Friday, April 19, 2019

A Lesson in Birding

Red-winged Blackbird female

Look closely at this photo of a female Red-winged Blackbird and you can see that she is gathering cattail fuzz for nesting material.  We had an outstanding time birding at Huddleston Fish Pond in Willamina this morning.  It was overcast and threatening rain, and the pond looked devoid of all life when arrived.  Quite a contrast from our last trip here a little over a month ago when we saw a dozen different species of water-fowl on the pond. There is a saying in the bird world, "bird every bird", meaning don't assume when you see a flock of birds that they are all the same species.  A new concept struck me today, "go ahead and bird every location". Meaning, in spite of the fact that it looked like there were no birds in the area when we arrived, it's important to look anyway. By the time we left the pond  45 minutes later, we had identified 26 different species including a very rare sighting of three Caspian Terns. When we started making our loop of the pond, the first thing we noticed was there were a lot of noisy Red-winged Blackbirds, in fact we counted of 20, and in fact there were probably more than that.  The above photo provided a clue to all the activity of the Red-wings, they are busy nesting. The next time we find ourselves stopping to bird at a location that doesn't look so promising, I'm hoping we take the time to look a little closer.

Huddleston Fish Pond

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Day Five - Back to Home

This is the sunrise this morning from our over-night parking spot at K-Mart in The Dalles.  It was a great send-off for us for leaving to drive home this morning.  K-Mart was a great place for us to night park, which we did for two nights.  Unfortunately for K-Mart,  business is slow, but that makes for a large quiet parking lot.  Kentucky Fried Chicken is just across the street, so dinning needs are covered.  Cell service is good, so the Internet works well, and there is TV coverage if we park in this direction. Originally we didn't know how many days we would be gone, but we arranged our schedule so that we could be gone for eight days.  But yesterday looking at the weather forecast with the promise of rain, we decided we would take advantage of the last dry morning and head for home, hopefully ahead of the rain.  We made it by an hour.

All in all we had a pretty good trip.  We birded in a number of different counties, Clark, Skamania, and Klickitat in Washington, and Wasco County in Oregon.  We spent four nights out and never spent a penny on campground fees.  Actually it's not just about the money, it's our preference.  We love the freedom of parking lots and rest areas, and in fact they are in general much quieter than campgrounds and no reservations needed. Perhaps our biggest joy was retracing our Honeymoon bicycle trip in May of 1993.  We were self contained in those days too, with our tent, sleeping bags, cloths and cooking gear on our bikes. On this trip we could only marvel at the miles we peddled then.  The days of youth are oh so fleeting.

Day Four - Birding The Dalles

Yesterday we decided to stay put in The Dalles, enjoy the best weather of the week, and bird the Riverfront Trail of The Dalles.  I picked the section at Chenoweth Creek, and we walked almost three and a half miles, taking the trail north in the morning as far as Taylor Lake, and then a section south after lunch.  Lunch was hot dogs grilled on the George Forman gill, oh the joy's of solar and lithium that provide electricity for all our needs. Osprey provided most of the entertainment in the bird world.

A pair of Osprey where busy laying claim to a nest site and fending off a loaner bird who kept circling the area.  This is the female coming in for a landing.

This is the male, possibly a young one, his chest pure white as the driven snow.

 This female caught her own fish, a little unusual in that the male usually would be bringing her a fish. The fish looks to be a Rainbow Trout, which I would speculate is a planter for fishermen from near-by Taylor Lake.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Day Thee - Sunshine at Last

Chamberlain Lake Overlook

Sunshine final found us yesterday afternoon. The motivation for this RV trip in the Columbia Gorge was to escape the rain in the Willamette Valley. The weather forecast supported that idea originally, but then the weather deteriorated to the point that rain was everywhere. We left Salem on Tuesday in the rain, traveling to Washuagal. We spent Wednesday traveling East in the Columbia Gorge in the rain. Thursday became dry, but cloudy until afternoon when the sun broke out while we were taking a break at the Chamberlain Lake Overlook.

