APRIL 2012. New life begins.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday April 25, 2012

Even though this is only a “diary” for myself (I check prior years entries for each season and compare just WHAT was happening in those little events we repeat every year…..) because things are a little different every year, and with this variable weather, it may mean you’re tilling the garden 1st of April of middle of May….. THAT being said, I know I don’t post so much since I’m not the creative mind=works that bubbles over with some kind of fascinating journal. Oh well, enough self pity, I want to write down what happened this month in 2012 before spring forces me to get REAL busy.

SO, for THAt note: It seems our hummer population IS a bit different……now about 1/3 Anna’s and 2/3 Rufous….they’re only up to about .6 – .8 quarts of food a day, but then compared to last year’s WET GRAY spring, there are LOTS of blooming flowers to dine on….so I can’t really say if our population count is any different this early on. We’re gald they’re here, that’s all.

Because we’ll be out of town when we SHOULD be tilling the vegetable garden, we got the first turn-over done April 14. That’s both the garden and big berm section we’ve had peas and beans planted in all winter for the soil. ALL that leaf mulch that’s been composting on the garden since november’s now underneath, and now in its 15th year, the soil looks rich and dark……..

not to mention, I’ve dug out ONE more row of lawn on the north side (we removed that plum tree last year, so now BIG SUN’s on this side of the garden.

**Damn Dandelion routine has begun….not 1-3 times a week, but EVERY day I’m out there diggin’ up the blooming plants…and it’ll continue for a week or two. Since neighbor ED cut out the forest on our north side, he’s got millions of Dandelions in that field, and we inherit the seeds. NO, I can’t spray. We FEED the birds who are mostly arrived by now and setting up nesting. But, it’s sorta in my style…I get very acquainted with what’s happening on every inch of the property doing things this way. So I can’t complain about it.

Jeff T was here from Winchester, VA in late March for training his peers…. we lucked out with a couple days visit and it was HIS wish to go to the: EVERGREEN AVIATION MUSEUM in McMinnville. We’ve never been. Rodger had to work, but was I overwhelmed with the size of the place. Three buildings: 1) Water Slide – with a 747 sitting on top of the building where the slide begins….it’s that big. 2) Offices, galleries, etc., – that building was closed. 3) the Museum itself which IS ruled by Howard Hughes SPRUCE GOOSE sitting in the middle of the building dwarfing everything everywhere…the largest airplane every built. You couldn’t ignore this thing the entire time you were here. Dozens of aircraft and air memorabilia including lots of rockets from our big space exploratory time, er, the COLD War….ICBM’s to including launch pads drilled into the basements….huge. This WAS a fascinating afternoon remembering a lot of airplane history I’ve seen develop over my own lifetime.

Beth Stidham, and Bev Hoppe were in town, Mom and daughter to visit sis Brenda / Thomas who have just recently finally been able to bring home their adoptive children from Ethiopia. Ben and Eva are just about 2, not related, but have been in orphanages all their lives. This is a serious life-changing experience for these two….I have NO idea how someone can handle the drama this will bring to them……. We got to take BEV birding on Sauvie Island for one more weekend seeing the progress of the migrations, and nest building of the heron rookeries. We were happy to find the partners for the calling, lonely, male osprey’s from the week before had arrived at every nest:

THAT was fun.

The next weekend, we spend an evening at the home of my dear departed cousin Nancy’s son, “J” and partner (& Yoga Master) Bhakti’s housewarming right down the hill….they’ve just moved into their new home in St Johns, and that was a good time….family members everywhere….that we don’t see often. Hopefully, we’ll get better acquainted with these two as they settle into the new life they’re beginning here. If you’re interested at all in Yoga, do check out Bhakti Foster . . . she has a small studio right in the house.

Then, just LAST Friday, Apr 14, I got to go with neighbor, and certainly the go-to-guy about anything mechanical, Dave, to the annual Portland Swap Meet….the largest in the west held every spring…..sometimes in the rain. It covers every square inch of the Portland Expo Center, the Parking Lot, and the International Raceway adjacent to the Expo Center. It’s huge, mammoth, I have NO words to give someone a feel for the scope of this event. Hundreds/thousands of booths, or just people with a lot of car parts, collector cars, memorabilia about cars, some of it rusty, some of it fully restored, it’s truly overwhelming. We only saw half of the show and were there 6 hours.

