15 March 2019
Today we left Cape Blanco State Park and headed north. A stop in Florence, Oregon for lunch was a nice break. We stopped at a restaurant along the river (not sure which restaurant or which river), and I had a nice cod fish sandwich and fries. Jack had the “award winning” clam chowder. I had a bite of his chowder. It was good. After lunch it was back into the van to continue our trip north.
Our campground for the night is South Beach State Park in Newport, Oregon. I like this campground’s locality, although not so much the campground. Too big for me. They probably have over 200 sites. That means a lot of people. With no school today, there are a lot of campers out. Plus, the nice weather makes a difference too. Who wouldn’t want to go to the beach when its sunny on the coast?
A short walk out to the beach and South Jetty netted us some new birds for the year, including the Chestnut-backed Chickadee. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee can be found across Kachemak Bay, but I’ve never seen it on our side (Homer) of the bay. Maybe it prefers the “rain” forest, rather than the boreal forest. The other First of Year birds observed were: Varied Thrush, Pelagic Cormorant (when in flight you could really see the white on their flanks – I haven’t ever seen the white on our Pelagic Cormorants in Homer), Pigeon Guillemot, Harlequin Duck, and Red-necked Grebe. I also saw a large flock (300+) of Surf Scoters. We had that bird in California several days ago.
16 March 2019
After breakfast we broke camp and headed to the Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center for an estuary walk. We saw a total of 31 species, including five First of Year (FOYs). Not too shabby. The highlight for First of Year species were the 44 Brandts. I like these geese – easy to identify. We occasionally get them in Homer during spring migration. We spent about two hours here. And I got to see one of my favorite species – the Bushtit. And I got lucky with a decent photo too. No easy feat for this erratic bird.
After our estuary walk, we continued on driving north and making a stop at the Nestucca National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is known for having many of the subspecies of Canada and Cackling Geese during migration. We saw the Aleutian Cackling Goose and the Lesser and Dusky Canada Geese. And there were a lot of geese to check out.
Next stop was Clay Meyers State Natural Area (SNA) just north of Pacific City. This area has a nice trail bordering the estuary and lagoon, so off we went. Near the end of the trail, two women asked if we had seen the Bald Eagles. We told them yes, trying (but I think failing) to sound excited. Hard to get excited about Bald Eagles when you have so many of them in Homer – and I’m still mad at the eagle that killed ‘our’ nesting crane and destroyed the eggs.
We intended to camp at Cape Lookout State Park tonight. This is the first state park I remember spending any time at when we first moved to Oregon in 1990. I remember our dog Tippy, who was 12 years old at the time, running on the beach as though she was a puppy rather than a senior dog. Warmed the heart to see her so happy.
We circled the campground loops that were open for camping but didn’t find anything we liked for $34.00 a night. Seemed a little steep to us. Maybe the fee is high due to the campground’s proximity to Portland? We turned around and went back to Clay Meyers SNA. This SNA is located on Whalen Island and adjacent to the state park natural area is a county campground. For the fee of $27.00 per night you get a picnic table, fire ring, and a place to park – on the grass. There are bathrooms – of sorts. I don’t know if they were flush or vault, but most likely vault. Jack learned the campground fee was $16.00 per night, but they also charge an $11.00 administrative fee. Yikes!!! For what purpose? I could understand – maybe – if we had booked the campground site online, but we didn’t. Neither one of us wanted to pay that for those wonderful amenities – not – so we went to the nearby Sand Lake Recreation Area, administered by the U.S. Forest Service. This recreation area is the ATV capital of the north coast. I think we were the only people camping here who DIDN’T have an ATV. It’s a little noisy because they drive their ATVs and motorcycles through the campground to access the sand dunes. But hey, for $12.50 per night (that’s half price for us seniors – yes, I now qualify for the senior pass), I think I can stand a little noise. We had a nice site. Jack said there was a sign saying “no driving after midnight”. Midnight, really???
