Thursday, February 25, 2010

Visiting Arches National Park

I recently gave a presentation at the REI Bend store about visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The program was in support of my latest, and smallest, field guide Arches and Canylands National Parks Pocket Guide. I covered some of the natural and cultural history aspects of the parks, as well as hiking, biking, jeeping, rafting, and camping opportunities. Fun to do, but talks like this always make me miss the canyon country.

Although it is fun to share past experiences with folks, I look forward to "new stories." Tales of adventures not yet taken. I always have the excuse that a trip to southern Utah is "work-related." I'm sure some of you have the same reason that takes you to exotic destinations or to undertake grand adventures all in the name of "work." Here's to good excuses! Cheers.

Eagles in the Morning

Chuck Cross, co-owner of Polar Cruises, stopped by this morning to tell me about some bald eagles he had seen along a nearby road. Chuck walks his dog Rocky, AKA The Rocket, off of this road every morning. After giving me some directions, I headed out with my camera.

Fortunately, the two bald eagles were still working on a deer carcass just off the road. With them where several black-billed magpies. The magpies took advantage of the eagle's spookiness; every time a car passed the birds flew up to perches in nearby ponderosas. When they did this, the magpies swooped in and started to feed. They didn't seem as concerned about traffic and probably were being opportunistic with the eagles away.

After shooting some photos, I drove away and parked. I waited about 10 minutes to see if the eagles would return to the carcass. Only a few vehicles came by, but that was enough to keep the birds off of their easy meal. As I drove by the second time, the birds remained perched. 

The carcass was far enough off of the road to not warrant moving it. I've done that before, stopped and hauled a deer off of a road to minimize potential collisions between birds and vehicles. Gross? Of course, but then again, I'd rather not see the eagles get hit. Besides, what's a little blood and guts on a naturalist's boots? Answer: just something else from nature to investigate...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Eagle Watch 2010

The 15th annual Eagle Watch 2010 will be held at Round Butte Overlook Park at Lake Billy Chinook on February 27 and 28. In addition to the wintering eagles in the area, there will be programs on raptor identification, owls, status of the bald eagle, and a lot more. The East Cascades Audubon Society, of which I am one of the Board members, will be on hand, as well.

There willl be live birds of prey, demonstrations, kid's acitivities, and a Native American program on Sunday. Sponsored by the Oregon State Parks, this should be a "good time had by all." For more information visit the Oregon State Parks' Web site at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grosbeaks in my Backyard

I confess: I am easily entertained. Give me a chair, a view of my bird feeders, and a pair of binoculars and I'm good for hours.

This time of year the house finches and mourning doves dominate my seed feeders, along with the northern flickers that keep the suet feeders swinging. I lure my neighbor's American goldfinches over the fence with some thistle seed, but don't tell them.

So imagine my bliss this morning when I hear a flock of evening grosbeaks calling from the ponderosas around my house. I go back inside and scoop up some black sunflower seeds in hopes of luring these beautiful birds to my feeder.

Now imagine my disappointment when I hear the flock take to flight, their chatter fading as they leave the neighborhood. Damn.

A lull follows and that means back to work.

But that's OK. Maybe I'll work on an article about attracting back yard birds. Or perhaps one specific to this species whose "grosbeak" name doesn't indicate an ugly mug. No, the name means "large beak" and describes the stout bill of this Finch Family member.

So, I'll keep listening while I type for the grosbeak's call, and occasionally peer out the window. OK, so more frequently than occasionally, but after all, staring out the window is part of my work.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Darwin Day...

... is set for February 12, 2010. This nontraditional holiday celebrates the 200th birthday of the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

Darwin spent five years on board the HMS Beagle, which left England in 1831 for a round-the-world scientific exploration. Wherever the expedition went, Darwin studied the flora and fauna and geology of the lands he visited. What an adventure for the then twenty-two year old naturalist! A keen observer, Darwin collected numerous specimens of plants, animals and fossils, and took copious amounts of notes for further study.

Through his research, Darwin developed theories about the origins and adaptations of organisms over time. He believed that evolution occurred, but on a very gradual scale, flavored by immense periods of time. The process of natural selection was the key mechanism driving a species ability to adapt and evolve to changing environments. His 1859 publication - On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection - set forth his theories that this process occurs randomly and that the ability of an organism to survive or die was determined by that organisms ability to adapt to its environment.

Of course, publication of Darwin's theories widened the gulf between scientific thought and theology. Darwin avoided discussions about the social and theological impacts of his work; he was a scientist at heart.

So this Friday we'll hoist a pint in his honor and embrace his theories of natural selection and evolution.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wax on...

Master Waxers - Team Coach Fitzsimmons
...wax off. Apologies to Mr. Kesuke Miyagi of the Karate Kid movies. A couple of days ago I attended a ski waxing clinic at the Bend REI store. There to learn more about waxes, but during the workshop I couldn't help to think there's an article here.

As a "weekend" nordic skier, it was apparent during the workshop that I neglect my skis way too much. Maybe the first person perspective is the way to go; I'll be the first to poke fun at myself. A lot of material there.

But the one tidbit I took home, and will hopefully turn into an article, is the use of all-temperature natural waxes out there on the market. Time to do some research and craft a query or two. Of course, that will have to wait until I get back from the snow....