Friday, December 28, 2012

Birding Bend

Four days before the New Year starts, I'm gearing up for another year of birding here in Bend. I've moved my office into the living room for a better view of the backyard feeders. With my Nikon Monarchs nearby, I can scan the feeders, fences and trees for feathered visitors. Plus, I can keep an eye on the backyard chickens should one of those visitors be looking for a meal other than seed or suet.

This morning's list of visitors includes:
house finches galore
dark-eyed juncos
western scrub-jays
mourning doves
mountain chickadees
California quail
song sparrow
spotted towhee
red-breasted nuthatch
pygmy nuthatch

Flocks of red crossbills have been circling the home, but not coming down to the feeders.

On the morning dog walk around the Mountain View subdivision we saw a hermit's thrush, varied thrush, Townsend's solitaire, American robin, and more chickadees. A fairly nice start to the day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Todd Lake 'Shoe

Snowshoed to Todd Lake today from the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center, down the Common Corridor, then out to the lake. Light snow the whole day and about 18" of new snow. The going, at times, was a bit taxing, especially when I crashed into a couple of unseen tree wells. But, hey, who's complaining? Beautiful conditions, great day, you gotta figure on augering in every now and then.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rambling on a Winter's Day

Fresh snow, blue skies, clouds on the distant horizon. Another winter day here in Central Oregon - but lovin' it.

The feeders are full of house finches and a couple lesser goldfinches, scrub and Steller's jays, mourning doves, dark-eyed juncos, and some pine siskins. Still trying to lure the evening grosbeaks and red crossbills down for a treat. Mountain chickadees and both pygmy and red-breasted nuthatches are working over the ponderosa cones. Nice view from my office window.

However, the real gist of today's post is freeing pets caught in snares or traps. Although I don't support trapping, I realize it is a legal activity here in Oregon. This post is more a focus on freeing a dog caught in a trap, something I had to do once with our dog Jessie when she was caught in a leg-hold trap.

I've provided a link to a Pet Owners pdf from a Nova Scotia wildlife agency's site. It has some good photographs and steps to freeing a pet from different traps. A solid pair of wire cutters in your pack is a good idea.

OK, back to looking at the birds...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nordeen Shelter trip

Beautiful day up to the Nordeen Shelter today. Swampy Lakes received about 2-3 inches of new snow last night making conditions on the trail fairly nice. Total distance from the Swampy trailhead out and back to the shelter was about 5.0 miles.

Sets of Douglas squirrel tracks, mountain cottontails and a few unknowns dotted the new snow. Mountain chickadees, red crossbills, a common raven, gray jay and dark morph rough-legged hawk were the few feathered wildlife observed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gearing up for winter...

Ah, winter. While some folks plan for tropical vacations, I review trail guides and maps of snowshoe and backcountry ski trails. Here in Central Oregon there are numerous areas to visit in winter, the various sno-parks provide great access into these regions. With the recent storms, snow is accumulating in the high country - Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort reports 38" at mid-mountain level and will be opening November 22 if all goes well.

Wahoo! Time to turn to winter fun!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Clark's Nutcrackers

For the last several mornings, I've watched huge flocks or suites of Clark's nutcrackers as the birds fly and descend into the large ponderosa pines that line my dog walking route. Though I've seen birds in the area over the years, never in such numbers. Some flocks have had over 250 birds. Their graceful flight inspires another name to these flocks, "a ballet of nutcrackers."

One assumption is that the nutcrackers are feeding on ponderosa seeds of which there also seems to be an abundance. The split pea-sized seed has a winged tail that turns like a helicopter blade as the seed drops from the tree. Carried aloft on even a slight breeze, the spinning motion gets the seed away from the parent tree and, hopefully, into an area where it may germinate.

With their large stout bills, the nutcrackers can extract these seeds from the pine cones and store them in a special pouch under their tongues or eat the seeds. Stored seeds are buried in a cache that the nutcrackers may dig up later in winter.

Pine seeds along with other nuts, insects, bird eggs, young birds, small mammals and even carrion may fill out the nutcracker's diet. Medium sized, these members of the Corvid family are as much fun to watch as their "bluer" relatives - the Western Scrub and Steller's jays.

