Friday, June 22, 2012

Birding, Gardening, Roller Skating

All three pairs of Black Oystercatchers at Road's End have chicks now, so I've been dragging Johnny out to the coast since he returned from California to help me monitor there and at two other sites. In between bird monitoring, he works on the new barn, sorting and putting away all the stuff he brought up from California, and catching up on three weeks worth of newspapers and mail while I work on weeding and planting. But it's not all work. One day we went up Agency with two crack birder friends, Carol and Paul, to hunt for a bird they "needed" for their 2012 Yamhill County list. Here's Johnny's "hunting" technique.

Mostly, I weed and plant. After three tillings this month, the garden was finally ready. Well, first we installed the netting over the top of the whole thing to keep the peacock and other avian seed eaters out. On Father's Day, I planted corn, beans, squash, melons, cucumbers, beets, parsnips, etc., etc. ... plus more spinach, lettuce, and peas that are already up and producing in the raised beds (boxes, manure spreader, and horse wagon). Actually the peas are not producing yet but they would be if the chipmunks would quit eating them. How I'll keep chipmunks out of the big garden, I have no idea. Maybe I'll have to borrow a cat to put in there. The gophers will be a problem, too, as they are already making mounds in the dirt I so kindly loosened for them.

Everyone I've told that I planted on Father's Day said, "Oh, that's awfully late. Will you get anything to produce?" Hmmph. Last year I didn't plant until the 4th of July. Thanks to a long frost-free fall, we had enough corn to freeze plus eat fresh. So there. I realize other people are eating tomatoes now while my seed-grown plants are still struggling to survive in their tire raised beds. But last year we had lots of tomatoes to eat... by August... although not many for canning. A person has to have faith. An extended warm fall helps, too.

And we have the perennial fruit. The fig tree spilling into the garden, in spite of the winter's cold, kept its figs on from last fall and we'll have ripe figs soon.

And papayas! We've been eating papayas for over a month now. Not outdoors but in the jungle room. This tree came from a seed I forgot I planted. It grew into I knew not what but a nurseryman friend told me it was a papaya. If it turned out to be a male or female tree, I would need one of the opposite sex to get fruit. But as luck would have it, my plant turned out to be a hermaphrodite and we have papayas! They don't, I'll admit, taste like papayas but they're refreshing and tropical tasting... and seedless. And they just keep coming.

Now about that roller skating in the title of this blog entry... It's not me who does the skating. It's long time friend Hazel who moved to Washington from Oregon this spring and began revisiting her childhood passion of artistic roller skating. And did so well at it that she qualified for the Regional Championships in Portland. I went to watch and videotape her this week. Artistic skating is a lot like dressage. Except they don't have horses. What I mean is the same things are important: timing, position, correctly performed elements... all of which take correctly built muscles.

It was tough getting photos of a fast moving skater, so I took these still captures off my videos. I like to think of them as arty rather than blurry. In the middle photo, taken the second day of competition, Hazel is prescribing a perfect circle on the floor both forwards and backwards... at least, that is the ideal in the "figures" portion of the competition. It's much like riding a 10 meter circle on a horse except the dressage ring has no lines on the ground to follow... and we don't circle backwards! At least, not deliberately.

The other two photos were taken the first day in the "dance" competition where the skaters perform prescribed patterns, just like the prescribed patterns in dressage tests. See? It's very much the same. Hazel qualified for Nationals in both dance and figures. Pretty impressive to me since I can't even stand up on skates for long without falling.

But I can hike the cliffs on the Oregon coast without falling... very often. Here are some of the rocks that Black Oystercatchers nest on at Road's End. It's definitely worth the long steep climb (and occasional stumbles) to get that view.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Johnny is Home!!

Johnny arrived home yesterday after a three week trip south to visit kids and grandkids in San Carlos, near San Francisco, and my brother and his wife in Escondido, near San Diego. Bob and Elladine are moving from Escondido to Colorado and needed help sorting and disposing of the huge quantities of tools/boats/stuff in their several large outbuildings. My brother used to race small hydroplanes and still has all the parts and pieces. Happily, the hydro pictured below with Bob winning a race in 1971 (photo by Elladine) will go to a Southern California museum. Here is a web page that tells about Bob's Full House Mouse.

Full House Mouse Y-116 wins at the 1971 Long Beach Marine Stadium

Pulling our big stock trailer behind his van, Johnny stayed the first night with friends in Jacksonville, Oregon. Judy and Don had a minor project for him to work on. Whenever Johnny stays with anyone, he fixes things. Johnny likes projects.

His next stop was with Faiza (aka Fudge), Munazza's sister, who lives close to San Francisco. Fudge reported that by the time she got home from work, Johnny had fixed three toilets and installed a window shade. After a green smoothie and treats she made for him, Johnny braved the Bay area traffic to reach San Carlos where Steve and Munazza and their kids Kestrel and Cedrus had projects waiting for him, too.

