We made a return trip yesterday morning to Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge to hike, the second one in three days. The sweet song of the Meadowlark, combined with the rolling green hills and oak trees on the Rich Guadagno Memorial Trail put Jeanette and I back in our memories of Spring hikes in the Columbia Gorge. For many years we always made early spring trips to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area to hike and enjoy the wildflowers. We are finding these current early morning trips to Baskett Butte so invigorating that we are making them a part of our normal schedule. This trailhead is so close to the Dallas Retirement Village where we live, and yet standing on the butte and looking out over the Willamette Valley below, we seem transported to a different world. In the words of writer David Petersen, this is our Nearby Faraway.
Fawn Lilies, also known by some as Trout Lilies, and a I recall mother called Lamb's Tongue are at their peak right now.
This one I could use some help identifying. I'm thinking it's in the Mallow Family. Any help out there?
Our birding destination for yesterday morning, after finding a locked gate at Sarah Helmick State Park, was the Willamette River Trail in Independence. We are very grateful that city parks are open to walk in even though restrooms are locked. Jeanette is shown here demonstrating her emergency face mask, a gloved hand over her nose and mouth. The sign calls attention to Gov Brown's proclamation of 6 foot social distancing. This concrete walkway at 8 feet wide works well, and all the walkers we meant were very observant and courteous. Below are the birds I was able to photograph. For the complete observation list click here.
A pair of Common Mergansers in Ash Creek caught our attention right away. This is the male, the female is out of the frame.
An Osprey passed overhead. Their nest site is close by in the Riverview Park
A Northern Flicker was busy working on a nesting cavity.
After lunch today, just before the rain started again, we took Buster for a dog/bird walk on a section of the Rickreall Creek Trail starting at the Dallas Pickleball Courts. The first thing that caught my attention was this cluster of Giant Trillium (Tillium chloropetalum). I used to enjoy taking wild flower photos while hiking long before I became obsessed with birds. Flowers were much easier to photograph as they stand still.
Bushtits were seen in pairs today, indicating that nesting season has started. Look for their sock-like hanging nests.
Our friend Mary Coleman commented yesterday on Evening Grosbeaks, as loving "how they holler from the tree top". We had a bunch of them in the the tree tops today, couldn't figure out at first what was going on. Hard to see with the poor light, but I did get this one photo.
Because I got a lot of possitive feedback today on posting a Trip Journal entry from 2003, I am including a link here for a hike I did on Rickreall Creek five years ago in March of 2015. As I re-read it today, I was struck how my thoughts then, still ring true today.
A different bird caught our attention this morning during a quick bird walk at Kingsborough City Park here in Dallas. We make it a point to get out everyday and visit a park to get in a walk for ourselves and Buster and count and photograph birds. Today we were rewarded with this unusual sighting of a male Grosebeak. Checking eBird records I found out that this the first sighting of an Evening Grosebeak this season in the combined counties of Polk, Lincoln, Yamhill, and Marion. In looking closer, it is also been several years sense any have been reported in the Dallas area. Reading in the Field Guide to Birds of Oregon by David Irons (my new favorite bird book), I learned that Evening Grosbeaks, who breed at mid to higher locations, make a spring migrations to the lower elevations of the Willamette Valley to feed on the buds of deciduous trees. Note the buds in the photo. Taking daily birdwalks is what we do, and for the most part we see many of the same birds over and over, but today was great fun to find this some what unusual bird.
Today is a new month, April the 1st. However, with the current world wide pandemic and forced isolation, April Fools Jokes are probably the last thing on anyones mind. Instead, we have found ourselves these days being more focused on connecting with friends via telephone and concerned about each others good health.
I am getting a lot of positive feed-back from people that read this blog, which encourages me to post even more. I just glanced at this past month, and in the month of March, I posted 12 times. Which is a big up-tic from what has dropped down to only posting 3 or 4 times a month. In fact 12 is the highest number of posts in a month since December of 2017. I guess, staying home has given me the time and opportunity to be a little more observant of the things around me, like birds for instance.
Birding every day makes it easy to notice any change in birds and their behavior. Two days ago I wrote about the singing males that caught our attention, White-crowned Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, and for the past two days House Finches have been singing. Yesterday what caught our attention was new nesting activity here at Dallas Retirement Village. In the above photo, a Eurasian Collared-Dove has just delivered some nesting material to its nest building project under the eaves of the Lodge building. We also have several European Starlings building nests in similar locations. This morning we saw a pair of Dark-eyes Junco exit the bottom of a bush that could possible be a nest site. And of course I have been reporting on new nest building by the Osprey in Independence.