My Niece Stephanie was due in town Apr 19 – 22 ….someone I have not seen since she was probably 6….now in her 40’s. She reminded me on arrival with beau Jack that she and sis Karen did see me in the early 70’s at my place in SLC….where we lived about 4 doors down from her paternal grandfather. Nonetheless, it was sheer delight. Since we lost HER mom, my only sister, some 40 years ago, it was amazing to see this woman across from me reflecting so much of what I remember of Fran. We had an amazing evening ending up at Voodoo dougnuts…..

Yesterday, I was re-united with Carolyn Taghon,one of my HS class favorite friends. Carolyn was ALWAYS a brilliant thinker, loving, kind, funny, sharing everything. She STILL IS. What a fabulous couple of hours visiting with someone as agnostic as I am, and seems like no time had passed….. I sure do hope that opens the door for us to get back in touch regularly……. good times.

Now, we’re leaving town for another first……I may have traveled to other part of this country, and a bit of Europe, but never to Arizona. I’ve never liked the heat. But with friends there now, and to meet new friends, we’re leaving tomorrow and can’t wait for this adventure. We fly in Thursday, meet Spo & Someone, dine at one fine elegant MX restaurant in Scottsdale, stay with them…..Friday, Homer picks us up and we drive to Flagstaff for a weekend with his beau Evan…where we’ll visit the Grand Canyon, no, not hoover dam….. THEN, Sunday, we’ll head for Tucson ….Rodger and I will be nature hiking exploring for the days Homer works…and there’s PLENTY of spectacular desert mountains, wetlands, history to explore there…. Finally, we’ll end up back in Phoenix prior to flying home and hopefully stay with Michael & David one more evening…… Sounds like a fabulous way to end April….out of Portland’s gray spring.

What a post. Not a pic, no time, just whizzing by here to enter a few things before I forget they happened….. There’s LOTS to say about what’s happening in my life, and someday I hope to write it down.

Birding on a flooded Sauvie Island

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday April 4, 2012

**DISCLAIMER** NONE of the pics today were ours….. With the flooding everywhere, the sitings were further away from us than usual….. but great sitings anyway with binocs and the spotting scope.

A love post to the Spring Migration Season out on Portland’s Sauvie Island….. An Island literally made of millions of years of flooded plains with rich volcanic mulch carried down from Idaho, Montana, Washington….. topsoil here is 10-20′ deep in places. There are wetlands, flood dikes, and in summer….a bounty of fresh farmer produce everywhere.

But TWO times a year, it’s famous for something even more fun: A Bird Migration takes place going south in fall and north in spring ……… I’ve posted about this before….. the pics today include a few I’ve never seen before…..it’s a fun day-trip.

Nancy M and I had set aside Apr 2, Monday, to go on a li’l bird expedition for over a week and after canceling 2 other date….SO we went KNOWING the Columbia River was at/over flood stage in some low places…..but hadn’t given a thought to what “effect” that may have on just WHERE the birds we usually see at the canals, lakes, ponds on the island might be if these spots literally were flooded.

We drove out on Sauvie island Rd first since Audubon has a feeding station there…. our first few birds were the KILLDEER…we both love ‘em since we had lots of these in our desert home near Vale:

As with MOST of the birds we saw today, these were already pairing up….not nesting yet, but certainly dancing around each other and truly seemed to be celebrating spring. Killdeer are most famous for faking an injury when their young are near….and walking / hopping all hunched over AWAY from the nest to draw you away (if you’d been planning on eating the little guy)…….

We saw several flocks of Canadian Geese, or course……..this time out in fields since lowlands were flooded….these are probably the most common site on the island….and fun when an eagle flies over at low elevation….it’s like watching Moses spread the Ocean apart as the huge flock will ALL fly in two opposite directions as the eagle flies through looking for anyone too weak/injured/old to fly:

The gates were still closed going out to the Audubon station (open Apr 15)…..but we saw dozens of our favorite sparrow, the GOLDEN CROWNED…..that little crown sets THIS sparrow apart:

We returned back to Reeder Rd to head north…..and saw the only American KESTREL…. an endearing little raptor…. who shouldn’t have any problem because his prey MUST be small… so there should be plenty of it:

We climbed the dike up to see the pond where Herons always abound…. and gasped when we reached the top. COMPLETELY flooded including all the trees that surround that wetland…muddy brown water. NO birds……THAT is when we wondered IF we’d get to see anything. WHERE WERE all the birds if not in normal spots?

