out acrossed the fog filled Willamette Valley to the Three Sisters in the distance. Marys Peak at just over 4,000 feet elevation is the highest peak in the Oregon Coast Range. This was our destination yesterday for a couple of reasons, other birders had reported sightings of Snow Buntings, and we were also anxious to escape the cold fog that was continuing, daily to choke out the sun. The drive alone was an amazing experience. We drove in thick fog with drizzling rain from Salem to Corvallis and Philomath. Turning off Hwy 34 on the Marys Peak Road the tempurature was 39 degrees and still in the fog, but as we climbed up the winding Forest Service road the fog began to clear and at the upper parking lot the temps where in the 70s! We spent the rest of out time at the top in bright warm sunshine. Although we did not find the Snow Bunting, we did get some other good birds, a flock of nine Western Bluebirds, three Horned Larks, and most notibly a pair of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, which were Life Birds for us.
It didn't take long for us to come up with another excuse to stay home for the winter, - - our grand-daughter Madeleine. On Saturday son Michael called to say he was thinking of coming up to visit us on Sunday, his day off, but he was also thinking of going to the beach. Jeanette was quick to respond that we could meet at the beach! We discussed beaches and we agreed on South Beach State Park at Newport, kind of a half-way for us both. On Sunday morning we arrived at the parking lot with-in minutes of each other, and soon Madeline was fixed up with her hat, coat, sandbucket, and towel.
South Beach Fish Market was next for some lunch. We all shared our orders of clam strips, fish & chips and shrimp salad. It was warm enough to sit outside, and before we had finished our lunch our jackets were all off. Jeanette and I had to leave to make a quick trip back to Salemtowne to lead a bird walk for the Salemtowne Birders, and Michael and Madeleine were going to make another beach stop.
For the second year in a row, Jeanette and I have made the decision to stay home for the winter rather than travel to Southern California and Arizona. Yesterday morning while in-route to Huddleston Pond to go birding we were going through the pros and cons of our decision. We are at the age where it is much more stressful to travel a lot of miles, but beyond that we seem to have a good time right here in Oregon. Our day turned out to be a pretty powerful reminder of how much adventure we get to enjoy right here close to home. As we circled the pond counting and photographing birds, we noticed one bird was not one we normally see. We spent a good amount of effort in trying to get a good photo to be able to make a positive identification, which was hard because it seemed determined to feed along the edge of the pond opposite of where we were, and it continued to disappear as it dove under water in search of food. Back at the van, I downloaded the photos into my laptop where I could get a closer look and then searched on my phone apps for an identification. In the end I came up with a female Red-breasted Merganser. I needed to be positive because it was a species not expected to be seen here. They are a species normally found in the bays and lower rivers of the coast. In fact a Red-breasted Merganser had never been reported in Yamhill County or Polk County! But I did have the photographic evidence, and by the time I got up this morning two of the top birders in these two counties had found and reported this bird. So, we seem to discover all the excitement we need to keep us satisfied, and the Autumn colors are glorious.
Most of my blog posts are about travel experiences and birding. This may give the impression to readers that the best birding involves traveling to better birding locations. Not true. We bird almost everyday, and usually close by, and we continue to be thrilled with the birds we find. Today is a good example. We hadn't made a selection of where to bird until we were almost out the door, and at that moment we settled on nearby Wallace Marine Park, only about two miles from home. I was hoping for some water fowl, and the old gravel quarry in the park is always worth checking out. For the complete bird list click here.
A Western Gull photo-bombed an otherwise perfect photo of a Brown Pelican at the North Bend Boardwalk in the above photo taken on Friday. Since leaving on Wednesday for a trip to Coos Bay we have stopped and counted birds in five different counties. In Polk County we stopped in the morning at Riverview Park in Independence. We finished the day in Benton County where we birded at Adair Wildlife Area. In Lane County the next morning, with friend Glenn Reubon, we counted 35 birds at Perkins Peninsula Park on Fern Ridge Lake. In the afternoon we made a stop in Douglas County at Reedsport, and I made a brief count on the levy. Our last stop of the day on Thursday was at Tugman State Park in Coos County where we made a list in the evening. On Friday we made a daily record (for us) of observations lists at six different locations. Starting first thing in the morning at Tugman State Park, then David Dewett Memorial, Ferry Road Park, North Bend Boardwalk, Empire Lakes, and Pony Slough. Is this making your head spin? Your eyes roll back? Well, it's all fun for us. It is also filled in with lots of down time to relax, take naps, and a great variety of meals to eat.
