Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Johnny's Trips

For the second time this spring, Johnny has been up at Traumhof working on projects for Kevin and Jessica. The first one, at the end of April, was to build a greenhouse and deliver a Gator with a box extension on the back that he had built to keep the hay and manure they haul from dropping into the working parts and wrecking the engine.

Here's the greenhouse, full of flowers.

And here's the Gator with the Johnny-made box extension.

The box blocked visibility so this trip, which Johnny just returned from, he installed a window.

The main purpose of this trip was to install two new water heaters to replace a leaky heat exchanger.

Also, Johnny and Kevin built a deer fence around Kevin's garden in hopes of keeping the deer from eating up all the produce this year.

Their two beautiful Bengal cats enjoyed exploring the newly fenced garden. Kevin put chicken wire around the bottom to keep the cats inside.

Traumhof is abloom this spring, Johnny reports. He took a photo of their Golden Chain tree, magnificent right now.

While Johnny was up at Traumhof, Steve called him from California wanting to know if his dad could come down there in June to do a major plumbing project. Of course, Johnny wants to go.

But I have some fencing that needs doing plus hay to be cut and baled and moved into the barn (weather permitting). For some reason, Johnny thinks working for his kids is more fun than working for me. Maybe it's the food: Kevin, Jessica, Steve and Munazza are all excellent cooks and actually cook meals instead of just pulling stuff out of the garden and freezer and throwing it on the table. Or maybe our grandkids are the draw. They certainly are a major reason I would like our kids to live closer.

But, actually, Johnny just loves working with his two boys. He always has.

Maybe he will be inspired to do my projects quickly so he can take off for California. Here's hoping...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bird Survey Madness, Day Two

Our follow-up survey of Cape Kiwanda, we thought, would be a snap (on Wed., May 21). One pair of BLOY would be resting on the side of the sandstone cliff, as it had been on our first survey day, May 11. I would sit and watch them to see if they flew and if so, which direction they went. Johnny, meanwhile, would hike to the end of the cape as usual to scan the Rock and look for BLOY in tidal areas on the south side of the cape. We arrived early enough that lighting was excellent on the Rock (above).

Good plan. Didn't work. The BLOY were not on the cliff.

Nor could I see them on the tidal flats on the north side of the cape that Johnny was hiking along.

 Johnny could find none on either side of the cape nor on the Rock. He is the dot on the skyline in the middle of the photo below.

So I trudged up and over to the north side of the dune, where our cliff-resting BLOY often forage. On the way I stopped to take photos of the Rock as I climbed higher and higher.

And I zoomed in on the former nest ledge, hoping my camera would pick out a BLOY that I could not.

But if they were there, they were hiding behind a ridge of stone.

As it turned out, my usual path from the top of the dune down to the north side observation point, where I can see the tidal areas below, was gone. It had slid down the mountain with already-dead trees and still living sand dune plants.

I had to walk partway down the dune on the east side to climb back up the dune on the north side. When I arrived and scanned the tidal areas below, I saw no BLOY. I called on my radio to ask if Johnny was seeing anything. He was not. While I was on the air with him, one BLOY walked into my view on the rocks below. A second followed. Hallelujah!

They foraged for awhile, then flew to a rock just exposed in the falling tide.

I headed back to the beach, which meant going down, then back up, then down again. Of course, I stopped to take photos of flowers that had found a sheltered spot in the shifting sands.

We rendezvoused on the beach and drove to the Mexican restaurant in Pacific City for lunch. Then it was on to Cape Lookout, crazy people that we are.

There are two trails at Cape Lookout that lead to ocean views. One goes down the south side to the beach an impossibly long way below. Part way along that trail is a wonderful lookout point where the entire south wall of the cape can be viewed (from a comfy bench). We went that way first.

No BLOY could we see, so we hiked back up to the trail that goes to the end of the cape. We only went halfway this time, to the cove on the north side where we had seen a pair of BLOY on our original survey day. I heard one or more screaming and saw one fly out of view, hugging the shore line.

Although I also had a good view of the south side of the cove, that side is a sheer cliff with no habitat for our Black Oystercatchers.

Johnny had hiked farther on the path to where he could look back from the west side of the cove at the rocky outcropping. From there he could see rocks beyond where I could see but no BLOY were in view.

We did not continue on to the end of the cape as we can see very little habitat from there (at least for Black Oystercatchers). It was a tired walk back to the car, then a short drive to our last observation point where we peek through trees to catch a glimpse of two huge offshore rocks that we have seen and heard BLOY on in the past. But not this day.

It was 5 p.m. and time to drive home. I was thinking what a lot of work this BLOY surveying was when I remembered the cars in the Cape Lookout trail head parking lot. As always, there were a lot of them. And the license plates were from all over the United States. Amazing to think how many people hike Cape Lookout just for the view and the chance of seeing whales. I realized how lucky I was to have an opportunity not only to hike and have beautiful views, sometimes see whales, but to participate at the same time in citizen science.

Black Oystercatchers are fairly rare birds that are dependent on mussels and other rock creatures for food. By keeping long term records on population numbers of BLOY, plus nest records that will show if their chicks are surviving, we will have an indication of the health of our seashore ecosystems. All while enjoying some pretty wonderful scenery on the Oregon coast. Maybe we're not so crazy, after all.