17 March 2019
I was surprised at how quiet it was last night when we went to bed at 9:00 p.m. Or maybe I was just tired enough I didn’t hear the ATVs (which are quite loud; even though there is a decibel level restriction) as they were driven through the campground. A restful night. Woohoo!!!
We drove to Cape Mears State Park and adjacent National Wildlife Refuge to check out the off-shore cormorants. This is a good area to see all three cormorants: Double-crested, Brandt’s, and Pelagic. We got two of the three, missing the Double-crested. There was also a large raft of Common Murres on the ocean. I estimate around 500 or so. The Murres nest here during the summer. I was hoping to see a Black Oystercatcher, but no luck. With the full moon, the tides are quite high and so the shoreline rocks where the Oystercatcher normally feeds are covered with crashing ocean waves.
From Cape Mears we went to Bayocean Spit. We got there right at high tide. Not as many ducks as I thought there might be, although still plenty. I did see two Sanderlings (shorebirds) on the beach, and that was nice. We walked both the bayside and the ocean side of the spit. We’ve been blessed with great weather on the coast this week. We’ve had beautiful sunshine, warm temperatures (low 60s), and little wind. Of course such temperatures do bring out crowds of people to enjoy the beach as well. But then, they are at least getting outside instead of being couch potatoes.
We stopped off at famous Tillamook Creamery. The main (humongous) parking lot was full ,with people circling looking for open spots. Lots of people buying ice cream and/or cheese. For us it was ice cream: Jack got the Oregon Black Cherry ice cream, while I got Coffee Almond Fudge (Yum!!!). Unfortunately, Jack asked me to hold his ice cream cone while he backed out of our parking spot and while trying to buckle my seat belt, the cone flew out of my hand. Luckily he had eaten a majority of the ice cream already. I gave him some of mine – good way to diet.
Our campground for tonight is Newhalem Bay State Park. I think we’ve stayed here on a previous visit, but Jack’s isn’t too sure. Maybe we just thought about staying here. Despite it being a Sunday, there seemed to be a lot of campers. And spring break for Portland students doesn’t start for another week.
18 March 2019
Onward up the coast of Oregon we went. We don’t have much further to go before we run out of coastline. Our destination today is Fort Stevens State Park. We got there around 11:00 a.m. and found a campsite (E-163). Jack learned that this campground has 550 campsites. Yikes!!! Luckily they aren’t full this time of year. It would be like a small city otherwise. Not my cup of tea.
We stopped at Cannon Beach en route to Fort Stevens State Park. I wanted to check Haystack Rock for Tufted Puffins. Supposedly they arrive in April to begin nesting. I had hoped that at least several had arrived early. No luck. We did see some Harlequin Ducks on the rock, along with Scoters (Surf and Black) in the ocean nearby.
We are having another stellar, “million-dollar” day – blue, sunny skies. However, those non-existent winds are now in full force (15+ mph) and coming from the east. Not easy birding when the water is choppy. At Fort Stevens we like to check out the jetty and the Columbia River but very few birds were present. In fact, we had more birds in our campground. The loop behind us had seven, yes seven, Varied Thrush. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many Varied Thrush at one time. Sweet. Also in the campground were Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon sub-species, of course), American Robin, Steller’s Jay, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee.
We visited Battery Russell and Battery Clark (this was an active fort from 1904-1944). A Japanese submarine actually attacked the continental U.S. at this location in 1942.
We spent a lazy afternoon reading and just hanging out at the campground. We did do a short hike from the campground shortly before dinner.
Tomorrow we head to Portland where we will house/dog sit for our friend Jane. She’s going to New York City to sing with her choir. I’m a little jealous. I would love to go back to New York City for a visit. However, this time I would NOT stay at the Trump Hotel across from Central Park. What was I thinking in 1989? Actually I was thinking what a great deal it was – an Alaska Airlines special.
