Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Back to Removing English Ivy

I'm back to removing English Ivy.   For the last two years I have volunteered at the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve.  One of my tasks has been working on the removal of Ivy, but now I feel it's time for me to turn my attention and energy to fighting the Ivy at Darrow Bar.  Darrow Bar is a property of Oregon State Parks and an access point of the Willamette Greenway.  Ivy, once planted to enhance garden landscaping has escaped and become a terrible invasive vine that left unchecked will climb trees and literally kill the tree. We use nearby Darrow Bar on a regular basis to walk and bird, so it's a place near and dear to my heart so to speak. It feels good to give back to a place we get so much from. My self assigned task is to "girdle" an affected tree, that is to say, cut all the ivy from a section of the tree, shutting off the life blood that feeds the towering vines. It's a beautiful thing to come back and see the dying vines high up in a huge tree and think I probably have saved that tree from what would be it's inevitable death.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Still Hanging Around

We were surprised to find an Osprey this morning while birding at Willamette Mission State Park.  I believe it to be a juvenile male who looks to be having a bad hair day.  He may be out of sorts because most of his kin have already left for Mexico or wherever. It's been over two weeks since we have seen an Osprey, in fact I posted about it on the 10th of this month.  When we first spotted this bird this morning we could only make out a silhouette, so I did my best to come up with some other bird, but it turned out indeed to be an Osprey who is still hanging around. Click on the photo below to see and enlarged view of the Osprey and the snag he is on.

Summer too seems to be still hanging around with abundant sunshine and warm temperatures, causing us to continue to hang around outdoors as much as we can finding as many birds as we can.
For todays bird list click here.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Seasonal Changes

Jeanette checking bird songs

Yesterday was one of those great fall days when you realize the season is changing, the temperature was a bit cooler and the sun a little less harsh. We selected the Rickreall Creek Trail in Dallas for a morning bird walk prior to watching the soccer games of grandsons Luke & Jake.  The trail is a wonderful place to walk and bird that we have been using and recommending for three years now. The city of Dallas continues to expand and improve the trail, a graceful concrete path that follows alongside Rickreall Creek, appropriate for all seasons. Our biggest birding challenge yesterday was identifying two different warblers.  The photo below is a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and the other bird which I did not get a photo of was a Yellow Warbler.  In checking bar charts on eBird for Polk County when I got home it was interesting to find that these last days of September are the cross-over point for these two warblers.  The Yellow Warbler, which has been around since April, is leaving for the winter.  And the Yellow-rumped Warbler that has been absent all of July and August and most of September is reappearing. To observe both of these warblers on a narrow cross-over point in time struck me as pretty amazing. Not only are there seasonal changes in the temperature, but also in the bird population.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Maud Williamson State Recreation Site

California Quail

You will need to look closely to see the chick being carefully guided by his concerned dad through the leftover stubs of the corn field. You can also see that dad has his eye on us as he  shepards the chick out of harms way. The corn field borders the west side of Maud Williamson State Recreation Site. On the east side, the park is bordered by the busy Salem-Dayton Highway.  This park was a gift to the State of Oregon by the family that once lived in the historic house located on site.  To be perfectly frank, the park gets used the most from motorists stopping to use the restroom, but Jeanette and I have discovered it to be a convenient and productive destination for birding.  It is one of probably close to a dozen parks that I have suggested to eBird as a birding Hot Spot. Two weeks ago when we last stopped here the adjoining cornfield was a tall jungle, impossible to see any birds.  On this trip the corn had been harvested, and the open field was being used by a variety of birds to glean the leftovers. You can see our birding list here.

Dark-eyed Junco

This park was one of four stops for the morning on a sort of "grand finale" of birding to close our summer with good friend John West prior to his returning to Arizona. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Hiding Place

On our way back from Central Oregon yesterday we stopped at Lyons City Park for a break and a bird walk.  Jeanette spotted this Green Heron fly by and drop deep into the grass to hide from us as Green Herons are prone to do. This  park centers around a former mill site and log pond that today offers hiding spots for a number of critters.

Perhaps the ugliest Great Blue Heron I have ever photographed---this young bird is using the series of ponds to grow up, changing it's juvenile plumage to the adult.

A male Merlin, has stopped at the park on his very early migration from the north.

Even Black-tailed Deer enjoy hiding out in the park.  This young one was one of a group of four.