What we love about our Roadtrek Zion van is that it enables us to lead such a spontaneous life style. Yesterday was a perfect example of how how our days can so easily be filled with comfort and adventure. We left home knowing we had three days to get to Coos Bay to meet up with friends Kerry & Debbie Kliever. Our first stop was in Independence at the Riverview Park to walk Buster and look for birds. The river level was up and the birds were amazingly scarce, but we did enjoy watching this busy Spotted Sandpiper. Nothing so unusual, just a nice walk in the sunshine. But then the day took a couple of interesting turns.
Jeanette was next to drive, and on the way to grab a burger some place, she swung by the Independence Cinema to see if they would be showing the new Downton Abbey movie. They were, and as we were circling the parking lot, I noticed The Pink House restaurant was open. Hey, let's have lunch there and then check out the movie times. We snagged a table in the sun on the front porch and enjoyed a wonderful sandwich. Walking back pass the Cinema we found out there was an afternoon matinee showing of the Downton Abbey in an hour and a half. So, we drove to a shady spot we know of behind the Civic Center and rested and I worked on photos. Then back to the Cinema to watch Downton Abbey.
Journeying on south on Highway 99, Jeanette had hopes of watching the four o'clock news on PBS, so we made a stop at the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife office at Adair Village and parked in the parking lot to watch the news, which led to dinner, and then a bird walk down to the pond. We love birding here and recalling the times we volunteered here a number of years ago. Bird life was busy as the sun went down for the day. You can see our complete bird list and photos here.
This morning we will be venturing on, meeting up with our friend Glenn to bird at Perkins Peninsula at Fern Ridge Reservoir.
This summer the Riverview Park in Independence has become our favorite birding destination. We have enjoyed watching an active Osprey nest, and a good variety of herons, sandpipers, and ducks on the river. The continuing development of the Willamette River waterfront, with the addition of the The Independence Hotel, has brought a wonderfully landscaped cement walkway connecting the Riverview Park and the hotel to the Independence Civic Center. We now actually walk the path in reverse order, having discovered the delightful shaded parking lot in the back of the Civic Center, which is a perfect place to park the van. Yesterday was our third short birding trip since getting out of the hospital, and as we approached the hotel location, I was starting to tire, and I mentioned to Jeanette that I could use a cup of coffee. We considered our options, we could go back to the van and make coffee, go find a coffee shop, or we both realized suddenly that it looked like the restaurant in the new hotel might be open. Jeanette, never afraid to ask, marched right up to the restaurant and inquired about coffee. The next thing I know I'm sitting in the outdoor patio, with a great view of the river, enjoying a complimentary cup of great coffee. Questions about food, led to perusing the menu, and to our ording a late breakfast. The service and the food where possibly the best ever, thank you Vidal. The story in a nutshell is; we came in search of a simple cup of coffee, and discovered a full service restaurant. But beyond that, we now have the perfect location for both birding and eating, all in one location! See eBird observation list here.
It has been well documented that time spent in the great outdoors is not only good for your emotional well being, but also good for your actual physical health. We recently watched a TV show where a pediatric physician has decided to take this to heart and makes an actual prescription up for her patients to spend time outdoors. She calls it a Park Prescription. It may be as simple as sitting on a park bench 10 minutes a day listening to the sounds of nature, the chirp of birds, the chatter of a squirrel, and the sound of the wind in the trees, or it might include going for an hours walk in the park three times a week; but the point is to require the patient to spend time outdoors. Her goal is to match every prescription for medicine with a prescription for time in the park. To this end she writes up a specific prescription for time to be spent in the park.
I totally buy into this life style. Today we went to Brush College Park, about a mile from home, and took our first bird walk since getting out of the hospital a week ago. We called it our "Park Prescription". We walked for 41 minutes, covered 3/4 of a mile, and counted 10 different species of birds. We plan on taking our Park Prescription on a daily basis.
