Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Christmas Bird Chase and a Christmas Bird Count

Portland did not see a White Christmas this year, but Sarah and I compensated by finding a snow bunting on Christmas Day.

After brunching at her grandparents' house, we drove to the north side of the Portland Airport.

We pulled into a small parking area, rolled down our windows, and watched the Snow Bunting (possibly a Snow x McKay's Bunting hybrid) eat weed seeds for several minutes. Easiest bird chase ever! The bunting is in the lower right corner of the photo.

Two days later, we woke at 5:30 am and drove to the Willamette Valley town of Dallas, Oregon to assist their Christmas Bird Count.

With the help of a semi-local birder, Sarah and I drove our Subaru around our assigned sectors, which consisted of upland fields,

foggy hilltops,

and a few streams with nice bridges.

We found a friendly donkey and 53 species of birds. Of these species, two-thirds were songbirds.

Our songbird success pushed the overall count total above 100 species, a nice feat considering the stormy weather and relatively low number of participants.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstices 2011

Lately, the solstices, especially the winter one, are my favorite times of the year. I now consider holidays such as Christmas and New Year's Eve to be components of a month-long solstice celebration. I guess this makes me some sort of a Judeo-Christo-Pagan. Whatever I am, I like to watch the sun rise and set during astronomical milestones.

On June's summer solstice, I watched the sun rise while I counted birds at Killin Wetlands.

Many hours later, I watched it set from our from yard.

I missed today's winter solstice sunrise (my body insists on hibernating through the mid-morning hours), but I would not have seen the sun anyway because of the thick morning fog.

In the afternoon, the sky cleared in time to see sunset colors over the Village.

We then went out for pizza and dark beer, the perfect combination to kick off the long night.

Though only Wednesday, it has been a long week of cabin fever down in our holler. We look forward to good times with friends and family this weekend, in houses warmer than our own.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Solstice Season Prep

As the shortest day of the year approaches, we are almost ready for the celebrations that will follow.

During the last two weeks, I carved, sanded, and painted some new ornaments for our tree, inspired by creatures from Oregon and New Mexico:

a common kingsnake in the foreground and a sockeye salmon in the background

a glossy snake

a quillback rockfish

a tiger rockfish

a spawning chum salmon

This morning, I visited our local Farmers Market to pick up some contributions to holiday meals.

The winter offerings included this slice of orange-fleshed squash

and a fabulously fractal cauliflower.

Another day of gift-finding, a few more days of work, and I will be ready to cook, relax, and enjoy the season.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December skies

After many days of heavy rain, we now have clear skies in western Oregon.

Down in our holler, it is still pretty dark. This morning, a black cottonwood (the orange tree in the background) east of our yard had the sunlight all to itself.

At sunset, the cottonwood was still illuminated.

To our west, the sky was a wintry shade of purple. Welcome to December!