Monday, October 31, 2016

A Cooper's Hawk - Not A Merlin

During a brief dry spot in late afternoon yesterday we took Buster for a short walk in the neighborhood. When returning to our house, Jeanette noticed this bird in the top of a tree half a block away.  She said, "Wait, is that our Merlin or a Crow?"  I said, "Most probably a crow".  Viewed only with the naked eye it was hard to tell at that distance.  Jeanette got binoculars, and I got my camera. Disappointingly we realized it was a Cooper's Hawk.  Disappointed in a Cooper's Hawk?  You see we have been hopefully checking tree tops daily this fall for our Merlin. For the past three winters we have enjoyed a Merlin showing up in our neighborhood, probably returning from its summer breeding grounds in the far north.  We have watched it from our kitchen window keeping an eye on our backyard feeder. Merlins are members of the fast flying falcon family and are capable, as we have witnessed, of snatching a song bird in mid air. Watching the Merlin each winter since moving here in 2013, we have become familiar enough with it to know the exact four trees where it can be seen.  At this point it feels like it is past due, and we fear that for the first time our Merlin has not made it back. (Looking back at my records, we have seen our bird begining in the middle of October thru March.)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Birding at Cheadle Lake

October is looking to be a record setting month for rain, which is driving our desire to head for California in our-new-to-us Serenity motorhome. A forecast for dry contitions for Friday prompted us to make a short overnight stay at Waterloo County Park near Lebanon to get a chance to test out all operating systems on the RV before making a long trip. We left in driving rain on Thursday afternoon with our fingers crossed that the forecast would be correct. It stopped raining just before we arrived at the park.We did discover a number of little things to add or fix, and the biggest supprise to me was that we had neither brake nor tail lights on the right rear. Maybe more on that later.

The second part of our plan was to spend the next day birding at Cheadle Lake in Lebanon.  When I was growing up in Lebanon, Cheadle Lake was the log pond for Cascade Plywood Corporation.  In those days Lebanon was dominated by too large mills, Crown Zellerbach Paper Mill on the north end of town, and Cascade Plywood Corportation on the south end.  My grandfather, Arthur McClain worked for a brief period on the Casacade mill pond, and interesting enough in later years Jeanette's dad, Jim Dye also worked on the pond. Today the old logging pond has be transformed into a great recreation site for fishing, walking, and birding, complete with paved paths, benches, and boat launch. The weather forecast was right on and we had a great morning of sunshine for birding.

Bald Eagle
male Anna's Hummingbird
old photo of Cascade Plywood Corporation 

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Change to Serenity

We have traded RVs, our Free Spirit for a Serenity. Most people will possibly not notice, it is the same color and the same brand, Leisure Travel Van, but it is a more spacious model, 11" wider, 21" longer, and 5" taller.  Most importantly it is an entirely different floor plan, giving us more living area, a better bed, and a real shower. Also a big plus are larger tanks for fresh, black and grey water, allowing us longer periods between hook-ups.

We took advantage of some fair weather on Saturday afternoon to take a trial drive with the Serenity to Huddleston Pond in Willamina and do some birding. The fall colors were glorious and we got some good birds, see the list here. We like the way it drives and the spaciousness of the floor plan. But we did find that a squeaking door is a major annoyance. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind.

"God give us the the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference".

So far the Serenity is allowing us to accept the needs of aging a little more gracefully. We did prove to have the courage to change vans, and we looking for wisdom on fixing the door.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chipmunk at our Feeder

When Jeanette called out from the kitchen to say that there was a chipmunk in the bird feeder, I was pretty sure she was mistaken.  "Are you sure it's not a squirrel?", I hollered back.  Amazingly it was, in fact, a Townsend's Chipmunk.  The reason for my surprise is that we live in a retirement community built around a golf course with manicured lawns and greenways. It's not the woodsy habitat where I would expect to see a chipmunk.  Squirrel possibly, or even a dreaded rat, but not a cute little chipmunk. You will notice in the photo it has its cheek pouches plumped full with bird seed. We watched it fill up with seed and disappear into the shrubbery and later make a return trip. Hopefully it's storing the seeds close by and we will get to see it again.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Birding in the Rain

 You can easily assume that we have a faily heavy addiction to birding when you realize we have a need to bird even if it is raining. Today was a pretty good example, even though it was raining this morning we chose to go out to Fairview Wetlands in South Salem, umbrellas in hand to protect our optics, and look for birds.  It had rained for the past week and we were anxious to check the wetlands for water and for new water fowl.  We were pleased to finally see the ponds gaining some water after a long dry summer.  We could hear the Mallards before we could even see them, eighty some were busy enjoying their fresh new habitat.  In the coming weeks as the ponds grow in size more species of winter water fowl will drop in to enjoy this spot. You can see our bird list here.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Birding the Waxmyrtle Trail

We spent an enjoyable morning yesterday hiking and birding the Waxmytle Trail in the Siltcoos Recreation Area.  The trail is very familiar to us from our volunteer time spend here last summer, so it was great to get in a good hike and check out areas of the trail that we knew we be good for bird sightings.  The most amazing thing we saw, or I should say smelled first, was this detached head of a skunk right in the middle of the trail.  (I Think I like the macro powers of the new camera.) Don't know what predator got it, but the smell permeated the air for quite a ways up and down the trail.
Although it was a quiet morning for birds we did get a respectable list which can be seen here. After our hike we enjoyed lunch on the picnic bench in the sun at our campsite, and then moved on to Winchester Bay RV Resort where we are currently set-up and will stay a second night, watching the Ducks play on the big screen in the activity center tonight.