Sunday, January 22, 2017

Johnny's Birthday Blog

Johnny's birthday happened to be the day of the biggest protest march in U.S. history. I considered joining other women in McMinnville or Salem but the lure of driving up into the woods to survey Dippers and generally enjoy the quiet and the beauty of the forest and stream with Johnny was too tempting. I am grateful to all the women who did march for equality and decency in the U.S. and around the world. It gave both Johnny and me hope after our disgust and dismay over the U.S. election results.

Up in the woods, all cares disappear. Johnny peered down The Chutes with his binoculars, looking for Dippers. Agency Creek is running high and fast and no Dippers were in view while we were there, although I'm sure they were somewhere within their mile long territory. We know of seven separate territories along this stream where Dippers nest annually.

Our next stop was the "Railroad Bridge". Johnny is peering through the slats at an old nest that the Dippers no longer use. But they do nest under the bridge, close to this former site. However, they were off feeding somewhere else while we were there.

 The next bridge that Dippers nest under is what Johnny calls Sharkey's Bridge. No birds in sight there either. However we did hear one a bit farther upstream.

This time of year, with no leaves on the trees, the creek is visible most all the way along the road and Johnny looked out his window most of the time. I just hoped he stayed on the road.

We saw a Dipper on a rock but it disappeared too quickly for me to get a photo.  Johnny is looking at the fork in the creek where we almost always see Dippers during the nesting season, as they nest very close to this point. They were not there this day, though.

A Red-tailed Hawk was our consolation prize, hunting its way along the road.

After all that searching, it was time to stop at Asinine Bridge and have lunch. Here Johnny starts his lunch with chips and salsa. We did not see the resident Dippers here, either, but on the way back, the pair were a bit downstream. Again they disappeared before I could get a photo.

 The only bird besides the Red-tail who cooperated, sort of, for photos was this Gray Jay. We saw quite a few of them moving about the alders both on our way up and our way down. We also saw two Ruffed Grouse that quickly flew out of sight, a Kingfisher, Flicker, lots of Varied Thrushes, and a few Golden-crowned Kinglets. And, of course, Dippers-that-refused-to-stay-for-photos.

I should have taken photos of the snow we ran into on the road when I had the not-so-smart idea to head upward to the FS 14 road and North Lake. We made it to the 14, barely, but since Johnny had taken off the snow tires two days before, we were forced to turn around before we could reach North Lake. Back down in the snow-free zone, Johnny caught sight of a deer on the hillside above us.

And then noticed there were two deer...

No, three!

When we returned to the rock pit with its still frozen pond, I decided to hike down to Three Stumps to see if any Dippers were in that favorite swimming hole area (a favorite of local children, not me. Agency Creek is icy cold all year!) I found no Dippers but took photos anyway because it is a lovely spot. In the first photo you can barely see a leaning tree on the right with wood steps hammered into it. Those steps go up, way up beyond what is visible in this photo, to a ledge where crazy local youth jump or dive off into the freezing water below. I guess they trust it is deep enough since generations of youth have been diving in there. A few generations earlier, there were three stumps on the far side of the creek from that tree that the kids dive from now. Only one stump remains but the name persists.

Back home, I made pizza for Johnny's birthday dinner. I took a photo of the pizza but it doesn't look too appetizing in the photo. In fact, it wasn't too appetizing. Hopefully, the beans and cornbread I started yesterday for tonight will be tastier. It's a good thing that Johnny isn't a picky eater.

Before evening chores, we finished up his 74th birthday with a few more episodes of the Big Bang Theory, grandson Ian's gift to Johnny for Christmas. It's a brainy, wacky romp.

January 21 was a good day for women of the world...  and a relaxing day for Johnny and me, filled with the serenity of woods and stream. And we did see a few of our target birds, American Dippers, although they refused to be photographed. There is always, presuming humankind learns to take care of the earth, a next time...

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