Monday, April 4, 2011

Birding from a Ditch

Before our Tillamook friends came over today to bird with us, I scouted potential birding areas when I was traveling to and from Salem this past weekend. On Saturday, I drove through Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge on my way home from volunteering at a dressage show. Mostly I saw a gazillion geese.
Tillamook has plenty of geese: I wanted something else. So I drove down Livermore Road, a gravel road with wetlands carved out of farmland (or vice versa). Sometimes we've seen exciting raptors along that road. I drove slowly, scanning the fields and skies. When I spotted a raptor I wasn't quite sure was the common Red-tailed Hawk, I tried to keep it in sight.

Alas, what I should have been keeping in sight was the road. My tires got too close to the edge and slid sideways on the loose gravel into the watery ditch. The passenger side of the car immediately began filling with water. I was atilt... and good and thoroughly stuck. Fortunately, I had my cell phone with me and called Johnny, who promised to come with van and chain to pull me out. That road is sparsely traveled and there were no houses in sight: without a cell phone, it would have been a long walk to the nearest telephone. In the entire hour I sat in the ditch, not one car went by.

But there were birds. I did not get photos of any of them because my vision was rather limited with the car at quite a slant. I wasn't sure if I managed to get the door open and climb out that I'd ever get back in again. So I stayed inside and took a picture of the water in my car (since we were now part of the ditch) and the view through my windshield.

And birded. A Red-tailed Hawk landed on a power pole within my sight, probably the raptor that had lured me into my watery resting spot. Yellow-rumped Warblers chattered nearby along with Black-capped Chickadees. I wondered if they were laughing at my predicament. Swallows swooped and chattered, Killdeer called, and Canada Geese flew overhead. Nothing unusual came by and I crossed Livermore Road off my list of possible birding locations for the visit from my Tillamook friends.

Johnny, bless his heart, arrived sooner than I expected and chained me up. I took a photo out my window of him fastening the chain to the rear undercarriage of the car. Too bad no one took a video of the exciting ride backwards out of the ditch, slithering this way and that before finally alighting with all four wheels on the gravel. No damage done, apparently, to car or me... but the car is still drying out.

Today, I did not take Barbara and John, and their daughter Veronica from Minnesota, to Baskett Slough. Instead, we set out on a Dipper and Kite quest closer to home... in their car. Happily, we were successful on both counts. A pair of Dippers were hanging out together by a bridge up Agency Creek. One was gathering moss for their nest. Veronica and John took photos.

We made a short side trip away from Agency to see a couple waterfalls that are now, thanks to all the rain and lack of leaves on trees, visible from the road. John and Veronica were interested in more than the waterfalls. They took pictures of blooming trilliam, mossy trees, and who-knows-what-else. I took a photo of them taking photos in the relentless rain while Johnny and Barbara gazed at the waterfall.

On our several stops to find White-tailed Kites between Agency Creek and Sheridan, we were only able to rustle up one, at a distance, but Veronica and John managed to get passable photos. I did not. Taking photos in the rain is not my forte.

The Osprey that nests on one of the Sheridan High School football field lights was working on her nest when we stopped at a restaurant for lunch and more photos were taken. I tried for one, in only light rain, but all I got was the Osprey upside down, wedging a stick into place.

Although Tillamook has plenty of Bald Eagles, they are usually pretty far away for photo ops, so it was nice to have the Bald Eagle that haunts the Willamina Fishing Pond and South Yamhill River perched in its favorite spot between the two. V and J each got good photos. In mine, you can at least tell it's an eagle.

A stop at a nearby private wetlands gave us our second eagle for the day, this one too far for a decent photo by anyone. By then, the rain was really coming down so we headed home.

It was a fine birding day in spite of the rain with both target species found, a good lunch and... we did not land in a ditch.

No comments:

Post a Comment