It's a Great Day to Bird

Month: April 2019

Oregon and Washington – the final push

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.   

This Song Sparrow wanted to join us for dinner last night at Cape Blanco State Park campground
Our campsite
We stopped at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge to check out, what else, the birds
View of the marsh from a viewing platform
At South Beach State Park (Newport, Oregon) we had several Spotted Towhees at our campsite. How cool is that?
Varied Thrush at our campsite
We walked to the beach on this trail
Steller’s Jay
Another portion of the trail
Transitioning from the trees to the dunes
Dune trail
Where you eventually reach the Pacific Ocean
To the beach, to the beach, to the beautiful beach …
American Robins were everywhere – well except the beach
South Beach State Park is adjacent to the South Jetty where a Harlequin Duck hangs out on the rocks
And hundreds of Surf Scoters near the North Jetty

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.

Yaquina Bay – beach near trail
Belted Kingfisher (female)
Boardwalk portion of the trail …
… leading you to a quite portion of the bay
Bufflehead (male)
Northern Flicker
Our Homer Tree Swallows don’t arrive until mid to late May
Not sure what bird uses this nest box
Hooded Merganser (male)
We even saw this dead chicken on the beach. Maybe an eagle got it and then dropped it in the bay where it eventually washed to shore???

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.

Nestucca Bay National Wildife Refuge sign
Great interpretive panel on the various Canada and Cackling Goose subspecies

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. 

Trail at Clay Meyers State Natural Area
The tide was out
The vegetation is quite dense

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. 

Love this sign
Near the parking lot is an overlook area. During the summer months you might glimpse at Peregrine Falcon hunting. They nest on the rock ledges.
View from the overlook
Cape Mears Lighthouse
Great views
Jack on the Cape Mears trail – he is actually walking uphill

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. 

Tillamook Bay
Lots of waterfowl, like these Northern Pintails
And Red-breasted Mergansers
From the parking lot you can take a trail to the beach or walk an old road along the bay
From the old road there are several trails that lead to the beach. We took this one – walking through a dense forest
Of course the birds like the trees, including this Chestnut-backed Chickadee
This woman passed us twice. That isn’t a baby in the stroller, but a dog. And it’s a stroller made specifically for dogs.
Bayocean is a spit, with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other (hence the name)
We walked both sides – the bay and the ocean

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. 

Ice cream or cheese anyone?
They have a new building since we were here last

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. 

Our campsite

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. 

The beach at Cannon Beach
Famous “Haystack” Rock
The things you find on the beach. There was a lot of plastic on the beach. Too much. Luckily SOLVE (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) has their spring beach cleanup next weekend.
Bird foot print

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.

Walked this boardwalk in search of birds
Not much happening bird wise – a few Chestnut-backed Chickadees
And no shorebirds – yet. We did see several guys trying to kite board in the winds. They weren’t having much luck staying up on their boards for long.
Lots of waves
Yes smokers – Feed the Can. Cigarette butts are a nasty waste product and pollutant

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.

This park has a “LOT” of wetlands – yippy!!!
I miss Skunk Cabbage
Lots of Varied Thrush in the campground loop behind ours. That loop was closed to camping.
Chestnut-backed Chickadees – easily found on the coast

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.

Red-breasted Sapsucker pecking on a tree
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (0h Ruby, don’t flash your crown around)
There are some wooded areas in the park for songbirds …
… like this Black-capped Chickadee dee dee
My beautiful “Bushtit”
the Cackling Goose …
… and yes even domestic hybrids at the park
Okay this goose didn’t want to get off the road
Main pond in the park
The wrens and Song Sparrows like this corner of the park
The trail around the park

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.

Yes the container was full of delicious rhubarb jam when we arrived

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. 

