Monday, January 30, 2012

A Raptor-Centric Week

From the high of a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk on our snag last Tuesday, the day I returned from California, and then again today... to the low of a Red-tailed Hawk electrocuted on one of the utility poles along our driveway last Thursday, this has been a raptor-centric week. (Yes, I know raptor-centric is not a word, but it should be.)

I had never seen a Red-tail up close before. It is much more beautiful in hand than from a distance. The white chevron of feathers on the back are much more obvious and all the feathers seem to have both rich brown and some white in them. The reddish feathers of the tail are actually the least spectacular of all. I would have taken a photo but it was a bit too sad to see such a beautiful bird with one leg burned in half and the bottom bill burned off completely.

Apparently the poor bird landed on the pole and touched the wire with its bill (or vice versa), grounding itself and getting fried. It reeked of burned feathers. I called PGE and asked to have some sort of hawk-protection device put on the pole. They took the information but made no promises. With a tip from a birder friend, I emailed the Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement division but have not heard back yet from them either. (Post script: today, Tuesday, a very nice woman from PGE arrived at my door to find out which pole fried the hawk, examine them all, and order guards for any that are problems. She decided to order guards for the hawk-fry pole plus the transformer pole at the house end of the driveway and also the transformer pole at the road end of the driveway. Whoopee!)

The hawk was almost certainly one of the pair that live and nest and raise young here every year. Another Red-tail was on the snag yesterday morning, no doubt the mate. I hope it finds a new partner.

This morning Johnny called my attention to a hawk on the snag again. That one turned out to be the juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that we first saw in September and then again last Tuesday. It's pretty exciting to know it is hanging around, since Red-shouldered Hawks are California birds just beginning to set up housekeeping in Oregon.

On Friday Johnny and I drove the North Santiam raptor route that I used to do with my dad. From the cemetery where Mom and Dad are buried, next to the Timberknoll Ranch that they owned, we spotted a pair of Bald Eagles. I wished Dad was still alive to see them. They would have been visible from his dining room window and deck. Mom and Dad did occasionally see eagles hunting along the North Santiam river that runs through Timberknoll, but only rarely. Eagles are making a comeback now and are seen much more often. Although you can't see it unless you zoom the photo way up, I think one of the eagles is on the very top of the fir farthest left. Although taken from the cemetery southeast of Mom and Dad's house, this is pretty much the view they had out their east windows. Next photo shows one of the eagles, blurry at that distance.

People and birds come and go, but the mountains remain. I find that comforting somehow.

Today, as I wandered my way via Baskett Slough from errands in Sheridan to the feed store in Dallas, I saw my first Osprey of the season. I think I've read on OBOL (Oregon Birders On Line) that an osprey has been seen there earlier but this is the first time I've seen it. It was perched on the very high power lines that cross Livermore Road... and was a long way off for a decent photo.

On my way home, I stopped at Shenk Wetlands to check for White-tailed Kites and found one hunting in its usual place. As I looked at it through my binoculars, a Northern Harrier flew past my field of vision. Shortly after, an American Kestrel did the same thing.

It has been a Raptor-centric week for sure.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Weekend in California

My usual 12 hour trip to visit the California kids and grandkids took 15 hours last Friday, thanks to my less than brilliant idea to leave home when I awoke in the morning. I awoke at 3:30 and left shortly after. I thought that would get me there mid-afternoon instead of my usual late evening. Instead, it got me to the San Francisco Bay area during rush hours and in pouring rain. Very informative signs along I-80 told drivers how far it was to which exit. At one point, after I'd been barely moving for an hour, my exit was 2 1/2 miles away. Half an hour later, my exit was 1 1/4 miles away. I'd traveled one mile in half an hour. Eventually, after making a wrong turn and having Steve talk me in over the phone, I arrived. It was very nice to have two small boys excited to see me.

Cedrus turned 3 last week and I was bringing his birthday gifts from Grandpa and Grandma (Johnny and me). Cedrus likes bugs so he got a bug collecting kit and bugs and bug book. Kestrel helped him open the presents. Their Auntie Fudge (Munazza's sister Faiza) came the next day with colorful pancakes she made for Cedrus (out of all natural food dyes, she assured us). Dad Steve helped Cedrus cut them in half so Kestrel could have some, too.

Kestrel, 4-almost-5, and Cedrus (above) like to draw. Below Kestrel is drawing a double-decker car carrier with lots of cars inside. This table is in Mom and Dad's office so the boys can work where their parents are working.

