Friday, December 25, 2020

Alder Island - Siletz Bay NWR

Early yesterday morning Jeanette noticed it was 50 degrees on the coast at Lincoln City.  Compare that to us sitting in the freezing fog at 27 degrees in Dallas.  So we made a plan to take an afternoon trip to the coast after lunch allowing time for the roads to be free of ice over the coast range.  It worked out perfectly.  Leaving at 12:30, the temperature was 30 degrees, we soon drove into sunshine, and by the time we were driving through Lincoln City an hour later the temperature hit 64 degrees! Our destination was the Alder Island Trail once again. This is our fourth trip here since October. There are so many things we like about this trail.  The small parking lot right off Highway 101 is handy and never full.  The porta-pot is always clean.  The trail is graveled with easy views of the Siletz River and sloughs. And a good variety of birds.  Below are a few highlighted bird photos. You can see our complete list here.

Bufflehead female

Spotted Sandpiper

Western Grebe

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Cascade Head Hike

During our recent trips to the Oregon Coast I would look up to the bare grassy slopes of Cascade Head and recall the many hikes in years past, and dream of being brave enough to attempt hiking there again.  Yesterday morning, while coming up with a destination that was warmer than our immediate area in the Willamette Valley, I zeroed in on Cascade Head.  We drove to the familiar parking lot at Knight Park, and this is what we found. "TRAIL CLOSED". Jeanette noticed  a Lincoln County Parks vehicle, and much to her credit, went to ask the driver, who said the trail was actually open, they had just not taken down the sign yet.   

Big sigh of relief! We put on our hiking boots, added our birding gear, and grabbed our hiking sticks. Our goal was to hike as far as we were comfortable, and then we would agree to turn around. We were nervous because we have not gone on a serious hike in many years, in fact I looked it up, and we hadn't hiked this trail in 17 years!

This is the view across the Salmon River estuary to the Pacific Ocean from the road at the Sitka Center area.  We discovered further down Savage Road that the actual Nature Conservancy Trail has a trail closed sign. Although our intent was to concentrate on hiking not birding, we soon found ourselves drawn to identifying calls and bird sightings. Back to the van we enjoyed the lunch in the warmth and comfort of the van.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Alder Island Trail

We have discovered that flexibility is the key to successful birding and our own happiness. Based on the weather forecast of rain on the coast, our plan, made before going to bed, was to stay in the valley to bird. However, daylight revealed the Willamette Valley was chocked with thick fog and a cold 37 degrees.  Looking at Trip Check for Lincoln City, the cameras showed not rain, nor fog, but clear with temps at 52 degrees! We are flexible, so a quick change of plans.  Jeanette packed up a lunch and we loaded up the van.  Although Dallas was locked up in fog, we soon found sunshine and the temperature began to climb as we drove west and by the time we turned into our destination of Alder Island at Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge it was 57 degrees and clear. We had a great bird walk and got a lot of photos. You can see our list here. Here is the next flexible part.  At the end of the walk we decided we were hungry, so we set up our table and chairs in the empty parking lot and Jeanette put together our lunch. 

Here are some of the ways our Cascade Campers van aids our flexibility.  The folding chairs and table are always packed and ready, and when weather permits we enjoy using them to sit and eat outside.  Because we have solar, the 12 volt compressor refrigerator is always on and stocked with beverages. So, basically the camper van sits ready to roll. All we need to do is add some food, appropriate clothing and gear, and we are down the road. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Sheridan South Side Park

We pride ourselves in not being "Chasers", that is a birder who chases after the odd or rare bird that pops up on some bird report. Chasers will be off on a minute's notice to drive half-way across the state for a new bird for their Life List. Often times it turns out to be a sort of circus with everybody showing up for the freak show. Yet here we were yesterday morning after reading a rare bird report for Polk County of a Horned Grebe being reported at the Sheridan South Side Park & Fish Pond, packing up the van to find the bird. It was cold and foggy, so we took our time taking the back road route through Perrydale, and Balston, stopping at a pond at Perrydale Road and Tucker Road, to check out the birds there.  Here is that bird list. By the time we got to the South Side Park it was 11:00, and the fog had lifted, but it was still cold. But we were in luck, as we pulled up to park at the edge of the pond, I spotted our target species, the Horned Grebe, busy diving a matter of yards away. We were out of the van and photographing and counting birds as fast as we could. There were no other birders there, only some fishermen that barley gave us a glance.  Twenty minutes is all we could stand the cold, and Jeanette was back in the van boiling water for some hot chocolate!  With our new electric heater going we were soon very comfortable and enjoying our lunch in the van. Here is our bird list with photos. We continue to love birding using our Cascade Campers van.  It's so nice to be able stop for a meal anytime or place.   

