Monday, December 26, 2016

A Colorful December

In my last post, I said winter had arrived. And it has. Snow and ice, then melting, then sleet, snow, ice... oh my.

 But it began to melt...

...down on our farm, but not in the hills above...

Dark clouds over the goat barn promised more "interesting" weather to come...

 ... and here it is. Ice pellets dumped by that dark cloud...

But always, beautiful sunsets.

And then, on Dec. 11, more "colorful" excitement... We spent the afternoon in the emergency room with Johnny's hand dripping blood. Johnny got too close to a friend's chained dog with a chain longer than Johnny realized. The dog ripped the hide back off Johnny's hand, mangling blood vessels and puncturing muscle fascia, among other things. Johnny drove home and came in the house saying, in his usual understated way, "I think I need your help."

We went to urgent care first but the doc there took one look at Johnny's bloody pulp of a hand and sent us to the hospital to have ligaments and muscles checked out. Johnny was in no or little pain, since he has a very high pain threshold. ...Or, as my mother used to say, "Where there's no sense there's no feeling." Thanks to Johnny's answer of 0 or 1 on a pain scale of 10, we went to the end of the triage line in a very busy emergency room. Eventually, we got in to see a nurse but then it was many more delays before the wound finally got thoroughly cleaned out and examined and stitched back together: three internal stitches to repair muscle fascia damage and close off a spurting artery, then ten external stitches to close the flap of skin. Six hours, thirteen stitches, and one tetanus shot after the bite, we were home again.

In spite of Johnny's request, I did not take photos of the bloody mess. The poor nurse who started the cleaning program had to retire when she got woozy, in spite of all Johnny's joking around. I did take a photo two days later, when his hand looked a bit more presentable, although badly swollen.

But you can't keep a good man down. Or... Where there's no feeling, there's no sense. On Dec. 13, two days after the dog bite, Johnny went with me to McPhillips Park for my CoastWatch mile walk.

Here is Johnny walking north, picking up trash off the beach north of Cape Kiwanda... with his uninjured right hand.

I combined my mile walk with a search for Black Oystercatcher juveniles. But all I found were two adults in one of their usual foraging spots on the Cape. Later we found two more adults on the other side of the cape. So I guess neither pair successfully fledged chicks this year.

Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda on a chilly December afternoon...

Back home, while the snow lasted, I took photos of tracks for a project for the grandkids (and for me), Those photos are on a new blog I started called "Stories". The first post is "Stories in the Snow".

On the same day, I took a photo of the last wreath I made with all the leftovers after the others were done and delivered. I didn't want to waste any of the greens I had cut.

A few days later, On Dec. 18, we hiked The Thumb for the Lincoln City Christmas Bird Count. It was a cold and icy day with a bitter offshore wind blowing the wave crests backwards.

On the top of the southmost offshore rock where Black Oystercatchers nest, a lone Bald Eagle was perched, facing the wind. Why, I have no idea. It was a very blustery place to be.

 The eagle sat perched like this, braced against the wind, the entire hour or more that we hiked around, counting birds.

On December 21, we did our North Santiam Raptor route, before the next blast of snow was due to arrive. We saw four accipiters on our route. I had trouble identifying the juveniles so took photos of all to blow up on the computer. All three juveniles turned out to be Cooper's Hawks. Here are two of them. We also saw one adult Sharp-shinned Hawk, which I first took to be a Merlin! Thank goodness for my camera.

Although we drove in fog for the first half of our route, it was a clear and beautiful day in the upper reaches. Mt. Jefferson stood white and lovely above the green valley below.

The next day was cold and foggy, but we were warm in the car driving around with friend Marilyn VanDyk looking for birds for the Yamhill Valley Christmas Bird Count in the McMinnville area. The highlight for her that day was an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk. Too bad I didn't take any photos. The highlight for Johnny was lunch at Hillside retirement center as Marilyn's guests after our morning bird count.

Two days later, on the day before Christmas, the weather was again pleasant after more rain and ice and cold. While walking through our farm taking photos again for my tracking project... this time tracks in mud instead of snow... a Hermit Thrush came into view for a photo for the first time on our place. And a little while later, a Gray Jay popped into view! Two more photos for my Bird List blog on "Birds".

Hermit Thrush

Gray Jay
On Christmas Day we drove, as usual, to Tillamook and had lunch at a restaurant with birding friends John and Barbara Woodhouse, then did a bit of car birding afterwards, hoping to see the Hooded Oriole that a friend in Cape Meares Village has had coming to her hummingbird feeder. We did not see the Oriole but did see lots of pretty Anna's Hummingbirds, none of which were kind enough to turn at just the right moment for my camera to catch their stunning pink throats. Instead, I captured what I prefer to think of as "rare black-throated hummingbirds".

Today, the day after Christmas and two weeks after Johnny's dog bite, I snapped a photo of his healing hand while he napped, having just finished bottling eleven gallons of vinegar he made this fall. You can't keep a good man down.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Changing Seasons

On Friday, Dec. 2, I picked the last of the corn from the garden. The next day, we scouted for the Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count, scheduled for Dec. 15, weather permitting. It was a nice enough day that we could picnic beside Clarence Creek Falls, while checking out roads in the count circle.

It's hard to tell where this waterfall ends as it tumbles down a rocky stream bed for a very long way...

 We came back via Yoncalla Creek road.

Since we had time before dark, we surveyed our American Dipper areas along Agency Creek. As you can see, Asinine Bridge curves the opposite way that it should... a little engineering mistake that made the road crew blast the side of the mountain to give the log trucks room to turn. A pair of Dippers nests near this bridge every year... they don't care which way the bridge goes.

And here is one. We found Dippers in most of the nest areas that we checked on.

The reflections in the rock quarry pond made it hard to tell where mountain stopped and water began.

I am always intrigued by the wavy lava flows here.

The next day, Sunday the 4th, we hiked around the farm. The weather was pleasant, but the mackerel sky told me that cold precipitation was coming soon...

This day, pretty red fungi were poking up through woodland leaves

But sure enough, on Monday the 5th, we woke to snow...

We had planned to run our Grand Ronde raptor route the next day, Tuesday, Dec. 6, but waited until morning to see what the weather would be. It turned out clear and cold, with snow mostly just at our place on our route and in the hills above.

Johnny spotted a white-looking Red-tailed Hawk in a distant tree in the area where we have seen White Wing, the lovely white-winged redtail, for many years... but not for months now. We are still not sure if this is White Wing or a descendant. My previous photos show him from the back with white wings and a brilliant red tail. These photos are from the front, more or less, magnified greatly.

Two white-tailed kites were huddled together in the area where they often nest. We saw them there last month, too, so we're hoping they nest again.

We also found two lovely Red-shouldered Hawks on our route. One sat for a photo.

We ate our lunch by Willamina's Huddleston Pond, where two Bald Eagles kept watch.

Having started late, we arrived home at sunset. It looked like there was a fire to the west, but it was only the setting sun.

 We spent the next two days running errands and picking up feed, having heard that more snow and ice were on the way. And so they were. It feels good to have feed unloaded and be safely indoors (except when doing chores) while the weather has its way... snow and freezing rain, coating every twig in ice.

Winter has arrived.