Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Buckskin Mountain State Park

male Vermillion Flycatcher

The Vermillion Flycatcher is one of the favorite birds for anyone visiting Buckskin Mountain State Park.  You can always count on seeing a pair in the volley ball area on the westside of the store.  When we arrived here two days ago we spotted the female right away, but it wasn't until late yesterday afternoon  that I found the male, and he was doing his flycatching on the opposite side of the store.  From his lighter than usual coloring I am thinking he is an immature male, which may account for him hanging around away from the female. 

Buckskin Mountain State Park itself is also a favorite of ours.  We first "discovered" the park in 2005 while on a cross-county trip to Florida, it's outstanding trail system was the draw for us at that time. We returned to volunteer here for several winters, starting in 2009, with me working on the trails, leading nature hikes and bird walks, and Jeanette working in the office. On this trip we have stayed two nights, and it has been special as we recall all the good times we have enjoyed here.  With out a doubt it has been flavored by the good weather.  For the first time since leaving Oregon three weeks ago we are seeing daytime temps in the 70's.  In fact the forecast for the next fifteen days calls for temps in the 70s and 80s with zero percent chance of rain. 

female Vermillion Flycatcher

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge

John West & Jeanette Scott

Yesterday on our way from Cattail Cove State Park to Buckskin Mountain State Park we stopped at the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge.  John West met us there at 8:30 and we spent the morning birding with lots of conversation.  John has volunteered at the "Bill Will" for many years in a wide range of roles, from countless hours of manual labor planting trees, to days of bird surveys, and numerous events of helping the public. He is a very humble person, but we did find out that he now serves on the board of the Friends of Mohave NWR and Bill Williams NWR.  His many hours of birding from his kayak also give him a unique and close-up experience with birds.  He was a great help in making correct identifications of many of the birds we saw.  You can see our Observation List and bird photos here.  We moved on to Buckskin Mountain State Park where we are currently set up. The temps have warmed up and feels very comfortable.  More on Buckskin tomorrow. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Catttail Cove State Park

Cattail Cove State Park
Yesterday we drove 15 miles south to the next Arizona State Park on shores of Lake Havasu to Cattail Cove State Park.  Cindy Smith is now the head ranger here.  She was the ranger who originally hired me to to do trail maintenance at Buckskin Mountain State Park years ago. That job morphed into leading trail hikes and then bird walks.  Jeanette worked for her in the office.  Later I led bird walks for her at Lake Havasu State Park.  Cindy graciously comped us a site here, and also another site for tomorrow night at Buckskin Mountain State Park.  Cindy started her new position here at Cattail Cove this past summer and leads a very impressive up-grade to the park.  They now have new docks and a white sand beach. But the biggest change in the works is the expansion of the park.  The Sand Point Marina next door lost their lease and Cattail Cove is expanding and upgrading.  They are redesigning the area and will be adding camping cabins to the RV campground and dock area as well as expanding the beach area.  This was an enjoyable stop for us.  The campground is extremely clean and quiet.  And of course it was great to see Cindy again.  If you are considering volunteering at a park, Cindy is one of the best to work for.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Lake Havasu State Park

Our journey south this winter was greatly influenced by the magnetic pull of our friend John West who lives in Lake Havasu City. When we arrived at Lake Havasu State Park yesterday morning we got the last available campsite, #43.  It's hard to believe our good fortune sometimes.  Before getting to our campsite we stopped to bird at the Cactus Garden. To my astonishment the first bird I saw was a sapsucker, and in the very tree I had spent a good amount of time watching a previous sapsucker. When we were here in the winter of 2012-13, I created a little bit of a stir here when I identified a Yellow-breasted Sapsucker, opposed to the common Red-naped Sapsucker. A well known local birder and photographer John West dropped by to check out that bird, and that is how we met John West. Yesterday's bird was actually a Red-naped Sapsucker, but still a sapsucker never the less, and in the very tree was pretty amazing.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Another bird that I enjoyed seeing again was a male Anna's Hummingbird.  They are quite protective of their territory, and a fiesty male dive bombed me yesterday from a perch where I have always found him or his kind.

Anna's Hummingbird male

John bicycled over in the afternoon and we had a great visit. We took a short walk along the shoreline, looking for and photographing birds. John showed us the big improvements the park has made with a new boat launch, dock and parking area. Our visit to Lake Havasu, though short, seemed complete with our time with John. 


