Monday, July 13, 2020

Polk County Record

(click on photo to enlarge)
On last Saturday morning's bird walk with the Village Birders of the Dallas Retirement Village we had a "once in a life-time" viewing experience.  We were birding in the Dallas City Park, when Carolyn Wall, noticed a big hawk sized bird in a tree. As we zeroed in on the bird, I recognized it as possibly a Cooper's Hawk. And as we got a better view we realized that there were actually two birds, and then we saw the third one, and eventually a fourth bird, which was busy with short flights in the area.  Then it dawned on me that these were juvenile Cooper's Hawks.  Try as we might, we could not come up with an adult, which would be easy to identify because of the rust colored baring.  It became quite entertaining to watch the forth bird while it continued unsuccessfully trying to capture a squirrel. When I got home and was looking through information in for Polk County,  I was surprised to find that our number of 4 Cooper's Hawks is the record High Count for Polk County. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Birding In The Age Of Covid-19

Every Saturday Morning I lead a group of interested Dallas Retirement Village residents on a birdwalk.  Since May our birdwalks have been on campus, searching out birds we can find just in the Dallas Retirement Village. We branched out on this past Saturday morning of July 4th and visited the Rickreall Creek Trail System at Kingsborough Park.  As you can see, we wear face masks, practice social distancing, and most important we are in the great outdoors. We saw 56 individual birds representing 21 different species. You can see our complete observation list here.
On Friday morning I had scouted out the route on the Rickreall Trail System prior to our Saturday birdwalk, and was treated to this photo of a mother Black-tailed Deer and her two fawns. It served as a reminder of how many more benefits I receive beyond birds while out birding. And, I would have to add, even of greater importance to my mental health during this turbulent times of national stress and Corvid-19 fears.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

One Stop Shopping

 White-crowned Sparrow juvenile
The Cascade Ramblings website is sort of a one stop shopping center for the nature lover.  It started out as a data base for high mountain lakes, where one could find all kinds of information about lakes; like location, route, fishing and camping possibilities, and much more.  Through time other sections were developed for wildflowers, mushrooms, and critters.  A trip journal developed, and then a blog attached. So now, nature lovers of almost any stripe can come looking for information, whether they be fishermen, hikers, back-packers, lovers of flowers and mushrooms, or, and this is the one important to me now, bird watching. It has become a vault of information that I continue to add to even as my circle of travel becomes more constricted to local trails and parks close at hand. These days I ramble on mostly about birds, and I am amazed at how much more there is to learn, and how exited I am in the discoveries.  This photo is a good example.  Many years ago I remember discovering the sweet insistent song of the White-crowned Sparrow with it's sharply contrasting black and white crown. It was some years later when I learned to recognize the more subtle brown and white coloring of an immature. And just days ago I was surprised to learn that even though the mature, and immature White-crowns have breasts with-out stripes, a recent fledged juvenile does have stripes. So, as I continue to use Cascade Ramblings as a depository for all kinds of information on nature, I hope others too will find it a helpful source when shopping for information on birds and much more. Check out the White-crowned Sparrow page in the Critters section here.   

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Buster's First Trip With Casper

Jeanette and I already camped three nights in Casper our Cascade Campers van while bringing it home to Dallas Oregon from Grass Valley California. However, the travel anxiety ridden Buster had not camped in it yet, as he waited out his time at the Oak Grove Kennel in Monmouth.  Thus the motive for a one-night to the coast that we took on Monday. 

We packed up Casper with some essentials, like coffee and paper towels. Plus extra clothes, and food items.  Small storage space automatically shortens packing time, so in sort order we were ready.

Although I didn't get a photo, our first stop was at Buell County Park for a break for Buster.  This is always a great stop for birding, see list here, and the shady trees and clear running Mill Creek combine for a travel oasis and a reduction in stress. Restrooms where open, import to note in this time of Covid-19. Our next stop for Buster was at Fort Yamhill State Heritage Area for lunch, which is the photo shown above.  We did a stationary bird count here from our picnic table. Restrooms were also open here.

