Monday, May 30, 2016

Violet-green Swallow

I took this photo of a male Violet-green Swallow in our backyard this afternoon.  The color at the base of his rump and tail I presume is violet, which I also am presuming accounts for the name of this swallow. Its not always easy to see this violet patch, and as a matter of fact I don't recall before this year being aware of it's existence. This particular male is standing daily on guard over a nearby nesting box currently occupied by a female.  This afternoon we got to see him in action when a pair of lousy House Sparrows made a failed attempt to enter the nesting box.  He was on them immediately, and chased them away.  He appears to be at his leisure standing by, but we learned today he is actually always on the alert.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Agitated Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows seem to be everywhere right now.  Their bright song announces their presence where ever we are.  They are easy to spot feeding on the ground along the paths and trails every place we bird. And like sparrows as a whole I consider them rather mild mannered and quick to flee at a moments notice.  This is why were surprised this morning while birding at Bryan Johnston City Park in South Salem to have a pair of White-crowned Sparrows quite agitated and very vocal in their unhappiness at our presence.  We quickly decided that thy must have a nest near-by that they were defending.  It's definitely that time of year and one of the things that makes birding extra interesting right now.  Yesterday it was a female Black-headed Grosbeak that complained and complained about our presence while we were birding at Wallace Marine City Park.  In fact the male finally showed up to lend support.  And then Jeanette spotted the nest with eggs. We quickly retreated to leave them in peace and with a smile on our faces for the privilege of actually seeing their nest.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ring-necked Pheasant

Jeanette noticed this striking male Ring-necked Pheasant in a campsite as we were driving out of Nehalem Bay State Park this morning.  We were both quite surprised to see it even though I had heard it earlier.  This bird would be high on the list of birds least expected to be seen on the Oregon Coast.  We both grew up in the Willamette Valley so know them very well by sight and sound.  In those days they were called China Pheasants. I remember very will the exact location in the Lebanon area where I grew up that the birds were origally released by Judge Denny who imported them from China in 1888. In my day they were very common and a very popular bird to hunt.  Their populations in the Willamette Valley have greatly declined (from what I have read) because of the removal of fence rows and smaller fields replaced by large unfenced acerage.  However, I still would would expect to find Ring-necked Pheasnats in grassy open areas, not in a busy state park campground surrounded by shorepine and sandy beaches. How he got here is a mystery to me, but on the other hand it's easy to imagine that he has found it "easy pickings" wondering campsite to campsite picking up dropped food items.      

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Plover Patrol

Today we were out on Plover Patrol, our volunteer position with Oregon State Parks this summer to survey for Western Snowy Plover.  Our area to patrol is the beach at Nehalem Bay State Park where we walk a two mile stretch from the Day Use Area parking lot south to the end of Nehalem Spit. It was a pleasant sunny morning but rather devoid of birds. We did see lots of American Crows and Western Gulls, plus a lone Bald Eagle and a couple of Turkey Vultures, all of which could be considered a threat to any nesting plovers.  Our main mission was to see if we could find any Western Snowy Plovers.  We looked long and hard but did not find any plovers.  At one point we got excited about some plover-like tracks, but in the end they led to a pair of nesting Killdeer. We will be doing this once a month for the rest of the summer. The good part for us, aside from providing a service, is that it forces us to focus on spending a few days at the coast.  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

More Rambling in the Cascades

Jeanette is shown sitting on the shoreline of Fish Lake making up a written list of the birds we found on and around the lake.  Normally the list is made on one of our iPhones as we bird, but here at Fish Lake the cell service was so poor that we reverted back to the old fashioned method of pen and paper. In our recent ramblings around the Cascades we had cell service from no service to four bars of service.  Fish Lake is tucked into a unique area between the West (or Old) Cascades and the younger taller main Cascades. Ancient lava fields dominate the area, and Fish Lake is a lake that disappers in the summer as the water drains out of the porous lake bed.  The historic Fish Lake Remount Depot is located on the shore line, and in summer Fish Lake and nearby Lava Lake provided forage and hay for stock used at the Depot and the historic Santiam Wagon Road. As a youngster I can remember my dad driving through the dry lake bed on our way to fish at Clear Lake. Because Jeanette and I both have childhood memories of outings in the Cascades, and many experiences together of hiking, skiing and biking in the Cascades, we are enjoying revisting many of our old haunts and recalling the many good memories. These ramblings are now taylor made for our aging bodies by using our Free Spirit camping van.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Escape into the Cascades

Park Creek with the Three Pyrmids in the background.