19 March 2019
Off to Portland to spend about 10 days enjoying the city, friends, and even doing a little birding.
And speaking of birding, we did a quick stop at Trojan Park. This area used to be a nuclear electrical generation facility. The towers have been removed and the area is now a park with trails and ponds. This is a great place to see a Red-breasted Sapsucker, which we did – two, in fact. In a pond a short distance away, we saw about ten Hooded Mergansers and a pair of Wood Ducks. Always nice to see both of these birds. The Wood Ducks are rare to Alaska, and even in the lower 48 they are hard to find (except Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the Upper Peninsula – Michigan). And Hooded Mergansers, while occasionally seen during the winter in Seward, Alaska, aren’t generally found in Alaska either.
20 March 2019
Today was spent eating at my favorite breakfast place – Milo’s City Cafe on Broadway Street in Northeast Portland. This restaurant makes its own jam and so I go mostly for that. I generally use the entire container (see photo) on my two slices of sourdough toast. I love sourdough toast. The eggs and other stuff are secondary. I come for the wonderful, chunky jam.
Also on our to-do list is an oil change for the van, groceries, working on my blog, and laundry. We stopped at the Fred Meyer’s store off of Broadway (in Northeast Portland). I think this store is at least twice the size of any Fred Meyer store we have in Anchorage Alaska. How I miss this particular Portland store. I wonder what people from other countries think when they come to a store in America like Fred Meyers – so many choices? I’ve yet to go into a store in another country that offers the choices we have here in America. Count your blessings everyone.
21 March 2019
Today our friend Kristi joined us as we ventured to Tidal Wave, the Multnomah County Public Library’s used book store. Kristi bought two videos and Jack and I ended up with two-bags of books. And most of these books are hard-backed – now to find space in our van. They library generally gets quite a few new releases (well maybe not as many as they used to now with eBooks) and once the high demand for these titles wanes, they sell off most of the books. Portlanders and others get to buy them at a reasonable rate (75 cent – softbacked or $1.50 hardbacked) – if you can wait for the books to be sold by the library.
Afterwards we ventured into downtown Northwest Portland. I wanted to shop at Blicks, an art store. I love art stores and this one was engaging, with row after row of art supplies that tempted me. I left with a lighter wallet, but some products I’ve wanted to add to my art supplies – primarily watercolor paper, which isn’t cheap in Homer. Actually it isn’t cheap anywhere, but much more expensive in Homer. I know, buy local, but sometimes I just can’t do it. Not when I can get the product for almost half the cost I would pay for it in Homer. Sorry Lynda (owner of Homer Art and Frame).
We then went to lunch at Azteca Willies on 15th and Broadway. We love this place. Unfortunately, it isn’t as cheap as it used to be, but we always come here when we are in town. And for dinner we went to my all-time favorite Indian restaurant – India Oven on Belmont in Southeast Portland. Last time we were here – over two years ago – the owner asked why he hadn’t seen us in awhile. We told him we had moved to Alaska. We then talked for several minutes about his almost opening a restaurant in Alaska 25 years ago. This time he wasn’t there but his wife was. She’s the cook. They make each meal from scratch so you have to be willing to sit and wait, especially if there is anyone else with a prior order. And they do a good take-out business. At the end of our meal, their daughter said her mother wanted to thank us for coming in and that she said we were good customers, but that she hadn’t seen us in awhile. I told her that was because we now lived in Alaska. Funny that both the husband and wife would remember us – we left Portland 12 years ago. They never did talk to us when we came while we lived there, but ten and twelve years later they still remember our patronage of their restaurant. If you are ever in Portland (Oregon), I HIGHLY recommend this restaurant. You won’t be disappointed.