Horned Grebe

Monday, December 7, 2020

Pine Siskin Irruption

Not every year will you get to see Pine Siskins.   This little brown striped bird with a hint of yellow is a member of the Finch Family, and usually hangs out in the boreal forests of Canada. But, as happens every few years when the cone supply is scarce,  they push south as far as Mexico in search of cones with seeds, in what is known as an irruption year. This year their numbers are phenomenal, with the National Audubon Society reporting that without question, it is one of the biggest irruption years in recorded history.

The top photo is a close-up of a Pine Siskin harvesting seeds from a fir tree cone at the Dallas Retirement Village on Dec 1.  The lower photo shows a Pine Siskin harvesting seeds from a Red Alder tree cone along the Rickreall Creek Trail System in Dallas on Dec 6.  

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Sitka Sedge State Natural Area

We met our friends Kerry and Debbie Kliever, and their dog Max, at the Sitka Sedge State Natural Area yesterday for a hike and a picnic.  About the safest way to get together with friends in this time of COVID is in the great outdoors. We drove over in separate vehicles, we put on masks to hike, and and enjoyed our lunch outside in the sunshine at a picnic table. Arriving at the parking lot, there was a cold wind out of the east of about 20mph, and I was ready to cancel, but by the time we reached the beach the wind had disappeared. We took the main trail out across the dike, and straight on to the beach.  Not a soul on the beach, bright sunshine, and no wind. On the way back we took a detour to Elk Point before returning to the parking lot. In all  we had a great time visiting, and identifying 20 different species of birds.  You can see our bird list here.   

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Miller Woods

Notice this handsome American Kestrel with his catch of a rodent.  This was the first bird we saw yesterday when we arrived for our first visit to Miller Woods.  Friends Roger and Sarah DuVal suggested this location after they had visited it a few weeks ago. We had put it on our "do do" list, and with a free afternoon yesterday, decided to seek it out.  It is located east of McMinnvile, but don't ask me for directions, as it's complicated. But Google can get you there. 

We took the short loop around the pond, and the next bird we saw was this female Bufflehead, which was busy diving for food. 
The birds were kind of scarce, but we were here in the quiet time of afternoon. Perhaps this is high enough elevation that song birds have sought out lower elevations for winter. Maybe come spring time we will make another trip. You can see our complete list here.  

Monday, November 30, 2020

Sharp-shinned Hawk Rescue

My sister Susan called me this morning to say they had an injured bird in their yard. I went right over and found this juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk prostrate on the ground.  As the story unfolded, it became evident that this was a cat injury, and while we were deciding what to do, a cat appeared confirming our suspicions. Jeff, my brother-in-law, chased the cat away for the 3rd or 4th time. Susan was able to contact Chintimini Wildlife Center, and their advice was to put the bird in a box and bring it to them.  Susan rounded up a box, and a towel, and Jeff caught the hawk and placed it in the box. 
Jeff was able to throw the towel over the hawk to catch it.

Jeff with Susan's help placed the hawk gently in the box.

The hawk settled in for the trip

Susan ready to load up the patient in her car.

Susan reported that she arrived at Chintimini, checked the bird in, and they said she was welcome to check back with them, but give them 24 hours.  Moral of the story, please keep your cats inside. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Post Thanksgiving Sunshine

Earlier this week Jeanette had set up a bird walk with her sister Patty, and Patty's husband, Kordell, for the Friday after Thanksgiving. The location was Lyons City Park in the small town of Lyons, east of Salem.  The weather continued to deteriorate as the day grew closer, so by Friday we were facing temperatures in the 30's and fog. We soldiered on, driving through the fog east on Highway 22, and then miraculously into bright sunshine by the time we arrived at Lyons City Park. I took this quick photo before Patty & Kordell arrived, and when they arrived, it was a mad rush to put on as many hats, coats and gloves as we could muster against the cold.  We kept on the move to stay warm, and I failed to get a photo of us all. We did have a good time though, pointing out bird sightings as we traveled around the pond and then on through the ponds that make up bordering John Neal Memorial Park.  You can see our bird list with photos here.  Plus, here is a bonus link to our very first trip to Lyons City Park

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

American Pipit

Yesterday morning we took another driving tour of Livermore Road and I was able to photograph this American Pipit along with other species which you can see in our list with additional photos here.  The American Pipit is a small sparrow sized bird, and a winter migrant here in the Willamette Valley.  In adding this photo to the Critters section of Cascade Ramblings, Jeanette and I remembered that our very first sighting of an American Pipit was in Arizona on the lower Colorado River at Buckskin Mountain State Park.  It was during a bird walk that I was leading as a Park Volunteer.  Even though I was leading the group, I had no idea what we were seeing.  Luckily we had an experienced birder in the group who politely suggested it was an American Pipit. It took some digging but I was able to find that date was January 24, 2011.  I did not get a photo that day, but have since photographed American Pipits in a variety of locations.  Here is the link to the Critters page of Cascade Ramblings.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Visiting a Gentle Giant

 A tip from Grant's Getaways on TV led us to take a trip to the Oregon Coast yesterday to seek out this giant cedar tree that is reported to be 800 to 1200 years old.  It's hard to comprehend the years it has stood here and all that it has endured. Giant stumps in the area testify that this tree's family members where cut down and removed probably with-in the last 100 years. Yet here it still stands, perhaps spared because of it twisted gnarly appearance.


