Original Post submitted to the PBC Newsletter (Dec 2012 edition)

The following is my “original” first column that I turned in. Because they wanted to add a “Bio” they chose one of my shorter entries for the newsletter. I hope you enjoy …

I woke this morning to a light snowfall. I bundled up and headed out for my morning walk. Two does were walking along the ridge on the hill across the river. I got to watch a male and a female Salmon courting in the water above the rapids. She would swim up the rocks with him following close behind before they would disappear into the shallow pool to the east. They did this over and over many times before the final loud smacking of tail fins against the rocks and the laying of eggs.

I watched a doe with her two yearlings walking in the willows across the river. Every time I would put my binoculars up to see them, the doe would be staring right into my binoculars, never taking her eyes off of me.

Heading east, I walked around the bend to see yellow heart shaped leaves gently falling from the big Cottonwood tree. I stood in awe as I enjoyed hearts floating around the tree in the cool morning breeze. A Great Blue Heron came flying in from along the creek and continued west along the river. Yesterday two Great Blue Heron came flying right at each other and in mid air smacked right into each other with one of them letting out a loud call. Territories are being established and defended as autumn comes to a close.

The mornings have been filled this week with Night Heron, Night Hawks, Mountain Chickadees, Northern Flickers, Song Sparrows, and the occasional Belted King Fisher. A few days ago several Wood Ducks came through on the river before leaving the next morning. A flock of Canada Geese were flying east above my head this morning. The male Common Mergansers are replacing their summer colors for their more stately mating colors.  I have heard a Horned Lark singing twice from the thicket across from the goat pasture.

As I walked past the pasture the geese were lined up and taking turns bathing in the water troth. Each being patient and waiting their turn as the one in front splashed around and preened its feathers. The black goat is even bigger this week. I have finally seen her from behind, oh goodness, she has to be pregnant. Her right side is twice the size as the left and her belly is hanging low.

As I stood on the rivers edge the sun poked out from above the clouds and lit up an American Robin who was sitting in the top of a tree. It was beautiful to see its chest the exact shade of orange as the tree it was sitting in. A mink swam along the shoreline as I was turning to leave. The rains have stopped, exposing the path that takes me to the boulders that I like to sit on. I sprang up quickly after an ever so brief respite on one of the boulders … Brrrr

Heading west I looked across the river to see one of the yearlings eating berries or leaves from a low hanging tree. I looked a little south just in time to see the mother and her other yearling getting a drink of water from the river.

Not having seen the fox in over a week I got excited when I saw a flash of orange and white across the river and up the hill. I laughed out loud as I focused in with my binoculars to see a clay colored rock with bird poop on it. Oh well, maybe next time.

link to my article in the Pendleton Bird Club Newsletter http://www.pendletonbirders.org

Pileated … White Tail … and Salmon

Thursday afternoon, while most of the town was sitting down to a feast, I headed east along the river. It was a peaceful walk with the river still rising. It has reached it’s banks now and the rapids are loud with the reminder that the river is a powerful force.

Not much out, in the air or on the ground … then I saw a glimpse of a large bird. Flicker was my first guess as it flew towards me, but I quickly knew that I was wrong when I looked again at it’s size. It’s call was that similar to a Flicker but still not right. I watched it fly off across the river. I lost it for a moment as I walked to where I could see better. 

I put my binoculars up to look at a black spot half way up into a Cottonwood snag. A female Pileated Woodpecker … excitement ensued.

I stood and watched her peck vigorously at the dead bark on the tree. She would drop large pieces to the ground below. She was pecking away as a horse ran past her out in the distance in the north. I lifted my binoculars to see it running west and a White Tailed Buck running full speed chasing a doe down the hill. I watched them until they disappeared down the hill and into a stand of trees.

I focused back on the Woodpecker as a man that I have seen several times in the last few months came walking up to pass me on the path. When he reached me I asked if he would like to see a woodpecker. He said that he would so I handed him my binoculars and told him where to look. “Wow … that is a big bird” was his response. I let him enjoy the bird for a minute before he handed the binoculars back to me. We stood and talked for about five minutes. I shared stories about all that I see on my walks. He said that he moved here from Seattle a year and a half ago and this was the first time that he had ever seen any wildlife.

Yesterday was another quite walk, and this mornings walk was cut short because my dog Logan is under the weather. He wanted to return home after about two minutes into our walk. He was feeling better this afternoon so we headed out again. There was a rotting Salmon laying on the bank of the river where the creek and the river meet. It wasn’t there yesterday, I wonder how it got up onto the bank?

I sat down hoping to get to see an animal walk up to check out the fish but Logan had had enough so we headed home. I will check on the fish again in the morning …

Week #79 Picture Prompt

Last year at this time I would spend my early mornings near the creek, checking in to see what the beaver had been doing the night before … below is one of my first sightings

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There are people who think that these little creatures need to be captured and killed … with patience though … life begins to return

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As Spring got fully underway the following pond was flourishing with Mallards, Gadwalls, and Wood Ducks. All with their little families of ducklings. 

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The sticks and branches in the foreground is the southern entrance to the beaver’s den. He created a home for water fowl and their families … please tell me how this can be such a bad thing.

