Thursday, May 26, 2016

More Black Oystercatcher Surveys

For the first time, I was actually relieved when I found no nesting BLOY at the end of one of my most unfavorite survey hikes... the North OP (Observation Point) at Road's End. The view once I arrive is spectacular. But... the hike is difficult. I amused myself along the way by taking photos of Johnny climbing up the steep Thumb to his OP. That little dot in the middle of the green cliff is him.

And cropped...

 However, that's the only tough part of his hike. Then he gets to sit on top and watch for BLOY on the two nest rocks below him. Here he is from my vantage point on the North OP, where, by the way, I saw no BLOY on the North nest rock. So I don't have to go back there this year!

Can't see Johnny? He's between the two trees on top. Here...

 And up close with my Nikon...

Johnny watched the two pair that nest on South Rock and Middle Rock, while I took close-ups of the rocks from my OP... but saw nothing on them. Thank goodness for the lovely view in all directions...

In the afternoon, we went from Road's End to another site where Johnny had an even shorter hike and sat for two hours watching a pair of BLOY wander around the top of Refusal Rock looking for a suitable nest site, apparently. Meanwhile I hiked in on a very rough non-trail to the North Cascade Head nest site... and found nothing. This is the site where I had found a Turkey Vulture lurking two weeks ago. I suspected it had disrupted the BLOY nesting plans. This was the second time with no BLOY so I don't have to make that hike again either!

The next day, we looked for BLOY on Cascade Head itself. Johnny hiked in to look toward one known BLOY nesting area while I hiked to another. (We have a permit to enter these areas to monitor BLOY in this otherwise closed-to-the-public season.) Johnny had interesting encounters. First with a couple herds of elk.

And then, with a pair of eagles just building a new nest. The rocks in the distance are where Johnny is supposed to be looking for BLOY. The leaning trees between him and the rocks were where the eagles were bringing long sticks for their new nest. If you have exceptional eyesight, you might see a white dot in one of the leaning trees. That's an eagle.

 Here it is closer...
Johnny said some of the sticks the eagles carried in were twice as long as their wing span. You can see some of them in this photo. A pretty messy looking nest so far!

Meanwhile I was hiking the long Hart's Cove trail to a point where I head downward through the brush to a viewpoint looking out on the big rocky island where a pair of BLOY traditionally nest.

They were there, but not yet nesting. Instead, they tried out one spot after another.

All the while I was serenaded, if you can call it that, by dozens and dozens of sea lions on the rocks in that cove.

After an hour, I gave up and hiked back up the long, steep, 7 switch-back trail to my car. I will be back to this site next week to find out if the BLOY have actually laid eggs and begun to incubate.

It was a relief to rest up today after two days of strenuous hikes. But we did have two evenings of wonderful dinners at our favorite Thai restaurant in Lincoln City. And enjoyed meeting Dawn for one of them and swapping BLOY stories with her. Only another BLOY nest monitor can understand why we do what we do. Some days, after long hikes, I wonder myself...


What a year this is for roses. They are blooming so heavily I've had to tie them up off the ground. Maybe if I'd pruned them they would be sturdier...

John F. Kennedy does not usually get this carried away.

This floribunda (I guess) was here when we moved here in 1977 and always blooms like crazy with blooms that last a very short time but just keep coming

Oklahoma with just a few flowers open yet

Burgundy Iceberg, my only purple rose

Armada (I think) is out of control this year

Gebruder Grimm with the lovely shiny foliage is in bud, soon to be loaded with flowers that constantly change color

and here they are

This old-fashioned rose was here when we moved here in 1977. I have no idea what it is.

One of my few hybrid teas, Love was just beginning to bloom when I took this photo. Kitty was keeping me company as I photographed.

Playboy has to be seen in person to be believed. Constantly in bloom.

 Here's a close-up of some of the color variations Playboy's blooms go through.

And a bud...

Climbing Iceberg covers one side of the chicken yard fence.

Climbing Iceberg has a little help from Queen Elizabeth. At least that's what I think this lovely pink rose is. I started it from a cutting many years ago that a friend had on her place when she moved there. I've read that Queen Elizabeth was a popular rose that many settlers apparently brought with them to Oregon from points east.

This is a cutting of Zepherine Drouhin that I started from my original bush. It is usually the first rose to open but was beat out this year by Playboy and Armada and others
The rambling rose Paul's Himalayan Musk has rambled high up our Hybrid Poplar next to the front drive. It looks white here, in bad lighting, but it is really a light pink.

