Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baby Chickadees

Just today we became aware that we had baby Black-cappedChickadees.  If you look closely you can count four.  We have been seeing some activity at the bird house for a number of days and were under the impression and hoping that they were building a nest.  Wrong, the nest had already been built, eggs laid, incubated, and hatched.  How could we have missed so much?  In past years this box has been used by Violet-green Swallows, and they are easy to spot with their long graceful swoops, and aerial insect catches.  After hearing the babies today and then watching closely, I realized the Chickadees have a much shorter exposer time.  They make a quick dart from the protection of the cherry tree a few feet away and enter directly into the bird house. Upon exiting they fly directly into the nearby fir trees and disappear to search for insects completely out of sight.  Swallows on the other hand, after their long swoops, land on the outside of the bird house hole and pause briefly before entering. Upon exiting they resume their swooping flight in full view for yet another insect.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

Buster Makes A Find

This morning when we stepped out of the car on Mehl Creek Road to do some birding, we spotted a Killdeer who immediately went into a series of strange body postures as shown in this photo.

We recognize this behavior as an effort on the killdeer’s part to lure us away from its nesting site.  We ride this section of road a lot on our bicycles and have long given up on finding the nest.  Killdeer make their nest right in the gravel and the eggs and chicks blend in so well it is always almost impossible to find.  Today two adult killdeer where doing their best to lure us away along the north side of the road.  As we were about to leave I went to call Buster and I noticed that he was on the south side of the road and had found something.  A closer look revealed that he had found the nest with four baby killdeer.  Buster never touched the chicks; he really does not have a killer instinct, just extremely curious.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Western Kingbird

Back in Elkton - - and back to the routine; which is to say, take Buster for the morning dog/bird walk.  This morning we took our familiar walk along the river out to the Elkton Community Education Center and back.  At the E.C.E.C. I spotted this lone Western Kingbird.  A while back we had two Kingbirds hanging out around the Post Office just across from our house.  But a short time ago we no longer saw them there but did see two out at the E.C.E.C. Now, for the last two times I have only seen one Kingbird.  My guess is this lone bird is the male and the missing one is the female who is sitting on a nest nearby.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Birding with Uncle Allen

Jeanette’s Uncle Allen is in a care unit on the north end of Corvallis.  We have been trying to coordinate a birding trip for him at the near-by Jackson-Frazier Wetland for several months.  Today all the forces of weather and schedule came together and his son Larry and wife Ginny brought Allen to Jackson-Frazier where we met to walk the board walk. The weather was perfect and we heard and spotted several Marsh Wrens as shown in the lower photo.  We also identified the unusual Sora, and Virginia Rail. Uncle Allen has been and inspiration and roll model for Jeanette and I for many years. He and his wife were RV’ers for many years, and he had a huge knowledge of birds. Early on in our birding hobby, we visited Uncle Allen and Aunt Fransie during the winter in Arizona.  He introduced us to several birds we did not know and impressed us with his ability to identify birds just by their song.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

Angry Wrentit ?

Yesterday this Wrentit seemed to strike an angry pose as it stared out of the bushes with its long tail held erect.  Since learning their song last year we have discovered that they are quiet numerous.  We now hear them almost daily, but rarely see them. They seem to prefer to stay well hidden in the brush, although their song clearly gives away their presence.  We have resorted to kind of a trick to be able to see them; we play their song from a bird App on an iPod, then they quickly appear from hiding. I’m not sure out of curiosity or a defense of territory, but they appear to lose all timidity and become very brave.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

I received an e-mail with an attached photo yesterday from Elkton resident, Paula Swanson.  She had just photographed this Rose-breasted Grosbeak at her back-yard feeder.  It took a while for my brain to kick into gear, and to realize what she had. This is a bird that for the most part resides east of the Rockies.  There have been very few sighting in Oregon, and none that I could find in Douglas County. It is indeed a rare sighting.  Fortunately she got this great photo so there can be no doubt about what she saw. Thanks Paula.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Western Tanager

We have been hanging around home here in Elkton for almost 2 weeks now. It’s pretty easy to understand why I am content with birding right here at home when you consider that I can walk right out my front door and in a couple of hours count over 2 dozen different species of birds,  and in that mix would be strikingly beautiful birds like this male Western Tanager. With the summer migrants back it’s interesting to see new/old friends in various swallows and warblers.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spotted Sandpiper

