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.

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