I love it that Johnny has a camera now so I can see some of what he did. Obviously, it was not all work and no play, at least for Kestrel and Cedrus. Here they are on a climbing structure at the Bug Museum by Stanford University.

Cedrus on his tricycle gets help doing wheelies from Steve on online skates at the lovely Stanford campus. Steve turns into a witch on a broom at the same locale. And always Kestrel and Cedrus like to play in the fountains, here with Auntie Fudge supervising.

One of Johnny's projects was to install a zipline from the play structure in the Fink family back yard to a distant corner. Cedrus tried it out.

Kestrel made his way to the zipline by climbing over the top of things on the play structure that don't look to me like a small child should be climbing on top of. Obviously, getting to the start of the zipline was a problem.

On Johnny's return from Escondido he stopped for another weekend of fun and projects and, using a ladder that Bob would no longer need, plus plywood from Bob, fixed the problem.

And then there was the issue of adults dragging their butts, demonstrated here by Johnny. Even Kestrel needed it a bit higher. Grandpa Johnny and Steve made the zipline adjustable to solve that problem.

But the big event on Johnny's last weekend in San Carlos was Kestrel's graduation from preschool where cuteness reigned. The kids were each asked what they wanted to be when they grew up and what they were going to do to make a difference in the world. Here are Kestrel's answers.

And here are the graduates, complete with graduation robes. And the diploma. Plus Kestrel's happy family.

You may notice, as I did, that Johnny took not one photo during his week in Escondido. I guess he really did work hard every day.

Mission accomplished, he headed home, stopping again for a night with Judy and Don... and a few more projects.

He arrived here yesterday evening with a van and stock trailer stuffed full of Bob's no longer needed belongings: like a boat (built by Bob and Dad when we lived in Virginia and Bob was just a kid), elk head, bear rug, lumber and lots of tools. A few things stayed with Steve. A few more will go up to Kevin.

The elk head and bear will return to Gates, Oregon, where they came from. Bob shot the elk on Dad's place and Dad shot the bear in Alaska. Dad's very good friends who bought his ranch will give the elk and bear a good home.

We will use the lumber, cut from Dad's trees and sawed on his portable saw mill, then hauled to Escondido by Dad years ago and now hauled back to Oregon by Johnny, for fencing around my riding arena.

This is the scene looking into the back of the stock trailer when Johnny returned. You can just see the elk antlers sticking up from inside the boat.

Johnny also brought home lots of wonderful citrus fruit from Bob and Elladine's many fruit trees: lime, lemon, tangelo and grapefruit. He shared some with the San Carlos people and with Judy and Don on his way home. Here are some, along with mangos and strawberries, on the San Carlos table. Yum!

It was a successful trip from everyone's perspective, for which I'm thankful. But I'm most thankful for having Johnny home again at last.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hits and Misses

Johnny is the family member who listens to the news and reads newspapers. He's out of town. Hence I didn't know about the transit of Venus until it was happening. I was at the coast, monitoring Black Oystercatchers most of the day. When I came home and checked the computer for weather forecasts, I learned that ingress had started. Happily, the weather site I go to on the computer had live coverage of the event of a lifetime, so I watched Venus, off and on, all the way across the sun. Not as exciting as watching it myself but all I could have viewed it with was my binoculars reflecting on a piece of paper so maybe not so different.

The Black Oystercatcher monitoring was exhausting but I managed to see one of them fly into Haystack Rock, which sits a mile off the shore line of Cape Kiwanda. It moved out of sight in an area not far from where BLOY have nested in the past. So at least I know where to look after this, although it is impossibly far away as can be seen in the photo below. Even zoomed in as far as I can zoom my scope, the gulls appear pretty small and Oystercatchers are smaller yet. I did not catch the BLOY in my camera before it disappeared behind a rock wall. It had been directly below the flying gull in the photo below right.

In an area on the cape itself where waves rush into a cave, I only occasionally see gulls or Oystercatchers feeding at low tide. Nothing is around at high tide... except on this day when there must have been a school of fish being beat against the rocks at the mouth of the cave because cormorants and gulls by the score and even a few pelicans were waiting in the area. I wished my retired marine biologist friend who accompanied me last week was there to witness the spectacle. In all the years I've been going to Cape Kiwanda, I've never seen this happen before. Click on the photo left to see the rocks lined with birds.

My time line in this blog is backwards as I started the day (well, after chores at home) at Road's End, where I witnessed incubation exchanges at two of the three nests. Not easy to do since the nests are out of sight. Here is a photo of a bird that just came to take its place on the nest, which is farther to the right, behind the rock that the gull is nesting on. To show just how far away I am from the nest rock, I took a non-zoomed-in photo of it. Closer than Haystack Rock at Cape Kiwanda, but still a challenge to monitor.

The second nest is on another rock that I call Big Double Rock. This time my camera caught only the head of a bird that had just stood and walked left from the nest site.

