Friday, May 31, 2013

Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area

Our daughter Lisa took this unposed photo of Jeanette and I while we were all birding at the Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area this morning. I think I’m probably playing a bird song on my iPod, and Jeanette is looking for the bird in a tree. The Luckiamute SNA is an outstanding destination for hiking, birding and canoeing that is largely unknown and way under used.  It is located where the Luckiamute River flows into the Willamette River between the towns of Independence and Albany.  A tremendous effort has been made by the state and the Luckiamute Watershed Council to remove invasive plants and shrubs and plant a wide variety of native plants, shrubs and trees.  This should continue to develop over the years to be an outstanding area to enjoy nature.  I think this is our forth visit here and each time we leave impressed, vowing to return again.  By the way they need Volunteer Hosts for the months of May and June.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Study in Grosbeaks

Black-headed Grosbeaks are a common sight at everyone's feeders at this time of year.  Their striking contrast of colors always catches my attention and because of their unique plumage they are an easy species to identify. I always enjoy their brief visit each Spring when they arrive from their Winter homes in Mexico. I have recently become well enough acquainted with their song to identify them on a daily basis from their hidden perches high in the dense tree top foliage. Yesterday at the feeder my observations brought me to some new understanding and appreciation.  A quick glance at the above photo will probably tell you that you are looking at two male Black-headed Grosbeaks.  But a closer examination will reveal that only the bird on the right has a complete black head, whereas the bird on the left has an orange area back of the eye not filled in with black yet.  After consulting The Sibley Guide to Birds I have come to understand that the bird on the left has the non-breeding plumage of a first summer male.  A confirmation of that identification was an observation of their behavior at the feeder.  The mature male in the full back head of its breeding plumage was in control of the feeder.  The younger one, awkward at trying to hold his own on the feeder, had to wait his turn.  Once the older bird had had his fill the younger bird was allowed to take his place at the feeder. I find this fascinating in that despite that fact that the younger one has flown to Mexico and back under his own power there is still a protocol or pecking order to follow.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cherry Picker

If you have ever wondered how birds are able to eat cherries off of a tree, here is the answer-----one little bite at a time.  This is a Cedar Waxwing eating a cherry that I photographed yesterday while taking Buster on his morning walk here in Elkton.  There were ten to twenty birds feasting away in this one tree. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Soaking Up the Sun

This Western Pond Turtle appears to have a smile on his face as he lays on a log soaking up the sun with his feet tucked up into his shell. Notice, he also appears to have his eyes half close too. I took this photo yesterday in Cottage Grove at the Row River Nature Park. While Jeanette did the grocery shopping, Buster and I went for a walk in the park.  I was set on looking for birds, but the many turtles lying out in the sun grabbed my attention. There are several ponds in the park, and every pond has several logs, and every log had a turtle or two on it.  They all seemed to be Western Pond Turtles; I did not see any Red-Eared Sliders, which is a good thing as they are an invasive species that is threatening the native Westerns. I did eventually get back to birding and managed to find 23 different species. All of us, the turtles, Buster, me and the birds, all seem to enjoy the sun.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kingbird Nest

I love watching birds this time of year when all the nesting is taking place. There is so much to observe and learn and I find it very fascinating. I spotted a pair of  Western Kingbirds and this nesting site a few days back on the 11th while walking on Melh Creek Road.  At that time they were just getting started and it was only a couple of pieces of grass lying across the electrical transformer supports. When I returned with camera yesterday they had made real progress in the seven day period. The lower photo is a close-up view so you can see the female on the nest.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Finished Product

This is the finished nest of the Bullocks Oriole. It’s been quite fascinating to watch the progress of the nest building at the Elkton Community Education Center.  You can see an earlier photo of the nest I posted on the blog a few days back on the 11th. We first spotted the nest on the 8th of May, and I’m sure there was a day or two of work already put in, so maybe it’s taken a week, or 7 days, to build the nest. As I mentioned before, the female does the nest building, but don’t assume the male does nothing, because as we have observed, he does preform an important function, that of guarding the nest site.  As the nest construction was underway there was a lot of territorial dispute going on with a pair of Western Kingbirds who had also started a nest in the same tree.  The male Kingbird would stubbornly try to hold his ground, but there were repeated attacks by the male Oriole. Today when I took this photo, it looks like the Orioles have won out and the Kingbirds have move to another location.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Checking Out Beaver Creek

We drove up to Beaver Creek State Natural Area yesterday to refresh our memory of the layout at the Visitors Center and get some questions answered by the current Hosts.  We arrived around 10:00 AM and discovered the Visitors Center hours are 12:00 to 4:00. Having some time to burn we decided to check out the trail system.  We had previously done the short trail from the Visitors Center down to the Marsh, but were interested in accessing the main trail area so drove around to the south end and walked the service road into the trail area.  We took the Beaver Creek Loop in a ways and then tried to make a short loop using the South Beaver Meadow Trail, only to lose the trail in the meadow and mistakenly start up the Beaver Creek Loop Trail the wrong way.  Having discovered my mistake we turned around a hiked back to the service road and back to the car. Bottom line is the trail system is still a work in progress and need more signage, but we enjoyed the exercise and the wild flowers.
 Yellow Monkey Flower
Bleeding Heart
Smith's Fairy Lantern