Nice touch
Lots of Reed Canary Grass – but things are starting to green up
Plenty of large open fields
Interspersed with wetlands or waterbodies
Some woodlands, but not much
Canada Geese in a wetland
This slough was favored by certain waterfowl, like mallards
Can you find the garter snake. There were actually two here, sunning themselves on the log
Large lake/pond
Okay that little white stick in the grass near the water is the ermine
So home is only about 2500 miles away, according to the sign
I wonder if that is “as the crow flies”

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!   

Refuge sign
Lots of ponds and sloughs on the refuge
Ring-necked Duck (female)
Ring-necked Duck (male)
Red-tailed Hawk. We took a class once on raptors and the instructor said if you see a hawk in Oregon then 99% of the time it will be a Red-tailed Hawk.
Ditch near one of the ponds
Pied-billed Grebe
Some of the sloughs/ditches are tree-lined
Lots of Marsh Wrens
Marsh Wren
This Marsh Wren was very cooperative
There are several places to get out and walk (depending upon the time of year), including one that leads to a bird blind overlooking one of the lakes/ponds. This latter trail is open year-round and is surrounded by trees.
American Kestrel
Red-winged Blackbird (male)
Red-winged Blackbird (female)
Cackling Goose – notice the short neck
Lots of “Nutria” – an invasive species. Nasty little buggers.
Wilson’s Snipe – heard several winnowing
Northern Harrier

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.

A cool mural on a street in Northeast Portland

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. 

Trail at Vancouver Lake (Vancouver, Washington)
This slough near Vancouver Lake was good for some ducks, including Wood Ducks, as well as a Belted Kingfisher
Spotted this Brown Creeper on the way back to the parking lot
Burnt Bridge Creek Trail – paved
At the start of the Burnt Bridge Creek trail I saw this Anna’s Hummingbird (male)
The light shone just right – beautiful bird
There was some open water at the start of the trail – at least where we started
The hills are alive with English Ivy, an invasive species
Near our turnaround point I spotted this “Poetry Box”
It says “Take or Leave a Poem”. I didn’t check to see what was in the box, if anything.

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. 

Multnomah Falls
Jack in front of Multnomah Falls
Near the trailhead
Oregon Dark-eyed Junco
Still some snow along the trail
Fantastic views of the Columbia River
Grass Widow
As I mentioned, the trail is the old Historic Highway
The hills are alive with the sound of music … well okay maybe just the traffic below
Approaching the twin tunnels from the west side
A little protection from rock slides before you enter the tunnel
Inside one of the tunnels
Jack at the entrance of the tunnels from the east side
The mighty Columbia River below
“The Columbia Gorge … A Work of Art to be Given the Devotion of a Lifetime” This is Jack’s quote. He worked tirelessly on this project.

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. 

Nearby beach
View from Fort Ward park
Lots of Double-crested Cormorants
They both seemed to be enjoying the day. I wonder how long it took this guy to get his dog comfortable being on a paddleboard?
Lots of hanging crane origami at the Japanese Exclusion Gardens
I thought the design of these bike racks was clever
Cute, isn’t it. And clever.
Harbor as seen from Japanese Exclusion Garden

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. 

Beautiful flowers – magnolia
Yes, that is Mount Rainer in the background. More impressive in person from this viewpoint.

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.

Violet-Green Swallow
Believe it or not there is a Bushtit nest in those pine needles. It is long and cylindrical
The Bushtit is still working on the nest
A fence made out of vehicles? Or just the typical junkyard? Or both?
People do love their junk
I sure miss the Spotted Towhee. I guess Alaska is too cold for them. Me too.
Green River Gorge as seen from a bridge. There are two American Dippers down there.
View from the other side of the bridge
A nearby wetland

Remember ….


California … here we come

3 March 2019

We made it back to the states (Apache Junction – Phoenix, AZ) from Guyana; what a beautiful country and great birds.  Many of the birds I’ve seen before in our travels of South America, but always good to see them again.  And we had new ones as well, like the Harpy Eagle.  That was such a great bird to see – the “trip bird.”  And to see three Harpy Eagles. What a great birthday gift for both Jack and I.