With the heat of summer, the Oregon Coast is always our default get-away. On this trip we got in a lot of nice birding and spending time with two different sets of friends. We left home on Saturday morning Aug 17th, making stops to bird at Balston County Park and Fort Yamhill, on our way to meet with Kerry and Debbie Kliever who were staying at Devils Lake RV Park. We got in a little afternoon trip to Fogarty Creek State Park, some snacks, and a taco dinner with them before we ended the day at our over-night parking spot at Chinook Winds Casino parking lot.
Jeanette and Debbie - snack time
Chinook Winds Casino Parking
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Chinook Winds
Sunday morning we had breakfast with Kerry and Debbie at Pig 'N Pancake in Lincoln City before heading down the coast to Newport, making a birding stop at Sally's Bend on Yaquina Bay. There we turned in this bird list with the highlighed photo of this Great Egret.
From Sally's Bend we difted on to South Beach State Park, stopping at South Beach Fish Market for crab and shrimp salads to go, in honor of Jeanette's Birthday. At South Beach State Park we parked in the Day Use Area to eat our salads and to use up some time before our reserved camping site became available. It was a hot day so we were delighted to find that our site had some great shade which we enjoyed. However after the third day in the shade our solar was not keeping up and I relented and plugged into the electrical service. You see, I pride myself in never having to plug in.
Our trip was originally planned to bicycle and bird with friends Gary and Judy Dinsmore. On Monday moring we set off on our bikes to count birds, stopping first at the South Jetty. See our bird list here. Next we cycled on through the marina area before returning back to camp to rescue Buster. The afternoon was spent working on photos and resting before getting on our bikes and riding back to the Rogue Brewery for dinner.
Tuesday morning we set off on another bike ride, this time to the Mark Hatfield Science Center Estuary Trail to bird. The tide was way out, but still we managed a list. See our list here.
Gary & Judy ride recumbent tricycles, so we make quite a parade when cycling along the trails.
Wednesday morning began with the threat of rain, so after a short Buster walk we drove directly home. Buster did well with his anti-anxiety medicine and slept on the couch most of the way. Our van is now a year old to us, having traded for it on Jeanette's birthday one year ago. It's taken lot's of adjustment to the smaller space, but we love the complete idependence with the solar and lithium systems. This was our longest outing to date, with five days and four nights. Some where during our time with Gary and Judy we came up with a plan for our next adventure. They will be volunteering at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend next month, so we will be taking a trip mid-month to visit them.
Biking Bird Guide & Blogger
photo by Judy Dinsmore through tricycle rearview mirror
In this photo I've stopped my bike on the Historic Union Street Railroad Bridge over the Willamette River in Salem, which is now a pedestrian/bicycle route. I've paused in the approximate middle of the Willamette River which is the boundary between Polk County on my right, and Marion County on my left. I'm about to enter Marion County to make an eBird Observation List for the Salem Riverfront Park. My I-Phone is mounted on the handle bars and I'm ready to hit the green circle to start my observation list.
For a complete year now I have been putting up with the pain of planter fasciitis. I've been using custom orthotics, special shoes, and massage, all to no avail. Staying off my feet could possible allow it to heal, but that is not going to happen. So here is the second day on a new plan, do my birding from my bicycle rather than walking. I'm pretty pumped from what I have experienced so far. I throw my bike in the back of our van and drive to Wallace Marine Park where I unload the bike and take the bike path across the river and into Salem Riverfront Park, pausing at the sight or sound of a bird to locate it and if possible, get a photo.
This first photo is of a juvenile Peregrine Falcon who just lost it's attempt to catch a Belted Kingfisher. I have been watching this juvenile and another for several weeks as they have been reluctant to leave their comfortable nesting area under the Marion Street Bridge. This is the first day I have seen one of them on their own attempting to hunt down their own prey.
This second photo is of a juvenile Green Heron, photographed close to the Peter Courtney Bridge. It's a great time of year to enjoy juveniles, they act, well like juveniles. They have not yet learned the perils and dangers of life. An adult bird would not take the chance to be standing out in the open for such a long period of time to be so easy to photograph.
On day three, before leaving Boiler Bay State Wayside we got in a short, but obligatory, Buster/Bird Walk. Preparations to leave caused Buster to wake from a deep sleep and have a real desire to get out the door, so we opted for a loop around the park. In the process we got to enjoy surfacing Gray Whales in the kelp beds, singing White-crowned Sparrows, and nesting Cormorants, and more. Click here for the bird list.
