Saturday, November 12, 2022

Coastal Escape

 We were able to carve three days out of our busy schedule to escape to the Oregon Coast in our camper van. We left on the first dry day, Wednesday November 9th, and returned on the next day of rain, November 11th. Even thought we were desirous of getting away from it all for a few days, Jeanette found herself still involved in solving problems. Here she is shown conducting business with Dallas Retirement Village on her iPhone in the middle of a birdwalk on the Bluebill Trail in the Coos Bay area. It was a good thing, as she was able to put together a replacement instructor for the water aerobics class. The Bluebill Trail is a favorite of ours, you can check it out here.

Freezing weather and icy road conditions favored a driving route down I-5 and over to the coast through Elkton to Reedsport. We made a quick stop to count birds at Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area, and then lunch at Subway in Reedsport.  The next birding stop was at William Tugman State Park for a quick break, and then on to Bluebill Lake where we had a great time birding (list).  Pony Village in North Bend was our final stop for the day with dinner from Taco Bell and an overnight parking spot.

We started our morning at the North Bend Boardwalk to bird, but cold fog and clouds prevented the morning sun from providing any heat, and a sharp wind soon sent us back inside the van. Next was a drive out to the Charleston Boat Basin to check out an e-Birding Hot Spot. Here we found a locked gate, so backtracked to Empire and a stop at John Topits Park to bird the Empire Lakes.  A wonderful asphalt tail system provides a great opportunity for walking, and the lakes gave us a fantastic number of birds. (list).

Wood Duck pair
We spent the remainder of the morning in the van working on bird photos and lunch before morning on to Mingus Park in Coos Bay for afternoon birding (list)

Eurasian Wigeon male

Rain was forecast for the next morning, so we decided to start driving north up the coast while we still had dry conditions and daylight.  Overnight parking ideas started with the Umpqua Lighthouse, then next to Flornce, then Yachats and eventually ending in the dark at Waldport at our secret and continuing favorite location. Dinner and to bed. In the pre-dawn light, I got to hear and see a big fight as a Western Gull and a Glaucous-winged Gull chased off a Bald Eagle. 

As we continued north up the coast, we continued to by-pass possible birding stops due to cold overcast weather. Finally, we made a birding stop at a big time favorite of ours, Alder Island Trail at Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Here on the Alder Island Trail, the sun shone through, and we were treated to a good number of active birds. (list)

Downey Woodpecker female

Again, we were grateful for the warmth of the van to spend the rest of our morning.  I worked on photos, and Jeanette worked at reorganizing cupboards.  We enjoyed lunch while watching hikers arrive to walk the trail, only to have to scurry back to their cars when the rain arrived. As we drove home, we had the sense that we had a good trip and were successful at a "reset" to our busy lives. 

Friday, November 4, 2022

Return to Livermore Road

American Kestrel with a rodent

Yesterday we returned to one of our winter weather coping methods, birding from the van. Checking back on e-Bird I discovered that since 2019 we have been making trips on Livermore Road to look for birds.  Here is an interesting Blog Post from November 2020.  Livermore Road is located just north of the popular Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge and serves as a connecting road between Bethel Rd. on the north and Smithfield Rd on the South. Using the van, which sits up high and has a very large windshield gives us great views and the opportunity to do our birding in a dry and warm environment. We were motivated yesterday to go to Livermore Road and search for a pair of Sandhill Cranes that were reported the day before.  We zeroed out on finding that rare migrating species but enjoyed an afternoon drive having the road to ourselves which made stopping to look and photograph birds easy. This was the last dry day before the rain got serious.  

Killdeer peeking out of its hiding place

Brewer's Blackbirds were seen in large flocks.

To see our complete e-Bird Observation list for the day click here.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Huddleston Fish Pond

 Huddleston Fish Pond in Willamina was originally a log pond. Hampton Lumber Company donated the pond and surrounding land for a park to the City of Willamina. We first discovered the pond when we had a canoe back in the nineties, and I was interested in fishing.  I remember it as difficult to navigate the canoe around the remaining logs. The pond is so much more now than just a fishing destination. The path around the perimeter of the pond is used by many people just for walking. It is one of our long-time favorites for birding, we have been reporting our bird observations to eBird here since January 2014.

Jeanette is shown here using Merlin's Sound Identification app on her iPhone to record a Green Heron.

adult Green Heron

immature Green Heron

Great Blue Heron

female and male Mallards

This pair of Mallards put on quite a display of courtship for us. You can see our complete observation list here.

After Willamina, we continued on to Sheridan for a lunch stop at Subway, and then for birding at Sheridan's South Side Park and Fishing Pond.  You can see our observation list here

We took our usual loop route home, driving through the small communities of Ballston and Perrydale, enjoying the fall foliage and rural setting.