Back on the road again; we left Apache Junction around 11:30 a.m., making a brief stop at Fry’s (think Kroger’s or Fred Meyers) to re-supply food and ice for the trip ahead.  We then slugged our way across the AZ/CA freeways to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, and specifically to Salt Creek Campground where we are camped for the next two nights.  It was a Sunday so there was a lot of traffic on the road.  Seems like most of the cars that passed us on Interstate 10, while still in Arizona, were cars with California plates – not sure what they were finding in Arizona? 

We had read that the Salton Sea was in crisis mode – too much salt, not enough fresh water.  However, the water level didn’t seem too much different to us than what we’ve seen in previous years, but usually the beach is littered with dead fish (Tilapia) – none to be seen now.  We also didn’t see as many pelicans or cormorants as we normally do, but the pelicans may have already left for their breeding grounds.  I’m just not sure.  At least I hope that is why there were so few pelicans here.  We usually visit this area in January.  It is one of our favorite birding spots. 

As I mentioned we are staying at the primitive Salt Creek Campground.  There are six other campers here.  The site could probably accommodate another three campers comfortably.  When we got here two yahoos had tried to drive onto the beach and got stuck – serves them right.  The beach isn’t composed of sand, rather it is composed of shells or should I say skeletal remains of fish, specifically Tilapia.

We did walk the beach and did a little birding before enjoying a beautiful sunset.  There are hundreds of Eared Grebes, Ring-billed Gulls, and California Gulls on the beach and water.  Added to the mix were a few shorebirds as well – Marbled Godwit, Black-bellied Plover, Least Sandpiper, and Black-necked Stilt. 

Salt Creek Beach – Salton Sea State Recreation Area
Two guys who thought their SUV could traverse the beach even though vehicles are prohibited. I hope their tow fee was significant.
American Pipit

4 March 2019

We got an early start birding – 7:30 a.m. (well early for us when camping).  Today we birded areas around the Salton Sea, including the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.  In all we saw a total of 69 different species.  Not too shabby for about 7.5 hours of birding.  The highlights were the Burrowing Owls along English Road (six of them) and the Snowy Plover on the sea shore at Sonny Bono NWR.  Oh, and two Greater Roadrunners.  One was resting on a kiosk and another was standing on a pile of dead limbs.  I got within photographing distance of the latter one when a truck came up behind us (this happen a lot) and we had to move, thus flushing the bird. 

I sent a photo of our campsite at the Salt Creek Beach Campground to a friend and her comment was on how bleak and stark the area looked.  Many places along the lake are stark.  The lakeshore is changing – one place we’ve camped in the past that had great views of the sea has changed.  Instead of seeing the sea we now see an invasive plant species – Salt Cedar.  This invasive plant is taking over everything.  Not good.  I hope the state does something to try and keep it in check.  Costly though. 

When we got back to our campground two additional spots were taken and everyone here last night had departed except for one camper.  There is a big RV behind us and they are using their generator.  This would drive my friend Bob crazy.  It is kind of annoying.  Bad enough we have to listen to the occasional (okay, frequent and very long) trains that pass nearby. 

Burrowing Owl
Pair of Burrowing Owls
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Non-native Species)
Snowy Egret
Great Blue Heron
Immature Merlin
Greater Roadrunner on top of a refuge information kiosk
Surprisingly my only “habitat” shot
Maybe Alaska Maritime NWR could do something similar for Beluga Slough – maybe a contest for kids
Western Meadowlark
Say’s Phoebe – looks like someone left a note
Common Ground Dove
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Sweet Acacia
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
American Avocet – I love this bird
Fun to watch the avocet sweep its bill back and forth in search of food
Black-necked Stilt – my what long legs you have

5 March 2019

Today was a travel day.  We left the Salton Sea early and made it to Clovis, California, around 3:30 p.m. 

Visual Vandalism
And not necessarily good for birds

6 March 2019

We spent the day visiting with my sister Pam, her husband Dan, and daughter Angie.  Angie painted a really cool bird for Homer’s Shorebird Festival’s 6×6 canvas Art Auction.  Check out the auction and bid at  Bidding begins April 5, 2019.   

