Category Archives: Birding

Springtime?

No…not really…the rain returns on Sunday. But TODAY…today was the most spectacular day we’ve had since October!

I left work mid-day thinking I’d so some work in the yard and pot a few plants on the deck. Once home I grabbed a bite, changed into a t-shirt (really) and sandals (not kidding!), ventured into the sun to put the cushions on the patio chairs and…

…SCREW the yardwork!

Sometimes you just have to take advantage of the beautiful weather. Waste a little time. RELAX! After all, this is only the second 60+ degree day we’ve had up here since early December!

I put some classic Grateful Dead on the stereo, popped a beer and lay back in my chair to catch some rays. OH BOY!!!

The birds were everywhere…hairy and downy woodpeckers, goldfinches in full mating color, white crowned sparrows, towhees, chickadees, juncos, house and purple finches, nuthatches and even a coopers hawk. Better yet..NO INSECTS! Nope…still too cold for them little buggers.

WHAT A GLORIOUS DAY!!!

I tried to take a picture…

…as you can see, my skin is so white the reflected light just kills all detail. Better than a face lift!

And that’s Spring in the Pacific Northwest!

When beating the odds isn’t a good thing

Lately a lot of birds are playing chicken by flying across the road in front of my truck. Today, a Robin looked like it was just going to clear my windshield when…thunk-whacka-whacka…my antenna started swinging back and forth…violently.

Pretty good odds to fly into that skinny little antenna. Pretty bad luck to hit it at 40 mph.

I hope it wasn’t mama flying back to the nest to feed her young. That would be very sad.

Jay, Jay, Go Away!

Outside my window at work, in the top branches of an old maple tree, there is a nest where a pair of Robins raised their young last year. That was the first year in the 10 I’ve been here that any bird has nested in this tree. It may be its height of ~50 feet (a long drop for a fledgling) or maybe a lack sunlight.

The nest was well concealed and it wasn’t until the young had hatched that I even noticed it as mom and dad were continually flying out and back with worms, crane flies and various other meals loaded in their beaks. Once the young fledged, it felt as though my neighbors had up and moved. I felt lonely.

All winter long I’ve watched that empty nest swaying in the wind, filling with snow, and generally taking a beating in the harsh winter weather we experienced this year. All that time I kept hoping that when spring arrived the Robins would return and nest there again. They have often returned to the same nests in certain trees and shrubs at home so I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed.

And yes…that’s made it tough to type, Ba-dump-bump!

Today, while gazing out the window, daydreaming typing meeting minutes, I saw a bird fly to the top of the tree. Excitedly I turned hoping to see a Robin returning to the nest but quickly realized…that’s no Robin…that’s a Jay…a Steller’s Jay! Damn…that’s almost as bad as a flying-rat city pigeon!

Disappointed, and more than a little annoyed, I began devising schemes to somehow knock the nest from the tree. Unfortunately, the window doesn’t open and throwing stones from the roof of the building would probably result in a visit from security…or to the Psychiatry Department. I hated the thought of having to watch a pair of loud, obnoxious (though admittedly beautiful) Jay’s raise a family of squawking nest robbers.

stellersjay

Yup…they’re known to eat other bird’s eggs and nestlings.

I walked to the window to get a closer look at what he was doing and that’s was when I noticed the branch in his beak. He stood there and picked through the nest for the better twigs and then flew off with a few of them. I’d never seen this behavior before. Of course, unless there is an old nest sitting in plain view, you wouldn’t necessarily see it happen. I shouldn’t be surprised…they are in the Corvidae family and those birds are smarter than some of the scientists I work with…seriously!

So, I spent the rest of the afternoon watching that Jay fly in and out, reducing last year’s Robins nest to about half the size. I don’t know if he’ll eventually dismantle the whole thing but I’m still hoping the Robins return, rebuild and raise another brood. It’s far more entertaining than staring at a monitor all day.

Swift Watch

Last night we joined Brenda and Thomas and Brenda’s ‘rents from WI, Bev and Bill and about 500 of our closest friends and neighbors for a grand Portland tradition…Swift Watch.

Mark, Bev & Crash (Brenda) - having more fun than they're  showing

Mark, Bev & Crash (Brenda) - having more fun than they're showing

Yep…there we were sitting on our blanket eating Bev’s tasty party snacks, Sungold tomatoes, cheese and crackers and washing it all down with a local brew while 10,000+ Vaux’s Swifts swirled above our heads, creating quite the vortex, before diving into the school’s old boiler chimney for the night. This was the first time I’ve witnessed this phenomenon and I’m kicking myself for not having done it sooner. What an amazing experience!