23 March 2019
Today we did more errands. I wanted to check on a bedroom dresser at IKEA so off we went. Talk about a zoo – well it was a Sunday. The parking lot was almost full (we got there around 11:00 a.m. – they open at 10:00 a.m.). We braved the crowds, but it is easy to get lost in that store with its winding layout and impulse buying merchandise and furniture with unique styles. I finally found the bedroom section of the maize and I’m glad we checked out the dressers – while I like the style of the first one, the one I want (same style) is larger – has more drawers. Now when we come back in late May I will come in and purchase the dresser. We will then have to bring it back with us in the camper van. Won’t that be fun???
Afterwards we drove to Campers World to check on a Dometic portable refrigerator. We want a refrigerator in the van that doesn’t take ice. We’ve spent a lot of money on ice this trip. I’m glad we went to check out the product. While I like the brand, the one I was looking at is much too small for our needs. The specifications state it can hold 42 cans, but I’m not sure how. Our Yeti is supposed to hold about that many and it is twice as large inside. Maybe they consider ice in the cooler when determining how many cans fit inside. Who knows? I just know this sized portable refrigerator won’t work for us.
We also went for a short hike (~2.40 miles) at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Camas, Washington. We had a total of 29 different species there including …. Drum roll …. an American Bittern. We really love Bitterns so we were very happy to see this bird – our first Bittern in the U.S. for the year. We also had a small ermine. It was mostly a soft yellow color except for the tip of its tail, which was brown/black. Unfortunately, I only had my iPhone camera with me. This camera does not take good long distance shots. Oh well, live and learn. The ermine actually got quite close to us.
24 March 2019
We got up early today to beat the rush at Milo’s City Café – it is Sunday. Today’s jam was strawberry, and while it was good I think they used a lot more pectin than normal. From there we drove to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge located about 20 miles north of Portland – in Washington State. Luckily we came today instead of later in the week because the bridge that crosses a slough to get to the refuge is being either replaced or repaired (Jack thinks replaced) so they are closing the refuge Monday – Friday. Since we are headed north to Seattle this coming week (Friday), we would have missed going to one of our favorite refuges.
At Ridgefield we stopped to check out the sightings board. A Virginia Rail was listed, a bird we haven’t seen in awhile. Off we went. The refuge has a 5+ mile auto route on their River S Unit. We took about 3.5 hours to drive the entire route. The refuge has placed number signposts along the drive, that way if someone sees a bird of interest they can say they saw it near a particular number. The rail was being seen at stop #3. We did stop there but didn’t see the rail. We did see a Wilson’s Snipe however – another bird we really like. We see these birds a lot in Homer because they breed near our home. I also heard the winnowing sound snipes make when they perform their aerial displays. Guess down here it is already courtship and nesting time. We won’t see the snipe around our house for another month or so.
We also saw several Sandhill Cranes. These cranes do not migrate to Alaska. The cranes that breed in the Homer area generally fly from the central valley of California, with stop overs in Eastern Washington and Oregon on their way north and south each year.
In total we had 42 different species today. Not too bad. And it was busy at the refuge too. I suspect at least 50 cars or more drove around the route as we were driving. We are much slower than most people . At the end of the auto route, we went back to where the Virginia Rail had been seen and waited alongside the road. Sure enough, about twenty minutes later – as we were getting ready to leave – I spotted movement along the reeds and out popped a Virginal Rail. Score!
25 March 2019
Lazy day – didn’t do much other than walk Fiona – Jane’s dog, visit with my friend Kristi, and work on my blog – Guyana, Part 2. That part took up the biggest part of the day. Word Press changed their format for blogging (inputting data and media) so now I have to learn and get used to the new format. Some things are easy, others not so much.
26 March 2019
I’m ready to be on the move again. I get antsy if I sit in one place too long. But, another lazy day – reading, blogging (well getting it ready to post), walking the dog.
27 March 2019
Despite the wind and rain, Jack, Jane, Fiona (the dog), and I went for a walk at Vancouver Lake Regional Park and Burnt Bridge Creek (Steward Glen Trail) – both in Washington.