I had not been to their new home since they moved the car parking area from in front of the house, where it was when they bought the place, to in front of the garage. Now the boys can ride bicycles, etc., in the front... and Steve can practice his unicycle skills, which he has not yet mastered but I did manage to catch him in a photo before he fell off. Cedrus found it easier to navigate around the obstacles (that bare tree-looking thing in the middle was their outdoor Christmas tree which had ornaments on it for Christmas) and up the slope with Mom pushing. Note the large blooming shrub behind Steve and also behind Munazza and Cedrus. That's a Brugmansia that blooms nearly all the time with huge, trumpet-shaped fragrant flowers. What a climate!

Munazza built this flower bed outside the kitchen. All the plants look very happy there... in January!

The backyard has a covered area with room to ride a tricycle even in the rain, plus a play structure for when the weather is warmer and drier than it was when I was there. Steve, never one to do things conventionally (or safely), walks across the top of the monkey bars.

This was the first time I had seen their newly remodeled kitchen. It's beautiful! And efficient, too.

Within easy walking distance from their house is a park with hiking trails and lots of birds. Naturally, I headed there. Munazza and Steve and Kestrel came with me. Cedrus, a little under the weather, stayed home with Auntie Fudge. Kestrel and his umbrella took a rest under a gnarly tree. After a bit he and his mom headed home while Steve and I explored the rest of the park. Wonderful views along the trail of the bay and wetlands would have been more photogenic if it wasn't quite so gray and wet. But California has been in an extended drought so no one down there is complaining about the rain (until the day I arrived bringing rain with me, Steve had been watering the lawn daily). The park was pretty even in drippy weather. I liked the twisted shapes of these leafless trees along the path.

No matter the weather, the boys have plenty to do indoors in their colorful playroom. Here Cedrus drills while Kestrel fixes a bridge.

Monday morning, after two days of fun with the California portion of our tribe, I awoke at 4 a.m. and left for home. It works well this direction to get up early, because I avoid morning rush hour traffic in the bay area. It was pouring rain. In a few hours the city awoke and cars starting sliding around and running into each other. Fortunately, I was soon away from the congestion and on I-5 headed north. However, I was worried about snow in the Siskiyous with all the rain at lower elevations, so I called Johnny at 6:30. He confirmed, via tripcheck on the computer, that it was snowing and chains were required from Dunsmuir north. Ugh. I hoped things would clear up by the time I got there. Johnny was even more worried: he started checking on train schedules to get me home and leave the car in California if the pass was going to close for a week under a heavy snowfall. I think he didn't want to be left with chores that long!

Continuing northward, I passed by the wildlife refuges along I-5 and saw hundreds of snow geese in a field right beside the highway. To give the snowplows plenty of time to clear the pass, I exited and sat taking photos for a good long time. The sun lit up the Trinity mountains to the west and it was truly beautiful as the day gradually brightened.

Eventually I noticed White-fronted Geese grazing in front of the Snow Geese. That's I-5 behind, with not many cars on it yet early in the morning.

Geese flew in small flocks across my field of vision in front of the snowy mountains beyond.

After taking about a zillion photos, I called friends Hazel and John who were also on call to watch trip check for me. John reported that the roads looked clear and "carry chains" was the only advisory. The snow plows had been hard at work. I drove the rest of the trip in good weather, with only a few light snowfalls here and there in the Siskiyous. Mt. Shasta, buried in clouds and fog on my way up, was now radiant in sunshine.

I arrived home at 6:30 after many photo stops... and rest stops to try to wake up. It's a long drive, no matter when you start.

Kestrel's 5th birthday is next month. I'm sending Johnny down on the train.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Our insignificant weather event that I wrote about yesterday turned into a major flood this morning, thanks to melting snow in the hills above us combined with an all-night rain. Our pond flowed over the dam and spillway, carving its own routes downstream as water in a hurry is apt to do. It even carved a hole in the top of the dam in its rush.

Our spawning fish of last week can go up or downstream at will until the water recedes, if they're determined enough. Here is one of several streamlets coming off the flooded lane and heading into the main stream through bushes.

Johnny and I hiked to Agency Creek via the arboretum to see how high the creek is. The arboretum paths have turned into rivers.

Agency is high and muddy, but not as high as it has been in the past. The white stake on the far left of one photo marks the highest ever at that point. That was during a major flood some years ago when towns were sandbagged to keep the South Yamhill River out. Agency flows into the South Yamhill. We canoed through our woods back then. They're not canoe-able this year... yet. Rain is predicted for at least the next week, but snow should be gone from the hills very soon if it isn't already. It's a heavy snow pack combined with warm (relatively speaking) rain that causes the worst flooding around here.

