Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Grandson Ian started out our marathon company summer when he arrived from Seattle with Johnny via Amtrak on Thursday, July 10. Except Ian is not really company. He cooks all the suppers, has his menus prepared and food bought upon arrival, helps with everything we're doing, and is a joy to be around because he's always cheerful, even when I'm cranky. All this at twelve years old, soon to be thirteen. I just wish we could steal him for the whole summer.

The first night of his visit even the heavens were delighted to have him here. They put on this glorious show at sunset.

Johnny's prime objective for Ian's visit was to teach him welding and to weld together a garden gate for Traumhof. They watched instructional videos on youtube, then welded. Here they are in their protective gear. Ian, on the right, is holding the torch.

Ian cut a piece of fencing for their wire gate.

Why I have no photo of the finished product is a mystery.

Nor do I have photos of the dishes Ian prepared. Here he is cooking.

Together we made ice cream with our goat milk and his coconut sugar, topped with the fudge he made.

 And we picked blueberries.

Amazing Graze horse feeders arrived while Ian was here and we tried them out on the horses. I was hoping it would occupy Jessie Anne and keep her from chewing down the fences. Ian and Johnny also put up a chew toy for her and Ian tried to show her how much fun it was but she was not interested. However, the roll-around horse feeders were a hit. Mr. Smith learned immediately that he did not need to chase it all over the paddock. He only had to roll it one way with his nose, eat the hay cube that fell out, then roll it back the other way and another treat would roll out. It did not slow his food consumption down much nor give him much exercise.

Jessie Anne and Nightingale also learned quickly how to minimize expending energy.

On Monday, July 14, we went to Road's End to survey Black Oystercatchers. Johnny and Ian climbed up to The Thumb, while I headed for the North rim to look down on the North Rock BLOY with their chick. For once, they cooperated quickly and I was able to get this photo of the family group.

I also took a photo of The Thumb, with Ian on it, although I could not see him until I zoomed up the camera.

Ian took this photo with Johnny's camera of their view looking north. The North Rock, with its BLOY family, is the little offshore rock that the scope is aimed toward.

I took a photo of this always-lovely view that I can see on my way back.

Alas, I left my fanny pack at my observation post and did not discover it was missing until half way back to the car. I had to retrace my tired steps. We were all ready for lunch at the Thai restaurant when I finally made it to the car. But, since the day was not over, after lunch we drove on to Neskowin and looked for BLOY on Refusal Rock... no hiking involved. Found none but Johnny took this photo of me looking.

On the next day, Ian and I cleared brush along the driveway.

But it was not all work and hikes and cooking for Ian. We also played games, watched movies, and played in the creek.

Ian spent much time with the goats, petting them and just watching them. He loves the goats.

On July 16, Johnny and Ian drove to Portland to pick up Johnny's nephew Jeff at the airport, who was flying in from Illinois to help with some concrete projects of Johnny's and to attend the local music festival. But first, we all went to the coast on Thursday, July 17, to survey sea stars and BLOY at Short Beach.

Ian and I working on the Sea Star Wasting Disease survey

 Although the nesting Oystercatchers are far away and hard to see, non-nesting BLOY bathe in the creek and are close and easy to see. We saw twelve of them that day... and lots of gulls.

We also went to Cape Meares and saw one of the two Peregrine youngsters... at a great distance... and discovered a pair of nesting BLOY. We took the short hike to the Octopus Tree where Jeff wanted the three Fink boys to act like octopi with many arms in front of the Octopus Tree. It's hard to tell that's what they're doing here...

The next day the three Fink boys went to the Wildwood Music Festival while I stayed home to catch up on mowing, watering, weeding, etc. Jeff camped there overnight. Johnny and Ian came home in time to see two of the Night Blooming Cereus (or whatever they are) open in the jungle room... and smell their intoxicating perfume.