Here is her painting of a Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie by Angie N.

7 March 2019

Today was a lazy day at my sister’s house.  We did laundry; I worked on my blog (Guyana, Part 1); and watched several home improvement TV shows. Jack is glad we don’t have TV reception at our home in Homer.

8 March 2019

The goal today was to get to Boulder Creek, California, to visit Jack’s sister, Mary.  We made a stop at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos, California.  We drove the waterfowl route – about 11 miles, and observed 47 different species.  We like ‘discoveries’ – a female “Tailed Toad”-  a very distinctive looking toad (see photo). 

Welcome to the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge – Sand Luis Unit
There are a lot of wetland ponds on the refuge
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk
Savannah Sparrow
American Pipit
Tailed Toad, although I couldn’t see the tail. A life toad.
We hiked a trail out to a viewing platform
Viewing Platform
Sheep are allowed on the refuge as a management function
Cinnamon Teal
Blackbird? Is it Tri-colored or Red-Winged. Hard to tell.

To get to Boulder Creek, which is a very hilly, treed area (think Redwoods), we drove the Bear Creek Road.  I think this road rivals the Dragontail Road in North Carolina for the number of turns in 11 miles.  I didn’t count the turns, but it seemed as though we were always turning left or right with precipitous drop-offs and no road shoulder.  And since we don’t travel fast in our van on turns (things go flying about) the drivers behind us were none to happy with our slow-down.  Going up we didn’t have any turnouts so the drivers had to wait.  Going down we had numerous turnouts and used them regularly.  Took us awhile to get to his sister’s house.  Personally, I would not want to live in this area.  It’s beautiful, but the road in and out is not my cup of tea (I’d need something stronger and we aren’t talking about coffee). Plus all the tall trees are kind of claustrophobic.

9 March 2019

We woke to rain.  This area normally gets around 48 inches of rain a year, and they’ve had 60 inches of rain already and it is only March.  Wet, wet, wet. 

At noon we were eating lunch when I heard a commotion outside.  I went out to see what was going on and it appeared some guy was accosting a woman.  Turns out he was consoling her because just then Jack said, “that house is on fire.”  Sure enough the woman’s house looked to be totally engulfed in flames.  The fire department here is voluntary, and they did an excellent job of getting the fire contained.  Luckily with this wet weather the fire didn’t spread through the trees and engulf neighboring houses.  That was our excitement on this otherwise quiet day. 

Much of my day was spent trying to find the best flights for our trip to Uganda.  Air travel has gotten so expensive lately with fewer flight options.  I was hoping to stop off in London and do some birding in the Norfolk area.  A flight on Icelandic Air from Anchorage to London was $2500.  Ridiculously expensive right?  And I hate having to pay extra to get seat selection at the time of booking.  Really???  So nixed the Great Britain stopover. 

Jack’s nephew and family came over for dinner and a spirited game of Taboo.  We had a wonderful meal and an enjoyable evening with family. 

10 March 2019

Another wet day.  In the afternoon we went to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Boulder Creek, California.  The redwood trees here are amazing; so tall and majestic.  We did the 0.8-mile Redwood Grove Loop trail.  Not many birds, although we did see a pair of beautiful Varied Thrush out in the open, and me without my camera.  We also had several Townsend’s Warblers.  During the hike I kept smelling something that smelled like food.  Turns out the park is full of Bay Laurel trees, and thus “Bay Leaves”.  Stepping on the downed leaves emitted the smell.

Start of the Redwood Grove Loop Trail
Jack and his sister Mary – in front of the largest tree in the park

After our hike we went to visit Jack’s nephew and his family at their newly remodeled home – very nice.  And, we got to see the 4-H quail project. Always a delight. 

11 March 2019

Time to move onward.  I always hate to say goodbye to Jack’s sister Mary as she always makes us feel so welcomed.  Love her. 