Our third stop was at Van Duzer Rest Area, and yes the restrooms where open.  We picked a shady spot to park and get out our new handy folding chairs which Jeanette and scored on at a sale at Fred Myers last week for nine dollars a piece. You can see our bird list here. Our next stop in Lincoln City was the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy, which I failed to photograph, but Buster and I enjoyed a little exploratory stroll and bird count while Jeanette stretched out on the couch in the van for a rest. No restrooms here so we continued south on Highway 101 and made a stop at a public parking lot with restrooms, a new important necessity for our small bath-room-less van. Moe's was our next destination for some take-out fish and chips which we ate in the van. We traveled on south as I wanted to check on Boiler Bay State Rest Area.  It's important in these changing times of Covid-19 to verify open status. It was closed, and the entrance was barricaded, so hopes of parking vanished and it became our turn around point. 

Holmes Road Park with a nice view of Devils Lake became our compromise for an overnight spot.  I got in another bird list here, while we waited for the temperature to cool for the evening.  At 12:30 AM we had a knock on the door from the Lincoln City Police to explain there is no overnight camping allowed on the streets or parks of Lincoln City.  Oh, I say, I didn't realize, as we have parked here overnight on several occasions.  Well, we don't have enough staff to cover all the areas, he replied,  but it's been the law for 10 years. I dressed, drove the dark deserted streets in search of the Chinook Casino parking lots.
The morning sun lit up the Chinook Winds Casino from our parking spot.  It was a quiet remainder of the night here. After coffee and hot oatmeal we drove to the Dollar Tree for some shopping for van related items.

From Lincoln City we drove north over Cascade Head to Neskowin for some beach time for Buster. Click here for our bird observation list.

I specifically wanted to check out the Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site to see if it was open.  The ODOT site of Trip Check shows it closed, but the Oregon State Parks site showed it open.  It was indeed open, even the restrooms, and we enjoyed some time in the shade. Jeanette went to the store to pick up a sandwich for lunch at our next stop at Knight County Park on the Salmon River Estuary, where we found the restrooms open.  I failed to get a photo while at Knight Park, I guess in part because we were so busy.  We were enjoying the view, counting birds, and eating lunch, when a man by the name of Marshall approached us politely at a distance and asked if he could see our van.  He had a lot of questions and left determined to order one for himself. Buster had already chosen while we were first starting lunch, that he would rather be in the van, and had went back, jumped up into the van and settled himself on the couch.  At this point, I think we had our answer, we could travel with Buster.  The day had started to warm up, the mosquitoes we taking advantage of Jeanette, and Buster was asleep on the couch, so it made sense to drive home, secure in the knowledge that we can travel in this uncertain time of Covid-19 in our Cascade Campers van, and with our aging Buster dog. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Rescue of our Cascade Camper

I previously posted in May about our purchase of a custom built Cascade Campers van. As time went on Cascade Campers were able to move us up from a scheduled build date in mid July to the first week of June.  By June 9th they delivered the completed van to Pioneer Motors in Grass Valley.  Our plan had been to have the van transported to us in Dallas to avoid having to travel down and back to pick it up ourselves.  But after a week went by with no availability of a transport and prices starting to escalate, we made the decision Monday night, after locating a kennel for Buster, to drive down ourselves and pick-up the van.  The result was that we made a 10 hour drive straight to Grass Valley the next day.  

Jeanette is shown in these two photos on Tuesday afternoon transferring water, food and clothing to the van, and getting the kitchen set up in  the parking lot of Pioneer Motors, who allowed us to spend the night. The lot was gated at night and protected with security cameras. (a private conversation could reveal our night time experience).  As the sun went down the electrical system in the van started to fail. Calls to Cascade Campers resulted in the owner, Zach Yeager, coming in the morning at 8:00 to figure out the problem.

In this photo Zach is explaining the electrical system to Jeanette.  In the end, the battery breaker had not been switched on during the build.  The refrigerator and the electrical system had just been working off of the solar panel the day before, which is fine as long as there is sunshine, but once the sun went down, because the battery was not connected, we had no power.

Wednesday morning it was necessary for us to drive out of state, (another private conversation could reveal the reason), to Reno Nevada. After driving over Donner Pass and completing business we were pretty frazzled, so we found Rancho San Rafael Regional Park, parked in the shade, opened up the rear doors, listened to the sounds of birds and a babbling brook,  relaxed, and then took a walk and made a bird list which you can see here.