These beautiful flowers last only one night. The next day, Saturday, July 19, they were wilted. And I had to take Ian to Devonwood and deliver him to his parents at their Theraplate vendor booth. It was good to see Kevin and Jessica, but I felt a little wilted myself, having to say goodbye for now to Ian. What a wonderful grandson.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Black Oystercatcher Chicks

Although we were unable to see the chicks at Short Beach on July 2nd, our July 8th survey farther south, at Road's End, gave me a good view of the North nest rock chick. The two adults below have their backs to us. The chick is between them. If you look closely (or click on the photo to enlarge), you can see that the chick's bill is beginning to show color.

Here is a cropped version with parent and chick. The base of the chick's bill is starting to lighten.

Johnny could tell the Middle Rock parents at Road's End were feeding a chick but never saw the chick. Maybe next time. (That is our BLOY survey mantra... Maybe next time...)

After our customary lunch at the Jasmine Thai restaurant, we headed south to Boiler Bay with friend Dawn, who monitors four nests there. One had failed earlier, another had chicks that seem to have disappeared, a third had just hatched chicks, and the fourth was a mystery. This day, however, the mystery was solved when a chick came out to get something to eat that a parent brought. Johnny got this photo through the scope. Dawn has better ones. The chick is under the ledge with the adult between chick and camera.

The unusual thing about this nest is that it is not on its own offshore rock, like all the other nests in our area. Rather it is within twenty feet of another pair's nest... and now chick... on what we call Two Tone Rock. Usually pairs will not allow other BLOY within many feet of their nest rock. I'm wondering if these pairs might be offspring of the pair on a nearby rock that have been successful parents every year since I began paying attention to them. Dawn watched them fledge two chicks last year. Perhaps one of each of these two pairs, nesting so close together, are siblings. If only these birds had colorful leg bands or wing tags so we could identify them!

It was another great day at the beach: not too hot, not too cold. I look forward to our next survey.

At the Coast

Although it has been hot on the farm with too much work to do, we take a weekly break, at least, for our bird and sea star surveys on the coast. July 2 was our sea star and Short Beach Black Oystercatcher survey, plus two bonus surprises at Cape Meares.

Up and down both coasts, sea stars are still dying and no one is sure why. Whatever the pathogen, the warmer ocean waters are suspected to be making it reproduce faster than the stars can fight it off. We are asked to survey the same beach every two weeks to follow progress, or regress. There is worry that all the sea stars will die out. We survey at Short Beach on the same day we try to find the Black Oystercatcher chicks there.

After having to catalog and photograph all those sick and dying sea stars, it's good to look up and see that the view is still lovely.

Although we could see that the Black Oystercatchers were flying to their nest ledge with food, we could not see the chicks. On an offshore rock not far from the beach this BLOY gathered food and flew toward the ledge.

But we were at the wrong angle to see what he delivered it to... A little black bird with red bill is in the center of the following photo. The nest area, we learned last time, is around the corner left. We could only view it from up on the road... very far away.

So with the sea star survey completed, we hiked back up to the road. I saw a BLOY fly up, presumably to feed, but whatever he fed was in the shadows and invisible. That tiny black bird with the red bill is even tinier from this distance, right where he was before but at a different angle. He is on the ledge to the right of the dark hole. The chicks are not out in view... at least I can't see them.

We then drove the two miles from Short Beach to Cape Meares to see if we could find the BLOY that had, from all reports, disappeared from their usual nesting areas.

First we checked the distant Peregrine nest ledge and saw... something... within.

Eventually, the something materialized into a big fluffy white Peregrine chick. Then an adult flew in with prey and a second chick appeared! Johnny took these photos with his camera shooting through a scope.

Meanwhile, I was watching, from a lower viewpoint, an Oystercatcher that Johnny had spotted... hoping it would take me to a nest. After a very long time of watching it standing on the side of the cliff doing nothing, I realized that there was a second BLOY nearby... on a nest! Johnny took this photo of the two birds, after one had moved closer to the nesting bird, through the scope. At one point, the setting bird stood and I was able to see an egg. There were probably more but the bird didn't stay up long enough for me to know.