We slogged our way through the congested San Francisco/Oakland area to Santa Rosa to spend the remainder of the day and night with Ken Wilson.  Ken owns Talon Tours, the tour company we used for Guyana.  We got to meet Ken’s wife Becky who wasn’t with us on the trip.  Both Ken and Becky will be joining us on our Uganda trip in September.   They have a tree at their house that the birds love, including about 11 Cedar Waxwings and a pair of Western Bluebirds – so I got my ‘birding fix.’  We had a very enjoyable, but short, visit.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing
Becky’s macaw

12 March 2019

We left Ken and Becky’s house early (6:45 a.m.) as they were headed out for a previously planned full-day Birdathon fundraiser (later we learned they saw 127 different birds in one day).  We departed with them as we wanted to get an early start to Bridgeway Island Pond in Sacramento to try and see the Garganey – a duck species rare to the U.S.  This is an Euroasia species.  For some reason this duck decided to check out Sacramento. 

Surprisingly at this small pond, we had a total of 44 species.  And we did get to see the Garganey, a life bird for Jack and I.  The bird was a male, and a very distinctive one at that.  Hard to miss, even when it has its head tucked into its wing.  The bird was some distance off so I was unable to get a decent photo.  We stayed at the pond for 90 minutes.  There were lots of Marsh Wrens singing away on the tops of reeds, so I had to try and get photos of these charismatic birds.  I counted at least nine, but I suspect there were a lot more than that. 

American Avocet
Canada Goose
American Pipit
Marsh Wren
Yes, I love these little guys

Afterwards we headed north with the intentions of driving the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge auto tour route.  Unfortunately, the tour route was closed due to flooding.  Our loss, but California’s birds gain.  CA has been in a drought for so many years, any precipitation is appreciated and badly needed.  So we continued north and went to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  This is one of our favorite refuges. 

We drove the 6.0-mile auto tour route and saw 46 different species.  We were surprised that we did not see any Snow Geese.  Maybe they’ve already headed north for the breeding season.  There were thousands of American Coots and Northern Shovelers.  Ducks in general were plentiful.  We also had seven different shorebirds, including the Black-bellied Plover, which haven’t been reported before at the refuge – at least not on eBird. 

Refuge Sign
Lots of wetland ponds and lakes
Ring-necked Pheasant
The coloring of this non-native bird is amazing
Greater White-fronted Goose
Viewing Platform
Viewing Platform Parking parking lot – tour route
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Bushtit – well hidden
Wilson’s Snipe
They don’t mind laying on top of one another

There were also a number of jackrabbits at the refuge.  Guess the coyote population must be down. 

Jack Rabbit
My what big ears you have

Tonight we are staying at the Buckhorn Recreation Area, located at Black Butte Lake.  This campground is managed by the Army Corp of Engineers.  There are nine other campers here tonight.  Last time we stayed at this campground I think we were the only one’s here.  That was in 2016. 

Black Butte Lake
Acorn Woodpecker
Monofilament Line(d) nest
Not a good use of plastic (Monofilament line)
Beautiful oak habitat
Which is favored by the Oak Titmouse

13 March 2019

We greeted the day with a windy morning so we decided to head west to the coast.  We will spend a few days driving from Fortuna, California, north to around Seaside, Oregon, before heading to Portland.  We need to be in Portland by 19 March, so we have about six nights of camping or hotels.  Tonight will probably be a hotel because many of the campgrounds (state) around Fortuna are closed for the season. 

House Finch
House Finch – male in the bright red, the other two are females
Horned Lark

We chose to get to the coast via Highway 36 because it is supposed to take less time than the other routes.  Hmmmm.  I wonder if that sign showing curves for the next 140 miles is an indicator that this might not be the quickest route for us.  Our van doesn’t always handle well on curves – or rather we need to secure everything.  Jack likes to take it nice and slow instead of stopping for flying objects inside the van. Our pace makes other driver’s crazy.  We lucked out and didn’t have much traffic until we got close to Highway 101.  The trip took us an additional hour of travel time than what Google Maps indicated.  It was a beautiful drive however.  Lots of snow up high, but luckily the roads were clear. 

