Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review

Two major changes loom dramatically in my mind as I review 2011 for Jim, Jeanette and Buster.   At the end of June we made the decision to end our volunteer work. This brought to a close many years of volunteering with Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Oregon State Parks, and Arizona State Parks. While volunteering had provided an economical means for us to have adventures, it had begun to extract a price in energy and freedom. By September we began to feel that our thirty-one foot Holiday Rambler motorhome was too much, and we downsized radically to a twenty-four foot Winnebago View, which in addition to being much easier to drive, costs half as much to operate.  Age, health, and money all have played into these decisions, but our hope is that we will continue to enjoy traveling and camping, perhaps in smaller economical campgrounds, and have the time to pursue our love of birding more fully.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter Escape of 2009

The dark rainy days here at the end of December are providing me with lots of time to sort through photos and write reviews for Today, it’s going back to our trip to Death Valley in January of 2009.  Some great days of camping, hiking, and sunshine with our friends Dan & Charlene Lawry. I am shown here checking my altimeter at the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Just took this photo of a male Purple Finch at our feeder this afternoon.  It's color seems to be the most Christmasy I could probably find, so Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mother and Child

I took this photo last week of these two Lesser Scaup, but it wasn’t until I got home and was looking closer at the images on my computer that I realized what I had.  In the fore ground is a female adult, and in the background is a juvenile.  Notice the mother has just returned to the surface with something in her mouth.  According to Wikipedia, “The origin of the name scaup may stem from the bird's preference for feeding on scalp - the Scottish word for clams, oysters, and mussels.” So, I’m guessing that maybe that’s a freshwater clam or mussel in her mouth.  We watched both ducks dive several times, so I know the juvenile is capable of finding its own food, but like its human counterpart, this juvenile still looks to mom to provide it something to eat. 

Monday, December 19, 2011


It seems I’ve got a new winter project, writing reviews on campgrounds. Some time ago, like maybe this summer, I installed a free App on my I-Pod for I’ve used it a little, and on our last trip to California, I began to see its real worth.  Not only is it helpful in locating an RV park or campground to stay in, you can also leave a review which can later serve to remind you what you liked or did not like about the park and what you paid. On top of that you can post photos, which again can serve as a nice reminder of your time.  I’m beginning to see it has kind of my own collection of campground information. Of course others can do the same, and so collectively it begins to really be a huge source of information, and it’s all free.  So, my project now is to review all the parks and campgrounds we have stayed in and add photos, that should keep me busy for some time.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Continuing Search

It’s becoming a habit of mine to search out the warmest spot around for a hiking/birding destination.  I check the weather forecast for several towns, and follow up with a look at the web cams. With cold fog hanging in the inland valleys, the coast has been the winning area lately.  Yesterday, Coos Bay was the warmest around by about five degrees, so I settled on the John Topits City Park for an afternoon bird walk. The park has a great network of paved trails that circle the Empire Lakes. One of the birds that we saw and I photographed is shown here, a male Ring-necked Duck on Lower Empire Lake. I also got some photos of a juvenile Lesser Scaup on Upper Empire Lake. It seemed like birds were a little scarce, but the warm sunshine was an ample reward, and still we ended up with 14 different species identified.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In Search of Warmth and Birds

The reported sighting of a Snowy Owl in the Siltcoos Estuary last week, and my search for the warmest nearby weather, came together to suggest a birding trip yesterday.  Our Friend Janet Schaller went with us for an afternoon trip to the Siltcoos Recreation Area, north of Reedsport.  We didn’t see the owl, but in all honesty the warmth of the sun and the abundance of other birds caused us to kind of forget about the Snowy. There were a large number of Bufflehead Ducks on the water, Yellow-rumped Warblers flittered in and out among the trees in search of bugs, and the normally shy Hermit Thrush, seemed extra curious in regards to our presence. In all we spotted 16 different species of birds, a glorious afternoon of sunshine and birding.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Back to Home & Routine

We are back home in Elkton and into our normal routines.  Jeanette is shown here at coffee this morning at Arlene’s CafĂ© with her exercise friends.  The group meets weekday mornings at 6:30 for exercise, followed by coffee at 7:30. I usually monitor the coffee hour. Without a local newspaper it’s one of the better ways to know what’s going on.   