We started this 3rd day of our Columbia Gorge Tour with a stop at Rowland Lake Rest Area.  Not much was going on so we moved on to Catherine Creek where we hiked the 1 mile loop Universal Access Trail.  Birds were scarce, but wildflowers are the main act here. 


Driving on our next stop was the Balfour-Klickitat Trailhead just before the town of Lyle.  Here we had our best bird walk of the trip so far.  Our most interesting bird here was this Lewis's Woodpecker. You can see our bird list here.

Lewis's Woodpecker

After lunch in Lyle, we backtracked to the Chamberlain Lake Overlook Rest Area (shown at the top of this post). It's possible to park for up to 8 hours here, and we considered staying, but after a nap and some down time we were a little bored so moved on to Horsethief Lake Campground.  In the end we just could not see us staying there and paying 35 dollars to be uncomfortably close to neighbors. So, we moved across the river to The Dalles and our regular free parking spot at K-Mart. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Day Two - A Day of Discovery

Day two of our Columbia Gorge Tour began at Cotton Wood Beach in the Captain William Clark Regional Park in Washougal.  This is the location that the Corps of Discovery led by Lewis & Clark camped in March of 1806 for 6 days gathering supplies for their return journey up the Columbia River. The dugout canoe in the foreground was their form of transportation, in the background is a huge double barge and tugboat, one of our modern forms of transportation used to transport goods up the very same route. Who could have possibly guessed the astounding changes that have occurred in the past 213 years.

We journeyed on East up the Columbia River on Hwy 14 on our own little trip of discovery, driving over Cape Horn in a rain storm.  Buster's driving anxiety windshield wiper reflex forced us to make a stop at Beacon Rock State Park for a break.  To park here we were supposed to have a Washington State Discover Pass, which we did not have, nor could we see any place to purchase. Moving on we next made a stop at a boat launch at the mouth of the Wind River.  The rain had let up momentarily and we got out of the van and made up a bird list. Our next stop, which I was hoping would be our overnight parking destination was Spring Creek Hatchery Road.  I had noticed while looking at Google Maps that a large number of vans park there, probably to wind surf.  When we arrived again we saw the notice of the need for a Discover Pass.  However, the sign also said the pass could be purchased on line or by phone. Jeanette called and we got a pass and a code to post in our windshield.  We were set, the rain had ceased, and we were parked out of the wind, so we set out on foot to explore.  Although we were looking for birds ( you can see our list here), one of the first things I saw were some Grass Widows, one of our long time favorites, and the flower that best signals the start of spring flowers in the Columbia River Gorge.

Grass Widow

Jeanette points out an Osprey

Overnight parking spot

We loved our little discovery. Although this recreation area is probably most used by wind surfers, we enjoyed the river side trails, flowers, and birds, and will be back. Note for the future: cell service was good.  TV service only worked when the antenna was able to see West. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Columbia Gorge Tour - Day One

Washougal Bi-Mart

Heavy rain on a daily basis led us to search for drier climes around the middle of last week.  Weather forecasts for the Columbia Gorge were drier and warmer beginning Tuesday, so a plan was hatched to spend a week of travel, camping and birding in the Columbia River Gorge.  However, the weather forecast continued to decline daily to the point of our departure yesterday it was just as much rain in the Gorge as in Salem.  But we were determined in part because of all the great Spring trips we have taken to the Gorge in the past 26 years.  Our plan is to wander along the Washington side of the Columbia River, checking out e-Bird Hotspots and looking for free overnight parking locations.  Stuff happens, and it was one o'clock before we were able to leave Salem. Our first official stop was just after crossing the Columbia River on the 205 at the Biddle Lake Hotspot.  Rain terminated our bird walk after about 10 minutes, and we continued East on Hwy 14 through Camas and Washougal.  Our hopeful first night parking spot was at the Washougal Bi-Mart.  I was a little unsure as the last report to the Over-night RV Parking app was from 5 years ago.  But, it turned out to be true, and we had a quiet night with excelent cell and TV service. At bed time it was raining hard, but we were warm and dry in our Roadtrek Zion. Day-light this morning reveals we were the only RV here.