While walking the dog, I checked out the birds. Not a lot moving around either place, although we did get 20 species at Vancouver Lake Regional Park and 18 species at Burnt Bridge Creek. The leaves are just starting to come out. Spring has sprung here. The flowering trees are beautiful – whites and pink abound. The cherry trees are in full bloom – and all just within the last week in response to all the beautiful sunny weather we’ve had here.
After our walks – total about six miles – we headed to the Heathen Brewing Feral Public House in downtown Vancouver. Jane said they had a coffee infused beer here that was delicious and she wanted Jack to check it out. Unfortunately, they had run out of that particular brew. They had other infused beers, including ones with lime, mango, chocolate milk to name a few. Sounds awful to me, but then I don’t like beer.
28 March 2019
Today we drove the Columbia Gorge, stopping at Multnomah Falls (the masses were out today) and then to Hood River to hike the Twin Tunnel trail. We stopped at Doppi’s in Hood River for lunch before starting our hike, then drove the short distance to the Twin Tunnel parking lot – west end. The trail is the old Historic Columbia River Highway – so quite wide. After a mile on the trail I asked Jack how far we had to go before turning around. He said to an overlook just beyond the MosierTwin Tunnels. I asked him how far away that was. He said not too far. Well two miles later we came out of the tunnels and went to the overlook he mentioned. Yeah right, not too far my #@&^.
We did have an enjoyable hike. The day was mostly sunny without much wind. There were people out enjoying the trail by foot and by pedal. I think there were actually more people riding their bikes than walking or running. We did have a few runners.
Tomorrow we leave Portland. Thank you Jane for your hospitality. We enjoyed our stay at your house. And Fiona is a doll. What a great dog.
29 March 2019
We headed north to visit with friends Cheryl and Dave on Bainbridge Island. They have a nice little ‘cottage’ home with great views of the harbor and downtown Seattle. We went to dinner at the house of Jack’s former boss (Alaska State Parks) and his wife. They have a lovely house with lots of trees and vegetation, and thus great birds.
30 March 2019
Today was spent with friends Cheryl and Dave (we are staying with them, although sleeping in our van – did I mention they have a nice “little” house). We went to Fort Ward State Park for a nice, pleasant walk, then visited the Japanese Exclusion Park (National Park Service). In response to the WWII mania of racism, around 280 American citizens of Japanese heritage were removed from the island and taken to an internment center in Idaho. They were given less than a month to settle their estates, etc. and allowed only two bags to board the ship. A sad moment in America’s history.
We then went to downtown Bainbridge for a late lunch and to roam a few of the local stores. In the evening, Dave, Cheryl, and I went to see the movie: Hotel Mumbai. This hotel was attacked by terrorist in November 2008. I remember when the siege of the hotel took place. I really enjoyed the movie and at times was on the edge of my seat – lots of terrorist gunfire.
31 March 2019
We went to breakfast with Dave and Cheryl, then headed to our friends Pat and Bob, who live in Enumclaw, Washington. We are leaving our van with them and will fly to Alaska on April 2nd. We will return in late May to collect the van, attend a wedding in Oregon, and then make the long slog up the Alaska Highway. At least the Canadian campgrounds will be open then, and the road and weather hopefully better.
When we got to Bob and Pat’s place we took a walk around their 26-acre property – they live in the pastoral area with a commanding view of Mount Rainer. The weather was sunny – a nice pleasant afternoon.
1 April 2019
Today we walked the neighborhood, went to lunch, and then it was time to pack for the trip north. I scheduled a shuttle to come and get us tomorrow at 4:00 a.m. for our 8:00 a.m. flight to Alaska.
I will miss all the great birds in the lower 48 that we don’t get to see in Alaska – Wood Duck, Bushtit, Spotted Towhee to name a few. But we will soon be getting our migrants, including shorebirds. I can’t wait.
IT’S ALWAYS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD