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.