We recently started a new chapter in our RV life by deciding to take shorter trips and downsize to a van. We have already taken several short trips to the coast of just a few days.  On this outing we were feeling the pull up the Santiam River and into the Cascades.  My parents, who have been our mentors in the RV life style, loved this area and, at the "drop of the hat", would escape into the Cascades in the summer. My dad suffered from grass allergies, so time spend in the Cascades gave him relief. This particular area of Park Creek was a favorite.  My first trip here was on my first cross county ski trip with the Chemeketans in 1974.  We skied into this bridge at Park Creek for our lunch stop.  I was so taken with the location and the fishing possibilities that I was sure my dad would enjoy.  After taking him here it became a place that he returned to for many years.

parked for the night

On this trip we attempted to get to the bridge from Highway 22, but were stopped by downed trees.  We cicled around and came in from Highway 20.  With virtually no traffic we decided to park for the night at juction above the bridge, as it was the most level.

Jeanette shows Buster snow

A few feet around the corner was a snow bank that Jeanette enticed Buster to explore. The elevation here is 3570', and yet most of the ground is already bare. In fact, I took photos of Trillium.

enjoying our afternoon

Our choice of location turned out to be pefect.  Interupting the quiet were two Common Ravens, probably hoping for a handout.  The strange call of a Red-breasted Sapsucker caught our attention in a tree high overhead.  A Kingfisher could be heard down along the creek. A Red-breasted Nuthatch called from the forest.  A Robin appeared in a sunlit grassy area. A Pacific Wren protested our presence. It has been Jeanette's fantasy to be able to poke around the mountains, parking for the night in available spots as we find them. She is loving it!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Wedding Anniversary

Twenty three years ago Jeanette and I stood in this exact location at the Silver Falls Conference Center and committed our lives together in front of a great collection of friends and extented family.  It was a pretty special day then, and it was special today when we revisited this site with friends Michael and Mellisa Garguilo and recalled that wonderful day.  Silver Falls State Park holds many memories for Jeanette and I, beginning as kids attending camps, and then though the years returning to hike and bike the many trails, enjoying the beauty of the streams and falls, flowers and trees. Today was a great reminder that we need to make sure our continuing adventures bring us back to Sliver Falls State Park again and again.

Sharing the Birds of Lyons City Park

Our good friends Michael & Melissa Garguilo from Elkton are taking a little tour of North West Oregon in their RV and have spent a couple of days with us.  One of the many fun things we did with them was take them to one of our favorite birding sites, Lyons City Park.  Believe it or not this photo was not posed, I snapped this off while they were unaware and busy looking at birds accross the main pond.  You can see our list of observation by clicking here.

Canada Goose pair with some of their goslings.

female Mallard with one of her 9 ducklings.

Proud papa Mallard

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Finally Nesting Behavior

Today marks the first day that a pair of swallows has gotten serious about starting to build a nest. The male Violet-green Swallow is shown guarding the nesting box while the female is working inside.  This is after arriving around the 20th of March, which strikes me as taking a lot of time to make up their minds.  We have four nesting boxes up this year, and a great amount of inspecting, and posturing has been going on with several pairs of Tree Swallows as well as several pairs of Violet-greens. Dispite my having put up two brand new swallow specific designed nesting boxes, this pair chose the older design.  Only time will tell how and when the other vacancies fill. The lower photo shows the female about to enter the nesting box with nesting materials.  I saw her make several succeful trips with material. This box is right outside my den window, so you can be sure I will be watching.