What a great day of discoveries at Cape Meares! It was made even more fun after we picked up a late lunch at the Netarts deli, met our Tillamook friends the Woodhouses and drove to Cape Lookout State Park to eat... and scope the offshore rocks for BLOY. None found but we did see an eagle chick in the eagle nest visible from the road. It was too camouflaged for a photo. Maybe next time...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What a Weekend

The long Independence Day weekend started well enough with a spectacular, long-lasting and ever-changing sunset on the eve of the 4th.

Since the 4th of July was on Friday, we thought it best to avoid holiday traffic by heading to Valley of the Giants on Saturday evening for our once-a-year Breeding Bird Survey starting early Sunday morning. Life had just been too busy earlier in the survey window, which would close on July 7th. Plus the Marbled Murrelets, the reason this route was created (along with Spotted Owls, but they are apparently gone), are more vocal in July when they return from the ocean at dawn to the big moss-covered limbs of old growth trees to feed their chicks, calling as they approach their nests.

Unfortunately, we were still having issues with Jessie Anne chewing down the barn in her frustration at not being allowed out on grass. (Story in previous blog entry.) So we spent much of Friday and all of Saturday covering all the posts that hold up the barn with either metal or chicken wire. I didn't want Jessie Anne (with a little help from her daughter Nightingale) chewing those posts in two while we were gone. It is always hectic getting all the animals set up so we can leave the farm overnight, but the horse situation greatly complicated the process this year.

I milked the goats and fed everyone early and extra Saturday evening since we would not be back until noon or after on Sunday. We stay overnight and start the route at 4:58 a.m., after walking in half a mile to the first stop. For the first time in the eight years we have run this route, we did not scout it first to check road conditions and clear that half mile hike through brush. Big mistake.

After a two hour drive, we arrived as the sky was darkening just before 9 p.m. and hurried to clear the trail, which seemed longer than usual. The brush, mostly thorned, towered over our heads and we lost our way several times. I wondered if we'd ever find the "sitting log" where we can look up at a known Marbled Murrelet nest tree to start our survey. But at last, we did... in near dark. Then we hurried back on the sort-of cleared trail before it turned pitch dark.

The alarm went off at 4:15 a.m. We ate a quick breakfast and used our flashlights to guide us to the sitting log without tripping too many times. Apparently, the Murrelets were sleeping in that morning as we did not hear them there. After our 3 minute survey, we hurried over logs and through bushes back to the van at Stop #2 where we again heard no Murrelets (but plenty of other birds: the "dawn chorus" was now in full swing). At Stop #3, a half mile down the road, I heard the first Murrelets. What a welcome but weird sound to hear sea birds in the middle of an old growth forest. We heard them at two more stops in Valley of the Giants before it either grew too late for their flight calls or our stops were too far out of the old growth forest they need for nest sites.

Besides the usual horde of singing Swainson's and Varied Thrushes, Pacific Wrens and Pacific Slope Flycatchers, we heard Band-tailed Pigeons almost every stop and many Western Tanagers. I snapped a photo of this handsome Tanager singing atop a tall fir (No, I didn't take time out from the timed survey: I was listening for birds while I took the blurry picture).

And then I took a picture of one of the Band-tailed Pigeons that posed so often.

We rushed from stop to stop to complete the route in the preferred five hours... and almost made it this year. We would have made it handily if it were not for two heart-stopping incidents on the way down. Gates that were open when we drove up Saturday night were closed when we drove down early Sunday morning. There is no cell phone service up there and it would have been a long walk and many hours out. Fortunately, the gates were shut but not locked so we were able to drive through. Although Valley of the Giants is owned and managed by BLM, the roads going up to it are owned by private timber companies who can shut the gates whenever they want to keep the public out. Perhaps they were closed now for fire danger, moved up from "low" to "moderate".

