Friday, May 31, 2013

The Last Week of May

The last week of May was spent gardening (fighting back weeds) and bird surveys. On Sunday, Johnny and I checked out all the Dipper nests I've found on 6 1/2 miles of Agency Creek. All but one pair were cooperative to one extent or another. Some parent Dippers were feeding nestlings, some were feeding fledglings, and some fledglings were feeding themselves. This one was being fed by a parent and was very demanding.

The first nest we walk into is the farthest from the road. I use this big V tree as a landmark to tell me when I'm close to the section of creek that holds the nest. Johnny likes to walk directly from the road to this tree through the underbrush. It's shorter than my route from upstream, but mine is easier walking. We rendezvous at the tree.

 Monday through Wednesday I stayed home and weeded when it didn't rain too hard, dug tansy ragwort out of the fields and cut down Scots Broom. Meanwhile, Johnny was doing major brush battling along the driveway. But I didn't take any photos of his hard work or mine. I guess I could have taken photos of the lovely yellow Scots Broom but I was too busy trying to eliminate the invasive, allergenic stuff. I did take a photo of our homestead at the base of Spirit Mountain, as seen from the lower pasture. I never tire of this view.

 By Thursday I was sick of working, so we headed to the coast again, this time to check on the Black Oystercatcher nests at Road's End. On the way up through the high meadow, Johnny found this dead Pacific Jumping Mouse. What a colorful little thing! Look at those long hind feet. No wonder it's a "jumping" mouse.

The trail was very slippery after all the rain and we slid both on the way up and the way down. But the view was lovely, as always, with the tide way out this trip.

 We found all three pair of BLOY, with two of them dutifully on nests while the third pair still seems to be selecting a nest site. The rock closest to shore in the photo below is the middle pairs' nest rock. As always, the nest itself (really just a scrape) is out of sight but we can tell where it is when the birds do a nest exchange. Both parents incubate the eggs, about 50 minutes each before they trade places. We wait for that exchange and watch where one disappears and the other appears to tell where the nest is. The one that is relieved of duty preens for a bit, then flies off to find something to eat before returning to take up sentry duty within sight of the nest.

Although we hiked up without rain, we could see clouds coming and soon we were being dripped on. So as soon as we had seen both nest exchanges, we slid back down the Thumb, or the Knob as some folks call it, and into the shelter of the trees.

 After eating at the Mexican restaurant in Pacific City, we drove north to Cape Lookout. I wanted to check out the South trail that I had never been on to see if any BLOY might hang out on the south side of the cape. It had stopped raining by then and the trail is really quite pleasant. Although the vertical distance is considerable, the trail is not steep because of the many switch backs. The first half of the trail has little understory and the sound of the ocean below is ever present and the surf visible way down below in gaps through the trees.

The lower half of the trail has more bushes along it. But the trail itself is quite civilized, even after all the recent rains.

 After about a mile and a half of the 1.8 mile trail, we came to a perfect viewpoint of the south side of the cape, so set our scope up there and searched for sites that BLOY might use. But the cliff is so sheer and the tidepools non-existent that we do not think it suitable for Black Oystercatchers, who must nest where there will be food to feed their dependent chicks. And, indeed, we saw none. Sea birds, however, found the sheer wall with niches here and there perfect for their nest sites. Cormorants and gulls were everywhere.

 This low, arched area we thought had possibilities, since BLOY do not nest too far above high tide line, but again there was no area for tide pools and the shellfish that BLOY depend on.

 Friday  (today) we headed for the coast again, but this time for a field trip sponsored by the Hebo Stewardship Group. We visited several U.S. Forest Service thinning sites and learned how they manage their forest sites now and why. It was quite interesting to learn that they are managing for far-in-the-future stands of "old growth" as that type habitat is now considered critical for many species of plants and animals, plus critical from a climate standpoint. They do no clearcutting anymore in the Siuslaw National Forest.

Johnny took a couple photos of the log loader stacking logs and the high line carriage that brings logs up through the unit that is being thinned.

The area in the foreground below has been thinned, with trees now spaced far enough apart to allow them enough sunlight to grow quickly. The logs are sorted into different piles according to size and species and shipped to different mills by the buyer: Georgia Pacific in this case. Way in the background, the yellow logging carriage is barely visible through the trees.

 Here it is enlarged with the cable that hooks to the logs hanging from it. Choker setters (real people) hook the logs to the cables. The high lead operator then reels the carriage back up with the logs swinging below.

After the field trip, since we were at the coast, we decided to check on the BLOY nests at Boiler Bay. After an early supper at Otis Cafe, we drove south. The two nest sites we have identified in past years at Boiler Bay are in use again this year and were occupied today. But it was too windy for photos... and time to head home.

June begins tomorrow with the promise of dry, warm weather. I expect we'll spend it much the same way we spent May: working on the farm and doing bird surveys... in one of the most beautiful areas of the planet. What a life.   