The Old Growth Cedar Preserve is located in the town of Rockaway Beach.  A board walk of a half a mile leads over the wetlands to the an elevated platform that circles this gentle giant.  Doubly attractive to us is that this preserve is an eBird Hotspot. We had a great time spotting and identifying birds along the walk way. You can see our observation list with photos here.

If you want to visit the Old Growth Cedar Preserve, be sure and look for this clue.  Approaching the town of Rockaway Beach from the south, look for this Welcome sign and the parking lot. This is where the boardwalk begins that leads to the Gentle Giant.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Safe Birding During COVID-19

We went on a bird watching trip yesterday morning on Livermore Road in Polk County.  My preferred method of birding is on foot on a walkway or path through a park or natural area, but Livermore Road is a unique birding experience.  You drive down a straight gravel road for 4 miles with basically no turn-outs.  On a day of a mixed weather forecast, it was a good choice to be able to stay warm and dry and still look for birds.  It occurred to me part way through, that being quarantined in the confines of a car is the perfect method in these times of COVID-19. We never got out of the car, never had physical contact with any other possibly infected person, and we were able to put together a bird list which you can see here

Jeanette and I work together as a well oiled machine when we go birding.  She has far better eye sight than I do, so she works as the "spotter".  I work on collecting the data and taking photographs. Yesterday we kept the same rolls, she drove, and when spotting a bird, stopped and checked with binoculars.  I entered the observation on a check list in my iPhone, and when the opportunity presented itself, took photos for further documentation. 


Monday, November 16, 2020

Territorial Dispute

It's a delight to have our winter sparrows back, like this Golden-crowned Sparrow seen along the path at Fairview Wetlands in Salem yesterday.  He does however seem to have an objection to our presence. The bark dust path which runs along the east bank of the lower pond is great habitat for Golden-crowns to scratch up in search of bugs. In fact they probably consider the path belongs to them. Fairview Wetlands is our go-to-spot for Sundays.  We like it because the many near-by workers who use the path for walking on their breaks during the week are not around on the weekend.  In other words, we have it to ourselves on Sundays.  Perhaps this Gold-crowned Sparrow has the same attitude, he feels like it's his territory!  Here is the link to our observation list.  

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Our Secret for Survival

Jeanette looking out on Huddleston Pond

The stress that coronavirus is putting on peoples lives is tremendous, and I believe that it requires some  effort and discipline to be able to continue living happy healthful lives. We have found that we have a couple of built in daily practices that are serving us well in this crucial time of the coronavirus. Number one, is that we truly love to go birding.  This puts us out in the fresh air, provides us some exercise, and for the most part, keeps us away from other people. Number two has to do with the weather.  For around 15 years we traveled to Arizona for the winter, where getting outside on a daily basis was a no brainer. But here in the Northwest, with lots of cold and rain, it is a different matter.  Years ago I came up with the concept of looking for the "sweet spot" in each day.  That is, looking at the weather forecast, figuring out the best time of day to be outside in regard to temperature and rain, and then plan your day accordingly.  It's amazing that each day normally has a window of fairly nice weather, and that's when we jump into action.  Yesterday's trip to Huddleston Pond in Willamina is a good example.  There were some morning dry hours in the weather forecast, so we left home first thing in the morning with the expectation of getting in a bird walk.  It was true, we got in a nice walk of around a mile and a good bird list and some photos.  You can see it here.  Afterward we stopped at a drive-thru coffee shop for some hot chocolate, and then drove over to Sheridan where we picked up a Subway sandwich which we took to the Sheridan Southside City Park and Pond. We noted a few more birds, then enjoyed our lunch in the warm comfort of our van. On our way back to Dallas we were pleased to spot probably a dozen American Kestrels on the power lines, a few Red-tailed Hawks, two Northern Harriers, and a Rough-legged Hawk. We arrived back at Dallas Retirement Village just as the rain started. We had gotten outside for some fresh air and exercise, avoided close contact with people, and most importantly enjoyed a sense of adventure.

Great Egret with a male Hooded Merganser

Monday, November 9, 2020

Some Things Are Hard To Swallow

Yesterday, Jeanette and I decided to take advantage of a full day of sunshine by making a return trip to the coast to the Alder Island Nature Trail at the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  Though biting cold, we had bright sunshine. You can see our complete eBird observation list with photos here.  One of the most entertaining things we saw was this Red-necked Grebe swallowing a fish.  It looked like a difficult proposition, but judging by the huge lump at the base of its throat, which was taken a minute later, it was successful.