A New Life Bird

Sage Sparrow

Birders make lists.  Like most birders Jeanette and I make a list or lists of the birds we see each day. But birders, and us included, also make a special list, a list of the total species one identifies in their life time, its called a Life List.  As the years go by the list continues to grow as you identify new birds, but it also typically slows down because it gets harder and harder to find a new species that you have never seen before.  Two days ago we got to add a new bird to our Life Lists, a Sage Sparrow. When we left Davis Camp for Lake Havasu on Thursday the 26th we were intending to stop and bird at Five Mile Landing in the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge.  As we were we driving along the East side of the refuge we noticed some cottonwood trees and water at the Pintail Slough section of the refuge and stopped to investigate.  What followed was a great morning of birding as we searched out and identified a good number of species. These little Sage Sparrows were the hardest to get a good look at, and it was only after I had successfully gotten a photo that we realized we had something different.  After we were back to the RV, and I had downloaded the photos into the laptop, and searched some birding guides I came up with the identification of a Sage Sparrow.  You can see it's page in the Critters section of Cascade Ramblings here

Sunday, January 22, 2017

It's All About The Birds

For us, it's all about the birds during our winter escape to the South West. For a huge number of RV'ers January marks the time to gather at Quartzite, a mass meet up in the desert of all things RV. Luckily for both Jeanette and I, we are in total agreement in our desire to avoid the crowds and seek a little more solitude. Davis Camp County Park, on the Colorado River just north of Bullhead City, is proving to be a perfect location for us to camp.  In the "A" circle where we are set up, there are 26 sites, with only four being occupied besides the host site. But beyond the light use of other campers is the great birding we are enjoying. Its been fun to re-acquaint our selves with birds we consider "old friends" that we don't get to see back home in Oregon. Everyday we take a good bird walk of several miles.  Yesterdays walk was so far the best, lots of sunshine, good temperatures, and a high of 31 different species identified.  Below are some some selected photos from yesterdays bird walk. For the complete observation list and photos click here.

Say's Phoebe 

Northern Mockingbird

Abert's Towhee

Friday, January 20, 2017

Davis Camp County Park

We arrived at Davis Camp County Park near Bullhead City Arizona in a rather serendipitous manner.  We had spent the previous night north of Needles California parked in the Avi Casino dry parking lot.  Our goal for the day was to move on up the Colorado River and bird at Big Bend of the Colorado State Park, a Nevada State Park that we had stayed in once before. Arriving at the park we discovered it cost nine dollars just to enter for day use. That rather rubbed us the wrong way, plus the campground looked full, so we drove on to Laughlin were we thought we might bird at a bridge park and spend the night in a casino parking lot.  Laughlin was crowded and a complete turn-off for me, so we moved on to our next back-up idea.  I had noticed while looking at eBird Hot Spots that there was a campground just across the river called Davis Camp, so we crossed the Colorado River and went to explore.  We found Davis Camp to be a huge park with day use areas and a variety of camping options.  We decided on taking a dry camping site (no hook-up) as shown above for a night to get acquainted with the park. 

This next photo shows just how close Davis Camp is to the casinos of Laughlin. All the glitter and crowds of the Nevada side of the river seem so close, and yet so far away from the calm and quiet of Davis Camp on the Arizona side. First thing we did was go for a bird walk and scope out the campgrounds.  As we walked the area, spotting many of the birds of Arizona that we have enjoyed in past years,  it became obvious that this is exactly what we were looking for. The expansive riparian area along the river, and the river its self provides a great variety of bird life.  Camping sites are numerous. It was clear to us, we wanted to spend more time here. 

 Campsite #18

The next morning we selected this site, and after a run into Bullhead City for groceries and lunch, moved in. This is in the water & electic only circle at 150 dollars for the week, and will be our home for the next seven days. I am so looking forward to staying put, and spending our days concentrating on birding, without the stress of driving and relocating each night.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Orange Grove RV Park Again

We are camped at the Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield, California.  We recalled yesterday as we drove from our overnight parking spot at the Atwater Walmart south of Modesto that we have  stopped to  camp here on our way to Southern California or Arizona for almost 20 years now. Located on the east side of Bakersfield it is a perfect stopping place before heading over the Tehachapi Pass and out into the Mohave Desert. It has all the conveniences, so we always dump the waste tanks, take on fresh water, charge up the batteries, do laundry,  and of course pick as many ripe oranges as we want. It's a popular stop for RVers, and even though we got here early in the day at 12:15, we got the last available site.  We have now been on the road for a week since escaping the snow storms in Oregon, and are adapting to our home on wheels a little more with every mile. Daily we have to deal with leaks and squeaks, and rattles, and the stress of traffic, which seem much more stressful than 20 years ago, but we are determined to travel on.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Day with Bobby

