Thursday, May 31, 2012

Busy Days and Birding

I'm falling behind on this blog journal with too many things going on at once. Between all the digging weeds out of the blueberry and rhubarb bed and tilling the garden and mowing, I bird, in one way or another.

On Sunday, neighbor Irv called to say he'd found a nest of baby birds in one of his overgrown-with-grass flower pots. I walked up to see them. They turned out to be song sparrows.

Irv's fancy topped chickens were easier to photograph. They seemed to like to pose with their bouffant hairdos.

The white Sultan is Irv's favorite. Mine is this gold and black beauty.

But this fellow just seemed to be having a really bad hair day.

Yesterday was a day of bird discovery here at home: friend Marilyn came over and helped me figure out that the birds of many different songs in the hedgerow by our house are just one bird: a Bewick's Wren with a formidable repertoire. We walked around the farm and found three more, also singing variations on a theme. One came out and sang to us openly.

Two days earlier, while walking through the woods to collect the trail camera cards, I stumbled upon (almost literally) another type of common wren here: a Pacific Wren. This one was only recently out of the nest and still begging for food from his parents, who scolded me constantly while, I'm sure, telling their baby to hide. Baby was not interested in anything but food and just sat on a branch in front of me with his mouth wide open. I took a video:

Up in our fields, American Goldfinches add their bright yellows to the overwhelming green of spring in Western Oregon as they dart about singing their bright songs and calling to each other.

Today I took an all day break from gardening, going to the coast to make my weekly check on Black Oystercatcher nests. Friend Nancy came with me. Nancy hiked Hart's Cove with me last year so I knew she'd be up for The Thumb at Road's End and the dune at Cape Kiwanda. And she was. That's Nancy climbing The Thumb. It was a good day. The thick salal we go through was in full bloom. The BLOY cooperated by appearing in all three nest areas. And the weather was perfect.

At Cape Kiwanda, we saw one BLOY on the south side and a pair on the north side. Plus pretty Indian Paintbrush in bloom.

Also on the north side was someone enjoying the weather and the dune in his own way.

Although, believe it or not, I have been working as well as birding, neither the rhubarb/blueberry bed nor the tilled garden are worthy of picture taking yet. I do have a few photos of lettuce and artichokes in their raised beds. We've been eating lots of lettuce and artichokes. (Well, Johnny has been eating the lettuce: he doesn't like artichokes if you can imagine that.)

We've also been eating papayas grown in my greenhouse/jungleroom but they deserve a story all their own for another time.

Monday, May 28, 2012

More Wild Things In Our Trail Cameras

After scaring a new fawn from the woods two days ago with my noisy mower, I wondered if the fawn would walk past one of our trail cameras with its mom sometime and get its picture taken. So today I hiked down and exchanged camera cards, bringing up the ones that I had not checked for two weeks. Lots of excitement was recorded in that time period! Or, at least, I was excited to see what the cameras caught.

The mini-camera in the swamp just gives us stills, as the batteries wear out fast with videos. In the last two weeks it recorded several stills of a domestic-type black cat, one of a tawny yellow cat (also domestic), and about twenty of a deer circling to take a nap and napping. Every time she twitched, the camera took her picture again. I can now tell you that this doe circled to make a bed from 10:48 p.m. until 10:52 p.m., finally settled down at 10:53 p.m. and didn't get up to leave until 11:47 p.m..

The regular trail camera along the trail I've mowed through what we call the "lake pasture" (because it floods in the winter) takes videos, having a big rechargeable battery. Today, after uploading its movies, I discovered that on the first day after I reset it last time, it captured a new animal for our trail cameras: an elk! Here is the still capture I took from that video of May 14.

I'm not sure why I'm happy about having a bull elk down there. Something, probably a buck deer, killed the tops of all my young Alaska Yellow Cedar trees last fall while rubbing the velvet off his antlers. An elk could damage taller trees. But, like the bear and the bobcats, it's nice to know the wild things are here in spite of humans invading their territory... even though they occasionally cause us trouble (from my human-centric point of view.)

Here, staring at the trail camera on May 15, is a buck, probably the fellow who mauled my Alaska Yellow Cedar trees. He is growing a new set of antlers that will get itchy again come fall..

