Thursday, October 31, 2013

October in Retrospect

What a beautiful October we had this year! Well, I guess it's beautiful every year but this year it was warm and sunny with fall colors even more spectacular than usual. At least so it seemed to me. Here is a photo retrospective of October on the Fink Family Farm from the beginning of the month, with a moth on a rug, to the end, with fallen leaves.

Overnight, or so it seemed, the leaves came down...

Farewell, October, until next year...

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Little People

Every fall when the weather turns cold, Little People move into our house... mostly mice and chipmunks. How the chipmunks get in, I have no idea, but in they come and find our caches of nuts and re-cache them. We find nuts in our shoes, holes in the fireplace bricks, dresser drawers if we leave them open... among other places.

Mice are moving into my new barn, too. Well, they've been in the outer portions ever since we built it but now they're moving into the inner sanctum. Yesterday I was thinking of something else when I picked up a green feeder and took it to the feed bin to put grain in for a goat. I did not notice the little mouse inside the feeder until it jumped up on my arm and then down into the grain bin. The bin was full of sacks of grain. After much lifting of sacks up and down with the mouse scurrying to stay out of the way, I gave up trying to scare it out and gave it a broom handle for a ladder instead. Then I went into the milk room and hoped it would leave. Each time I came back for more grain for the next two goats on the stand, I plumped bags up and down and the mouse scurried around. But finally the mouse managed to climb onto the rim of the feed bin while I was in the milk room. When I came out for more grain, it jumped to the ground and ran away. Thank goodness. I closed the feed bin and vowed to be more attentive the next time I picked up a grain feeder.

Today I had milked several goats and fed them grain when I noticed a little mouse on the ledge where the feed bowls sit on the milk stand. It was just a few inches from a goat's nose but the goat did not seem to care or maybe notice. (Maybe she was daydreaming like I had been.) I scooped up the mouse with a feed can and threw it outside. The mouse was probably cold and trying to warm up in the milk room, but I really do not want mice in my milk room.

I also do not want chipmunks in my house but one was there yesterday. A few hours after the mouse-in-the-feed-bin episode, I was getting ready to eat lunch when I heard a thunk above my head as though something had dropped to the floor upstairs in my office. I suspected a Little Person and went up to investigate. I saw nothing, so came down and shut the glass door tightly from the upstairs. As I was eating my lunch, a chipmunk scurried down the stairs and stood with its little paws against the glass door looking at me. I assured it that I was not opening that door and letting it into the downstairs. It ran back upstairs. Two more times while I ate lunch, the chipmunk came down and stood with its paws on the glass looking imploringly at me.

I tried to figure out how to get the chipmunk outside. If I let it into the downstairs, I would have to open an outside door and risk another chipmunk or two or three coming inside. I could let it into the attached greenhouse from upstairs (there's a door onto the balcony in the greenhouse) but again if I opened an outside door, I ran the risk of more chipmunks, mice, whatever, coming into the greenhouse and no guarantee this one would leave. I finally decided to open the big windows on the stair landing as there is a ledge there that leads to the downspout from a gutter and the chipmunk could get out that way... if it so desired. I left for an afternoon appointment after opening that window and hoped the chipmunk would find its way out while I was gone. Apparently it did as I have not seen it since. Yet.

Other slightly larger Little People don't come indoors this time of year. Rather they crash into trees, posts, windows, and even the ground. You can see them in many neighborhoods in late October. My  theory is that these diminutive witches get drunk on fermented apples and pears and crash their brooms. Three of them have crashed into our yard.

Fortunately, these disoriented little witches all disappear after Halloween. Maybe they sober up by then and fly off.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Black Oystercatcher Season Finale

Last week we finished up the last two known Black Oystercatcher nest sites that we monitor: Road's End and Cape Kiwanda.

First we went to Cape Kiwanda at high tide, hoping that the pair with two fledglings we had found on August 28 would again be resting on the cape on the south flats where we had seen them that day. And where we have seen BLOY with fledglings in the past. Those birds nest, we are fairly certain, on a ledge on the east side of Haystack Rock. For years I have suspected a second pair nested on Haystack Rock but had only circumstantial evidence: birds flying to and from the northwest side of the Rock.

Luck was with us on October 15. A BLOY family was resting on the south side of the cape when we arrived. While Johnny kept a vigil with the scope on those two adults and one fledgling (second fledgling not in evidence), I climbed over to the north side of the dune to see if there were any BLOY in evidence. And there were! The north pair had fledged one chick and were resting where I have seen a pair rest in years past. We now know, after many years of patiently watching and waiting (and radioing our observations back and forth to each other on opposite sides of the dune), that the pair we see rest on the north side is a different pair from the south birds. And those north birds almost certainly nest where we have seen BLOY fly from the northwest side of the Rock to the north side of the cape.

Here is their scenic resting spot with Cape Lookout way off in the distance...

 And the family...

Junior is the one with the bill partially black and the eye not yet as red as the parents'.

Happy to finally know that there really are two BLOY pairs nesting at Cape Kiwanda and thrilled that each pair fledged at least one chick this year, we headed south to Road's End.

