Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Busy Spring

Garden is in. Here are the raised beds before planting. F F F for Fink Family Farm.

Here is just after planting...

Johnny spent another week doing projects at Traumhof and brought home a trailer load of stuff, mostly scrap wood, for us to burn for heat.  He helped build and fence this Kevin-designed raised bed, among many other projects. I think that bed is what inspired us to create out own.

Here Jessica's sister is planting tomatoes in it.

Besides gardening, I am spending lots of time on the coast monitoring Black Oystercatcher nests or trying to find them. Look for the red bill in center of photo.

There are two birds in the center of this photo, believe it or not. They are doing an incubation exchange. Thank goodness for red bills.

The eagles are easier to spot.

Side benefit: the scenery where I monitor birds is lovely.

Back on the farm, baby goats have arrived and all was well for three weeks... story maybe when I recover...

Ebonita and one of her triplets

Felicity and her single buck

Ebonita's doeling

I have been in a major weeding frenzy, liberating blueberry bushes, rhubarb plants, and all sorts of flowers. The grass and thistles were taking over. It has been a very wet winter/spring and the grass is head high. Johnny and I also unloaded all the barkdust from the hay trailer in preparation for hauling our hay on it. Our paths were the recipients.

Johnny is working diligently on repairing a hay rake he was given. When the weather settles, our hay will be cut.

 A busy spring, indeed.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Barn Owls

As I write this, I can hear fledgling Barn Owls outside my window practicing their Halloween screeches and every other weird noise they can try out. They sound like teenaged boys whose voices are breaking. The owls fledged a week ago, but keep coming back to the barn loft to beg or just hang out.

It has been an eventful season for this batch of owlets. First there was the one that tumbled out of the nest box when it was still very young. I carried it back up. Then there was the leg banding fiasco wherein I learned to listen to my instincts in the future... and make sure a bander has a scientific reason for banding and not just so his grandkids can hold baby owls.  The owlets and I were unduly stressed but we all survived.

That was followed two weeks later by a windstorm and one owlet blown off the ledge into the goat field. The baby was apparently unhurt and all five owlets eventually fledged. We had a fledging party for them attended by only three of the fifty plus people who receive my owlet updates throughout the season. They had a good show of baby and adult owls flying around and sitting in the loft opening.

Here is a progression of photos from the first day mama was out of the box after the babies hatched... March 21.

The next time mama left the nest so I could take a photo of the fluffy owlets was on April 14...

On April 29, the two oldest were outgrowing the others and taking up all the room...

By May, 3 of the owlets were coming out on the ledge outside the box at night to beg. This photo of the adventurers was taken on May 2nd.

 On the afternoon of May 4th, one of them was blown off the ledge during a dramatic wind storm and out into the goat yard.

It looked very sleepy and out of place. I carried the light and fluffy, but with a surprising number of feathers under all that fluff, owlet back up the ladder and it hopped right back into the box. A week later, I checked and all five were in the box, so this fluffy, scruffy owlet survived its adventure.

It became difficult soon after that to feed hay to the goats at night because the baby owls that had lost most of their baby fluff were flying about the loft and I worried they would try to fly out before they were ready. By the middle of May they had lost all their baby fluff and were fully feathered. I was only seeing three. As it turned out the oldest two had apparently fledged before we held a fledging party on the evening of May 20.

On May 22, I took this photo at 4:46 p.m. of an adult on the loft branch.

On that same day, May 22, I went back up at 8 p.m. and the adult was gone, replaced by two youngsters.

Since then, sometimes the owlets are in the loft when I go up to feed hay in the morning. If they are I wait to make sure they hop into the box and not out the window. Daytime is dangerous time for Barn Owls. They get mobbed by jays and crows.

As soon as the young owls are no longer returning to the loft, we will burn their old, filthy and tattered, cardboard nest box and give them a new one. Some years, the Barn Owls raise a second clutch. They deserve a clean start.

We love having Barn Owls residing in our loft, catching lots of voles and mice... and the occasional starling that nests up there, too. I even like their other-worldly sounds... even though those sounds set the livestock guardian dog barking... as he is doing non-stop as I type this late at night on the 26th... while the owls ignore him and continue to beg and screech. Ah, quiet night time on the farm...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Marathon Oystercatcher Surveys

After a week of weeding, working in the greenhouse, and working on my third book in the Goat Lane series when too heavy rain kept me indoors, the weather cleared and I headed for the coast to try to catch up on Black Oystercatcher (BLOY) surveys. Three days in a row I hiked many miles while surveying. On the third day, Johnny, who had been working hard on building raised beds, among other projects, joined me.

Tuesday, May 17, I surveyed Cascade Head and Cliff Creek Falls, both long hikes... and both with no BLOY to be seen on that day. But there was plenty of other wildlife...

Some seemed as interested in me as I in them...

Others, not so much...

Everywhere there was beautiful scenery...

The next day, Thursday the 18th, I surveyed Road's End and North Cascade Head. This time, I saw BLOY... a pair nesting on the South Rock, as I had suspected last week, and now a pair also nesting on North Rock. That pair was not on a nest when I first saw them, but rather one flew off to forage while the other stayed behind and hung out on a rock... a rather odd situation. But I finally realized why... Check out the bird in the bottom center of this photo...

 After the eagle flew off, the BLOY that had been sitting and standing in view of its nest (a nest I had not seen) went down off its rock perch and covered what appeared to be, from my great distance, two eggs.

The island off the shore was covered in white guano, as usual, but when I looked through the scope, I saw it was covered in something else, too...

Can you see the pelicans? Lots of them, well camouflaged.

Today, Friday, May 19, Johnny joined me for the long Cape Lookout hike. This proved to be the most spectacular day of all.

The cape trail starts out deceptively civilized... (that's Johnny way ahead)

But soon deteriorates into mud and bare roots to navigate. I neglected to take a photo of the mud and root holes but here's a smallish area to give you an idea...

 However, the views make it all worthwhile.

Way off in the distance, looking south, Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda seem tiny, with Cascade Head looming high behind them.

Our first OP (Observation Point) for BLOY spotting is a beautiful cove on the north side.

We scanned for half an hour but I saw nothing but two pairs of mama and baby seals, resting on the sand. Well, this baby was doing a lot of squirming instead of resting.

 Johnny thought he saw a pair of BLOY on the spit but they looked like dark rocks to me.

However, Johnny was right... The rocks flew, calling loudly. Then circled back and landed again. They are in the center of the photo below. Pretty hard to pick out! Johnny got a gold star for this sighting.

Johnny earned more stars at the end of the cape when he spotted two pair of BLOY flying past, calling loudly.

But that was not nearly so exciting as the whales. Lots of whales. Some with calves. They seemed to be hanging around close to shore on the south side of the cape.

The whale sightings rejuvenated us for the long walk back to the car. We drove on to Cape Lookout State Park for another view of the cape and our last OP. It was as clear today as it ever gets but it is still a long look to the north side of the cape where we have seen BLOY in the past.

I did find one foraging along the rocky shore this day. But it was way too far for a photograph and soon disappeared behind the outcropping. Here is the spit where it had been with the camera zoomed up as far as it will go.

It was more fun to watch the hang gliders, floating in the air above us.

And, of course, the view. Looking north we could see the sea stacks off Oceanside.

We enjoyed as nice a day as could be asked for on the Oregon coast... no wind, pleasant temperature, clear skies...  then we drove up to Pacific City on our way home and ate supper at the Mexican restaurant.

It was a very good day.