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

We took off on Saturday to spend a couple of days with our friend Glenn who volunteers for the Siuslaw National Forest in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  His current assignment is Camp Host at the Tahkenitch Landing and Campground at Tahkenitch Lake. We love to spend time with him because he is as crazy as us about birding.
lunch time

Red-breasted Sapsucker
We spent time with Glenn birding and touring the campground, had lunch and then took off to hike a section of the Tahkenitch Dunes/Three Mile Lake Trail. Our afternoon was spent at Glenn's camp counting birds.  Here is our afternoon bird list.

On Sunday, our morning began early in the dark listening to a pair of Great Horned Owls calling. After breakfast we traveled with Glenn down to Winchester Bay to bird first at Salmon Harbor and then at Lake Marie.

Jeanette is shown here glassing for birds across the Umpqua River from Ork Rock County Park in Salmon Harbor. Here is our Salmon Harbor bird list.
Brown Pelican

Double-crested Cormorant with fish still attached to fishing line

Our next stop was for a hike around Lake Marie in the Umpqua Lighthouse area. A more scenic hike around a lake buried in thick costal forest cannot be found. Here is our bird list.

Jeanette & Glenn

Hairy Woodpecker male

Many centuries old Sitka Spruce

Cell service was not existent for us at Tahkenitch Landing, so we parked for the afternoon and evening at Gardner where we had excellent cell reception, and I was able to get caught up on bird lists and photos.  On Monday, for our route back to Dallas we chose to go through Elkton, where we stopped for breakfast at Arlene's and got to meet up with our longtime friend Joan Smith and mom and friends.  After breakfast, Joan took us for a tour of their farm place and the town. Our time in Elkton with Joan was the highpoint of our day, and we left with many memories of our past life in Elkton.  


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Coastal Visit

This was a second trip to showcase some of the interesting sites to visit close to Dallas for Mary Sites and Jaylene Wilson. The focus of this trip was the Lincoln City and Depot Bay areas.  Our first stop was the Alder Island Trail in the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge at the south-end of Lincoln City.
The Alder Island Trail is one of our all-time favorites. A trail of less than a mile circles the island's edge giving good views to the Siletz River and connecting sloughs. Its graveled surface provides good year around access. It has a small parking lot, and no dogs are allowed.  
A quick clinic got Mary and Jaylene up and running in using the Merlin phone app, which is a free app that identifies birds by description, photo, or sound. We had a fun time identifying birds by sound and sight. I was kept busy keeping track of our observation count and attempting some photos.  You can see our Observation List here.

Great Blue Heron

Our next stop was for lunch at the nearby Pelican Brewing Company, a brand-new facility with a fantastic location right on the edge of Siletz Bay. A real treat with great food and top-notch service. They are extremely busy, do not take reservations, and the rest room is gender neutral. 

After lunch, we continued South taking in the sights of Salishan, Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area, Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, and Depot Bay. 
Black Turnstones
Black Turnstones were a real treat to see on a bay dock.  They have just arrived this month for their winter stay from their summer nesting area in Northern Alaska.


Friday, September 23, 2022

Covered Bridge Tour

 The focus of this trip was bridges rather than birds.  Sister-in-law Mary Claire Sites has recently moved from Pleasanton; California to the Dallas Retirement Village and was interested in showing her guest and friend Jaylene Wilson some interesting sites in the area.  We settled on a tour of historic covered bridges in nearby Linn County. I selected a loop tour of five bridges centered around the town of Scio. We were unable to visit the Shimanek Bridge because the road was closed, but we did get to the other four, with a stop in the middle for lunch at the Covered Bridge Coffee House.    

Hoffman Bridge
Our first stop was the Hoffman Bridge just north of the small town of Crabtree. Built in 1936 over Crabtree Creek, it was one of the two oldest bridges we visited.

Gilkey Bridge
Our second stop was Gilkey Bridge, built in 1939 over Thomas Creek. 

Covered Bridge Coffee House - Scio
Our lunch stop was at the Covered Bridge Coffee House on Main Street.  It was a favorite, and a must stop for anyone that tours the bridges. Open for breakfast and lunch as well a Friday night dinner.  

Hannah Bridge
Our third bridge to visit was Hannah Bridge built in 1936 over Thomas Creek. The surprise feature here was on the far side of the bridge, a brand-new park, Bilyeu Den County Park with creek access via stairs from a parking lot with restrooms. This is a day-use only park.

Bilyeu Den County Park

Larwood Bridge
Our fourth bridge was Larwood Bridge, built in 1939 over Crabtree Creek.