Returning from a day of shopping and running errands in Roseburg, we stopped at the Tyee Recreation Site on the Umpqua River to stretch our legs and do a little birding.  Spotted Sandpipers were the find of the day.  Several of them were carrying on in Killdeer fashion on some rocks along the river. They are interesting birds, and according to Burrows & Gilligan in their book Birds of Oregon, --“A  large female may mate with up to four males, each of which has the job of incubating her eggs and caring for the young” --- yikees!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Back Home in Elkton

We are back home in Elkton now, and Buster is enjoying some time just sit’n in the sun on our front patio.  I sat down for a little while just to enjoy it with him.  If it’s OK to “just sit” while camping, it should be OK to “just sit” at home. Hard to do, but I’ve decided to space out my yard work and such and allow more time to just sit in the sun.  I have a pretty good place to sit overlooking our little town of Elkton,   and it’s very enjoyable to observe the swallows build their nest in the bird house, and the finches and sparrows feed at the feeder.  We may just stay home for a couple of weeks and soak it all up.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Western Bluebird

We spent 3 hours birding this morning here at Champoeg StatePark.  Compared to my expectations it was below par.  I was hoping to spot something unusual, or a species we hadn’t identified before, but it was basically the usual.  I remembered that efforts have been made to attract and support Western Bluebirds at this park, and we did see some today. The most curious thing we saw where these blue plastic mayonnaise jar lids attached to the top of fence posts.  I suspect they were for placing food for the bluebirds, like mealworms, but at a distance with only the naked eye, Jeanette and I both mistook them for bluebirds several times.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Butteville Store

We left Memaloose State Park this morning, making stops in the Portland area at Camping World for a couple of items, Petco for dog food, Albertsons for people food, and Kordell’s Produce & Nursery for a quick visit with Patty & Kordell.  We are now set up at Champoeg State Park for the next three days.  This afternoon I actually took the bikes off the rack and we rode them around the park and then up to the Butteville Store. The Butteville Store is only open from Thursday thru Sunday, and of course we are only here from Monday thru Wednesday. But I’m not complaining, the weather is perfect.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Empty Campground

Our campground here at Memaloose State Park is practically empty this afternoon.  The hordes of campers that filled up this park last night, for the most part all packed up and left this morning.  Evidently most were working people and have to be at work tomorrow.  The lesson here to remember is that Sunday afternoon is the easiest time to get a campsite.  Or it could be that being retired does give one an advantage.  However let me point out that retirement is directly connected with age, and getting old has damn few advantages.   

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Memaloose State Park

We moved on to Memaloose State Park on the Oregon side of the Columbia today, where we are quite pleased with our site.  We were getting a little weary of the wind at Horsethief Lake, but here the campsites are very protected from the wind with lots of trees, and yet we still have ample sunshine. We continue to relive our honeymoon bicycle tour here in the Columbia River Gorge with this move to Memaloose.  In fact we have stayed here many times over the years with other cyclist, hikers, and family, and as always it is a very pleasant oasis. In route to our campsite this morning we stopped in The Dalles for groceries and diesel.  This gypsy style of RV life continues to hold its magic for us as we enjoy all the comforts of home in a constantly changing outdoor setting.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Second Day

We have elected to hide out from the rain for a second day here at Horsethief Lake State Park, which is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River just beyond The Dalles.  Horsethief Lake itself is not a naturally lake, but a backwater created by The Dalles Dam. In the background is Horsethief Butte, which has a hollow interior where supposedly in the old days horse thieves would hide their stolen horses. Now days it is used primarily as a training location for rock climbers.
The top photo of the lake and butte was taken yesterday afternoon.  The lower photo of the mother and goslings was taken early this morning.  There is more wind here than we would like today, but there is sunshine and no rain.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Horsethief Lake State Park

If you have followed this blog for very long, you know that seeking out sunshine and warm weather borders on being a religion with me.  This again was our goal on this trip, and the driest and warmest area I could find was the Columbia River Gorge.  We drove up here today from Salem through Portland in record breaking rain.  The further East we drove along the Columbia River the more the weather cleared. Our camping destination for the day ended up being Horsethief Lake State Park. As you can see from the photo, no rain, just blue skies and sunshine!
This story also has a very interesting and personal coincidence.  Jeanette and I were married 19 years ago on May 9th.  For our Honeymoon we did a bicycle tour of the Columbia River Gorge, and Horsethief Lake State Park was one of the places we camped. I even think this is the same campsite we stayed in then. Click on this link for the Trip Journal report from that trip. We plan on staying here a couple of nights and then move to Memaloose State Park for a few days, another campground from our Honeymoon Trip.