The deer seem to find my woodland paths quite useful. I noticed today many hoof prints in the mud when I hiked down to change cards in the lake pasture camera... big ones and little ones. So I was not surprised to find a fawn in a video. But I didn't expect twin fawns from one mama and a single from another! The doe we call Split Ear (because she has one ear split at the top) walked past the camera with a single fawn. In the video below another doe paraded by with twins... very bouncy ones. The twin does not appear until the very end of this video.

I tried to get some still captures of the fawns but they moved so fast.. and the vegetation is so high... it was difficult.

We still have a few more animals that live around here that have not yet appeared in our trail cameras: skunks, porcupines, otters and beaver... but we've seen all those ourselves. The one animal we have not seen that we know is here from time to time, because neighbors have seen it and even videotaped it, is a cougar. I don't think our mama deer would be happy about having a cougar in the neighborhood right now. Neither would our goats, llamas, sheep or horses. But it sure would be exciting to upload trail camera photos and find a mountain lion in one.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Baby Things

This is the season for baby things. Yesterday on my Black Oystercatcher surveys, I discovered that all three pairs I monitor at one site are nesting. I hope they manage to raise baby things this year. Last year was not so successful. Exciting for me was discovering two baby Peregrine Falcons at another site. I took a video but it's not for public viewing for several reasons: 1) it's lousy and 2) the site monitors would rather not have the location public. Some falconers take chicks out of the nest and raise them. A few permits are available for that purpose each year but the restrictions and requirements are rather tight so few take out permits. Alas, there have been cases of captures made without permits in Oregon. I think there must be a good market for Peregrines on the black market.

Today the excitement was on our own farm with baby Wood Ducks making their first appearance on our pond with their mom. She let them stay out in the pond weeds for only a short time, while I hid in the new barn's milk room and took photos out the window. Thus... not good photos. Okay, lousy photos. Maybe she'll get less protective in a few days. More likely, though, is that she will take them downstream to Agency Creek, which is what she usually does. They hatched from the Wood Duck nest box upstream from the pond, the one that has been used by both Woodies and Hoodies (Hooded Mergansers) in the past... plus a Saw-whet Owl one winter. When I first saw the ducklings this morning, they were in open water for a quarter of a fraction of a second before their mom called them out of sight... but it seemed like there were a dozen of them. Maybe I'll get a chance to count them another day.

The cutest baby thing is the one I didn't get a photo of at all. While mowing our woodland paths this morning, I scared out a brand new fawn. So I stopped and let it tiptoe back to its hiding place. Then I turned around and went the other way. The paths I intended to mow through the horse fields for riding trails will have to wait. I've never seen a fawn that young. Its ears were still folded and it was tiny. Maybe our trail cameras will pick it up traveling with Mama Deer.

We also have baby Barn Owls in the loft but I can't get a photo of them in their dark nest box and I don't want to use a flash on their young eyes. They are almost cute now and we do allow visitors, with appointments, to climb the ladder and have a peek at the four swaying, hissing baby dragons, since Mama Owl does not stay with the babies anymore in the daytime. She spends all night hauling them mice and voles and gophers and deserves to rest up during the day away from the children.

As consolation photos, here are two birds I found a bit easier to photograph today, a Song Sparrow chowing down on the seeds I throw in front of the barn. And a female Mallard in those same pond weeds that hid the baby ducks... in a little better focus because she's not behind the glass of a dirty window. Mama Mallard doesn't seem to have baby things this year. Perhaps her nest failed. I hope she nests again. I suspect her ducklings would be easier to photograph than those Wood Duck babies with the super protective mother.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Welcome Rain

As much as I've appreciated the dry weather of last week, I am happy for the rain of the last few days. The ground was becoming dry and hard already... and I was worn out from working outside. With the rose and peony garden more or less done, I moved on to the blueberry and rhubarb bed. What a mess. Working between showers today, I created a huge mound of weedings from a very small patch of the bed. It's time to write instead of dig... and rest my back.

During the lovely dry weather, the nights continued cold. Very cold. In the past, our latest killing frost was May 15. This year it froze that night, plus every night after through May 19. My poor potato plants kept getting their leaves frosted and growing new ones... over and over. The sun made shadows (I do love shadows!) on the frosty morning grass before melting the ice.