Named after William Clark who observed these birds in 1805, the Clark's is a raucous and inquisitive species. Dressed in gray with dark wings and tailing edge white wing patches, these birds are a delight to watch while walking my dog.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Hiking the Metolius

The Metolius River winds from the base of Black Butte into Lake Billy Chinook. Some 40+ miles in length, the last 11 or 12 are buried beneath the still waters of the reservoir.

Located along both sides of the river are hiking/fishing access trails. On this day there were numerous fly fisherman and several other hikers. Osprey are common and eagles sometimes take fish from the river or ponds at the Wizard Falls Hatchery. Like shooting fish in a barrel...


Friday, September 21, 2012

With the Pole Creek Fire forming a far-off smoke cloud, we ventured out to Cultus Lake and the Winopee Trail. Heading to Muskrat Lake for a day hike, our group passed through forests of Engelmann spruce, mountain hemlock, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine and western white pine. The day's stillness reflected off the glassy surface of Cultus Lake.

A western toad caught trying to escape the trail, chipmunks, Steller's jays, American robins and a lone redtailed hawk were the few interruptions up to Muskrat.

Muskrat Lake Cabin

According to Les Joslin, retired USFS, the cabin was built in 1934 by Luther Metke. Metke built the cabin for Ted Wallace who provided living quarters for his trappers who were trapping muskrats in the forest to supplement Wallace's muskrat farm. Of all the things...

Of course, this brings up questions as to the histories of these 2 fellows, where the muskrat farm was located - one reference had it listed for Muskrat Lake - and what or where were the muskrats going from the farm. Hopefully I'll be able to pull some threads of a story together.

Room with a view

In addition to the written references, I met a fellow on the trail who had backpacked into the area and camped in the cabin back in the 1970s when the structure was sound. He mentioned a group, Friends of the Muskrat, who maintained the cabin until new regulations for Wilderness areas was enacted and the cabin left to dissolve into the landscape. Another thread to pick up...

Muskrat scat loaded with crayfish parts

Special thanks to Lynda Paznokas for the information about Wallace.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Todd Lake trail

Dust rises with each footfall. The trail hasn't seen rain for a month or longer. Prints of other hikers and their dogs litter the trail, but we find tracks of deer and elk mixed in with the hikers.

Subalpine lupine, larkspur, dirty socks and pussypaws continue to bloom along the trail, although the sense that the summer season is nearing its end is present. More seedpods than blooms, seeds with silky hairs, winged seeds from the hemlocks spiraling downward. Ah, the start of September in the high country.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Crescent Mountain

One of the Old Cascade peaks, Crescent Mountain is named for its quarter moon shape. There are two high points along the mountain; one was the site of an old fire lookout that is now nothing but a pile of debris and fading memories.

The hike up Crescent Mountain from the FR 508 trailhead, climbs steadily up through old growth and second growth forests, traverses through wildflower meadows and swaths of bracken ferns, up to the peak's high point at over 5790'. Although one gains over 2000 on this climb, the steady progression of switchbacks minimizes the inclines.

On a recent July outing, the clarity of the sky enhanced the view from Mt. Adams to the north to Diamond Peak to the south. All of the high Cascade crest peaks were out in their splendor - Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, Three Finger Jack, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tsunami Debris Clean Up on the Oregon Coast

The March 11, 2011 tsunami that devastated portions of Japan made a lasting impact on thousands of people. Loss of life and property were stark reminders of the power of the sea. An estimated 1.5 million tons of debris washed into the sea from that tsunami. Now, some 15 months later, debris from this disaster is starting to wash on the Oregon Coast.

In Oregon, several state agencies are providing residents and visitors to the beach with recommendations about cleaning up this debris, and even how to return some personal items back to the Japanese residents.

The Oregon State Parks and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife are gearing up for the clean-up tasks ahead. Besides just trash, one real threat to local wildlife and coastal habitats is from the introduction of aquatic species not native to the U.S. These species may impact coastal environments, fisheries or the shellfish industry.