The chimney at Chapman Elementary School

The chimney at Chapman Elementary School

Swiftly soaring Swifts

This has been going on for many, many years, long before I ever visited this state. Evidently, the Vaux’s Swifts began using the chimney due to lack of habitat (read logging) and the school was forced to not use the boiler the entire month of September to avoid baking those little beauties. September being a cool month in Oregon, although you wouldn’t know it this year, the children and staff had to bundle up in order to stay warm.  Thanks to many nature-minded residents and the Audubon Society of Portland, money was raised for a new, more efficient furnace and the old boiler chimney preserved for the swifts.  We owe them much gratitude!

Now, every year, literally thousands of people from around the city and State and country (Bev & Bill) come every September night to observe this fascinating event that peaks mid-month.

A few friends

A few friends

The Audubon Society of Portland staffs a booth each night as well to answer questions and educate the masses on Swift behavior and the history behind this event. I really can’t think of enough adjectives to describe what a thrill this was…and we were treated to a very special guest about midway through the roost. A Peregrine Falcon came flying into the swirling flock and tried to nab an hor’s d’ouvres and the crowd went wild! It was exhilarating to watch as the enormous, swirling vortex above the chimney turned into an undulating black cloud surrounding the falcon, forcing him out of the area and then, within seconds, back in motion above the entrance to their avian hotel.

Turning in for the night

Turning in for the night

The birds begin gathering about an hour before sunset and finish their descent into the brick tube just about dark so it’s a nice evening out and you can make it home long before your bedtime. If you haven’t taken the time to see this, you’ve gotta’ check it out. Go tonight! You won’t regret it.

Northern Flicker

My favorite woodpecker, the Northern Flicker, makes regular visits to the suet feeder on the deck. I only wish I could catch a shot of him with his wings spread. They are a brilliant orange which you see hints of in his tail feathers.

Phun Photo Phriday

majestic.jpg

I caught this last weekend on Sauvie Island where we were lucky enough to have spotted at least a dozen different eagles. Although I see these magnificent birds quite frequently I’m still in awe of them. I only wish he had perched on the near side of the tree.

Thanksgiving

Yeah, yeah, I’ve been totally slacker-assed about my blog lately but damn, work has been crazy and I didn’t feel much like getting on the computer when I got home. If I had, I’d have spat out a bunch of expletives and that’s not good reading, unless you’re talking about the Bush Administration.

On an up note though, I did get to see my blogging inspiration, Emily, last week. Emily and I worked together for a while before she took a job in France where she started a blog to keep her family and friends up to date on her adventures. Emily started a blog for Mark and I as a Christmas gift in aught three but I was a bit of slacker at blogging then too and Mark took the reins. It wasn’t until last year that I decided to start my own blog, but I digress.

Emily moved back to the US a year ago and took a position in San Francisco; I haven’t seen her since her return. Fortunately, she came home for the holiday and I was able to pry her away from all her family commitments for a few hours and a few pints. It was great to hang with her again if only briefly and she looks freakin’ fantastic!! Don’t ya’ think?

emily.jpg

Okay…she could open her eyes but she still looks fabulous and you can’t even see the figure she’s packing. Thanks E, it was great seeing you and we’ll get together in the spring when I head to the homeland for a visit!

After a couple miserable days at work I was thrilled with the turn that Thanksgiving brought. I was up fairly early and parked my ass on the couch to catch the latter part of the Thanksgiving Day Parade on the East Coast feed on the satellite. I know, commercialism at its finest, but hey, it took me back to my youth and as long a trip as that is I really needed it. I was in a dark place. Somewhere between the Koons Rabbit (way cool!) and Shrek balloons I decided I needed to take a shower and get dinner started. Yeah…it was early but our slow roast method requires an early start. About an hour later I put the bird in the oven and had just turned on the football game when I heard a knock at the door. I figured it was one of the neighbors in need of some butter or sage but when I opened the door I was THRILLED to find our wonderful friends Nancy and Carol. Now I hate when folks stop in without warning because I’m usually dressed in sloppy torn t-shirts and sweat pants but this time I couldn’t contain my excitement. These are two of the greatest women I have ever met in my life and we haven’t spent a lot of time together this year due to Nancy’s mother’s recent passing and Carol’s new grandkids. If there was ever a time for someone to just drop in…that was it!

For the next four hours we talked, a lot! We laughed, we watched the birds, we ate, we wallowed in the joy and love this spontaneous visit wrought. Life just doesn’t get any better! Those few short hours were the very essence of Thanksgiving and a great reminder that it’s the simple, pure moments, that make our time here so worthwhile. You can’t plan that…it simply happens. I wish they could have stayed for dinner but they had other plans and I wouldn’t want to get in the way of fate or karma or whatever force was guiding us that day because everything was perfect, absolutely perfect.

The turkey turned out to be the best I’ve cooked in the past few years but the potatoes had too much garlic (yes, the possibility surprised even me), the gravy was a bit salty and we even forgot to make dinner rolls (the horror!), so we weren’t caught in some “perfect” event in the space-time continuum that afternoon. But we were close…awfully close!