Larwood Wayside Park
Larwood Wayside Park provides parking, and a foot bridge over Roaring River to give you access to picnic tables and restrooms. From the park you can walk up to Larwood Bridge. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Hiking to The Knoll

Yesterday morning we were all set for an all-morning AARP Safe Driving Class here at the Dallas Retirement Village, then we got a call that the class had been cancelled! Our immediate response was to escape to the coast for the day.  We threw together a lunch, day packs, and birding gear and headed out. A destination of The Knoll, a Lincoln City Open Space Park, popped into my mind.  It was one of the Lincoln City Parks that we had not been to yet, and based on the map, it would take some exploration to find. It turned out that my assumption was correct, it did take some searching, perseverance, and luck to find the traihead, and the trail route.

Jim at the Cul De Sac Trailhead
Based on a Google aerial view, I picked out what looked like a parking lot.  Luckily it was the Cul De Sac Trailhead, the primary trailhead. Street signage gave no clue, so I had to go from the "seat of my pants" kind of navigation. Jeanette noticed a bar code at the trailhead sign from which we were able to download a trail map on my phone. We sought advice from a local hiker, and as we had learned from years of bike touring, "never trust directions from a local", turned out to be true once again. The trail we wanted to The Knoll via the other two trailheads, was not from this sign where I am pictured, but from an unmarked trail back by our parked car. 
Jeanette at the Sal La Sea Trailhead
After a circular route that brought us back to our parked car, we took off on the unmarked trail and arrived at our hoped for second trailhead, Sal-La-Sea Trailhead, where Jeannette is pictured.    

Jeanette and Jim at the Port Drive Trailhead
The third trailhead, Port Drive Trailhead, is actually a "Dead End" for car traffic. But is possibly the trailhead you would want to use for the shortest hiking route to The Knoll. 

Jeanette at The Knoll
The Knoll has an open meadow at the summit and provides a spectacular view past Lincoln City to Government Point. Here is the link to the Lincoln City Parks and Recreation page for The Knoll:


Wednesday, August 31, 2022


I took this photo of a Cedar Waxwing yesterday while birding with Jeanette at Buell County Park here in rural Polk County.  Today while looking a little closer at the photo, I realized the bird was feasting on Serviceberries.  That took me back to my first exposure to Serviceberry.  It was in the summer of 1971.  I was one of several adult counselors with a large group of high school kids on a backpacking trip sponsored by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the far northeast corner of Oregon. Don Henry, Youth Minister at the First Christain Church in Salem, was our leader and substituted Serviceberries for the "fruit of the vine" in a Communion Service.  As you can tell, Serviceberry has been permanently implanted in my mind, for now half a century.  

Friday, August 26, 2022

Spring Lake Open Space

Lincoln City has 8 Open Space Parks with walking trails to explore. On this trip to the coast, we stopped to check out the birds at Spring Lake Open Space. Located just three blocks off of busy Highway 101, it is a quiet oasis away from the beach crowd, with its towering trees and dense shrubbery surrounding tiny Spring Lake.  Although this is an e-Bird Hotspot, birds were rather scarce, but the sense of solitude and an opportunity to stretch your legs, makes it a worthy stop. In checking Cascade Ramblings, I was surprised to find that it has been seven years since we were here last.  Checkout that post here.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Juvenile Brown-headed Cowbirds

 I was having a low-energy afternoon. I had been trying to pep myself up with a cookie and a cup of coffee and was trying to wade through "Thank You for Your Servitude", a somewhat entertaining book about Trump's ability to kick people under the bus once they had served his purpose. I took a break to stand out on our second-floor balcony, and suddenly caught a glimpse of some bird activity below in the Central Courtyard.  I stepped back inside and grabbed my camera and started taking photos, thirty-two in all. To my surprise, I had a couple of juvenile Brown-headed Cowbirds at my feeder. To understand my excitement, you need to know that Brown-headed Cowbirds do not make a nest of their own, they are unique in the birding world of laying their eggs in another bird's nest.  Of course, the next question becomes, who's nest did these juveniles come from.  Hummingbirds, White-crowned Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos have all had nests in this courtyard, and I did notice an adult male junco acting parental in the same area. I'll probably never know, but my brain was stimulated, and my normally energy has returned. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Coastal Safari

Jeanette & Glenn at the Siltcoos River

A string of days in the upper 90s provided the incentive for us to pack-up our Winnebago Pocket van in a quest for cooler temperatures on the Oregon Coast.  Early Monday morning we headed south in the Willamette Valley. We made stops to birdwatch at Adair Wildlife Area north of Corvallis, and Monroe City Park on the banks of the Long Tom River, before traversing the Coast Range, where we watched the temperatures begin to drop. Our first camp set-up was at the Siuslaw Nation Forest Tyee Campground along the Siltcoos River where our friend, Glen, volunteers as the Camp Host. Glenn served as our guide on a bird walk at Westlake County Park Boat Ramp, and an evening in Tyee Campground sitting on the banks of the Siltcoos River.

