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.