Our first stop of the morning was at the in Newport at the South Jetty. Here the main birds in the parking area were gulls. Here are a couple of examples.
Glaucous -winged Gull
Lunch was an easy decision with a stop for take out of cod and crab at South Beach Fish Market before driving to South Beach State Park Day-Use-Area. After lunch another Buster/Bird Walk was in order and we walked a section of trail and garnered the following bird list. We spent the rest of the afternoon in our parking lot spot long enough for dinner and the TV news, before venturing on to Tillicum Beach.
The sign at Tillicum Beach said "Campground Full", but we had no worries as we had spot #4 reserved for two nights. It was a clean site tucked in among the shore pines. In the site next door we noticed a Ford Transit van, so first order of business was to check it out. Friendly campers from Arizona on their way to Washington. We exchanges van stories of van life, looking at theirs and they looking at ours. As we settled in for the night we were quite surprised to find that we had TV reception, however hard to believe, we had no cell service even after connecting up our signal booster. Now here is where things get bleak. We can survive with-out TV, but not with-out cell service. Too much of our life is tied up with the Internet, which when we travel we get through our cell phones, to be with-out cell service. All the work with e-Bird of listing observations and photos, e-mail, Instant Messaging, weather reports, and Facebook and YouTube which involves many people we connect with in our van life style, are all serviced by the Internet. We reluctantly made the decision to stay put for the night, but we would be out of there at first light, forfeiting our second night fee.
Rain in the morning confirmed our decision to leave Tillicum Beach. Our first stop on our return route north was at Driftwood Beach State Recreation Area, a place we have stayed many times and knew we would have cell serve. Of course Buster was anxious to get out and explore, and we also knew from past experience this was a good one for him enjoy and run his heart out across the sand. After a beach romp we settled in to catch-up with Facebook, YouTube, eBird (see bird list here), and more as well as hot showers. Buster was mellowed out and content to just lay on the couch, so we decided to venture on. In Newport we had lunch and got fuel. What the heck, we might as well drive on home. We made stops at Depoe Bay City Park and Van Duzer Corridor Rest Area for dog walks and driver exchanges. We chose an alternate route home, continuing on up Hwy 18 to the Sheridan Exit, then through Balston and Perrydale, coming in the back-way to Salemtowne. Home by 3:00pm. In the four days out, we compiled 12 bird lists in the counties of Polk, Yamhill, and Lincoln.
Radio personality Paul Harvey famously prefaced his follow up remarks with, "And now for the rest of the story". This post is about the "the rest of the story", as in what happened after Day One - in the last post back in June. Well, on the second day things fell completely apart, and we drove home the next day. Many close family and friends know our aging dog Buster has become a real problem with traveling. He has developed an anxiety when riding in the van, whining, and carrying on to the point of tremors and panting. Since the disastrous end to that planned 15 day trip to Eastern Oregon we have stayed put in Salem.
For this trip we planned to meet with friends on the coast for a few days, and as a solution for the Buster problem we arranged to for a dog sitter so we could travel in peace. I made reservations for two nights at Tillicum Beach Campground and we were all set. Then our dog sitter came down sick, and so we revised our plan with the idea of leaving early, making short drives with lots of stops to walk Buster and look for birds, and take 3 days to drive the 100 miles to Tillicum Beach south of Waldport.
On the first day we made our first stop 19 miles away at Balston County Park. See our bird list here. The next stop was Huddleston Fish Pond in Hampton Park in Willamina, a mere 11 miles. Check out our bird list here. After lunch in the park we taveled on to Fort Yamhill for a third stop and walk. At this point Buster elected to rest in the van, age related arthritis limits his milage nowadays. Jeanette and I made a loop of the grounds with the resulting bird list here. Our intended stop for the night was to be Spirit Mountain Casino, but hot temps in the 80's caused us to change our plans and drive on to the coast with our over night stop at Neskowin State Park. This is our go to over night place on the coast with the benefit of dinning next door at the Hawk Creek Cafe.
Day two we traveled down Highway 101 fifteen miles to Lincoln City where we made Holmes Road Park our first stop. We were especially pleased to discover a pair of Red Crossbills because they have been very scarce so far this season. See our bird list here.