These are all encouraging signs that serve as a reminder that even in these troubled times, life in the natural world is still going on.
Yesterday morning we went back to Indepence's Riverview Park to physically check on the Osprey nest-site that we had been watching remotely for the past several days on the Independence Live Stream. When we got to the park we could only see one Osprey on the nest. So Jeanette decided to check on the nest using the live feed with her iPhone.
Lo and behold, there were two birds on the nest! I zoomed in with my camera and got this photo of the male placing a stick on the nest. Notice, the female with beak open continues to demand, encourage or complain.
Mean while, Buster is not much interested in hi-tech, he trusts his old nose to check out a culvert.
If you haven't checked out the Independence Osprey Nest Live Stream, click on the link in the right-hand column of this blog page in the Rambler Recommended Links. Or you can also find the live stream by running a search in YouTube.
This singing male White-crowned Sparrow started our birding day yesterday morning. He was in the Central Court Yard of the Dallas Retirement Village Lodge where we live. Jeanette noticed him from our second story balcony patio, and called to me to get my camera. Calling male song birds announcing their presence in their best effort to attract a female is one of the great joys of spring. We went out for an hour birdwalk here in our village campus and counted 16 different species of birds. You can see our list of birds and photos by clicking here. You can also see the complete Illustrated Checklist of the 44 species observed here at Dallas Retirement Village by clicking here. Ironically, the last bird on our list as we returned to our apartment was this singing male Dark-eyed Junco shown below. He was on the roof top in the Central Court Yard.
Most of my mornings begin in a fog of despair over the conditions facing our nation with the corona virus and this presidency. Fortified with my morning coffee, I come up with a distraction for the day, which usually has to do with birds and some out door exercise. The discovery I have made this week is the amazing live stream from the Osprey Nest at the Riverview Park in Independence. It is possibly the best live stream I have ever seen. Right now is a perfect time to watch it as the pair of Osprey are just starting to develop the nest site. In the photo above taken off of my laptop screen yesterday, the male has just brought in a stick for the waiting female. The next action was x-rated, and was repeated many times. According to Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, this courtship behavior by Osprey can occour as many as fifteen to twenty times a day! Click on the link here and be ready to have something to watch in the privacy of your own home.
Today all the elements of weather, time of day, bird activity, good planning, and luck, came together to make for a successful morning. The weather was forcast for good in the morning, and it was, and as I write this in the afternoon I notice out my den window that it is raining. The plan was to check-out the Osprey nest at the Independence Riverview Park. From checking eBird records I knew that the earliest we have seen an Osprey at this nest site was March 30th in 2015. The earliest anyone has reported was March 2nd by Sally Hill in 2018, and the next earliest for anyone else was March 31 by Donna Bolt in 2019. So, I knew the time was close for the Osprey to make their return to this nest site. Sure enough as we were walking down the walk-way, Jeanette noticed a large bird in the sky, as it approached we reconized it was an Osprey, and to our great good fortune, she landed on the nest!
Osprey landing on the nest-site
It was a perfect morning in so many ways. For the first time in over three weeks Buster was back to his normal self, raring to go, anxious to explore. Not the sick dog that has wanted to just stay home or wait in the car. When we finished here, he still wanted more, so we drove on and checked out a second Osprey nest-site on the Buena Vista Road, and then stopped for another walk at Mt. Fir Park in Independence.
An important addition: The Osprey nest has a live stream available, click here. This is a great way to see what is going on at the nest site.
Today's weather forcast was cloudy with showers, so I thought it might be a good morning to go for a drive and survey the Osprey nest sites I keep an eye on in West Salem. Our last survey was made on March 15th, and the The Murlark Ave. site was the only one to have an Osprey on it. This was true again today. When we stopped to check the nest site the female flew in and commenced to cry. Then Jeanette noticed a second bird circling and crying overhead. Zooming in with the camera revealed that it was a male with a fish, and true to Osprey practice the the male had preemptively eaten off the head of the fish. I'm not sure why they both needed to be calling, perhaps some kind of bargaining was going on.
female on nest
male with fish
It should be noted that this driving trip was made in the morning before Govenor Brown announced at 11:00 her directive for Oregonians to stay home. I should also add, that Jeanette did a good job of driving and stayed 6 feet away from all the other cars.
As I have mentioned in the past couple of posts, we take Buster on a walk in a park on a daily basis. We normally only encounter a few other people walking the trails or paths we are on. In the past when we encountered others and Buster starts to bark we have always been apologetic as we restrain our killer dog on the leash and explain that he doesn't do well with people. Now with the requirement of social distancing in place, as we pass fellow park users with Buster on his 6 ft leash, we just smile and nod, assuming they realize we are just being sensitive and using social distancing.
