Sunday, December 16, 2012

One more Washington trip for 2012

 Last week, Sarah and I escaped from Portland to spend a week in Northwestern Washington. We spent one night in Port Townsend and four more on Whidbey Island. I hoped to spend some unstructured time scoping the various bodies of water for floating birds. The weather was decent for most of the trip, so we had no problem accomplishing this goal.

Here are some of the waters we watched:

Deception Pass

 Gig Harbor (chum salmon in the foreground)

 Useless Bay

 Saratoga Passage

Admiralty Inlet

We found plenty of birds, including 25 species of waterfowl such as this Harlequin Duck.

This super-bright rainbow at Deception Pass was one of the many sights we enjoyed along the way.
We returned to Portland on Saturday, just in time to decorate our house in preparation for the solstice season.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Finding birds and a tree

Last week, I moderated a special session for an international fire ecology conference. I had been preparing  for the session since February, so I was short on sleep and full of stress hormones during the days leading to the events. I was therefore unsurprised when I came down with a nasty cold on the last day of the conference. I rested on Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday I had to summon the strength to take part in a couple of trips that have become early rites of our holiday season.

First was a field trip to Westmoreland Park Sarah and I led for the Audubon Society of Portland.  We found fewer species of gulls than in previous years, but the variety of waterfowl in the pond was greater than expected.
 We found Canada Geese, Cackling Geese, Tundra Swans (above), Mallards, Gadwalls, Wigeons, a Canvasback, Lesser Scaups, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, and Common Mergansers. At least 23 people joined us for the walk and it did not rain, so the trip was a big success.

On Sunday, we drove to the Washington County farm country to select a tree for holiday decorating.

 While Sarah and my in-laws searched for the perfect fir, I photographed some forest floor mushrooms.

Here are some big Amanita muscarias. Some say that, with its red and white coloration and hallucinogenic properties, this mushroom inspired the idea of Santa Claus. Note that I did not take the bite out of the mushroom in the photo. I was, however, inspired to make some Amanita ornaments to hang on our tree.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another wonderful week in Pacific City

Last week, Sarah and I returned to Pacific City for some more beach time.

The week included a side trip to Newport in search of Tropical Kingbirds (success!), daily beach walks, and plenty of work from my in-laws' beach house.

While walking to the beach one day, we found evidence of a late-night rampage. It looks like a hungry black bear was at work.

The culprit tore the side off of this bin, pulled out the garbage can, and sorted through the refuse. Looks like someone should invest in the steel trash containers used in national park campgrounds.

When we reached the beach, we watched another drama unfold. 

A Common Raven approached a rockfish carcass that had been claimed by a pair of Western Gulls.

 The Gulls put up a fight, but the raven would not be deterred.

 After tugging some tail feathers and winning a face-off, the raven had exclusive access to the fish.

The raven filled its crop and mouth with fish flesh and then flew off, leaving little for the gulls.

We returned to Portland a few days ago and we are already looking forward to our next trip, probably to the Salish Sea in Washington.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bring on the rain!

The spectacular stretch of dry weather has finally come to an end in western Oregon. Sarah and I completed our psychological and physiological preparations by spending as much time in the sun as possible while at the beach several weeks ago.

Back at the house, we made agricultural and structural preparations as well.

We pulled down our tomato vines and salvaged what we could for storage as sauce or pickles. 

The extended sunshine served our tomatoes well. The indigo rose, which produced the purple-colored fruits above, was exceptionally productive this year. The unripened ones will become purple pickles.

A crew is finishing a new roof for our house and we had a new heat pump installed this summer. So for the first time since moving in 2010, I am looking forward to any storm the Pacific sends our way. Now we can turn up the heat,  fill up on dark beer, and complete some indoor projects. 

This year, I have taken to carving and painting images of loons (last year it was rockfishes). I am not sure what I will do with my loons when I am done. Luckily, the holidays are approaching.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wild Arts Loon

   The Audubon Society of Portland's Wild Arts Festival is one of many things I look forward to in the fall.