Lyons City Park is an amazing birding and wildlife location.  We first discovered it for ourselves in December of 2013. You can read the Trip Journal from that day here.  I was so impressed with the location that I suggested it as a birding Hot Spot for  Now almost three years later, Jeanette and I are still the only ones reporting to eBird our observations, it appears to be well hidden from the birding world.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Birding on the Metolius River

female Western Tanager with Fall Caddisfly

Yesterday we stopped mid-day to walk and bird the Metolius River in the Camp Sherman area.  It was a strange feeling to be on the trails of the Metolius River for the sole purpose of bird watching.  Over the past 45 years I have been there for so many other reasons; camping, fishing, hiking, biking, and backpacking. To see the river through the lens of birding gave me a new appreciation.  The ice cold spring fed waters of the Metolius River provide not only a good habitat for fish, but also nourish a rich riparian zone along its banks which support a wide diversity of birds. We did a loop hike, parking the motorhome in the parking lot of the former Allingham Guard Station and walking up the East Metolius Trail to Camp Sherman and back on the West Metolius Trail.  Our timing was perfect to make our lunch stop for a traditional sandwich at the Camp Sherman Store. 

Townsend's Solitaire
Identification of the Townsend's Solitaire, a member of the Trush Family, took a bit of head scratching as it's a bird we haven't seen in some time. 

American Dipper
This bird of the water world, with it's delightful melody of song, was the first bird that caught our attention yesterday.  

Our camping destination for the night was the Deschutes County Fairgrounds RV Park in Redmond, and today we travel on to Shelvin Park in Bend for the real purpose of our weekend trip, the wedding of niece Bethany Scott to Nathan Keeley. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Perhaps One of the Last?

We heard this Osprey this morning, and later found it and photographed it.  From it's plumage I would say it's a juvenile female.  It's possible one of the last ones around of this season, with most of the Ospreys having left for points south for the winter.  We did not see or hear any the last two days when birding at Darrow Bar, and John West has not seen one at the nest site at Salem Audubon Nature Reserve since last week on the 2nd. This one was found along the Willamette River at the Weatland Boat Ramp in Willamette Mission State Park.  This was our first time to bird the Weatland Boat Ramp and where so impressed I have suggested to eBird that it be classed as a Hot Spot.  You can look at our bird list for the morning here.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Barred Owl Surprise

Although our morning was filled with yard projects and grocery shopping, Buster our dog still had the notion that he should have a walk.  I once explained to my mother while she was confined to her bed in a memory care unit that we take Buster for a walk everyday because it was good for him.  No longer being able to communicate very well, we were shocked when she replied, "it's good for you too". Jeanette and I often reflect on her advice and we also credit Buster with a number of our good bird finds.  Days like today filled with work to get done, we would have opted to stay home, but he gets us out and as on many other days, today we were rewarded with a surprise sighting and photo opportunity of a Barred Owl at the nearby Darrow Bar State Park.

The Barred Owl is a relative newcomer to Oregon.  Once only native to the Eastern United States it has made a rapid advance West and now is starting to be a common sight in Western Oregon.  This is the third opportunity I have had to photograph a Barred Owl, and all have occurred during the day along a trail.  In all three cases, they have stayed put long enough for me to photograph, which leads me to believe they tolerate humans pretty well, which might be one of the key factors in their successful geographic spread.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Birding Trip Review

We are now back home in Salem from our little birding loop tour of Northern-Central Oregon.  It was kind of a whirlwind trip is some ways, but it took advantage of a window in time with our schedule and gave us a taste of what it will take to visit all of Oregon's 36 counties. Posting photos with a blog  proved a little more difficult due to time constraints and poor Internet connections. As I look back through the many photos, I see some that I still would like to share.  So, here are some additional photos from some of the stops we made that I hope will be of interest.

Bonneville Hatchery -
Our first section was through the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, with a stop at the Bonneville  Hatchery.  This area, also the route of a section of the Oregon Trail, holds many memories for Jeanette and I because our honeymoon was a bicycle tour up the Washington side and back down on the Oregon side.

Mayer State Park -
Our next stop was at Mayer State Park.  On many of our trips in the Columbia River Gorge we have by passed this park because there are no overnight camping sites, nor are there any good hiking trails.  But seen through the lens of bird watching, this park took on a new significance.  In making a bird list for this stop we discovered the Great Egret was considered a rare bird for this location, so I took a photo to prove we had seen one.