Two hours after completing the route, we were home again and I hurried out to feed horses and milk goats. It was hot by this time. It looked to me like our wire and pipe wood protection had worked as I saw no new chewings by Jessie Anne in the area she had access to. Mr. Smith is locked into the barn area to eat his food or else he'll chase the mares away and eat theirs, too.

Later that afternoon when Johnny went out to try to fix a water leak by the horse barn, after I had turned Mr. Smith back with the others, Jessie Anne was inside Mr. Smith's area, chewing on everything wood. So we spent the rest of the hot and muggy day protecting the wood inside Mr. Smith's area, this time with big white PVC pipe slit to fit around the round fence poles that were Jessie Anne's latest target.

My new routine is to get up very early, feed the horses, chickens, llamas, sheep, dogs, then let the horses out into the pasture -- with grazing muzzles on -- after they're done eating their special and expensive low-carb hay cubes. The grass is supposed to be safest between 3 a.m. and 10 a.m. Well, I'm not getting up at 3 a.m. but 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. is plenty of time for them to gallop and cavort... and eat grass, before I bring them in for more of their hay cubes. Here's hoping that amount of freedom will be enough to keep Jessie Anne from destroying anything else. And here's hoping the pasture becomes "safe" very soon.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Farewell to June

The last week of June was busy and rather stressful. Johnny spent it mostly hauling more used fencing wire and posts home from Nancy and Dick's. We now have a lot of fencing material.



metal posts

wood posts

more wood posts... these are being treated in used motor oil

 I spent the week, as always in June, weeding, mowing, digging tansy, weeding, mowing. And there were crises. Nightingale colicked. I walked her and called the vet. By the time he arrived, she was better and I was calmer. But probably her one hour on grass that morning had not been a good thing. The horses hate being off grass and started chewing their prison down... or all of it that is wood that they can reach. So Johnny spent several days covering the wood with plastic pipe.

Now they're eating the posts they can still reach.

 I've ordered Chew Stop. They get out with muzzles on for an hour in the early morning in a small area I mowed and electric-fenced off. And they get fed hay cubes several times a day, instead of just twice like when they're out on pasture. I'll be glad when the grass dries up and the horses can be out full time again.

In between all the work, we went to the coast for a day of Black Oystercatcher surveys. Johnny saw a chick on the Middle Nest Rock at Road's End while I saw the chick on North Rock that I had found the week before.

North Rock parent with chick lower right
 Also on the North nest rock were three new Western Gull chicks. I didn't know they started out spotted!

We surveyed Cape Kiwanda earlier that day but found only one non-nesting pair of Black Oystercatchers, plus a Peregrine Falcon.

One of the two foraging, non-nesting, Cape Kiwanda Black Oystercatchers

Peregrine Falcon
We checked Neskowin's Refusal Rock, too, where a pair has nested in the past, but saw none. I guess they refused this year.
Refusal Rock

That survey day was long and tiring. But the scenery, as always, was beautiful. Below is my view looking south from my north observation point at Road's End. The South nest rock and Middle nest rock (among others) are in this photo. The South nest rock pair have apparently lost their eggs and left town.

The rest of the week I trimmed horse hooves (I can only trim one horse a day before my back and hands give out) along with the usual weeding, pulling tansy, etc. The hooves look good and the horses are sound so the dry lot is working, even though the horses hate it.

On Sunday, we built snow fence and metal fence barricades with netting on top around the producing blueberry bushes. Our free-roaming peacock had been picking blueberries as soon as they showed any blueness. Hopefully the barricades will allow us to eat some blueberries this year. Last year I draped netting over them. That made picking difficult for me but didn't seem to slow the birds down much.

The roses are lovely in June. I managed to weed and spread barkdust under them, but not take many photos. Here is one of Armada, always in bloom.

And blurry ones of Paul's Himalayan Musk that climbs way up the poplar in our front yard and hangs completely over the driveway. But it only lasts through June.

 The weird Voodoo Lily in the arboretum only blooms in June, too, which is probably a blessing considering how awful it smells when it first opens.

 Goodbye June... and hello July...