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Farm Wildlife... and Gnomes

If only I'd washed my milk room windows. Wednesday morning while milking goats, mama Wood Duck brought her ten new babies to the pond. These photos are taken through the dirty windows. The babies seemed to find plenty of something to eat amongst the parrot's feather that I never should have planted. It was supposed to freeze out in the winter and be pretty in the summer, plus keep the algae down. Well, it's pretty in the summer and has definitely eliminated the algae, but the roots grow deep into the mud and never freeze. However, the local wildlife doesn't seem to mind. We have frogs and newts aplenty. And enough insects, apparently, for ducklings.

Mama Wood Duck no doubt hatched her ducklings in the wood duck nest box upstream from our pond. There are also two downstream nest boxes plus three on Agency Creek. One of those must have been home for a Hooded Merganser as a mama and 8 or 9 new ducklings (they disappeared downstream too fast to count) appeared on Agency last Sunday.

Back up by the goat barn, our pond is home for more than frogs and newts and ducks. When the sun shines, dragonflies, like this pretty red one (a meadowhawk, maybe?) dart back and forth across the dam. 

 Our newest pond resident is a muskrat. He (she?) has made a burrow in the side of the bank near the dam. I've watched him tow many leaves of the water iris I also should not have planted into his burrow. And he seems to like eating the parrot's feather. So far, the muskrat is much preferable to the considerably larger and more destructive beaver that seem to have moved their headquarters to Agency Creek. I grew very tired of dismantling their blockade of our dam.

 And, of course, there are the birds. Most are not so easy for me to photograph as this Red-breasted Sapsucker, who diligently keeps his sap wells open in our trees. He worked on the back yard birch tree today while I weeded.

 Some of the critters here are not wild at all.. like the horses, happily browsing what grass they can get through their grazing muzzles, designed to keep them from foundering themselves on sugary spring grass.

 And then there are the anything-but-wild gnomes I hired to help with all the weeding. As you can see, they are not helping. No wonder I still have so many weeds in my flowerbeds, in spite of my own hard work. Maybe I should also stretch out a hammock (between rain showers) and take a nap.

Or nestle down by the pond with frogs for company...

But I really should wash those milk room windows before any more wild and photogenic creatures appear on our pond..

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Indoor Flowers

While I have been slaving away outdoors, trying to liberate the flowerbeds and keep the grass at bay, the inside flowers have been doing their own thing, unaided by me. I didn't even notice that the plant climbing all over the ceiling of the jungle room (one of the plants climbing all over the ceiling of the jungle room) had four buds on it until they were almost ready to bloom. I call this plant rick rack cactus although I guess it isn't really. I'm not sure what it is. Like the night-blooming cereus, it blooms at night and is open only one night. Unlike the cereus, the flowers are not strongly scented. Whatever it is, it blooms seldom, although it buds often. The buds usually turn black, likely because it's too cold in our unheated jungle room greenhouse. But we have had some unseasonably warm weather this spring and four buds survived.

I waited up for the first bloom to open, which it did at 11:30 p.m. It was worth the wait. I did not put a ruler up to it but it was at least a foot across... the biggest flower I have ever seen.

Two opened a few nights later but I didn't wait for them to get all the way open. Nor did I wait for number four. None were as huge as the first one. 

 May is the month for orchid cactus to bloom, which they faithfully do every year. And they stay open for days, thank goodness. This psychedelic pink one was, and still is, covered in flowers.

I did not get photos of all that have bloomed so far. More open daily. May is a colorful month in our greenhouse. For some reason, the camera refuses to get all the colors actually present in this pink/purple/red combination.

My original cactus was plain ol' red. It hardly gets any notice anymore.

Also blooming this time of year are the Amaryllis, some from gifts to me in past Christmases (from my wonderful daughters-in-law) and some bloomed-out plants that friends have given me. I lose track of who has given me what so they mostly just stay here and bloom in the spring, when they're really supposed to.

 The plants upstairs in my office (it's a bit of a jungle up here, too) are also blooming. The hibiscus only managed one flower this year.

But the hoya is outdoing itself, both in numbers of blooms and fragrance.

And it seems to be reaching across the room now, trying to reach the computer area, where it will drop its sticky sweetness all over my papers. It will have to be retrained a different direction.

The rains have returned outdoors, to my great relief, relieving me from the constant watering and mowing duties and allowing me to enjoy the indoor flowers who ask for so little care and give so much beauty.

From Oceanside to Cape Meares

On Wednesday, May 15, we finished our Black Oystercatcher site surveys. First thing in the morning (after chores), we returned to our viewpoint on the north side of Cape Lookout to check the offshore rocks when the sun was behind us instead of shining in our eyes. Still no BLOY.

Then it was up the coast past Netarts Bay to Oceanside, which we hit just at low tide. We hiked through the tunnel and found a pair of BLOY feeding on an exposed tidal rock. At the same time we were looking at them, friends John and Barbara were just north at Short Beach looking at five more. It was nice to have someone glassing Short Beach at the same time we were at Oceanside so we would be sure that there were, indeed, seven BLOY in the area and not two that flew from one area to the next to be counted again.