Bird Survey Madness, Day One

Every May, a survey of Black Oystercatchers is taken over the entire Oregon coastline. Johnny and I survey from Lincoln City north to Cape Lookout. The BLOY (as we call them) hang out on offshore rocks, so our area is really only the rocks off Road's End plus Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout. Cascade Head, or at least Hart's Cove, is surveyed by the USFS so we don't go there even though it is within our area. Later in the season, I check for nests there.

The initial survey takes place during one week in May, beginning Mother's Day weekend. Our first survey day was reported in a previous blog entry.   http://lindafink.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-whale-of-day.html  A follow-up survey is conducted at each site within a week, hopefully, of the last visit.Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we did our follow-up surveys. Since the timing worked to combine with our Beached (dead) Bird Survey, we canoed across the Salmon river on Tuesday, hiked the beach looking for dead birds (found none), canoed back across and drove to Road's End.

On this trip Johnny hiked up The Thumb to our usual observation post, while I hiked to the top of the cliff, then down around the cove that is north of The Thumb to where I can look down on the North Nest Rock birds and actually see their nest. Photos of this insanely difficult trek follow.

Of course, the first rule of a long, steep hike is to stop and take photos of flowers (and breathe).

That bump on the left in the photo below is the top of The Thumb, where we usually sit to watch BLOY. Johnny was on his way up there when I reached the top of the cliff far above him.

Thanks to the zooming wonders of my Panasonic Lumix camera, there he is, on his way up.

And even closer...

Far, far below me was the cove that lies north of The Thumb. My goal was its north rim, a long way down through a trail-less jungle. But it would not have taken me an hour if I had not managed to get lost and had to back-track. Next time I'll be faster.

 Johnny spotted me when I finally appeared across the cove from him. I'm a dot in the lower left of the photo below.

And zoomed closer... I'm standing in the middle of the salal field looking down on the North nest rock.

And here is the rock. Try picking out black birds on this rock!

It took a while, but I finally spotted red bills. The setting BLOY is in the bottom of the photo just left of center. The guarding BLOY is at the top just left of center.

Here is the one on the nest, closer.

And the BLOY on guard duty.

Johnny could see neither bird from his position atop The Thumb. That knob on the left of the photo is The Thumb.

The dot in the middle of the two trees is Johnny looking through his scope at the nest rocks below.

Here he is...

Mission accomplished, I headed back. But first I stopped to take a photo of the incredible view looking north. Camp Westwind's Crescent Cove was just below me. The long beach beyond the rocky outcropping in the middle of the photo is where we had just done our beached bird survey. And beyond that: Cascade Head. The view alone was worth the hike. (In retrospect.)

But then it was plow my way through salal, crawl under and over the stunted-by-wind sitka spruce, to travel the long way up, down and back to the van that was topped with our beached-bird-survey canoe. Naturally, I took photos of flowers on the way down.

We ended our day on the coast with dinner at the Nepali restaurant in Lincoln City, joined by friend and fellow BLOY enthusiast, Caroline.

 The next day, we did our follow-up surveys of Cape Kiwanda and Cape Lookout: two more long, strenuous hikes. Crazy, yes?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May Flowers, Indoors and Out

Today's plan was to lock up the wooly ewe and shear her before her wool got wet again in today's rain. The first part of the plan worked splendidly. I fed grain while Johnny snuck around behind and closed the make-shift panel gate, tying it closed with twine. Then he went to church while I confidently did chores.

When morning chores were done, I took the sheep shears to the sheep. Well, I started to. I had not got inside the pen before Matilda (as some visitor named our lone ewe) charged the gate, broke the twine and fled. There is no way to catch Matilda when she is outside a pen. She may be heavy with wool, but she's still ten times faster and more agile than I am.

To be honest, I was not looking forward to shearing that enormous sheep. I grabbed a camera instead of shears and took photos of flowers. Sunday is my day of rest anyway. Or it became such after Matilda's escape.

Rhododendrons everywhere in western Oregon this spring are spectacular. We only have two but they are covered with flowers.

Years ago, friend Velta and I went through an Iris phase: we planted many different varieties in our respective gardens. Both of us found out that iris do not like to be smothered in grass, which is what grows best around here. So the iris became mostly leaves and no flowers. Last year I made an effort to clear the weeds away from their feet. Either this happens to be a very good year for iris, as it is for rhodies, or my efforts paid off.

Lots more is blooming along with the iris. The Snowball bush is loaded with white flowers.

Columbine is thick and colorful in my flower "meadows".

Spring starts out with yellow flowers, mostly, it seems, but purple seems to be the dominant color right now. Even the chives carry through with that theme.

As does the Silver Moon clematis, just beginning to bloom against the house.

Inside the greenhouse, warmer colors predominate. Like this just-beginning-to-bloom orange geranium.

And the orange begonia...

May is the month that most of the orchid cactus (epiphyllum) bloom.

The amaryllis have been blooming for some time, mostly red ones. But this variegated plant has several blossoms open now.

Pink geraniums seem to be always in bloom somewhere in the greenhouse.

The most exciting flower of all doesn't look like much, but produces delicious babaco papayas. After the plant broke last year (http://lindafink.blogspot.com/2013/03/tragedy-in-greenhouse.html), I stuck three stem pieces into pots and now have three towering babaco papaya plants. A few papayas are beginning to enlarge.  They take a long time to mature, but it will be fun to watch them grow. And when they're ripe, we'll make babaco papaya ice cream again. (http://lindafink.blogspot.com/2013/04/babaco-papaya-ice-cream.html)

I should probably thank Matilda-the-sheep for giving me a day off to admire the flowers.