This time, the flood waters came up so quickly that some people were caught in their cars in the valley and swept downstream. Some lost their lives. Moving water has an incredible amount of force. Just getting myself across the dam to the horse barn (visible in the distance in the photo below) was scary enough this morning.

The water seems to have receded a little but I still think I'll hike down the flooded lane through the gate, across the culvert where the horses cross the creek, and back up to the horse barn on my next trip. The culvert is, so far, holding its own against the raging waters.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Insignificant Weather Event

The predicted additional snow today did not materialize. Instead we had rain. Lots of rain. And warmer temperatures. By tonight, all the snow is melted except for where it fell off roofs and made piles. Thankfully, all the snow is off the horse barn roof because Mr. Smith would not come in to eat this morning. The others did. Tonight Mr. Smith came in and chowed down, but not through the scary place lined with snow hills from off the roof. Thank goodness he came in. I fed him in the rain this morning but he did not eat all his food. Life was just too scary with the occasional loud whump! as another hunk of snow fell off the roof.

With all the rain and melting snow, our pond filled to overflowing. But it flowed over where it is supposed to, not over the top. Johnny had built the dam with a lower place at one end for water to run harmlessly across the drive and around the dam into the creek. Clever Johnny. He is standing directly above the dam overflow in this photo. The stream visible in both photos had receded back into the pond banks by afternoon.

Areas north of us had snow and areas west of us had high winds. We missed all that, which is okay by me. I enjoyed two days of lovely snow but not the subsequent slush or traumatized horse. Ordinary Oregon rain is just fine, thank you.

A week ago, before the snow and flood, we saw two fish chasing each other around in the pond. We have been told by someone who should know that they are cutthroat trout probably in pre-spawning behavior. We have resident trout in our pond, plus possibly some that migrate in during high water events like the one that created the temporary stream around our dam this morning. Youtube videos of the fish action are here: and

It was pretty cool to see something like this in our pond, something that I've never seen before anywhere.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

SWWE Day 3: Slush

SWWE= Significant Winter Weather Event, according to the weather bureau. It is supposed to get more significant tomorrow with wind and maybe lots of snow. But who knows. Today we had rain on top of snow. Cold rain so it didn't melt much of the snow, but enough so I could get out the driveway (in the pickup with snow tires) through deep slush and to town for the eye drops I ran out of last night. (Eye drops for my beginning glaucoma, which the doc is trying to hold at bay, bless him.)

The temperature warmed enough to make the snow sheets on our metal roofs begin to slide off. My horses do not like thick sheets of snow suddenly plummeting to the ground. They refused to go past those falling sheets into the barn to eat, except for old Polly, who has more sense than the rest of them.

Driving northeastward out of the coast range, I ran into far less snow than we have, but more graveled roads. Many lowlanders don't know how to drive in snow so there were lots of wrecks yesterday, I understand. Our road has never been plowed that I can remember no matter how much snow we get. But most everyone around here has 4 wheel drive (we don't) and keep the road more or less passable just by driving on it.

I naturally had to look for the Rough-legged Hawk we found on my last raptor run. His (her?) winter hunting grounds are more or less between here and town. The bird cooperated by posing in light rain on top of a fir tree right next to the road. I took this photo through the windshield.

While in town, I bought a few more sacks of horse feed to add to the major load of feed for all the animals that we picked up last Saturday, just before the snow began. Also last week, while the weather was still sunny, we had a load of alfalfa hay for the goats delivered. Let it snow. We're ready.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Significant Weather Event" Day 2

We're up to about 8 inches of snow now with 6 more predicted by tomorrow night in this "significant weather event". The valley is not having near as much fun as we are (much less snow).

Neighbor Irv walked down this afternoon from his place higher on the mountain and joined us as we hiked to Agency Creek and later for lunch. When he left, we asked him to call when he got home since it's quite a long and strenuous hike uphill through the snow and Irv is over 80. He did call and said he'd "warmed up quite a bit" on his homeward trek.

All four horses were showing no signs of being cold as they cavorted in the snow. They quit before I managed to turn on the camera, but Nightingale still had a few cavorts left in her. Video here because I can't get it to load into this blog: This morning I planned to go skijoring behind Mr. Smith but after pushing a manure-laden wheelbarrow through the snow to the manure pile several times, I was too tired to do anything but watch him play in the snow with his herd. The picture above the horses is of the carriage house and riding arena. That's as close as I came to riding today.

The photos at the beginning of this photo essay were taken early in the morning when the sky was as pretty as the trees. Just now (4 p.m.) the white falling snowflakes have turned to sleet and the sheets of snow hanging off the edge of our metal roof are dripping and slipping. Our "significant weather event" may be about to turn into a slushy mess.Link