After gaining our composure, we headed out of town, passing on overnight parking at a Casino because of the heat, and drove on north.  We selected Honey Lake Rest Stop in California for an overnight parking spot, and it worked out perfectly.  Nice clean restrooms and lots of birds, you can see our bird list here, made for a perfect stop.

Home at last on Friday morning at Dallas Retirement Village, reserved parking space #8. Casper, as all Cascade Campers have names, will be ready to roll on a moments notice to take us away to secret locations on the Oregon Coast or the Cascade Mountains, or even nearby birding locations.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Additional Benefits

I bird everyday.  In fact I would be the first to admit I'm probably addicted to birding. But besides the enjoyment of  watching, identifying, and photographing birds, there are some additional benefits that are of importance.  Easily reconized is the health benefit of getting outdoors daily and getting some exercise.  In the process of birding I normally walk several miles, and it is in the great outdoors with lots of fresh air, and at very safe social distances.  Often my quest for birds is diverted by additional wildlife sightings, which brings me great joy.  Below are three examples of mammals I noticed while looking back on the first half of this month.

Here is a Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hermionus) I saw on Friday morning, June 12th. It was on the Rickreall Creek Trail right in the City of Dallas. It seemed little concerned with my presence.

While looking for birds here in the Dallas Retirement Village on June 7th, I noticed this Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) busy looking for extra sunflower seeds.

This was a suprise find on June 1st while looking for Wood Ducks in the Monroe City Park, a Northern River Otter (Lutra canadensis).  Notice it has a crawdad in its mouth.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Baby Dark-eyed Juncos

I can count four
Yesterday when Jeanette was walking back from our next-door Grocery Outlet, a Dark-eyed Junco with a mouthfull of bugs caught her attention.  She paused to see if it would lead her to the nesting site.  The Junco took a round about route, first to a tree, then to a shrub, then another shrub, then to the ground, circling around before disappearing.  All this I believe was an effort on the bird's part to conceal the nest location.  She came up stairs to report the sighting to me and we went down for a closer look.  After searching the most promising shrub, I finally found it, after over looking it several times, tucked in a corner on the ground. Dark-eyed Juncos for the most part nest at higher elevations in the Cascades and Coast Range, but we have had a least one pair and possibly more stick around here at the Dallas Retirement Village.  We have heard and seen the males singing on the roof gables and lamp post, but this is the first confirmation that we have nesting occuring here at the Dallas Retirement Village.    

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Today's rainy condition has forced me to spend my morning in the den. Looking back through my recent photos, this photo of a Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, taken on Wednesday, caught my attention. Jeanette and I had taken Buster for an afternoon walk at Mt. Fir Park in Independence.  Buster, although cooperative in leaving the apartment, and eager to get out of the car, was not much interested in walking.  In fact, he refused to walk, and was only interested in sniffing the first spot of grass we came to.  Bird activity was quiet, so I was kind of stuck.  In looking around for any possible bird activity, this big bright butterfly caught my attention. It was busy in a bramble of blackberries, going from blossom to blossom harvesting nector. Close observers of this photo may notice that the right wing is damaged with a good portion missing. Yet here it is carrying on with its daily life.  Perhaps there is a lesson to learn here, some easy analogies come to mind.  For more images of Western Tiger Swallowtails from the Cascade Ramblings Critters section click here.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Rickreall Creek

Rickreall Creek flows right through our small town of Dallas, and only a couple of blocks from our residence in the Dallas Retirement Village.  Along the creek's banks are several city parks and a creek side trail. We feel so fortunate to have this wonderful resource so close and available. Birds enjoy it too, and at this spot this morning Jeanette and I saw two Green Herons.  This bubbling brook seems to drown out all the noise of national problems of race, disease and politics, and during the time we spend exploreing it's shady trails we breath easier. We are indeed fortunate beyond measure.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Birding With Out Crowds

During these confining times of Covid-19 and all the worries about social distancing, birding has served us well.  This trip taken yesterday morning to Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, a mere 10 minutes from our house, is a perfect example. We walked for an hour and half on this road, called the South Slough transect path, and never saw a single soul. It was just us and the birds in the wide open spaces, with sunshine, blue skies, and all the fresh air we could breath.  Check out our bird list and photos here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Play Date with Madeleine

Madeleine our grand-daughter lives in Springfield, so with Covid-19 we have not gotten to see her in person.  We keep in touch via phone calls, but that's not the same as in person. Our last get together was in February 19th at the City Park in Monroe.  With Phase 1 in place we decided to meet up again at the same park.  Michael brough baseball stuff and Madeleine's trike and we all had a fun time.

