While the valley suffered in cold, white fog this week, we basked in the sunshine up here in the Coast Range. Until today. Now it's our turn for cold, white fog. But I didn't stay home much this week to enjoy our weather. After a Sunday morning ride on Mr. Smith in the arena over a jump I'd set up, I joined Johnny for a drive up Agency Creek to see if eagles were gleaning spawned-out salmon that the Grand Ronde tribe throws in to replenish nutrients. We've been seeing eagles flying over our place from that direction. But none were in sight that day. Of course, we stopped to take pictures of the faithful American Dippers on the stream. They seem to stay in their territories year round on Agency Creek.Then we drove up the Yoncalla road and hiked the new trail that eventually will go from Grand Ronde to the coast, we've been told. It was no farther along than the last time we hiked. But pleasant as far as it goes. On the other side of the road it goes to Yoncalla Falls through old growth trees... and so did we.Sunday night the word went out on the local birding network that a Snowy Owl was hanging around a sheep field in Albany. Naturally, on Monday I dragged my Albany friend Toni out of her warm house and into the cold and fog to see the owl. It was too far away for my little camera but one fellow had an enormous lens and took spectacular photos. They can be seen here: http://kiwifoto.com/f/snowy_owl_oregon_dec2011 . All I got was a picture of some of the hoards of birders who descended on the place to see the lovely northern visitor, including the pro from California who took the great photos.
Tuesday was my raptor route day. A few miles from our farm, we entered fog. So we saw few raptors. However, we were excited to find that the pair of Red-shouldered Hawks discovered last winter on a private property where we survey were still there! These beautiful birds are rarely seen in Yamhill County. My camera insisted on focusing on the twigs in front of the bird, so this is the best I got.
Wednesday my tree order came from Burnt Ridge Nursery and I spent the day planting trees... mostly various kinds of nuts. Some family members think I'm the nut for planting trees that won't produce until I may no longer be on this earth. Hmmph. We'll see. Johnny spent the day digging post holes with the tractor for the new fence to keep the horses out of the swamp more successfully than my white tape electric fence has done. Hopefully, my new trees will survive better than my makeshift fence has.
Thursday we took off for the coast to check on Black Oystercatchers at Road's End. We found none but we did find amazingly windless, sunny weather on top of The Thumb with skies so clear it seemed we could see forever.
And we found about twenty Surfbirds on the North Nest Rock where hopefully there will be a nesting pair of Black Oystercatchers next spring. (Trust me, through my scope the light dots on the right side of the rock turned into Surfbirds.)
I love everything about The Thumb... the view of Cascade Head, the trees on top sculpted by wind, the huge twisty sitka spruces on the path going up, and of course, the birds to be seen from that vantage point high above the surf.
Our perfect day did not end after the hike down The Thumb. We took Safeway-bought picnic lunches to an overlook on Hyw 101, then drove to meet our Tillamook friends at Short Beach, where I hoped to see Black Oystercatchers gathered. On the way we saw a fellow with a radio antenna, searching for his wayward falcon. He did not find her while we were there, but he did find a gull she probably ate. He and his hybrid Gyrfalcon/Peregrine are hired by the Tillamook landfill to haze the thousands of gulls that had gathered and become a health hazard. This time, his falcon must have decided to taste one of the birds she has been chasing. Although the falconer blew his whistle and swung his lure to entice her from wherever she was resting, she was probably too full of gull meat to care. The gull remains can be seen in the bottom right corner of this photo.
At Short Beach, I did find Black Oystercatchers... six of them in all. (They're the dots on top of the rock below.)
And a tide so low I could walk on the ocean side of the big rock, which I have never been able to do before.
I love everything about Short Beach: the view looking south toward the rocks off Oceanside, the view looking north toward Cape Meares and its lighthouse, the trees sculpted by wind on top of the big rock, and, of course, the birds one can see, like the Bald Eagle keeping watch from high over the beach. Hmm, this sounds familiar... I guess I just love the Oregon coast and its wildness.
Dinner with birder friends Barbara and John in Tillamook completed a wonderful day. Friday it was back to work... sort of. I drove to Dallas for feed and took a side trip to Poplar Lane where I'd heard shorebirds were gathered in a flooded field. I found many Snipe, Killdeer, Dowitchers, and other assorted peeps (the birders' generic term for small sandpipers), along with a fence and brush row full of Savannah sparrows. But I was in the fog zone and photos were not wonderful.
Today we scouted, in the fog, for the Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count that will take place next Thursday. All roads were open, no snow, no trees to cut off roads... and no birds to speak of. We stopped at friends' on the way home and met their adorable new puppy, a Shih Tsu named Stubby.
It was a birdy week with good friends and good weather... and spectacular scenery... all shoved between morning and evening chores on these short, often foggy days of winter.