Deschutes State Recreation Area -
We like camping here so much we stayed for two nights.  The birding was great, and we discovered that fishermen, which made up most of the campers, are of the same mind as us - early to bed, early to rise.

Dyer State Park - 
Here is a tiny Oregon State Park we stumbled upon between Condon and Fossil, just North of Mayville. If you look on the list of parks on the Oregon State Parks and Recreation web site you won't find it, but here is was and it is even an eBird Hot Spot. It was a delightful stop.

Fossil - 
The town of Fossil was an overnight stay for us at the Wheeler County RV Park.  It's the county seat of Wheeler County, but don't expect a bustling metropolis here.  While strolling down Main Street we had to pause to let this daddy California Quail get his family across the street.

Clarno Boat Ramp - 
This boat ramp on the John Day River was vacant save for the roosting Turkey Vultures in the top of the nearby tree when we made a stop.  No it's not our smell, nor are they waiting for us to die, they were simply waiting for the sun to warm up the cool morning air. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Eight Counties in Four Days

Our Winnebago is shown here yesterday morning parked in the Palisades Picnic Area of the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, --- an impressive mouthful for an equally impressive scenic stop. We were in route to bag two more counties, to bring our county total for this trip to eight. Seven of those counties are new for this year, bringing our total for the year to an even 20.  For those who just tuned in, or have a retention or memory problem, we are on a quest to note bird observations in all of Oregon's 36 counties. Our days route from Fossil took us through the towns of Antelope, Madras, Redmond and Sisters. After Sisters we stopped to check out Indian Ford Campground near Black Butte, and finding it almost empty, only one camper, and tired of driving, we elected to make it our camping destination for the day.  Campsites are without hook-ups, but only twelve dollars, less 50% for Senior Pass means we spent six dollars for a quiet site with the scent of pine and sage.  We took a nice walk and picked up some birds for Deschutes County.  Later in the afternoon our friends Dan & Charlene drove out from Bend to join us for dinner at the Kokanee Cafe in Camp Sherman.  A pre-dinner walk along the Metolius River netted us some birds for Jefferson County. (no cell service in Camp Sherman, three bars of service at Indian Ford) Now it's back to Salem for a pause before the next venture out.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Cottonwood Canyon State Park, recently opened, is one of Oregon's newest state parks and has been on our bucket list to visit.  It's a vast park of some 8,000 acres, and we were looking forward to staying overnight in the Lone Tree Campground. Thanks to a heads up from ranger Mark Taylor at Deschutes River SNA we learned that there is no cell service in the campground.  That means no Internet, which is a deal breaker for us, so we planned just a day visit with our overnight destination being Wheeler County RV Park in Fossil. Cottonwood Canyon State Park straddles the John Day River which is the county line between Sherman County on one side, and Gilliam County on the other side, enabling us to visit two counties with out leaving the park. We had the Day Use Area to ourselves, but the birds were rather scarce, maybe due to time of year, plus the ones we did see didn't seem accustomed to people. I think we will need to come back in the Spring some time to get a better count. (21 campsites, first come first serve, $10, no hook-ups)

We ventured on over the rolling wheat fields with their towering wind turbines to Condon for lunch and then on to Fossil which is in yet another county, Wheeler, giving us a three county day. From the RV Park which is a part of the County Fair Grounds we walked over to the picturesque Wheeler County Courthouse.  Looping back to our RV, we happened to walk on Main Street, and I do mean "on" Main Street, because there were no side walks.  Got to love small towns.  I will add, they are very quiet at night. (12 full-hook-up well kept sites, $25, weak Internet reception)

Wheeler County RV Park

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Deschutes River State Recreation Area

Jeanette took this photo this morning from the old railroad bed now bicycle and hiking trail looking down towards the mouth of the Deschutes River where it joins the mighty Columbia River. The green riparian area along the Deschutes River provides a sharp contrast to the bare brown hills of the Deschutes River Canyon and the Columbia River Gorge. The campground is located in this green oasis, and as you might expect we had a very pleasant morning of birding here. In fact we are enjoying the area so much we have opted to spend a second night here.  Below is a sample of some of the birds we saw this morning.  For the eBird Checklist of birds we saw click here.

Western Gull

Double-crested Cormorant
Western Wood-Pewee

Lazuli Bunting (female)