Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Snowy Owl

A snowy owl flies from the Arctic to Burns, Oregon.

A snowy owl resides along OR 78 between mile marker 5 and 6.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bird Watcher's Digest article on Lewis' woodpeckers

Here is a link to an article in the May/June 2011 issue of Bird Watcher's Digest on a Lewis' woodpecker project here in Bend, Oregon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Breath Equals Possibility

I recently saw this phrase and thought, "How appropriate." Especially since life has thrown me a breaking ball and my badly timed swing corkscrewed me into the dirt.

So I stand back up and breathe. Step out of the batter's box and check the third-base signals. Another breath. Step back in and get ready for possibilities. Profound? No. Reality? Yes.

As a writer, I live in a land of possibilities filled with book contracts, job bids, magazine acceptance, photo opportunities. Possibilities fuel my world and I regard them as precious commodities. Each and every one is really a gift.

Of course, this doesn't mean that negativity, fear, rejection, or impossibilities don't exist. I visit those lands even if I don't want to, but I can choose to walk the rim between those two places. Acknowledge both exist and choose where to walk. And to breathe.  

Possibilities at every fork in the road. Now to pursue them...

Thursday, October 6, 2011


FOS means first of the season.

As I work at my home desk, I have a great view into my backyard. I have several feeder stations set up and during the day I get to watch a parade of species.

Lately it has been the Finch family with white- and golden-crowned sparrows, dark-eyed juncos and house finches that have crowded the feeders. When they depart, the California quail parade through, the males with their topknots and the females ushering in the young. In addition, the mourning doves and pygmy nuthatches make constant forays to the feeders, the nuthatches departing with sunflower seeds which they hammer into the ponderosa pine crevices.

An Anna's hummingbird continues to visit the wildflowers; I haven't seen any rufous hummers for a while, but they still are reported in the area.

Today I got to add white-fronted geese to my yard list. Not because they landed in the tiny pool, but because a skein of them flew overhead. I consider any bird that I can see from by suburbia yard to be fair game as a "yard bird." Even if they are 3,000 feet above me.

Though my county year has been derailed by personal issues, I feel like a marathoner who puked at mile 16, then twisted an ankle rounding a curb at mile 20. I'll limp to the finish, take time to heal, then  be back.

While I nurse myself back to health, I'll feel good about the May/June 2011 issue of Bird Watcher's Digest. Publication is a tonic that cures every writer.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lookout Mountain Trail

The trail up Lookout Mountain in the Ochocos climbs through a coniferous forest of western larch, Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine and subalpine fir to an exposed and rocky summit. The loop trail from the Independence Mine trailhead is roughly 7.0 miles and gains over 1000 feet. Even in late summer there are wildflowers and berry-laden plants like baneberry and blue elderberry. Although the fruits of baneberry are toxic, the red or white berries add some color along the trail.

The Independent Mine processed ore from the volcanic rocks of the Clarno Formation. Mercury and gold were extracted, but the mine closed in the 1950s. Remnants of the operation still stand.
Nowadays the area is frequented by hikers, horse riders, mountain bikers and wildlife. Deer and elk and small mammals occur in the area, and warning signs for cougars are posted at the trailhead. On my last visit I watched a small herd of elk moving across a small ridge before disappearing into the far woods.


Columbia River Basalts outcrop near the summit of Lookout Mountain

Signs of elk abound along the trail
Remnant of the mining operation

Historic structure near the Independence Mine

The snow shelter built in 1989

Wildflowers and butterflies of late summer

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Canyon Creek Meadows

July 29, 2011. The trail to Canyon Creek Meadows in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area is now pretty much snow and blow down free. Although the upper meadows are still covered in snow, the lower one is exploding with shooting stars, lupine and Indian paintbrush.

Small pond along the trail

Depending upon how far one goes into the upper meadows, this is about a 4.5 mile hike with around 400 feet of elevation gain. The return trip via Canyon Creek makes a nice loop, even though a portion of the hike is through the B&B Burn of 2003.

Looking towards the viewpoint saddle and Three Fingered Jack

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Iron Mountain/Cone Peak Trail

Hiked the Iron Mountain and Cone Peak trail last week. Stunning day, gorgeous flowers, exceptional views, great company. Grouse and nuthatches calling, fresh elk tracks, unknown animal dens.