Friday, October 30, 2020

Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday morning I was sitting in my den looking out the window at the fog and waiting for it to clear out so we could go birding.  I decided to check the Road Cams on the ODOT Trip Check site, and low and behold the Oregon Coast had sunshine.  We made a change of plans, and were soon on our way, and were indeed greeted with bright sunshine when we arrived at Lincoln City.  Our first destination was to check out Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  In the past, we have just driven past this refuge because no dogs were allowed, but in these post-Buster days we are continuing to visit places once off limits. 

The parking lot is limited to short vehicles, and there is water access to put in canoes or kayaks, but the main event for pedestrian birders is the Alder Island Nature Trail.  It's a graveled surface is a pure delight as it circles the island with great views over the sloughs and Siletz River. 

A culvert allows for easy access to Alder Island and still allows for tidal water to ebb and flow.

Interpretive signs are well placed to aid in understanding the flora and fauna of the refuge.

Our complete experience was amazing.  This moves to the top of the list for birding locations that we will be returning to this winter.  You can see our bird list with photos here


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

New Camping & Birding Locations

This was an exploration trip we took yesterday in the Oregon Coast Range to ferret out parks and campgrounds of Lincoln County. And of course birding locations!

Our first stop was Elk City Park.  This is a hidden gem located at the confluence of  Big Elk Creek and the Yaquina River. Popular with fishermen, the campground has 12 campsites. Bird List

Our second stop was in the town of Siletz at the Hee Hee Ilahee Park.  Boat access to the Siletz River is a big part of this park.  We enjoyed sunshine and lunch here as well as bird watching.  Bird List

Our third stop was at the Strome Boat Launch and the adjacent Barbara & Walter Brown Memorial Park. Although the campground was closed in the Brown Memorial Park, we enjoyed a bird walk on the trail along the Siletz River. Bird List 

We did check out one more campground,  A.W. Jack Morgan Park. A boat launch is on the south side of the highway, and the campground is on the north side. Although I failed to get a photo, we found the campground very well kept. Lots of shade, this is probably an ideal camping spot in the summer. The one negative note is that all of these locations were without cell service.  


Monday, October 26, 2020

Checking on Lyons City Park

Jeanette checks for birds at Lyons City Park

 The devastating wildfires that swept through the Santiam Canyon this past month have caused us to be concerned about Lyons City Park and wonder if it survived, so yesterday morning we took a drive to find out.  Much to our relief, both the Lyons City Park and the next door John Neil County Park were OK.  We spent some time birding, and it seemed quite normal.  You can see our bird list for Lyons City Park here, and for John Neil County Park here.

We first discovered Lyons City Park as a birding location back in December of 2013. Here is the Cascade Ramblings Trip Journal for that trip. I looked back in the eBird records and in the passing years we have birded there twenty nine times. You can easily conclude it has been a favorite area of ours and we were relieved to find it survived unscathed. We did see some campers in the John Neil County Park, and learned from the bulletin board that the campground was for fire evacuees only.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Finding Rock Wrens

Rock Wren - William L Finley NWR - Oct 21, 2020

 Jeanette and I saw our first Rock Wren in the rocky cliffs of Buskin Mountain State Park in Arizona while volunteering there in 2009.  It's not a bird that is normally seen in Oregon's Willamette Valley, so I was surprised when Jeanette woke me up early yesterday morning saying she had canceled her events of the day, pickleball and water aerobics. She wanted to go to William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge, because Pam Otley, a friend of ours, had reported finding a Rock Wren. It took some coffee and a little bit of time to get my bearings, do the research on the location, and come up with a plan.  Pam had reported finding it in an old rock quarry on Pigeon Butte, so I plotted a route based on what I could make out from maps.  Arriving at the refuge, we were immediately distracted by Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and searching Northern Harriers along Bruce Road. Eventually we found a parking lot and made our way up Pigeon Butte and to the quarry.  We had bright sunshine and great views, but the quarry was pretty quiet.  We both where ready to accept that we had a great hike even if we didn't find the Rock Wren, when Jeanette suddenly exclaimed, "there it is!"  I snapped a number of photos.  Our day was complete. You can see our complete observation list here

Saturday, October 17, 2020

A Bluebird Morning

 The Village Birders from the Dallas Retirement Village went to Kingsborough City Park this morning to walk a section of the Rickreall Creek Trail System.  Immediately upon exiting the cars Jeanette noticed and pointed out some Western Bluebirds.  In all we saw six individual birds, the highlight of our morning, and the perfect start for a birdwalk.  The weather was a little iffy with threatening clouds or rain possible, and birds were scarce, but all six of us enjoyed the walk.  Click on the observation list here.