Sunday, May 12, 2013

July & August

We have just been offered, have accepted, and been confirmed as the Volunteer Hosts for the months of July and August for the Beaver Creek State Natural Area. One of Oregon’s newer State Parks, it was first opened in the fall of 2010. The Visitors Center is shown above, it may look different now, but this is the photo I took on our first visit in May of 2011. It is an opportunity we have been excited about since that first visit and saw the outstanding birding potential. There are miles of trails to hike within the park’s 375 acres, as well as lots of canoe and kayak opportunities in Beaver Creek itself. We will primarily be functioning as caretakers and manning the Visitors Center to answer questions and give out information.  It’s kind of a dream come true and we feel it will be a great fit for us. It is located less than ten miles south of Newport, and about a mile up Beaver Creek from Ona Beach State Park.

Jeanette and Buster at the trailhead near the Visitors Center - May 3, 2011

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bullock's Nest

Yesterday while at the Elkton Community Education Center checking on the progress of the nests I was able to get this shot of the female Bullock’s Oriole and her nest.  I say “her” nest on purpose, because she is the one that builds the nest. It’s partially completed at this point.  We have watched her enter the nest via the hole in the far side and then set about arranging the materials from the inside. About twenty feet below, in the same tree, a female Western Kingbird is building her nest.  We are going to enjoy keeping track of their progress, and or their tolerance of each other. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Brewer's Nest

This is a Brewer’s Blackbird nest with 5 eggs that I photographed today at the Elkton Community Education Center.  We went back today to check on the progress of the nest building going on with the Bullock’s Oriole and the Western Kingbird that we had found on Wednesday. We were happy to find the females still in the process, and we noticed something else, only one female would be working on her nest at a time, and when she was there, the male would be standing guard close by. They are only about twenty feet apart in the same tree.  Wednesday when we were here before, a pair of Brewer’s Blackbirds were also hanging out in the same tree, but at one point I saw one of them make a dash into the shrub row close by.  Today I went over to the shrubs and started looking, finally sticking my head clear into the shrubs and that’s when I found the nest.  I wanted to photograph the nest and eggs, and it took some perseverance as the rest of the Brewer’s showed up, about eight in all, protesting and dive bombing me.  We now have three nests to watch, all within in a few yards of each other.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

20th Wedding Anniversary

Today is mine and Jeanette’s twentieth wedding anniversary.  We started the day with an early morning bike ride out Mehl Creek Rd, then birding at Fords Pond in Sutherland, and lunch at Tolly’s Restaurant in Oakland. Jeanette is shown birding at Fords Pond. Damn, she is still sexy!  I’m such a lucky guy to have someone who enjoys tramping around out in the weeds looking for birds with me. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bullock's Oriole

Today was our weekly Wednesday Bird Walk which turned out to be very interesting. The highlight was spotting and identifying this singing male Bullock’s Oriole. It took quite an effort on my part to persuade the group it was not a Western Tanager. We also spotted a pair of Western Kingbirds and figured out their nesting site.  Jeanette and I were so intrigued to learn more about the Oriole that we returned after lunch to observe and photograph.  We were very pleased to see both the male and female Bullock’s Oriole, and then we were further excited to discover their nest and observe her working on arranging the materials.  This is in the same tree that the Western Kingbird is building her nest. There seems to be a territorial dispute, the noise of which is probably the reason we found the male Oriole in the morning.  To add to the mix there is also a male and female Brewer’s Blackbird hanging out in the same tree. We will be having a great time watching this location in the coming days.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Solitary Sandpiper

This Solitary Sandpiper is the newest addition to the Critters of Cascade Ramblings. It is somewhat of a rare bird for the region and a first for me, so a new addition to my Life List.  I spotted it along Rickreall Creek last week when we were in Dallas.  At first sight with the naked eye I thought it was a Spotted Sandpiper, but when I looked closer with my binoculars I realized it was not, and began to think of Yellowlegs, maybe Greater Yellowlegs or Lesser Yellowlegs, but troubled about the size.  Because I was able to take several photos, and later down-load them to the computer, then take a closer look and search several birding guides I finally figured out that I had a Solidary Sandpiper.   

Monday, May 6, 2013

Rhody Time

Its rhody time in the Northwest, that time of year we get to enjoy the multitude of flowering rhododendrons. This photo was taken on Thursday in the Dallas City Park where I always enjoy spending time walking and looking for birds. 

We have been in Dallas for the past several days visiting family, and attending grandson Jake’s First Communion.  Most surprising, on Thursday evening because of intense back pain I ended up in the Emergency Ward at the Salem Hospital, where after multiple tests and a CAT scan it was determined that I was suffering from gallstones. I’ve had a couple of up and down days since with medication, but appear to be on the mend today.