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Here is a number of little tidbits of information for you.

--we did get the generator repaired and by noon on Friday it was reinstalled in the Winnebago and running.

---after an assessment of all things, we decided that this was the time and place for our turn around and to head home.  We made a quick stop for groceries, and fuel, and grabbed a hamburger.

--- the greater Chico area had one more challenge to  hurl in our face, it seems the hamburger was not quite right and by that evening after stopping in Red Bluff for the night we were fighting food poisoning.
---- after dragging out of bed late morning we managed to drive as far as Medford where we spent the night at Pear Tree RV Park, and will continue on to Elkton today. (in much better health)

--- if you read this blog on a handheld device like a smart phone, you will notice that the format has been changed, simplified, and with a white back-ground.  Evidently Blog Spot (Google) decided for whatever reasons, to make the change.  I noticed it affected all blogs that I read that use Blog Spot.  If you read this blog with a regular computer it will still be with the green background.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grimy Gulch

We are still waiting “semi-patiently” in Chico for our generator to be repaired, so the idea for today’s post is drawn from a side trip we took few days back while staying at Black Butte Lake.  Jeanette had talked with the Ranger and found out about free camping available at Stony Gorge Reservoir some 25 miles away.  So we took off one afternoon to investigate.  No campgrounds were shown on the map nor listed in any of the books I have.  We saw no signs and drove past a road we should have taken, but after some back tracking we finally located the right road and found the campgrounds.  They were closed, and I would have to say it was almost a sense of relief, because the name "Grimy Gulch" did not leave me with a feeling of clean campsite. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Aloha Black Butte Lake

We didn't know it at the time, but Tuesday was our last afternoon of soaking up the sun at Black Butte Lake. Where we were camped at Buckhorn Campground, there are no hookups, so we ran the generator a couple of times a day to keep the batteries charged up. Because the air mattress in our Comfort Couch uses an electric pump to inflate and deflate, we scheduled our generator time with our getting up and going to bed time. We also used this time to charge up our laptops, cell phones, I-pods, and MiFi. During this charging session on Tuesday night our generator abruptly stopped. I’ll spare you the rest of the details. The short version is we are now in Chico having the generator repaired under warranty at Jeff’s Truck Repair. They removed it from the RV yesterday and are working on it and hopeful they will be able to reinstall it this afternoon.  We have spent the night at nearby Almond Tree RV Park with all the luxuries of full hook-ups---electricity, water, sewer, and cable TV.  Our general plan is to be back in Oregon in time for Jeanette to keep a doctor’s appointment on the 21st.  In the mean time we will knock around this part of California soaking up the sunshine as long as we can.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Birding Overdose

