Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oregon vacation: Shore Acres

Cyndi, Jennifer and I all went together to Shore Acres. It's an arboretum and botanical garden set on a high cliff above one of the most spectacular shorelines I've ever witnessed. (Not as nice as the Atlantic Ocean, where I grew up, of course ... but quite good for the Pacific.) Here is a pond at the arboretum ... just on the far side is a wonderful view of the ocean!

This Black Phoebe was foraging for insects.

Here's the view of a sandy beach from high on the rocky headland. It looks like there may be a cave on the south side.

We walked down to the sandy beach. The sedimentary geology was uplifted at a 45-degree angle.

Here's a close view of that rock jutting into the sea at such an angle.

It almost seemed like there was a basalt layer in there, as I was reminded of the pillow lava from the edge of the sea in Hawaii.

The waves were crashing in, creating that soothing rhythmic heartbeat, and the warm sun on a 70-degree day was a delightful relief from the hot summer back home in Idaho.

My sister Jennifer explored the cave and proclaimed it went further into the darkness than the eye could see.

OK, this one is just a nice portrait of my best sister ever. (Thanks for driving over to the ocean to meet us and help celebrate my birthday, Jennifer!)

At sunset, after Jennifer headed homeward to her work obligations, Cyndi and I returned to the overlook and walked along the trail on the headlands. Do you see the small figures, two people on the next promontory? It is difficult to convey the scale of this scene, but the people help.

At low tide the kelp were exposed. Cyndi saw some Black Oystercatchers, but I didn't get a photo this time.

The warm evening light highlighted the strange geology.

The park closes just after sunset, and here it is, the great ball of the sun sinking into the offshore fog.

Oregon vacation: Sunset Bay State Park

Upon arrival at the coast we stopped to view the sand dunes and beach grasses. We did not stay long as we had plans to meet my sister at our campground, but it was neat to see these coastal dunes.

When we arrived at Sunset Bay State Park, where we would camp, no birds seemed more prevalent than the Crows! Here's a juvenile begging for food, perhaps from a sibling.

Certainly more melodious was the sweet, flutelike, breathy "freelia, freelia, freelia" of the ubiquitous Hermit Thrush.

There was a feeder at the campground's nature center, and all sorts of birds came to it in the morning. We spent many hours just enjoying the colorful show. The golden yellow of the American Goldfinch, the blood-red cap of the Cassin's Finch, the yellow and orange of the parrotlike Crossbills, and the bright blue Steller's Jay all made a rainbow of color in the morning light.

Our success at seeing and photographing hummingbirds continued for the year, with these beautiful Rufous Hummingbirds. (As an aside, while I'm typing this blog entry, three Black-chinned Hummingbirds are bickering over the hummingbird feeder outside my window!) We spent a lot of time trying to study the structure of the second tail feather to see if maybe one of these birds was the nearly-identical Allen's Hummingbird. For the record, we found that examining the tiny tail feathers of a hummingbird to be problematic at best.

The coastal geology was fascinating and beautiful. Sedimentary layers of different colors had been eroded by the waves.

This was just one of many canonball-sized orbs appearing out of the sandstone.

Perhaps some ancient civilization left these runes to be deciphered? I could not glean their message.

This was a bit easier to figure out ... fossils! In the relatively recent past, sea creatures left their imprint in this clay which has now turned to stone.

While fossils are cool, the marine mammals hauled out on this offshore rock were cooler! There was quite a mix of sea creatures out there. Though the Steller's Sea Lions were large, the Elephant Seals loomed over all others in the pack. I suppose you'll be wanting to click on this photo to get a better look.

To be continued ...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oregon vacation: Day 1 & 2

On the way to the Oregon coast, on our first night, we stopped and camped in a free rustic campground on National Forest land near this small lake. It had frogs calling, bats in the evening, Chestnut-backed Chickadees (see the brown on the side) and American Three-toed Woodpeckers (no photos to marvel at, but they were there) in the trees ... and a wonderful observatory nearby with views of the surrounding mountains.

Here's Cyndi looking out the window of the Dee Wright Observatory. Built by the CCC out of native materials, it has many windows large and small. The small windows perfectly frame the geographic feature upon which they gaze, and a caption names the mountain and gives the distance to the feature.

This is one of the many mountain peaks visible.

Here's one framed by the observatory's rough lava rock opening.

Pine Siskin were the most prevalent bird seen among the lava rocks at this elevation.

We went at sunset ...

... and again at sunrise!

Here are the Sisters at sunset. The Cascade Range is volcanic in origin, and lava flowed here just 5,000 years ago.

The Pacific Crest Trail passes through, and we hiked it ... for a few feet.

Alpine meadows have a special place in my heart and soul, so it was a true joy to visit this wet area in early mountain spring. Cyndi and I spent time photographing the wildflowers.

Shooting Stars had already bloomed!

And the Elephanthead were just pushing their first flowers forth at the bottom of their spikes.

A bit lower in elevation, Beargrass was in bloom.

And, at last, in the inimitable words of the Lewis & Clark expedition, "Oh Joy! Ocean in view!" Cormorants and Great Egret greeted us that evening at the Pacific coast.

To be continued ...

Friday, August 6, 2010

New camera ::: Life bird

My family sent me some birthday money. A camera I've long wanted to buy was on sale ... so, thank you! I bought it!

Though criticized for its fuzzy images and halation, the camera comes with a 30x optical zoom, image stabilization, and a digital zoom that only crops some of the image instead of magnifying and interpolating. What I'm saying here is that it's like a telescope.

Last weekend was Cyndi's birthday, and we returned to the wonderful campsite we visited nearly a year ago, a little lake in the mountains at the edge of a burned area. Swimming, hiking, and birding fun was had by all (Cyndi's daughter, Emily, joined us.) OK, I swam and the others were not quite as willing to trust the waters. But we all hiked and birded.

More on that later. For now, I just want to share an example photo from the previous camera I've been using; and my new camera, to show how it magnifies distant objects. I had to ask for help to make these images. One person looked through my spotting scope and called out the bird's position relative to large landmarks, and told me if it dove underwater or not, while I tried my best to aim and shoot. "To the right of the dock," or, "By the dead tree," or, "In front of the cattails," my assistant would say ... and I'd take a photo of some water, and sometimes, the birds.

This was the first time I'd seen a Red-necked Grebe, a Life Bird! Can you see the pair of them there? That's what my old camera shows. One can't tell if they're loons, ducks, grebes, or what.

But, with the new camera ... hey, red necks and white faces; even a hint of a yellowish bill.

And, with Emily looking through the scope, proclaiming excitedly, "They're fighting or something!" I took this photo of some natural greeting behaviour on the far side of the lake.

So, considering that these birds could not even be seen with the naked eye, I'm satisfied with my birthday present. Thanks family, you're the best!