 "Grama-nett" demonstrates taking a swing

 Madeleine takes a swing

 Madeleine readies her trike

off on a trike trip

lunch time

The Long Timber Brewey was our planned lunch stop.  We put on our masks to enter the brewey only to find it had just started closing on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Plan "B" became to drive to Junction City and get a Subway to take to a park.  We found tables at Laurel Park, which worked out great for a picnic in the sunshine.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Patience Pays Off

White-crowned Sparrow with a mouthful

On Friday morning I went out on a practice route for the bird-walk that I would be leading here at the Dallas Retirement Village on Saturday. We have a number of nesting sites that I am trying to keep tabs on, but because it's that time of year when adults are feeding babies, they are ever so cautious as not to give away the nest location.  The adult White-crowned Sparrow in the photo above caught my attention with his scolding peeps, causing me to pause my travel.  How it could accomplish scolding me with his mouth crammed full of bugs, is a complete mystery. I decided to not heed his warning scolds and patiently wait it out and perhaps discover the nest site.  I backed away behind a gate and the edge of a building to conceal myself and wait.  Still it kept scolding.  I realized that the bright yellow Franz bread delivery truck backed up to the building might be what it was actually upset with, so I waited.  Eventually the driver finished his delivery and left, and to my good fortune the bird ceased its scolding and flew to another post, then down to the ground, and after circling a couple of rose bushes, entered the particular bush containing the nest. I waited for it to leave and then did a quick shearch and took a photo with my cell phone shown below.
baby White-crowned Sparrows

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Fist Bird Walk at Dallas Retirement Village

This morning Jeanette and I got to lead our first Bird Walk at Dallas Retirement Village.  It was origninally on the schedule for April 4, but Covid-19 canceled that. So today, adhearing to the protocol of Phase 1, we had 10 participants, all wearing face masks, and keeping 6 feet of distance.  We counted 40 birds total, representing 14 different species. You can see the observation list here. The plan is to continue every Saturday morning with these limits of people, masks and distance until they are lifted.  

The most exciting bird of the day was this fledgling Western Bluebird.  I just missed by fractions of a second geting the dad in the frame feeding this young one.  At a second Western Bluebird nesting site, we got to see another dad waiting for us to leave before taking a mouthful of insects to the box.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Nesting Update

Keeping track of bird nesting activity here at the Dallas Retirement Village is becoming a very engrossing activity for me. Here are a varity of experinces from this morning's bird walk. Click on the photos for an enlarged image.

The most exciting find this morning was this  female Western Bluebird setting on her nest.  This pair had shown interest in the nest early on, but never seemed to settle.  There was never any observation of the pair carrying nesting material, then one day a while back I checked the box just to verify my suspicion that a nest had never got started.  To my complete surprise there was a completed nest inside.  I stepped up my observations, trying to visit everyday, still no sign of them coming or going.  This morning I made another check and this is what I found a female setting on her nest.

Another site we checked this morning was this White-crowned Sparrow's nest in a rose bush.  The female exited the nest as I started to investigate, which led to this photo of four eggs. I had last checked it on Monday and there were four eggs then, so I think this is the total and she is now setting.

This female Violet-green Swallow was seen making several trips in and out of the nesting box.  After she left I inspected the box and found an empty nest, so I'm guessing she is putting the final touches in before she starts to lay her eggs.

Another female Violet-green Swallow was checking out this nesting box on NW Bonanza Ave.  House Sparrows were around here earlier this year, but have not taken up residence here.  I realized today that the entrance may be to small for Sparrows, but this Swallow was able to enter.