We already knew that two of the three nests at Road's End had ultimately failed: one without hatching chicks and the other without fledging the two chicks that hatched. But the third nest had two chicks in September close to fledging and we had been hopeful. On October 3, we had climbed The Thumb and found the pair on a rock near the nest rock with no sign of chicks anywhere. However it was possible the chicks were still on the nest rock in hiding so we climbed The Thumb again on the 15th, after our successful Cape Kiwanda findings.

A pair were foraging on a rock south of the nest rock with no fledglings in evidence. After a short time, they disappeared. We waited and watched for nearly two hours. Well, one of us watched for two hours. Another watched a long time and then he took a nap. It was a warm and sunny day.

Eventually, we gave up and hiked down. We could see some rocks exposed to the south so parked at the Road's End park and hiked down the beach. It was much farther than it looked to those rocks. Here they are. That headland in the distance is where we had been.

 We did find a pair of BLOY, probably our disappearing pair from below The Thumb.

They and Western Gulls were foraging on the newly exposed shellfish covering those rocks at this very low tide.

This gull looked to be hoping we would give it an easier meal.

Johnny kindly hiked all the way back to the car and drove to meet me. His reward was supper at Jasmine Thai restaurant in Lincoln City. We love their Tom Kha soup.

Black Oystercatcher monitoring is pretty well over for the season now, although I could not resist one more trip to Cape Lookout, futilely searching for a better viewpoint to the offshore rock we think a pair nested on this year. They disappeared after a month or so and we assume their nest failed, but our viewpoint is through trees from a long way away.

My friend Nancy agreed to go with me to try to find a closer spot. We did not succeed, but it was a lovely day anyway. Here Nancy stands at the top of one of the "trails" we hoped would get us in sight of the rock.

It's great to have a friend willing to participate in my crazy schemes. And look, she's even smiling!

Just beyond the sheer cliff in this photo lies the rock I'd like to get closer to. My usual viewpoint is from the other side... through a forest of branches. But no matter which side you look from, the cliffs are sheer drops. And even Nancy and I are not crazy enough to risk those.

Cascade Head is another of my monitoring areas. It has one known nest site and several other maybes. Access is restricted most of the year, making my exploratories even more difficult. Perhaps Nancy would agree to yet another crazy trek while the road is still open...

Here is Cascade Head as seen from The Thumb, looking north. Such a lovely place to hike and sit and stare at the ocean and its rugged coastline. And maybe find where Black Oystercatchers nest... if not this year, then maybe next...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Exploring A Coast Range Triangle

Along with all the winterizing and catching-up projects we are doing during this spectacular fall weather, we have also been enjoying the sunny warm days throughout a triangle that starts from our farm on the east, goes southwest to Lincoln City and northwest to Cape Lookout.

Inside that triangle is Mt. Hebo. We took a Sunday drive to Mt. Hebo by way of Hebo Rd. and Gunaldo Falls. I have long wanted to hike to the bottom of that difficult-to-see waterfall and so we did. My photos did not come out great. This horsetail falls has two drops, the top one is five feet, the bottom 35 feet. But seeing the falls through the trees is difficult.

 Although it is very close to Hebo Rd., getting there is treacherous... mostly because of years of accumulated trash that people have thrown down the hillside, now trapped between trees and salmon berries and salal and downfalls on the steep drop into Sourgrass Creek. I waded across the creek while Johnny walked a narrow log across, then clambered up alongside the unnamed stream to the base of the falls.

From the bottom of the falls we could not see the top drop. Someday I want to hike to the top of the falls.

But that day we drove on to Mt. Hebo. This is the first time we have been up there in sunshine and no wind. And the first time I realized how far you can see from up there. We could see nearly that whole triangle of territory that includes my Black Oystercatcher sites... and beyond.

Looking north... Tillamook.

And Oceanside...

My camera zoomed up the rocks off Oceanside...

The next cape south is Cape Lookout. Johnny is peering at it way off in the distance.

My camera brought it closer.

 Later in the week, a friend and I hiked the Cape Lookout area searching for a viewpoint to scope the offshore rocks on the north side. That tale later...

 Farther south was Cape Kiwanda, a much smaller cape than its northern neighbors.

Off Cape Kiwanda is Haystack Rock where we found two Black Oystercatcher families a few days after our Mt. Hebo trek. That story also a little later... Here is that view of the Pacific City and Cape Kiwanda area brought up closer. Can you see the little spot beyond the cliff that is Haystack Rock?

And here my wonderful camera brought it into view.

Cascade Head was a bit too far south and blocked by mountain ridges, as was our Road's End Black Oystercatcher territory. We hiked that area the same day we did Cape Kiwanda and will also tell that tale next time.

We left the Hebo radar station then and took Forest Service road 1400 back home.

Along the way we stopped at North Lake, which appeared to be full of algae but turned out to be water cress.

A pair of Hooded Mergansers were pushing their way through the green pond.

We must have seen a hundred Varied Thrushes on our journey. This photo was taken through the windshield.

Next time, I'll tell the Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout stories from this past week, along with stories from the point of the triangle from which our journeys originate: the farm.