Early Tuesday morning found us moving our hunt for birds with Glenn to the Carter Lake Campground, followed by a search for more birds at Stables Road next to the Smith River. We took a break for lunch in nearby Reedsport. Back to the camp at Tyee, we said goodby to Glenn and headed north to Florence for Jeanette to do some shopping at Fred Myer and for me to take advantage of better cell service to work on bird observation lists. Waldport became our next destination as we traveled over Cape Perpetua, enjoying the ocean views.  In Waldport we settled in at the Lint Slough Trailhead where we made a stationary count of birds.  After dinner we did an evening walk upriver on the Lint Slough Trail counting addition birds. 

Wednesday morning found us traveling up the coastline dodging in and out of fog and bright sunshine. Our first stop to bird was at the Welcome Center at the Beaver Creek Nature Area. This is where we volunteered our summers in 2013 and 2014 as hosts.  Despite the big Welcome Center sign at the entrance, we were surprised to find the Welcome Center is now the Coastal Region Office, with a "closed" sign on the door and phone numbers to call if you needed anything. Amusing, there is no cell service at this location. 

Next stop was at our favorite Alder Island Trail in the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge. First was lunch, a real plus with all the comforts of the van, and then our birdwalk on the trail. Birding was slow as one would expect in the middle of the day.  But the most amusing thing we saw was a lone Osprey bringing a stick to the nest.  This time of year, most juveniles have left the nest.  My guess is that this is a young bird, with its first visit north, and it is practicing nest building for next year when he will attempt to attract a female.

This finished our three days on the Oregon Coast, where we enjoyed the cooler temperatures.  We completed 10 different e-Bird Observation Lists, spread over 5 different counties. It's always a fun adventure in the van for a few days, and always great to return to the luxuries of life at Dallas Retirement Village. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Alder Creek Farm

Hot weather with a week of temperatures in the upper 90's induced us to spend some time on the Oregon Coast with our Winnebago Pocket camping van. Friends Kerry and Debbie Kliever had a campsite for their RV at Nehalem Bay State Park for July 25 - 27 and invited us to join them for the day on Wed the 26. Because of commitments here at Dallas Retirement Village, we didn't get away from here until after lunch on Tues the 26th.  We drove as far as Tillamook that afternoon, stopping to bird at the Salmon River Estuary, and an evening bird walk on the Tillamook Hospital Hole Trail (see list here), with an overnight parking spot at an undisclosed location.  The next morning, we traveled on to Nehalem Bay State Park where we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast prepared by Kerry and Debbie, and a great bird walk along a section of Nehalem Bay (see list here). After a lunch provided by Jeanette, we traveled on to our next destination, the town of Nehalem Bay, where we parked at an iOverlander site behind City Hall. We spent the afternoon exploring the town and stopping at a food truck for fish tacos. The highlight of the evening, with the help of a local, was finding the upper trailhead of Alder Creek Farm. See our total bird list for the town here. We got so excited about exploring Alder Creek Farm, that we abandoned our plan of driving on up to Tolovana State Park the next day. We chose instead to stay right there in the Nehalem Bay area and explore the trails of Alder Creek Farm. The next morning, we awoke to thick wet fog, a normal morning for the Oregon Coast, so we adjusted our plan and chose a bird walk along the Nehalem River Dike (see bird list here). By the time we finished there, the fog was lifting and after a stop at the bakery for a scone and coffee we took Highway 101 over the hill to the Alder Creek Farm. This is not easy to find, and I suggest you do your homework before attempting a visit.  After crossing the foot bridge over Alder Creek, you are introduced to a deep coastal forest, thick with Sitka Spruce and Red Alder trees, Sword Fern, and blackberries gone amuck. It was a good workout, and a real challenge to ascertain the trail route. After much difference in opinion, and several false turns, and some retracing we finally found our way back to the van (see our bird list here). The great convenience of our van allowed us to change out of sweaty clothes before the drive back to Nehalem Bay and the City Park where we parked in the shade, and I was able to spend some time working on bird photos.  Our parking place down by City Hall worked well, but the cell service is much better up at the city park.  After a nice rest we decided we had the energy to simply drive home rather than hang around for another night.  The highlight of our trip was probably Cedar Creek Farms. Formerly a 54-acre dairy, this land of pasture, creek and bay frontage, was purchased in 2002 by the Lower Nehalem Community Trust. Additional purchase now brings the total to 140 acres. We have more to explore here, so I'm hopeful we will return again.