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.