A big concern regarding  washed up debris is the potential for living organisms to be attached to those items. This would include seaweeds, barnacles, snails, starfish, crustaceans, and plants, as well as other species not native to the area. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife asks visitors to the beach to collect trash items and either dispose of them in garbage cans or, if the object is too large, move it to above the high tide mark. Items too large to be moved, like the 60+ foot section of dock that recently washed up in Newport, should be reported to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department at 1-888-953-7677 or via e-mail. A photograph and description of the organism, as well as its location and date found, will also help to determine if the organism is a species of concern or not.

Oregon officials request that visitors call 911 or the US Coast Guard at 510-437-3701 to report exceptionally large items observed at sea or off the coast, especially those that pose a hazard to navigation.
Bits and pieces of plastic, twine, buoys, or general garbage seem to be a constant source on the coast. Much of this debris is from around the Pacific Ocean and may not be associated with the last tsunami. One idea that I do is to carry a plastic bag and pick up this small debris, then dispose of it in garbage cans. Keep an eye out for small items that may actually be from Japanese residents where the tsunami hit. These items may be treasured keepsakes and be able to be traced back to the owners through the Oregon State Park’s e-mail:

Help keep the Oregon Coast clean!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Great hike today up and around the Tam-a-lau trail at Cove Palisades State Park. Cool weather made the 7-mile loop hike enjoyable, though the spring warmth is appreciated.

Arrowhead balsamroot, basalt milkvetch, lupines, wild onions, cluster lilies, Indian paintbrush, bitterbrush, death camas, fleabane daisy, Townsendia, big-headed clover, and some dwarf phlox were in bloom along the trail. Overhead there were bald eagles, turkey vultures, osprey, red-tailed hawk, prairie falcon, American kestrel, violet-green swallows, and white-throated swifts cutting through the air.

Tomorrow it is off to the Metolius...

Monday, April 23, 2012

First of the Season (FOS)

Yesterday I had rufous hummingbirds zipping through the yard so I hung up a couple of hummer feeders. Couldn't have been an hour later, there was a male rufous visiting the feeder. Of course it took the ants a little longer to reach it, but there they are. The chickens will get the ants, the hummers will get the sugar water, and I'll keep the binos handy.

For a broader picture on rufous migrations, check out the Journey North site.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Canyon Country Wildflowers

The latest addition of Canyon Country Wildflowers is now available from the Globe Pequot Press. Updated and expanded, this field guide covers over 200 plants found in the Four Corners Region of the American Southwest.

Many of the images were taken at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as other locations around Moab, Utah. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sage Grouse Lek

Here is a short video clip I shot of some greater sage grouse at a lek in Central Oregon. The males strut and display for a female's attention. A total of 17 birds at the site included 3 females. This early morning spring ritual is fascinating to watch and harks back to a primitive era.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Williamson's Sapsucker Drumming

This morning while walking my dog, Thielsen, in the Deschutes National Forest, I observed a Williamson's sapsucker drumming on a broken off ponderosa pine. A short series of rapid notes followed by several trailing off notes alerted me to the male. Their drumming sounds like it's running out of gas towards the end versus the staccato drum of the Northern flicker.

The male also made a few "churr" calls that have a jay-like quality.

Though I didn't see the female, which ornithologists first thought was a different species, the ponderosa snag had numerous cavities that may represent a nesting location. A pygmy nuthatch was investigating some cavities lower on the snag, so maybe this snag will serve as an "apartment complex" this season.

The Williamson's honors Lt. Robert Stockton Williamson (1825-1882), one of the topographical engineers who led a transcontinental railroad survey into California and Oregon in the 1850s. A male sapsucker was collected during that expedition and John Cassin described and named the species for the lieutenant. Williamson Mountain and the Williamson River in Oregon and Mount Williamson in California are also named for Williamson.

A small piece of trivia: a group of sapsuckers is known as a "slurp." Like other sapsuckers, the Williamson drills a row of horizontal holes in a tree to access the sap. The birds consume the sap and/or the insects trapped in the sticky fluid. Sapsuckers have shorter tongues than other woodpeckers and the tip is brushlike.

Northern flicker

I made some notes in my journal as to the location of the tree and will have to return with my camera and camcorder to get some images. If nothing else, a good excuse to go back for a walk in the woods.

Pygmy nuthatch