Meanwhile, our fruit trees, crowded with flowers, all bloomed at once, hoping to beat the frost, I guess. It remains to be seen whether they were able to set fruit or not. Here is the apple tree outside the back door, the one black bears liked to scratch on last fall.

The crabapples really got carried away this year. But the cold nights made their beauty short-lived.

Another problem with frosty nights and sunny days is the high sugar content of our pasture grasses. Three of my four horses get sore feet when the sugar content is high spring and fall. They are "Insulin Resistant"... in other words, good keepers. Too good. Morgans were bred to live on meager rations, not rich, sugary grass. But try to tell them that. Although I feed them low-carb hay pellets morning and night, they prefer high-carb pasture grass, so I put grazing muzzles on them to try to slow down their intake. It helps... when they keep the muzzles on. Alas, Nightingale rubbed hers off too many times this spring and has sore feet. So far, Jessie Anne and Mr. Smith are doing okay. The horses don't seem to mind their muzzles too much, perhaps because they can still get grass through the hole in the bottom... they just have to work harder at it. Keeping them moving as they graze also helps the circulation in their feet. Only Polly doesn't have to wear a muzzle, but she has her own problem with face flies: they love her so she wears a fly mask.

Although the garden is not yet tilled or planted, we are eating lettuce and spinach from the raised beds; onions and carrots and beets and peas are up; potatoes are growing in spite of their periodic frosty setbacks. I love raised beds.

In the greenhouse, tomato and pepper plants are up and waiting for warm nights so they can go outdoors. The orchid cactus are blooming and so are amaryllis. (I let the amaryllis bloom whenever they like and they like to bloom in the spring.) From my chair in the living room, where I sit to rest (more and more often, it seems, the older I get), I can see the blooming flowers in the jungleroom/greenhouse.

The rain will stop and I will get outdoors to dig and weed again... but it's awfully nice to sit a spell.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Weekend with Ian

The Regional championships for Tumbling and Trampoline were in Oregon this past weekend, so Johnny and I were both able to watch grandson Ian doing his Double Mini Trampoline and Trampoline routines for the judges (instead of one of us staying home to do chores while the other drove up to Seattle as we have for the past competitions). Alas, I messed up the setting on my camera and missed taping Ian's Trampoline performance but I did tape his practice run. It's here:

And here's a still capture I took off that video showing Ian's impressive mid-air split.

Once again, Ian took home two first place trophies and good memories of a fun time. But he didn't get to go home to Washington right away. First we all had lunch together, swam in their hotel pool and then Kevin and Jessica stayed at the hotel for some time together while Ian came to the farm with us for an overnight.

He had to greet all the animals, of course, and inspect progress on the new goat barn. He insisted we move the ancient scratching post -- the one that Kevin and Steve had made out of bottle caps when they were very young -- from the old barn to the new one. Johnny is playing the goat here, scratching his head. Ian is going to save bottle caps to make us a new scratcher for the new barn.

The goats all vied for attention from Ian. Sweetheart, especially, would not leave his side. She loved having her ears rubbed and he loved petting her. The still capture from my video is dark and blurry but there they are together, inside the barn. She wouldn't leave him alone so he could play with the baby goats, whose antics you can catch in this video as they romp near Ian and faithful Sweetheart:

Ian helped me with chores, but Johnny captured him here with some old lady filling a water tub. I can't imagine who she is. I thought I had filled that tub.

Ian distributed feathers for the swallows to nab in flight. He came upon the idea of perching the feathers atop tall grasses. That worked well. Johnny's camera caught one successful swallow trying to stuff the captured feather through his nest hole... I think another swallow came and stole this feather before he succeeded. There was much stealing of feathers going on this day.

Of course, we had to walk to Agency Creek, although the electric EZ Go was such fun that Ian drove it through the arboretum for the first leg of the trip... bigger boys, bigger toys...

And bigger skipping rocks! Here's a sequence of Ian skipping a very large rock. You can see by the three splash marks visible in the last photo that he succeeded.

On Sunday afternoon, we had to give Ian back to his parents for their long drive home. I'm glad we have videos and photos to help us remember the good times. Ian's love for the goats and theirs for him is something I won't forget. This photo, although just a silhouette, seems to capture that feeling best.