As the corona virus further engulfs the world, the tightening controls are affecting us even here in the Dallas Retirement Village. All of the events, like the exercise classes we so enjoy and Picklball, have all been cancelled. Consequently we have adopted a new daily schedule for oursleves. Our morning starts out the same with coffee and news and breakfast. Then since Buster likes to sleep in, Jeanette and I go for a morning bird walk. This morning we drove to Independence where we walked the Riverview Park. This is where I got the photo above of a female Anna's Hummingbird. You can see the complete bird list here. When we come back, there is generally a little computer time, and then lunch. After lunch when the day has warmed we take Buster for a bird/dog walk, which today was to nearby Kingsborough Park. I will write about that tomorrow. Returning home we usually rest and clean-up before going to dinner. Just as we were about to leave for the dinning room today, we got a notice on the phone from the dinning room that it would be closed. Tonight we got a notice at our door with the new plan of a daily meal available for delivery each afternoon to our apartment. So our new plan will be private walks in the parks morning and afternoons, a meal delivered to our apartment, and we will provide our own breakfast and lunch. Jeanette has been working, and will continue working on movie streaming to break up the TV news. So this is our new normal.
These are troubling days for sure with the problems of the corona virus pendemic and the resulting quarantines, but our habit of daily birding seems to be serving us well. We get out and get some exercise and if lucky soak up some sunshine. Birding is sort of an anti-social sport to begin with as looking for birds means seeking out the quite environments where birds are most likely to be seen.
Our day did not start out yesterday as a birding event. We went to check out an RV which turned out to be a dud. Because it involved a couple of hours of driving, the darkest part of the day reared it's ugly head in the form of Buster's travel anxiety. We are not sure if his anxiety starts out as excitement and anticipation of an adventure or if it is the discomfort of constant motion in the car. Regardless, what starts out as a small amount of whining, builds with each mile and minute to a full state of panic which is only cured by stopping for a break. The result is that we can only drive about 15 miles at a time, so an hour's drive ends up to be two hours of frustrating endurance.
This is the situation we found out selves in yesterday when we stopped in desperation at the Jackson-Frazier Wetland on the north-end of Corvallis. And here is where the miraculous cure of birding takes place. We get out of the car, breath in some fresh air, feel the warmth of the sunshine, start to look for birds and Buster begins his search for what ever it is he smells. Right away we realize because we were focused on a quick trip to look at an RV, we had not brought our binoculars or my camera. The question is, "can we find and identify birds with out binoculars"? In the photo above, taken with my iPhone, Jeanette points out a shiny bright male Rufus Hummingbird. Easily seen and reconized without binoculars, so we are off to see what else we can find. In the end we were able to identify 20 different species of birds by either sight or sound. Our level of stress and tension evaporated as the sights and experiences of the wetland took over our consciousness. Our pledge to ourselves in enduring the next however many weeks or months, is to make sure to fill our days with birding time.
Thanks to a text from my friend Kevin Wright yestday afternoon, I was alerted to his first sighting of the year of a returning Osprey at a nest site on Buena Vista Rd south of Indepence. In short order Jeanette and I and Buster were out the door and driving to the Osprey nest site where we found this female. We were lucky enough to get a photo before she took off. We have been keeping an eye out for Osprey as mid to late March is normally the earliest arrival date for their return from their winter hang-out in Mexico and places south. From there we checked out the nest site in Independence at the River View Park. It was empty, so we decided to drive on to West Salem to check out some more nest sites.
This is the nest site on Murlark Av., which has always been the nest where we see the first Osprey every year. We were thrilled to find a bird here too. The earliest past observation was March 18th 2018. We also checked out the nest sites on Patterson St and the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve on Eola Drive. Both were empty. This nest site has a new look this year. Salem Electric who put up the poles and platforms, have replaced the wooden platforms with a metal platform on this site and also the Patterson and Audubon sites.The sticks you see on this platform were placed they by Salem Electric I presume to give the Osprey a little encouragement.
With Jeanette and Buster on the sick list, I traveled solo to Springfield to spend some time with Michael and Madeleine. Michael took us to the Booth Kelly Trailhead, a new park that he has discovered and enjoys walking. The park occupies a portion of the Booth Kelly mill site, and contains a large water filtration pond that makes for good bird habitat.
Red-winged Blackbirds were the most numerous birds. Shown here is a male calling and displaying. Dispite seeing several males displaying, we didn't see any females. See the bird list here.