After lunch at Brewin' in the Wind at Oceanside, a favorite rendezvous spot with Tillamook friends John and Barbara, we all drove north to Short Beach, where we found five BLOY still hanging out. For some reason, gulls and BLOY love the fresh water that flows into the ocean from a reservoir up in the hills. They drink and bathe and splash. Here are two BLOY enjoying a dip along with many gulls.

 Farther north on the beach, another pair were foraging on an exposed rock. They had just flown from the north end of the rocky beach, where another BLOY was still poking around.

Then we were off to Cape Meares, where John and Barbara have been keeping watch on the nesting peregrines and nesting Black Oystercatchers... for many years. The peregrines were out of sight this day but two pair of BLOY were each hanging out in their usual nesting areas, one on the north toe of the cove and one on the south toe. Neither pair are nesting yet.

For an unknown reason, I took few photos this day. Perhaps because I have so many photos of the area. (For previous trips with more photos, check out: )  Or perhaps because I was starting to wear down from our marathon BLOY surveying. In fact I was so tired, I let Johnny drive home while I slept the whole way.

I love the coast and surveying Black Oystercatchers, but... it has been time since then to stay home and get something done on the farm... like weed and mow and plant. And, on this past moonlit Sunday night, survey Nightjars. That story another time.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Three Capes Scenic Loop

Three Capes Scenic Loop includes Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares. All three are Black Oystercatcher sites, so Johnny and I surveyed them last Tuesday and Wednesday.

As usual, one pair was easy to find on the cliff they like to hang out on at Cape Kiwanda.

Another was feeding on an exposed tidal flat. Then Johnny spotted one way over on Haystack Rock itself. But after a bit, the two on the cliff I was watching became three, then two of those flew leaving one, but another returned making two again. 

It is always difficult to figure out what's going on at Cape Kiwanda. The only nest we have ever found is half a mile offshore on the east side of the 100 meter high Haystack Rock. We think the birds still nest on the same ledge but have moved their nesting area out of our sight. Where the second pair nests is still a mystery.
After climbing back down the dune, we ate lunch at a tiny, but very good, cafe nearby, then continued on the scenic loop road to Cape Lookout. The 2 1/2 mile hike to the end of the cape is on a very well-maintained trail: very unlike that trail was 30 plus years ago, the last time Johnny hiked it, when it was a muddy mess. (I hiked it last fall with friend Carol.) This time we had a beautiful day with beautiful viewpoints all along the trail.

 A natural bench from tree roots made a handy resting spot.

 We stopped to glass the rocky flats by a cove on the north side where I always hope to, but never do, see Black Oystercatchers.

 From a side trail going up, I could see all the way north to Cape Meares, the third cape on the loop, and, with the camera zoomed in, the three arch rocks off its coast.

Johnny took a photo of me on my perch above the trail, admiring the view northward.

However, while I looked for BLOY, Johnny watched the ocean and suddenly cried, "A whale! And she has a calf!" Sure enough, a cow and calf whale were swimming slowly north along the shore line in the cove. I tried to get a photo but was too slow to get them when their backs were nearly out of the water. They were about to disappear into the white froth when my shutter clicked. You'll have to take my word for it that the green smudge in the photo below is part of the mama whale's back. The lighter green smudge behind and beside her is the calf. I don't know what the green is but it was on part of both their backs.

Even zoomed in, it still just looks like a green smudge.

When the trail wandered to the south side of the cape, the vistas were so lovely I took a zillion photos of, basically, the same thing. In the distance is Cape Kiwanda, where we had been earlier, and Haystack Rock off its shore, both looking very tiny from the much higher Cape Lookout.

 Eventually, we made it to the end of the cape.

Our target bird, a Black Oystercatcher, screamed and flew out from the rocky flats below and then returned. If there was more than one, we did not see it.

 After the 2 1/2 mile hike back to the trailhead, I decided to hike the north trail as far as our customary vista point to see the two offshore rocks that are possible BLOY hang-outs, although we've yet to find them hanging out there. Johnny drove the car to meet me. I thought I might be able to at least hear BLOY from the trail but I was wrong. I could not even hear the ocean until I was almost to our vista point. But it was a lovely trail with huge sitka spruce. My walking stick is 4 1/2 feet long. This tree must be nearly three times that at the base.

Several trees made cool archways over the trail.

At one point, there were Giant Trilliums that were bigger than any I've ever seen. I put my foot in the photo to give an idea of just how big this trillium is. It bloomed earlier in the spring. I would like to have seen the flower!

It's a good thing the mile plus trail was so intriguing, because this is the view I finally had of the rock through the trees. Our view from our usual vista point is just as good. Johnny had the scope set up and was looking at the rock when I came dragging in. Five miles on the cape trail and then a mile or more on this one was a bit much. And we saw only one BLOY all afternoon. But the whale and calf and the views were well worth the trip... and the sore muscles.

 The following day we traveled north to the third cape, Cape Meares, via Oceanside and Short Beach. That tale next time.