I think she might have been suprised that a Black-tailed bumble bee possibly had some interest in the box also. (following visits saw the bumble bees coming and going, but not swallows)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

"Take-Out" to New High Level

Yesterday we met friends Ron and Mary from California at the The Territory Restaurant in The Independence Hotel. It was the first day of the resturant's re-opening with an adaption to Covid-19 of a new "take-out" ony menu.  We walked into the lobby not knowing we were supposed to phone in the order.  We were their very first customers, and they were very gracous with waitress Jill Peters taking our order right in the lobby.  Because Ron and Mary had booked a room we had access to the Roof Top Deck on top of the 4th floor to use for our dinning.

We had the deck to ourselves and Jeanette had thought of everything, and bringing a table cloth, paper plates, plastic cups, beverages, and cookies.

The waitress called me when our take-out order was ready and I went down and picked it up. Jeanette, Mary, and I had Cuban sandwiches, Ron had a French Dip sandwich. The food was outstanding.

The view overlooking the Willamette River was also outstanding, and we could keep our eye on the Osprey nest while we ate our lunch.

The female Osprey was setting on the eggs, while the male who has just brought in an additional stick for the nest, was waiting his turn to sit on the eggs, which the staff explained now has three eggs.

It was strange to look down on the Canada Geese flying on the Willamette River.  Of course I had to make a bird list, which you can see here.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Nest with Eggs!

As I posted last time,  my daily routine here at the Dallas Retirement Village now includes checking several bird nesting sites, and one of the species I showcased was the White-crowned Sparrow who have made a nest in a rose-bush at the Jasper Street walk-in gate. On this morning's rounds I discovered the nest now has three eggs!  Reading up on I learned that White-crowned Sparrows normally have 4 to 5 eggs, so we may have more eggs to come.

Other observations from my morning include a female Violet-green Swallow in a nesting box, a pair of Dark-eyed Junco in a prossible nesting area, Western Bluebirds engaged in breeding activity, and a family of recently fledged House Finches.  You can see my e-Bird observation list here.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Checking Nesting Sites

male Western Bluebird

The emphasis of my birding here at Dallas Retirement Village is currently concentrating on keeping track of nesting sites.  All three photos shown here were taken this morning while making my rounds. The first nesting site that I started monitoring was a nesting box I put up in the garden area for Western Bluebirds earlier this year.  The bluebirds were active around the box for some time and then seemed to disappear.  I would spot them or other bluebirds at various locations around the Village.  Then, a few days ago I decided to look into the nesting box.  To my suprise there was a completed nest, even though I had not seen any coming or going with materials.  Today when I came by, both the male and the female where in the garden area.  So, I'll just keep on checking back and hopefully at some point I will see evidence of a some baby chicks.

female Violet-green Swallow

The second nesting site I started watching was this nesting box I put up for swallows at a water collection basin in the south-west corner of the Village.  There as been a lot of activity around it with other swallows plus an unwanted House Sparrow.  In the end it appears that a pair of Violet-green Swallows have won out and have started to make a nest.

male White-crowned Sparrow

The third nesting site I have started paying attention to is a nest being made by a pair of White-crowned Sparrows.  I happened to catch a glimpse of one carring nesting material into a rose bush.  Further checking later in the day I found the nest under construction in the center rose bush of a set of three.  This morning the singing male caught my attention on this post above the nesting area.  I'm a little confused because my assumption is that once a nest is started the male is pretty quiet not to call attention to the nest site.  So, only time will tell as to the outcome of all three of these nests.  In the meantime it gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Covid-19 Emergency Kit

Because Covid-19 has restrooms closed, and because we like to get out and go birding every day, one of the biggest limiting factors is restroom availability. In other words, it is only safe to travel a short distance from home. Today our combined genius put together an emergeny kit to solve this problem. Here are the necessary components:

1. Collapsible Bucket - this is a three liter bucket that collapses down to only 2" in height.  We bought it next door at the Grocery Outlet for $4.99.

2. Toilet Waste Bag - we bought these Double Doodie bags from Sportsman Warehouse.  They are a double bag system with a special poo powder in the inner bag that will solidify waste and contain odor.

3. Toilet Paper - because of their compactness, we are using mini Kleenex packs. Bags and TP can be stored inside the collapsed bucket.

We will now be able to travel safely with out the danger of facing a catastrophe.