Despite the snow on the ground, the roads were clear

We stopped off at the Humboldt National Wildlife Refuge and spent about two hours birding the refuge.  There was a lot of waterfowl present, including twelve Tundra Swans.  I wonder if they winter here?  An Eurasian Wigeon was present, which was nice.  Haven’t seen one of those in awhile.  We get them occasionally in Homer.  I think last year I had three of them at Beluga Slough. 

Nest above the women’s restroom
Swallow nest
Trail from the visitor center
Cinnamon Teal (male)

Shorebirds present included a Long-billed Curlew.  This bird was feeding next to a Western Gull and they appeared to be about the same size.  This curlew looked huge.  There were also Willet, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, and a single Dunlin.  And there were at least 11 Marsh Wrens singing their hearts out – must be breeding time.  These birds get up onto the reeds to sing allowing us decent looks at this elusive bird.  In all, we had 38 species.  The day was sunny, but the wind was fierce and thus a cold wind-chill. 

Long-billed Curlew

We did see a river otter at the refuge.  And a few ground squirrels – too far away to photograph or identify. 

We stopped in Arcata for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant.  We’ve eaten there before and enjoy the food – Pho Hoang on “G” Street.  Then we made a stop off at the Wilderness Market to buy some Humboldt Chocolate, which is oh so good (addictive).  My favorite.  I’ve never seen it sold anywhere else but here. 

14 March 2019

We stayed at the Day’s Inn and Suites just north of Arcata last night and it was the quietest night I’ve EVER spent at a hotel.  Loved it.  No noisy neighbors.

We left the hotel around 8:00 a.m., stopped for groceries, then headed to Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary – a wonderful managed wetland utilizing waste water.  Our first stop was Humboldt Bay, and a good thing too as the tide was going out.  We did get to see a fair number of shorebirds, many of which will be making their way to Alaska in another month or so.  While there weren’t too many near us, if you glassed the bay you could see thousands and thousands of shorebirds in the distance.  I wish they would have been closer. 

Humboldt Bay

We then proceeded to the “marsh” itself, and spent about two hours walking the trails and birding.  We didn’t get any new birds for the year, with the exception of a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Black-capped Chickadee.  Surprisingly we hadn’t seen a Black-capped Chickadee yet this year. 

Our first Black-capped Chickadee for the year
Song Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow – these birds winter in California. Maybe this bird breeds in Homer?
Roosting Green-winged Teals – three males and one female
Song Sparrow – there were plenty of them
Mallard pair
The Marsh Wrens were singing their hearts out – got to find that mate.
Yellow-rumped Warbler
The “azelas” were in bloom – beautiful
Love the message – Marbled Murrelets need both the ocean and the old growth forest

Traveling north, we stopped at Crescent City and checked out the sea lions that like to soak up the sun at the Crescent City Harbor.  There were also Harbor Seals present.  We did see a fair number of loons, although most were too far away for me to identify.  Leaving Crescent City we traveled north to our campground for the night – Cape Blanco on the southern Oregon coast.  I thought we had camped here before, but now I’m not so sure as the campground doesn’t look familiar.  We got a nice spot (#16) and I was surprised that at least 1/3 of the 54 campsites were occupied for the night.  I didn’t expect to see so many campers here.  Maybe campers like it because it is six miles from the highway, rather than like many campgrounds that are right along side the highway with all the traffic noise. 

Elk herd in the Redwoods National and State Park
Sea Lions at the Crescent City Harbor
Ah, a sun worshiper – I can relate..
They sure don’t mind sharing space
I love how these sea lions are just lazily sleeping and soaking up the sun
Western Gull
With a few ruffled feathers

We will spend then next two weeks in Oregon and Washington before heading home.  Until then …


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