This is an ongoing post as I take more photos of roses in bloom...

English Violet
English Violet with all those buds open

Disco Dancer

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Eagles and Vulture and Cougar, Oh My!

Black Oystercatcher (BLOY) abundance survey and nest monitoring season has arrived, but, so far, other animals have provided far more excitement.

On my first trip up The Thumb at Road's End this season, to count BLOY and look for nesting, a young eagle dove on a foraging rock full of gulls and one pair of Oystercatchers, sending all into the air in a frenzy. The gulls soon settled down on their end of the rock while the eagle settled down on its end. The BLOY disappeared and were seen no more.

After awhile, the eagle moved to a favorite eagle perch on the cliff. But the BLOY stayed in hiding.

I gave up and drove to my North Cascade Head site, hiked the long, arduous hike in, only to have another bird disrupt that BLOY nesting opportunity. Perched atop the highest point and looking all around was a Turkey Vulture. The BLOY, of course were nowhere to be seen. After fifteen minutes or so, the TV left, but it took the BLOY pair another half hour to show up, screaming loudly and indignantly. I am wondering if they had started a nest, laid eggs, and had the eggs eaten by a hungry vulture. I'll never know but the next week no BLOY appeared in the hour I watched and waited.

On that first trek, on my way back to the car, an explosion of sound from one or more very angry and upset eagles erupted right over my head. Although I've never heard of eagles attacking people, the noise above me was, um, startling and my heart skipped a few beats. This is a site where my friend and eagle/peregrine monitor told me the eagles were not nesting this year. Hah! I watched an adult bald eagle chase a subadult out of the area. And then another. All the while punctuating his orders with loud screams. I was hoping he wasn't mad at me. I had no idea he had a nest much less where it was.

I told my friend and he found the nest the next day. I had been right next to it! On my second trip to that site, I found no BLOY but did find the eagles' nest... and an eagle watching me. Word now from my friend is that they have a nestling and that's the reason for their extreme territorial behavior.

The first part of that otherwise difficult North Cascade Head hike is tame from a walking standpoint, but treacherous for me because it goes through a monumental forest of blooming Scotch Broom, which I am horribly allergic to.

Although this invasive and dangerously flammable weed makes me unable to breathe, I have to admit it's pretty.

Yesterday, I made my second trek up The Thumb and, after very long waits, eventually saw the Middle Rock pair do a nest exchange (the nest is on the west side of the rock, invisible from my shore observation point). Likewise, eventually, for the South Rock pair.

 Just to prove I actually saw an Oystercatcher, here is one of the South Rock pair on a foraging rock after its mate relieved it of nest duty.

However the North Rock pair must be nesting, if they are nesting, on a side where they don't come into view when they exchange places.  Eventually, I gave up and headed down the trail. That's when the excitement peaked. I wasn't excited on my way up as I did not think too much about the dead animal in the middle of the trail, covered with leaves and brush. But on the way back I noticed the scratch marks on either side where some obviously large clawed animal had scratched dirt over the carcass.

I looked closer and saw a head of the dead animal and a leg and hoof and part of the body.

Bobcats cover their kills in our woods, but they pull them under a brush pile first. This audacious cat had left its kill right in the middle of the path. This is a well used by hikers path. I guess if you are an apex predator, like a cougar, you only have to leave your scent by your kill and no other predator is going to nibble on your dinner. No doubt this was a cougar kill and I had never thought about the fact that there were cougars in the area. Why I had not thought about that, I don't know, considering how many elk are in the areas on the coast where I monitor Black Oystercatchers. You can bet I'll be thinking about big cats from now on.

Today provided a heart rush of a different kind. I arrived at Cape Lookout, for my second attempt to find BLOY, without my trusty Panasonic camera, which took all the photos on this blog. Here are a few it took on my first hike here this season, with Johnny. We saw no BLOY but did see pretty scenery...

... and a couple lazy seals...

Although I had left my Panasonic at home today, I had brought my new Nikon with the huge lens in hopes of finding the distant BLOY nest reported at Cape Meares. However, when I tried to take a photo with it on the Cape Lookout trail, the battery was dead. I have used it seldom so did not understand why.

Today's trip was fogged and rained out anyway, so I came home and researched. Apparently, I am supposed to take the battery out except when in use because my camera may drain it even when its off. It is now plugged in and charging. Plus I found the second battery I had bought and will charge it and keep it with the camera. Being camera-less on a hike feels a lot like being naked.

And I sure don't want to be "naked" on these hikes... with eagles and vulture and cougar, oh my!