We turned and begin walking back down….then noticed the ducks in a small pond about 300′ from us….a closer look with binocs and then the spotting scope, and VOILA! (These ducks were ALL coupling up also):

1) GREEN WINGED TEALS (beautiful absolutely!)

**Some of the males were displaying mating behavior:

**And as usual with birds, the females are NOT so vain, completely opposite those flashy males, and camouflaged decently so they’ll be hard to see when nesting:

2) Shovelers . . . . all carousing with great bravado

So, we continued north…. FINALLY arrived at our FAVORITE SPOT in spring for TWO things:

1) The Bald Eagle Nest that must be 15 years old by now…..and must have a ton of sticks piled up this time So high you can’t tell if they’re on the nest or not when sitting on the eggs….AND, a 2nd nest has been started about 100′ away. Both are at least 50-60′ high off the ground:


*and another…

**The Nest we actually SEE IS larger than the one here.

2) Looking the OTHER way from the eagles, we see the Heron Rookery ……(and the real one looks much like this…the real one has about 50 nests in it)….it seems SO strange for a bird you always see living a solitary life to see them in big colonies during the entire chick raising season.


***At first we saw nothing, but I “knew” 2 weeks ago, birds were there working on nests……THEN, we set up the scope and truly looked….and began to see them. then more of them. Then we realized EVERY NEST had a Heron sitting on eggs. Whooppee! A thrilling sight…..as it always is to see ONE:

So, we continued north to the Audubon Viewing Stand that 99.9% of the time looks out on a big lake and thousands of birds….THIS TIME is was SO flooded and brown we saw nothing….. then at the north end, a flock of LESSER SANDHILL CRANES came into view:

Then we noticed the TREE SWALLOWs….just a FEW of them….they’re JUST arriving, but beautiful:

Now wondering if we were not going to get to see the huge flocks of migrating cranes in the normal 100’s, we continued to Rentenauer Road and slowly drove along…….. we saw:

1) American Coots….. one one side of the road…..filling a large lake……hundreds of them

2) Bufflehead Ducks…… the Cutest Duck I know…one second you see the pair, then they’re GONE! Finally, they re-surface and you know they’re feeding. Beautiful birds:

3) Mallards

4) Cormorants:

**we continued on to the dike….climbed to the top….and again, GASP! The flooding was immense….we only saw the black angus cows….where MAC didn’t know what to make of them. BUT…….. We began hearing the chortling warbling singing CRANES….and realized it was coming all along a long line just beyond some trees we’d already passed…..So we turned back to Reeder….and, as we approached the 30′ pole they’ve built a platform on for Osprey who too often used to fatally nest on power lines, we saw him….a beautiful newly arrived Male Osprey calling for all he’s worth hoping a mate would soon arrive:

He would sit, beautifully fly to a pole close by…..then to one more, then back to the nest. THIS guy was READY for spring love-making I say!

Finally, we saw a big beautiful IMMATURE BALD EAGLE up in a tree……who DID fly just as we pulled away:

as we drove back…we finally saw the numbers….some hundreds in a panorama….beautiful…..and they won’t be here long. Dang.

We went north and found the beaches were gone….the Columbia was clear up to the road and filled with shore debris. Mac got NO swim today….the FIRST time in his 8 yrs he’s been to the river and been denied. I really felt guilty. But at least, as we turned around there was a cousin of the Sandpiper with an odd name as far as I’m concerned: A “GREATER YELLOW LEG”:

That was it………….we were happy with the trip and felt we’d experienced something new seeing birds DO find other spots on the island to make their way………. Our last bird is a spectacular thing, a WHITE HERON:

Thanks, Nancy G…..once again…..for this hobby you introduced us to. It’s a thrill especially Spring and Fall.

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