I love contributing to the festival each year by completing a small painting for their 6 x 6 fundraiser.
This year I decided to create a Red-throated Loon, one of my favorite birds to watch in foggy coastal waters.

In winter plumage, the Red-throated Loon is a study in minimalism with its mostly white head sparingly patterned with black streaks.

In constructing my piece, I decided to run with the minimalism thing.

I took inspiration from a story I heard on NPR that described huge concrete sculptures created by Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas.  I removed the cloth from the donated canvas and painted the wood frame gray.

 I used my scroll saw to cut a Red-throated's silhouette out of a cedar shingle and I painted it white.

I inserted my loon in the frame so it could be visible from both sides. I left some space in the middle so outside items can become part of the piece.

I can't wait to see how it looks on display at the Arts Festival in November!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Missoula visit 2012

 I visited Missoula, Montana over Labor Day Weekend to watch a football game, catch some trout, and patronize the downtown watering holes. It had been 10 years since I last fished the area's rivers, so this trip had been on my mind for several months.  

My friend Bill picked me up at the airport on Thursday and we drove straight to the Big Blackfoot River. 

The river was pretty low and warm, but I was able to pull some little rainbows and cutthroats from the edges of deep riffles.  

The trout were on the small side, but I was not complaining. 

A day later, we tried the Clark Fork River at Kelly Island. 

The fishing was even slower than on the Blackfoot, but the birdwatching was great. Lewis's Woodpeckers hawked insects from the cottonwoods and huge flocks of Cedar Waxwings filled the smoky sky.   

Now that I have achieved my annual Montana fix, I am ready to get back to work on my Oregon-based projects.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday on Mount Hood

 I have lived in Oregon for nearly seven years, but I have spent surprisingly little time near its tallest peak. Sarah and I have driven over the lower slopes of Mount Hood on our way to central Oregon, but we have never taken a trip to explore the big volcano until today.

In the morning we drove to Hood River, then traveled south to Cooper Spur, an area that was burned by a large fire in 2008. We hope to find a trifecta of Picoides woodpeckers: Hairy, Black-backed, and Three-toed.

Upon reaching the burn, we pulled to the side of the road and easily found a Hairy and a Black-backed. We continued up the road to the Cloud Cap Inn hoping to find a Three-toed, which would have been a life bird for both of us. Alas, the forest was pretty quiet and today was not the day to add this woodpecker to our list.

After leaving the Cooper Spur area, we drove around the mountain to Timberline Lodge, an Oregon icon I figured I should visit before the state revokes my residency.

With unbelievable views and gritty interior artwork, this Depression-era monument to Big Government was all I hoped it would be.

Sarah and I enjoyed a local beer on the back deck while Clark's Nutcrackers flew around stunted trees and skiers glided down the remaining bits of snow.

Though we did not see all the birds we hoped for, the day was a great success thanks to progress made on my Oregon to-do list.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fun in the sun at the Black Butte burn

Sarah, Andie the dog, and I were joined by our friends Bob and Sally as we visited the Black Butte wildfire site this morning. We hoped to find some Black-Backed Woodpeckers tapping the trees that were burned in 2009. As we hiked through the shrubs and debris, we found some House Wrens and Chipping Sparrows, but they were upstaged by Andie's antics.

 She dug a herself a shallow depression and lay in it while we listened for birds.

Next, she rolled in the dusty soil and changed the color of her pelage.

Then she hid in the shade of a big pine snag.

Though woodpeckers eluded us, we did find a very cool beetle that fills a similar niche.

This western eyed click beetle appeared to be depositing her eggs in a small cavity excavated by a woodpecker that was searching for bark beetle larva. The larva of this species are predatory worm-like creatures that hunt for bark beetles in fire-killed trees. Just like the woodpeckers!

The temperature began to rise as it neared noon, so we left the burn for shadier sites near the Metolius River.