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.