Red Crossbill male
Our next stop was only a mile or so away at Friends of Wildwoods Open Space. A delightful woodsy trail gave us this bird list here, as well as an unexpected deer encounter.
A search for a lunch stop in the Sunday crowded corridor of Lincoln City took us to Moe's on Siletz Bay. Next stop for some birding was on around Siletz Bay to the Salishan Nature Trail. See the checklist here. The rest of the afternoon was spent parked in the shade, working on bird lists and photos, and resting. A Douglas Squirrel busy harvesting a pine cone was another nature find.
For our evening parking we selected Boiler Bay State Wayside, another standby on our coastal boondocking sites.
Rain greeted us this morning. When Buster got up at 5:00 to do his morning business, he took one look out the door and went back to bed. Rain is scheduled to last until 10:00, so I have taken the time to produce a blog post. Already at 8:00 it is clearing. Our destination for the day is Tillicum Beach a mere 34 miles away.
This trip came about because: (1) We had a window of ten days open on our calendar. (2) It's a good time of year to travel over the Cascades and visit Central & Eastern Oregon. (3) Jeanette has long had a dream of a trip made up short 50 mile days. Many of you know that our dog Buster, has developed a travel anxiety in his old age, so short travel days will hopefully work the best for us all. With all these factors in mind we set out from home yesterday morning in our Roadtrek Zion on our adventure, with a plan of combining relief stops for Buster with birding stops for us.
Lyons City Park
Our first stop based on Buster's level of anxiety was Lyons City Park. An old faviote of ours, but yesterday morning we saw it through a new lens of the season. Many of our visits to this park have been in fall and winter when the ponds of full of wintering water fowl. On this morning the woods were full of bird song, and the mix of sunshine, trails, and wildlife worked its magic on all three of us. For out bird list with photos click here.
Western Pond Turtle at Lyons City Park
Jouneying on we took the back road through Fox Valley to Mill City where we stopped for lunch at Subway. From there we were back on Highway 22 to Detriot Lake for our next stop at Detroit Flats. For our bird list with photos at Detroit Flats, which include a rare sighting of a Horned Grebe, click here.
By the time we had finished birding we were baking in the hot sun with temps approcing 80 degrees, so we went in search for shade and a camping site. We hit the jackpot at our first stop, Hoover Campground, a Willamette National Forest Campground on Blow-out Road on the South shore of Detroit Lake. Circling through the campground we found site numer 4, the perfect site for shade and also cell coverage, which we where suprised and delighted. 36 site here of which we had 30 to pick from. Cost 24 a night, put only 12 for us Seniors. Swainson's Thrushes serenaded from the towering firs, an occasional Stellar's Jay warned of our presence. On the shaded picnic bench I set up my laptop to process the photos and bird lists from the day. Life is good.
A week ago we met up with our friends Gary and Judy Dinsmore at the Keizer Elks where they had stopped on their way back to Oregon from their winter in Texas. We spent the morning birding at the Keizer Rapids City Park, and over lunch Judy asked Jeanette what we were doing next weekend. That led to a plan for this weekend to meet and camp together at Anderson Park in Vernonia. We met the Dinsmores years ago in Arizona, when Gary showed up for one of my bird walks at Lake Havasu State Park. We quickly discovered that we had quite a few things in common besides RVing and birds. Both couples had a long history of bicycling. But by the time we met them our cycling days had ceased. That changed this weekend. Jeanette and I got back on the bikes and rediscovered our love of cycling.
getting ready to ride from our campsites
We started our morning with a birding on our bikes around Vernonia Lake. This was a first for all four of us, and it worked out great. We would ride along until we saw something and then stop and all get a look and maybe some photos.
our crew at Vernonia Lake
After our birding trip around the lake and a short break, we left the camera and binoculars in camp and took off to explore more of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. It was great to find ourselves immersed in the cycling experience again. Back to Vernonia we stopped in for lunch at The Black Iron Grill.
The Black Iron Grill
Our afternoon included for me working on bird lists and photos, and we all got in some resting as well as planning our next rendezvous. Jeanette and I are committed to continue including biking on our RV escapades. Thank you Gary and Judy for getting us pedaling again.