The sun came out today and the sky was a stunningly beautiful blue. I love these really cold, clear days in the middle of winter because everything seems so crisp and sharp. Maybe it’s just because I live in Oregon and we rarely see the sun in the winter and all the fog and rain makes everything seem blurry.
I was on my way to work and enjoying the beautiful snow dusted trees and the vivid colors all around and thought…I’m taking the day off. So, I called in a vacation day, turned the car around and went home to get Mark and the dog for a drive to Sauvie Island for some birdwatching. I’ve been in the mood to watch the eagles and checkup on the snow geese and this was the perfect opportunity.
Our first stop was the viewing platform where the tundra swans are joined by snow geese and various ducks. There were very few ducks in the water and no swans or geese at all…what a bust. Mark was looking through the binoculars as I commented on this and he replied “there are hundreds of ducks out there, here use these” and hands me the glasses. I noticed something odd flashing on the far side of the lake and just as I mentioned it…BAM! A gunshot rang out and we realized we’d been looking at decoys. Birdbrains! Actually, there were some other water fowl in the lake but evidently nothing worth shooting because they kept diving for food and the hunters didn’t seem too interested.
We continued out to the Columbia River and all the way out only saw one Red Tail Hawk and an American Kestrel. Of course once we realized the hunters were out in large numbers we didn’t expect to see much of anything. We took a little side road to a boat ramp and just across the lake we found a flock of snow geese. We didn’t hear a shot but there must have been one as these geese started and took to the sky and as they did another flock behind the levy began flying off. There must have been at least 500 geese in the sky which is always impressive to watch.
On our way back from the dock I caught this shot that gives a good idea of how beautiful the island is in winter.
We stopped at the river to let the dog swim a bit but after about 30 minutes standing in the sub-freezing temps we decided it was time to go. It still amazes me that this dog is not fazed by the cold water. He’d chase sticks until our frozen limbs fell off if he had his way. In fact he’d probably be happy for the variety of sticks.
On the way out we took the levy road out toward Scappoose for while hoping to get to the other side of the lake where the snow geese had been. On the way we spotted a few more Red Tails and some Canadian Geese but not much more. Sadly we found one Red Tail hanging from a power line in a failed attempt to land on a power pole. I wish they’d put platforms above all these poles as opposed to just a few. We drove out a bit further and were rewarded with a flock of about 15 Tundra Swans sleeping in a flooded field. By now we were thinking about food so we decided to head back and just after turning around we spotted a Bald Eagle sitting on a piling in the middle of the slough watchng a small flock of geese. It was almost cartoon like the way he was sitting with his head lowered, staring at the geese that were just treading the current. Fortunately there weren’t many folks on this side of the island so we were able to stop in the road and get the glasses out for a close up view. Too bad the sun was behind him preventing me from getting a decent photo.
Although we didn’t get to see the large flocks of geese and we only spotted one eagle, it was still a nice day on the island and not a total bust as I had originally expected when we were watching the decoys.