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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Kingsborough Park

Kingsborough Park
Bright sunshine and glorious fall colors greeted me and put a smile on my face when I stepped out of the car this morning at Kingsborough Park in Dallas.  Just what I needed for a fresh start to days filled with stress and tension. Simple pleasures of fresh air, colorful leaves, beautiful mushrooms, harvesting squirrels, singing birds, and noble birds of prey, filled my morning with joy and reminded me of treasures I so often take for granted.

Mushrooms are Winter's Flowers

Eastern Gray Squirrel with Hazelnut
Singing Song Sparrow

Red-tailed Hawk watches over all below

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Oregon Coast for 4 Days - Day Four

These are Oval-leafed Huckleberries I picked while hiking around Alder Lake on Thursday afternoon.  I only noticed one small patch of this low to the ground variety as opposed to the thick, bushy, tall Evergreen Huckleberry that was everywhere and loaded with berries.  This serves to illustrate how much we enjoyed our time at the Alder Dune area. We loved the natural setting with the lakes and trails.  This is a campground that is largely overlooked.  I suspect it has to do with small camp sites with out water or electrical hookups, which is fine with us. 

Friday our forth day was basically uneventful as we drove straight home ahead of the expected rain storm.  We started out in fog as we came up the coastal route, over Heceta Head and Cape Perpetua through Yachats and Waldport, enjoying the scenic views of the ocean in spots of clearing. At Newport we turned east on Highway 20 to Corvallis, North on Highway 99. There were no stops for birding, just driving.  It did give us a chance to review our trip, and here is a list of things we learned about traveling in our small Cascade Campers van:

1. Campgrounds with restrooms are a must.

2. Campgrounds with a picnic table are important.

3. Daily stops for groceries are a part of the routine.

4. Website information about campground status may or may not be accurate.


Friday, October 9, 2020

Oregon Coast for 4 Days - - Day Three

 Our third night's camping destination was Alder Dune Campground north of Florence. Our first priority for choosing a campsite was based on restroom proximity, how do you think we did? This is site #29 in the Dune Loop.  The combined loops of Alder and Dune have a total of 39 sites, my guess would be that only about half a dozen were occupied.

Our day had began in fog at Bastendorff County Park.  Our first stop was at the North Bend Safeway, which put me in mind once again of our Canada to Mexico Bike Tour where stopping at a grocery store was part of our daily routine.  This practice seems to work well for us with this small Cascade Campers van. Next, Jeanette spotted a downtown Public Parking lot that had free parking with a 12 hour limit.  This goes on our list for a repeat trip.  Our favorite book store,  Books by the Bay was our next stop, and netted a book each for us. Traveling north, we found an excuse to stop at the Lakeside Dollar General where Jeanette scored on a couple of carpet mats for the van. Our lunch stop was at the Rest Area at Eel Lake where we enjoyed salads and fruit. Florence was a stop for fuel, and then on to the campground.

Jeanette looking for birds at Alder Lake
While setting up our campsite at Alder Dune, we noticed a Spotted Towhee and a Bewick's Wren calling, which set us in motion to take a bird walk.  We first checked out Dune Lake right next to our site, and then took the trail that circles Alder Lake.  We have come to realize that birding on the coast is best done in the afternoon after the morning fog clears.  We thoroughly enjoyed our walk around Alder Lake. You can see our bird list here

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Oregon Coast for 4 Days - Day Two

This is our campsite for day two, tent site #23 in Bastendorff County Park, twenty dollars. I had looked at the park's website before leaving home, and it appeared reservations were not needed, but when we arrived at the park in the afternoon tired and weary, the first sign we saw said, "This is a Reservation Only Park"! After some searching I found a worker at what looked like a shop, but had an "Office" sign.  He had no problem assigning us this site, and I noticed the whole tenting area of 25 sites only had two other occupied sites.  

We began our day in Florence at the Harbor Vista County Park, completely engulfed in fog.  But, as we traveled south on Highway 101, we soon broke out of the fog and met with our friend Glenn at Carter Lake for some birding.  You can see our bird list here

Jeanette spotted this large female Northern Harrier fly over us at Carter Lake, and yelled at me to get a photo.  It's hard to quickly locate a flying bird in the camera and snap a photo, but I got lucky on this one as it swooped past.  This was the first Northern Harrier that we have observed at Carter Lake in our years of birding here. As we continued on south, we stopped at Eel Lake to check out William Tugman State Park.  According to the Oregon State Parks website it was not open, but we noticed a "Vacancy" sign and pulled in.  Seeing a Volunteer, we stopped him to ask, and sure enough the park was open.  Noted: its important in these chaotic times to have on the ground confirmation. Next stop was North Bend, and a search for a hamburger, and a Verizon store.  Poor experience on both accounts. A stop at Mingus Park for some birding found the pond overgrown with pond lilies and inbreeding of ducks caused by public feeding has caused this once pristine pond to be a mess. 

A Great Blue Heron at the pond in Mingus Park appeared to be doing fine on it's own, and not dependent upon bread from the public. We managed to get help from a second Verizon store (we are using a back-up phone with Verizon as a hotspot for areas that lack Mint Mobile coverage) before driving out to Bastendorff County Park.  Tired and discouraged we had dinner, and then settled down in the van to watch the Vice President Debate.  This was a good distraction, and took our minds off of our troubles and gave us a good nights sleep.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Oregon Coast for 4 Days - Day One

We noticed some days of sunshine at the coast and were able to block out a few days in our schedule to take our Cascade Campers van for some adventure time. We were feeling like we needed to escape the confines of the Pandemic and political chaos, to name a couple of reasons. We left Dallas before 8:00, and traveled south on 99, a stop at Monroe City park to stretch our legs, then on south on Territorial Highway and west on Highway 126 to Florence.  First stop was Fred Meyer to pickup assorted items we realized we needed.  Next we went to check out potential camping sites, starting with Alder Dunes campground.  There we found they were open, and practically empty with the sites costing $24, but half off with Senior Pass.  Next we checked out Sutton campground, same story. We had one more option in the area, Harbor Vista County Park, where we had a credit to use, which would feel like camping for free.  They had four sites available and we selected the nicest one, #31 - 30 dollars a night with water and electricity.  Lunch and then down the trail to the North Jetty Mudflats.  Excise, sunshine, and birds was what we needed to make our day.   
Jeanette on the North Jetty Mudflats

Pelagic Cormorant

Hooded Merganser

Western Gull

Using the picnic table as the center for our camp life, to cook, eat, and do computer work, put us back in our minds of camping on our bike tour from Canada to Mexico in 1999. Of course then we did not have a laptop with us, we used a tiny device called Pocket Mail, on which we daily reported our travels.   During the past twenty years of RV travels, with larger RVs, all these activities took place in the RV.  With the small size of our present Cascade Campers van it does feel more like camping. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Revisiting Nestucca Bay NWR

Glenn & Jeanette looking across Nestucca Bay

 A couple of weeks ago Jeanette and I explored Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge for the first time.  I posted that trip in the Cascade Ramblings Trip Journal. Our friend Glenn, who is visiting us this week, read the Trip Journal and wanted to go birding there. On our previous trip Jeanette and I had hiked from the Upper Parking Lot on the Two Rivers Trail as far as the picnic table. On this trip the three of us hiked to the picnic table again, but then took the fisherman's trail on down to the bay.  From that vantage point we were able to view water fowl that we could not see on our last trip. We hiked the road back and through the gathering fog and smoke, spotted a Bald Eagle circling over the Refuge fields. You can see our eBird observation list here