The purpose of this day was to spend time with four year old grandson Bobby and his parents Tony and Maggie in Pinole, California.  Maggie took Bobby and his trike and us on an "adventure" through neighbor hood trails and the Fairy Forest down to Fernandez Park and then the Pinole CreekTrail which we took on to San Pablo Bay. Bobby and grandma Jeanette enjoyed seeing two trains, AMTRAK and a long frieght train.  Bobby is big on trains! The Pinole Creek Trail is a real treasure and grandpa Jim got to take lots of bird photos and make up a bird list. Click here to see. After some afternoon relaxing time we went to Sue's Kitchen for an amazing Tia food dinner. Grandma & grampa went to bed early.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Perfect Day

This morning Jeanette noticed this astonishing view of the moon going down through the clouds over the ocean.  I rushed out and took this photo at 7:10 AM. This was from our site at Oceanside RV Park in Gold Beach.  I should have recognized this as a good omen for the day, because as it turned out it was a perfect day in so many ways.  First off it was a dry day.  Not a drop of rain.  Bright sunshine all day long.  A stunning day of scenery as we drove south on Highway 101 past miles and miles of crashing waves along the beach line, deep towering redwood forests, and several herds of elk. Our high point of the day however, was an impromtu stop at Crescent City to change drivers. As we pulled over to the curb  at a city park, we noticed people walking their dogs along the bay and the light went on that we should take a walk and maybe get a chance to see some birds.  In the end we did get a list of birds and with a couple of good photos as shown below.   The Vermillian Flycatcher was a complete surprise. It's a rare bird for this far north, and we only recognized it from our years in Arizona.

male Vermillion Flycatcher

Black Phoebe

Tonight we are parked at the Bear River Casino north of Fortuna for the night, will be venturing on to Cloverdale tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Grateful for Mobility

We are feeling very grateful for the mobility of our lifestyle with an RV that allowed us to escape the on-going snow storms currently hitting the Willamette Valley.  Today we took advantage of the moderate coastal tempatures as we traveled south and stopped to hike and bird at Bullards Beach State Park and Bandon Marsh Nation Wildlife Refuge where we had lunch at the Ni-les'tun Overlook.  Jeanette is shown here at Bullard's Beach, which is as far west as we could go.  Buster, who normally loves to run on the beach didn't want to have any part of all the noise of the pounding surf.  He was however, delighted to tear into a mole hill, as shown below.  Tonight we are comfortably set up in the Oceanside RV Park at the mouth of the Rogue River in Gold Beach.

Our eBird Observation Lists can be seen here and here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fleeing the Storm

We decided to flee the Salem area today, ahead of yet another snow & ice storm.  Not wanting to chance getting over the Siskyous, our plan was to take the coastal route. The one thing that has held us up leaving for warmer climates  since October has been Volkswagen taking back our 2015 Golf Sportwagen because of the emmisions fiasco. Our appointment to return the car was at 3:00 this afternoon, which would have given us a late start to make it somewhere on the southern Oregon Coast, so it would have made sense to leave tomorrow morning, BUT the weather forecast called for snow tonight continuing through tomorrow.  So, we packed-up the motor home and took the car to Volkswagen of Salem around 11:00, hoping for an opening before 3:00 so we could get down the road sooner. To our great suprise and happiness, they processed us a few minutes after we got there and before noon we were blasting down I-5 in a blinding rain storm with the temperature hanging around 38-39.  The rain stopped someplace around Cottage Grove, and the sun actually peaked out a little just before Reedsport. When we made our first stop a William Tugman State Park, as shown in the photo, there was no rain and the temp was 44 degrees.  By the time we got to Coos Bay we were at a balmy 51 degrees, which might be the highest temps we have experience since Jan 1st. We are parked tonight in the Pony Village parking lot, and will venture further south along the coast tomorrow.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter of our Confinement

We have been confined to our home in Salemtowne and thwarted in our desire to travel south to California and possibly Arizona by a number of circumstances since early November. Primarily we have been waiting on Volkswagen to buy back our turbo-diesel Gulf SportWagen, which will probably now be this Tuesday January 10th. But weather has also contributed to our confinement. We do get out an go on a dog/bird walk daily as we catch a window in the weather each day, but we are now in the middle of enduring our second snow storm of the season, which confines us even more just to our house.  In an effort to look at the brighter side of the coin, confinement causes me to concentrate in the birds or our yard. I offer the photos below of the birds we have enjoyed the last two days from our windows. 

Oregon Dark-eyed Junco - this is the most numerous of our backyard birds, any where from 4 to a dozen daily. Notice the snow flakes, even on its head.

White-crowned Sparrow - this is a juvenile whose crown and eye-brows have not changed to the bright white of an adult.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Kinglets are the tiniest of songbirds.  Males have a orange/red crown on their forehead that they can flare to express there anxiety.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - - we have one Yellow-rumped Warbler that we see at the suet feeder many times a day.  Nice to see it sharing the area with the Junco eating seeds.