The third nest is on a rock much farther to the north from my viewpoint atop The Thumb. Try as I might, I could not find a Black Oystercatcher anywhere on the rock, much less near the nest I had located two weeks ago. It could easily have been hidden behind rocks but I should have seen the partner on guard duty somewhere or come in for an incubation exchange. However, they change places so quickly I might have been watching the other nests when that happened. Next week, I'll try again.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, I've been working in the garden as weather allows, the greenhouse when it doesn't, and checking the trail cameras occasionally. The swamp camera took this nice portrait of a deer... and the back of a mystery animal. Anyone have an idea what this could be?

The lake pasture swamp had videos of leaping fawns, racing deer, sneaking coyotes, and the buck whose antlers are growing. I took a couple still captures off the videos.

And all week, like other horse enthusiasts, I looked forward to the running of the Belmont Stakes tomorrow and the strong possibility of having the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years. Then came the news this morning that I'll Have Another, winner of the first two legs, would not run in the Belmont tomorrow. He has tendonitis in a front leg and would risk permanent injury if he ran.

And so the elusive Triple Crown will have to wait... although maybe not for as long as we'll have to wait for another transit of Venus across the sun. That won't happen until 2117.

Friday, June 1, 2012

From Gazelles to Bitterns

Today my Tillamook friends John and Barbara joined me for a trek to Oregon Wildlife to deliver milk for Cuvier's Gazelle babies and then onward to Baskett Slough and birdwatching.

I've sold milk to Oregon Wildlife off and on for many years when the endangered gazelles and antelope that they raise need hand rearing, but Nancy and Dick, the owners, have moved most of their desert gazelles to another property in Arizona.... since wet western Oregon was not the best place for desert animals. The Cuvier babies are on that property, being hand-raised by the managers there. Unfortunately, the goat milk they are able to get in Arizona is not allowing the babies to grow as fast as the babies fed my milk have always grown. That's probably because I have Nubians with very high butterfat.

Dick and Nancy decided it would be best to take my milk, frozen, down to Arizona. They need 20 to 26 gallons when they leave in two weeks. I'm giving them milk as I have extra. Today we delivered three gallons... and were given a tour of some of the animals still at Oregon Wildlife. Below left is an East African gazelle: Soemmerring's. Below right is the lovely Gazella dama ruficolis, one of three Dama gazelle subspecies. The other two are extinct in the wild. Ruficolis is critically endangered.

Although Oregon Wildlife's main herd of Cuvier's Gazelles is in Arizona (along with those two thirsty babies), they have kept a very old female and a blind male on their Oregon acreage. The female is the oldest Cuvier's gazelle in captivity and the oldest ever known. On the left is the male and on the right the two of them together.

Oregon Wildlife raises these animals in cooperation with the San Diego Zoo. When the populations are built up sufficiently, their animals return to protected reserves in the countries of their origin, to hopefully repopulate the native areas some day. Nancy and Dick have been to Africa several times to watch the animals they raised be released into their homelands.

From Oregon Wildlife we went on to Sheridan for lunch and to check on the osprey nest on one of the high school football field's light poles. Both osprey were in the area, one on the nest and the other in the air above. After lunch we headed for Baskett Slough, finding numerous Savannah Sparrows along the way. I took these photos through the windshield.

Along a wetland on Livermore Rd. we saw distant Yellow-headed Blackbirds, too far for a good photo but at least you can tell what it is. On Coville Rd., we saw a distant Wilson's Phalarope... and I took a photo so lousy that you'll have to take my word for it that the smudge below right is truly a Wilson's Phalarope.

Western Meadowlark, Horned Lark, Northern Harrier, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall (that's a duck), Northern Shoveler (also a duck), Pied-Billed Grebe with two chicks, and many more birds passed by without being photographed (or photographed recognizably) by me.

Our last stop was The Narrows on Coville Rd. where swamp and water lie on both sides of the road and there are big pull-outs for cars to park. We parked. And soon heard the booming of American Bitterns. Finding them was another story. They like to stand among the reeds with their head straight up in the air, looking like, well, one of the reeds.

A family of Canada Geese with eight goslings entertained us while we waited for a Bittern to show itself. The parents led their goslings to the road where they let them eat gravel for awhile before leading them off the road on the other side. (Geese, like chickens, need grit to chop up the greenery they eat.)

At last, John's scanning with his scope found a Bittern peeking out of the reeds far across the marsh. Although brown rather than green like the vegetation, the Bittern looked very little like a bird. Here is a distant, fuzzy shot. Can you find it?

John and I had a hard time locating it in our camera viewfinders. Especially since it kept ducking down out of sight. Barbara stood looking with her binoculars telling us "It's back up!" or "It's down again."

Bittern duly recorded on film, or rather digital camera card, we headed home. My friends had a longer drive to reach Tillamook and I had goats to milk to save for those Cuvier gazelle kids (more properly known as calves) down in Arizona.