Friday, March 9, 2012

A Week of Change

Tuesday was scheduled to be my last Raptor Run for my Grand Ronde route this season, but the weather promised to be fairly miserable so I postponed it until Friday. Tuesday morning we awoke to a snow-covered world.

The snow had mostly melted by the time I was done with chores, so I drove to Dallas for several errands. On the way, I looked for the lovely white-winged Red-tailed Hawk that frequents power lines near the Nazarene Church in Grand Ronde. It had been two months since I last saw it. Luck was with me as it sat on a crossbar of the power line, a bit far for photos but I took them anyway until the misty rain turned again to snow.

Onward I went to Shenk Wetlands to look for the White-tailed Kites I hoped to see on my Friday raptor route. The pair cooperated nicely on Tuesday and I managed to snap a distant photo of one... through falling misty snow... as it landed on a flimsy stalk.

Eventually, I made it to Dallas, ran my errands and audited a friend's riding lesson... where I got thoroughly chilled. On the way home, a lovely male Harrier was eating something about a mile from our sunshine! But all I managed was a fuzzy photo. Feeling cold and fairly crummy, I took a long, hot shower and went to bed early.

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny and I felt rejuvenated... and wanting very much to check out the Black Oystercatchers at Cape Kiwanda in relative warmth. Sun has been a rare commodity this winter. Johnny agreed to abandon his plans for the day and off we went, arriving at high tide. Johnny found the pair of BLOY on the cliff where they usually hang out at high tide. I hiked right past without seeing them and on up another part of the dune. After he called from his side of the dune and told me where the Oystercatchers were, I spotted them and took these distant photos of their cliff and them.

Easier to spot was the Peregrine on his usual perch.

After lunch at the Mexican restaurant in Pacific City, we drove north to Cape Lookout State Park. I was curious to hike the beach northward as I'd never been there and Snowy Plovers, although not seen in recent years, were a slight possibility if you hiked far enough... quite a few miles, as it turned out. Johnny had had enough of hiking at the coast and elected to take a nap while I set out.

The beach at Cape Lookout State Park is not a place, I soon discovered, to go to birdwatch. Tide was out by now but not a single shorebird ran along the sand. The only birds I saw were a few gulls overhead, a couple ravens, and a lone Surf Scoter feeding just offshore. Mostly, it was miles of empty sand. Far ahead of me were the rocks off Oceanside. Zoomed up in my camera, they looked almost reachable. An illusion. In the hours I walked, they did not come appreciably closer and were still miles away.

Although there were no birds to see, the driftwood, here and there, was picturesque.

By the time I returned to my starting point, the tide was out enough to expose this strange aggregate rock, as lifeless as the sand with no barnacles, no algae, no tidepools. I might have enjoyed the serenity of the park more (there were few other people on the beach), rather than focusing on the lifelessness, if my legs didn't hurt so much. I had not remembered to wear my knee supports and by the time I had walked the however-many-miles back, my knees were screaming.
Thursday, another unbelievably sunny day, promised to be easier-on-my-legs since we had appointments with a hearing specialist in Salem. One of the changes that has come over the years is loss of some hearing in both ears for Johnny and in one ear for me. In fact, we learned from the audiologist, my Meniere's syndrome has given me the same amount of hearing loss in one ear as Johnny has in both. Hearing aids may be in our futures.

Long time friend Carol, with whom we had dinner Thursday night after our hearing tests, had a more significant change in her life this week. Her partner Cotch died on Sunday. We felt a special connection to Cotch and Carol because they met at one of our summer parties, twelve years ago. Both had recently been through sad, stressful times and just happened to click with each other on first meeting. Last night, when in the course of conversation I said that all relationships are hard work, Carol said, "It was never hard with Cotch. It was just easy." They had an amazing relationship. We all wish their life together could have lasted longer, but not many people find that much happiness and satisfaction ever.

Today, Friday, the sun shone again, for the third straight day. (In the last three days, I may have begun to catch up on the Vitamin D deficiency I'm sure all of us in the gray Northwest have.) Today, under lovely skies, I drove my Raptor Route. We (Johnny, friend Marilyn and I) had high hopes of finding the Shenk wetlands White-tailed Kites I'd seen on Tuesday and also the Red-shouldered Hawks we've been seeing monthly at one of my other sites. But it was not to be. In fact, none of the birds I started this blog with had the grace to appear today on my raptor route. We did, however, see lots of other raptors including a Barn Owl and a lovely Rough-legged Hawk. The only photos I took were of a Kestrel that had the grace to sit still, fairly close to the car.

Tomorrow the rains are scheduled to return... and stay for the next week, along with wind and cold and snow in the hills above. Change, we've been told, is the only constant in life: so we better enjoy the good times (and good birds) while they last.

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