It's almost that time of year again, when hardy souls head out into the deep woods of the Coast Range to count birds for the Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count. Well, in my case, to hike through the woods and enjoy the scenery. Birds are an added bonus if they decide to show up. And some always do.
Our count this year is on December 14. Today Johnny and I scouted some old logging roads in my sector of the count that we have not traversed on count days past. Our map showed that one went all the way through to the 14 road, where most of my territory lies. So I hiked in while Johnny drove around to the far end.
The map lied. I came to a dead end. Johnny saw me from across a deep ravine where he had hiked in from the 14 road. It took me a half hour of scrambling through sword ferns and salal and downed trees to get to the other side of the ravine and up to the 14 with Johnny. I won't do that on count day... I'll walk the 2 miles back the way I came. I must walk because the "road" is suitable only for a 4-wheel drive vehicle, which we don't have, although Johnny drove the pickup on it after I joined him on the 14. He says never again.
It's worth a 4 mile round trip on foot because I found not only the usual high country birds but also a Wrentit. The only other Wrentits I know of in Yamhill County are on or near our farm. I'd love to log a Wrentit on count day! They are quite territorial so with luck, a pair of Wrentits will give their ratchety scold calls and pop up to look at the intruder, as they did this afternoon, when I invade their territory. Besides Wrentits, there were plenty of Pacific Wrens (which were Winter Wrens until a few months ago when their name was changed), Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Varied Thrushes, and others. Even if it had no birds, my sector would be a lovely place to hike with bubbling streams, woodpecker-bored snags, big trees, and plenty of ferns and salal.
Some areas still show the devastation from our wild wind and snow storm of two years ago. Alder tops were lopped off in that storm as though cut by a helicopter flying upside down.
Here's hoping we have as nice a day on the 14th for our count as we had today. It would not be quite so much fun in snow or pouring rain.