The trek up to the Iron Mountain viewpoint is almost snow-free, just one last patch before the summit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Patjens Lakes Trail

Trail sign in from the trailhead
With most of the high country trails still snow covered, the Patjens Lake trail is a nice option for an almost snow-free hike. Even at 4,600' there are patches of snow that one has to cross.

Beargrass in bloom along the trail

Starting at the Big Lake Campground, the trail soon forks and makes a loop hike out into the Mt. Washington Wilderness. I prefer hiking counter-clockwise, gaining elevation early in the hike, then hitting the lakes before returning to Big Lake. Current conditions include a few downed trees, snow, some flooded areas, and a few mosquitoes.

Highlights include mountain views, old-growth forests and views of Hayrick Butte, a steep-sided butte that resulted from a subglacial volcanic eruption. This type of eruption involves a lava flow originating below a glacier or ice field, melting through to the surface and pooling on the surface to form a flat-topped structure. Called a tuya, Hayrick Butte is about a half-mile wide and 700 feet high.

Hoodoo and Hayrick Buttes

Trail distance: around 6.3 miles and 400 feet of elevation gain.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lewis' woodpecker article

I had an article in the May/June 2011 issue of Bird Watcher's Digest about a local project to build nest boxes for Lewis' woodpeckers. Here are a few extra photos of the project.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Going Coastal

View of Otter Rock from Cape Foulweather
When things get crazy here in central Oregon, we love to "go coastal." Most of the time we head to the Newport, Oregon area because of the wonderful access to the beaches, tidepools and headlands.

The beaches offer great opportunities to walk and the one stand-out this trip was Ona Beach. Tidal action had uncovered the bizarre rock outcrops along the beach, prompting me to work on a story called "Stone Seal Beach."

Gull Rock from Cape Foulweather
Though we saw gray whales daily, these summer ones are "resident" whales - ones that don't migrate all the way to the Bering or Chukchi Sea. These whales feed along the coast, helping themselves to myscid shrimp and other creatures they filter out from their bottom feeding.

The highlight of the trip was locating tufted puffins nesting on Gull Rock near the Devils Punchbowl. I observed dark alcids with light colored heads flying up to the rock while I was watching brown pelicans fishing near the rock. After a short trip back to our rental for the spotting scope, I was able to locate the puffins entering into a rocky ledge, presumably feeding young due to the multiple trips by the adults.
Common murre rookery
One other interesting observation was the common murre rookery at Yaquina Head. Possibly due to the presence of bald eagles along the coast, the murre populations have been abandoning some of their rookeries because of periodic hunting pressure by the eagles. There were several thousand murres in the water around the lighthouse and blank spots on the near-shore outcrops indicated abandoned nest sites. Several observers with either USFWS or contract companies (never did ascertain that) were observing and recording changes in nesting density on these off-shore outcrops. Though we didn't observe any predation attempts that day, I have in the past watched the murres peel off these rocks as peregrines or bald eagles make strafing runs for prey. If the eagles are doing this with enough frequency, the murres must be feeling the heat.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse
So after a week of sun and surf, I've returned home fresh with ideas and images from my "going coastal" trip. Now to translate some of those into articles.
Gray whale blow

Finding the strength in mussels

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pumice Springs

A small oasis located on the east side of Pine Mountain. Fenced off to protect the fragile habitat, Pumice Springs attracts song birds and wildlife to its two open water sources. Pumice (from Newberry Volcano or nearby Pine Mountain?) blankets the ground.

The surrounding woodlands are a mix of western juniper, lodgepole and ponderosa pine. Directly east, sits a B.P.A. substation, a stark reminder of the land's use.

But on this day, it is just me, the substation's hum, and singing birds. Black-throated gray warblers call from the nearby woods, a lone olive-sided flycatcher utters his "Quick three beers" song, western and mountain bluebirds tussle over nest boxes and Cassin's finches litter the ground.

The bluebirds do not reflect their "bluebirds of happiness" moniker. The two species go at each other like a MMA contest. Tree swallows perch on nearby wires watching the spectacle and, perhaps, hoping to usurp one of the boxes for their own.

Lark and chipping sparrows join the finches foraging on the ground and a constant flight of yellow, yellow-rumped and Wilson's warblers, red crossbills, a lone female Bullock's oriole, and others beg for some traffic control.

The springs are not large, but they are bird magnets. Nearby Sand Springs is also fenced off, but a constant parade of logging trucks detracts from the birding. A thinning project in the Deschutes National Forest keeps this area active, so I head elsewhere in search of solitude and solitaires.

Deschutes County Big Year: 169 species.