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.   

1 comment:

  1. Love the hungry Dipper, you certainly have me hooked on those guys now! Would have loved to do the Hebo field trip - sounds fascinating - thanks for walking through some of it for us.