We went birding at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge yesterday and kind of overdosed on birding.  I believe Sacramento NWR is one of the premier bird refuges in the nation; it is certainly the best one I have ever visited.  We were here the first time in March of 2005 and spent two days birding, but everyone said we were too late to witness the spectacular Snow Geese migration.  This time we hit it.
The afternoon started out innocent enough.   At the Visitor Center I noticed a Snowy Egret in a pond; Jeanette spotted a pair of House Finches in a tree.  On park personnel’s recommendation we start the 6 mile driving loop.  A Vulture soars overhead, a Flicker flees for cover, and a Black Phoebe sits on the fence.  The list is starting to grow.  The first water way holds a dozen Coots, a similar number of Mallards and a couple of Marsh Wrens.  We drive on and spot two Ravens and admire a swooping Northern Harrier.  This is the greatest.  A half dozen White-crowned Sparrows dart along the road. Ring-necked Pheasants can be seen in twos and threes. Our numbers are increasing. Meadow Larks work the ground, a Red-tailed Hawk is perched in a tree, and a lone American Pipit walks a shoreline. The count is really expanding.  A larger pond reveals Pintails, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, and Great White-fronted Geese.  Too many, we will just have to estimate their numbers. We drive on to a larger pond, covered with signature Snow Geese so numerous we cannot see the water.  We cannot even guess their number.  Now we notice ponds to our right as well as are left contain Snow Geese, the air is filled with birds in flight, who could possibly know their numbers. About this time we realize this is not a place to count birds, just check off species.  I photograph and Jeanette tries to discern Ross’s Snow Goose from the common Snow Goose. My eyes are burning, my mind is numb, we stop for a cup of coffee.  Bufflehead, Avocets, Cinnamon Teal and Ring-necked Ducks catch our attention.  We are only halfway around our six mile loop, but I make a pronouncement---we need to leave, I have birded enough.  We start to drive, but spot some Least Grebes, a Nuttall’s Woodpecker in a thicket, a Great Blue Heron lumbers overhead, a Great Egret stands alone, a Bald Eagle watches from a snag. I press on, Red-winged Blackbirds, Double Crested Cormorants, stop---what are those, Rudy Ducks?  Yes, in winter plumage. Drive, stop, juvenile Common Moorhens. Now I drive with determination, a flight of Juncos and a Robin.  I make it to the gate, we turn for our campground.  I need blinders to focus on the road, I wonder if I can drive to our site with my eyes closed. --- 38 species in all if you’ve counted.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nightmare at 3:00 AM

I don’t have a photo to go with today’s post, and it’s a good thing because it would be ugly.  At 3:00 this morning wind gusts against the motor home woke me up, and in the background I thought I could hear the refrigerator trying to start, and then the next thing I noticed was the warning flashing lights on the refrigerator.  Oh no,--- we are out of propane. 

On Thursday morning when we were leaving Red Bluff my propane tank had registered 1/3 so I stopped to get propane.  The attendant said the tank was full and he could not add any.  Motorhome gauges for propane, water, and sewer waste tanks are notoriously inaccurate, so I immediately concluded the gauge was wrong and went on my way.

On Friday we moved to the Buckhorn Recreation Area at Black Butte Lake, thirteen miles west of Orland, where we are camped without any hookups.  By Saturday the gauge read empty, stupid gauge.

At three o’clock this morning it was pretty easy to conclude we were actually out of propane.  The furnace came on about that time, and only blew cold air.  Jeanette tried lighting the stove as a test, no flame.  Now we are really in a pickle, because our generator also runs on propane, which means if the motor home battery is dead we would not be able to run the generator to recharge it. We assume the gates are locked until 7, so we are stuck. Now try going back to sleep with all that in your mind!

To bring this story to an end, daylight did eventually come, the motor home did start, we did leave the park, and we did get propane. 

As a footnote, while in town we did laundry, bought groceries, had lunch and visited Sacramento Wildlife Refuge. More on that tomorrow. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Good Morning of Birding

This morning was another bright sunny morning in California, only most import of all, we were free of the wind that had plagued us Friday night and all day Saturday.  Free of the wind we got a good start for a morning of birding, out the door and down the trail by 8:30.  We were rewarded with Western Meadowlarks, almost too numerous to count, easily over 4 dozen. A few even called out with their melodious song, like the one shown in the photo.  We hiked three miles in three hours and identified 23 species of birds.  An import additional sighting was a Coyote hunting for ground birds, who was unaware of our presence for a short time.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sunset at Black Butte Lake

I took this photo tonight thru the window of our Winnebago in our campsite at Buckhorn Campground at Black Butte Lake. We are set up in campsite #8, the same campsite we were in last year, click here to see that post. We plan on staying here as long as the good weather holds.  Last year we fled from here to escape a rain storm.  We have thought of this campground all year, yearning to return, at last we have, and we are looking forward to many days here with great birding.  Of the 90 sites here, only one other one seems to be occupied.