After our moring walk in the park where I photographed birds, and Madeleine collected rocks, and watched the trains, we went to Cornucopia for lunch. Thanks Michael for a great walk and lunch.
A rainy afternoon has given me the leisure to sit at my desk in the den and contemplate this past week of birding, which finished off our second month here at Dallas Retirement Village. It has been a successful week, and for that matter two months. Almost daily in talking with other residents, they tell me there aren't very many birds here. At first I refused to be discouraged, and now I am continually puzzled. I don't claim to have extraordany bird finding skills, certainly don't have the best eyesight, and a good memory is a thing of the past. But I do get out everyday and look for birds, and that consitent effort, my friends, is what I believe breeds success. The following are high-lights from this past week.
Monday's suprise was this strutting Wild Turkey tom, doing his best to follow along and impress a dozen or so Wild Turkey hens. As it turns out these Turkeys roam freely through the Dallas Retirement Village yards and streets at their own discretion.
Tuesday's treasure was an Acorn Woodpecker male checking out a potential nesting cavity. Unfortunately when I checked the location this morning it looked like a pair of European Starlings has layed claim to this nesting site, as well as other Starlings are taking over a close-by site in a cottonwood tree which has housed an Acorn Woodpecker granary.
Wendsday's find was this Red-breasted Sapsucker. Usually known for their nice neat line-up of holes that serve as reservoirs for sap and traps for insects, this bird seems to be removing a large section of bark.
Thursday's bright spot was a pair of Western Bluebirds checking out a nesting box I have put up in the Dallas Retirement Village community garden area. Males, as shown here, always seem to like to check out the nesting box for several days before they allow the female to set up house.
Friday's sweet song came from a singing Spotted Towhee male. You can probably understand why this Towhee was formerly called a Rufus-sided Towhee.
Recently I resigned from my volunteer position at Salem Audubon Nature Reserve in West Salem. Now with Wednesdays free, I decided to take Jeanette and Buster on a day of adventure, and explore a new park for us to bird watch. My target for the day was Mt. Fir Park in the near-by town of Independence. This park is rather secluded which is probably why it was unknown to us and probably others. It is located off of F Street between 7th and 9th Streets. The 7 acre park borders the South Fork of Ash Creek and has an additional entrance from G Street. Originally, the land was part of the Mt. Fir Lumber Mill, but the land was donated to the city in the early 90's.
Inspiration Garden, developed by OSU Polk County Master Gardeners, is the centerpiece of the park. A concrete path, installed by the City of Independence, runs the length of the garden providing exellent all weather foot travel and handicap access.
Ash Creek borders the west side of Mt. Fir Park and provides a ripairian habit for birds and particularly water fowl like this pair of Mallards. See our bird list here.
We are excited about returning to this park in the seasons ahead as the plants, shrubs and trees blossom and lure in all kinds of birds. Also included in our day was an earlier stop at Sarah Helmick State Park for Buster, see our bird list here, and a stop at Suver Junction to photograph Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, see that bird list here. Our lunch stop was at the Pink House in Independence.
Our house has been sold, the money is in the bank, and we continue to discuss if we should buy a small van or not. The cheapest and simplest is to just have the car as our total transportation. So, to help us in making a decision, we had the idea of going to the coast for the day on Friday with our car. All our trips to the coast in the last 7 years or so have been in an RV, with all the conveniences of a toilet, kitchen, bed, lots of food and extra clothing. So, could we do a day-trip with out these comforts? Our first stop was at Holmes Road Park on Devil's Lake. Just discovered this past year, it has become one of our favorite stops for birding on the coast in the Lincoln City area. The sun was out and we got a good list of birds. Here are the photos.
After birding at the park we stopped at McDonalds for lunch, and then continued on to Lincoln City Outlets for some shopping. By early afternoon we were tired and drove home. So, what did we learn? We did fine without our personal restroom, we used the public toilets at the park, McDonalds, and the Outlets. We snacked on fruit and water we had brought and ate at McDonalds. It was easier to park at the Outlets in a car than in a RV. We considered it a success, particularly made possible because the coast is much closer from Dallas than from Salem. Maybe we can get by using the car for our birding adventures.
On Monday we met son Michael and grand-daughter Madeleine in Monroe at the City Park located on the banks of the Long Tom River for a morning adventure. This is one of our favorite birding spots, but Madeleine saw it through a different lens.
curious Madeleine and happy dad
tug over birds or puddles
Lambie barely survived
Following our adventure we went to the Long Timber Brewey for lunch. Our birding list can be seen here.