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Wild Roses come alive near the newly constructed pond … 

Mergansers … Coyote … and Yellow Mushrooms

Yesterday was a wonderfully warm morning for late Fall … the river is rising again after all the rain from the past week. Five does and one 3 point buck were walking along the ridge. All the excitement of the rut is gone now …  until this time next year.

Two pairs of Hooded Mergansers flew onto the river from the east and floated down stream with the moving current. The males are beginning to look pretty sharp with their white heads aglow. The females are carrying hooded feathers atop their heads.

I have begun to see dead salmon on the river bottom as they die off from the spawning of two weeks ago. It’s kind of sad but I know that it the end of a life cycle.  

I walked past the pasture as a pheasant was calling out. I looked south towards a thicket. Another call came out. Not a panic call, just a warning. As I was listening to the pheasant call out I was watching a rabbit hopping along in the pasture, Logan saw it too. He pointed and stared, oh how he wanted me to let him off of his leash. A Night Hawk flew by to the north, I was mixed … do I follow the hawk, watch the rabbit, or the thicket. I chose to watch the thicket. Then came another call, as a pair of Ring Necked Pheasants came walking out of the thicket and up the hill towards the railroad tracks. I could see a coyote over on the west side but he couldn’t see the pheasant disappearing over the tracks.

This morning, the river is even higher and moving quickly, no water fowl on the water.

Over the weekend about one hundred white mushrooms popped up over night in left field at the ball park. It was so pretty. They were gone yesterday but this morning up popped about ten yellow and four golden mushrooms. I have never seen a yellow mushroom before, have you?

I walked past the Heron Rookery and the Night Hawk was sitting along the rim of one of the nests. A Magpie flew in from the east and landed on the nest. The Night Hawk began flapping her wings and hopping along the nest, scaring the Magpie away. The Night Hawk then took flight and flew to a tree in the east. A Red Tailed Hawk flew in from the east just west of where I usually see the Great Horned Owl. It sat in a snag across the river from me. After a few minutes it took flight flying low along the pasture.

The sun was breaking out from behind the clouds as I was walking home. The hillside was green from all the rain. I was approaching the fox den from the east thinking that this would be a perfect time to catch a glimpse. I saw a flash of red … I focused in across the river and up the hill. It was a male Ring Necked Pheasant grazing on the hillside about 100 feet from the fox den. The sun lit up his body showcasing his crimson red head outlined with emerald green feathers. His back was aglow with golds and brown. “absolutely beautiful, Lord … thank you”.

I watched him as he pecked the ground and nibbled at grasses. He started down the hill when he slipped and slid about a foot down the hill. He continued on like nothing had happened. I smiled as I thought that that only happened to us humans.

I got home and as I was walking down the hill to my house I saw eight Eurasian Doves pecking around in the gravel in the neighbors yard. I hadn’t seen any doves since the big wind storm last month, it was good to see them again.

More rain and wind is expected today, though I am looking out the window at blue skies …

 

 
 

 

Sunshine … Osprey … and an Eagle

36 degrees with a break in the early morning clouds allowed three sun beams to light up the river just east of the overlook. It only lasted a few minutes but it sure was pretty. A female Hooded Merganser came swimming up river and turned to move on up the creek. 

I think that the rut is coming to an end, it sure has led to a lot of excitement these last two weeks. The final scene that played out in front of me was on Wednesday morning. Eight does and the smallest of the 3 points bucks were up in the gully. One doe separated from the others and walked off towards the east with the buck following close behind. The other 3 point stood up from where he was bedded down against the rocky cliff. A stand off … they just stood and stared at each other with their heads dropped even with their shoulders. The smaller one turned and walked back towards the herd. The doe turned back over her shoulder and looked at the winning buck. She lifted her tail and he came bounding towards her. She trotted off slowly over the ridge with the buck eagerly following from behind. It was just like the old movies … I knew something was about to happen but then the door closed leaving my imagination working over time.

The Mountain Chickadees were in several of the thickets this morning. I can’t be absolutely sure but I think that I heard a Bewick’s Wren yesterday and this morning. If I am wrong, at least sings a beautiful song.

I walked down to the river and high above me floating in the cool morning air was a migrating Osprey. It never once flapped it’s wings, it just soared on past me on the current.

The black goat was acting a little funny this morning. She kept her tail lifted high into the air the whole time that I watched her. Her big belly bulge moved from the left over to the right and then dropped down towards the ground. I saw what looked like water coming from under her tail. Could her water possibly have broke? I still am not sure that she is pregnant but she sure is acting that way. Rain is expected later today but in a few hours I will bundle up and go back and check on her. I looked south of the horse pasture, a coyote was trotting along the fence line stopping once to sniff the air and looking at the geese that were nearby. He must not have been interested, he continued on at a trot and around the bend.

Walking home I said “Lord what a great morning, how about a grand finale”. Less then a minute later flying in just below the rim of the cliff heading west along the river was a Bald Eagle. I watched him continue to fly until he was out of sight, all along thanking the Lord for his Blessings.

Hot oatmeal with crumbled bacon awaits …

Rut in full Force …

Cold air and thick fog greeted me this morning … I almost didn’t go out, I couldn’t even see across the river.

I walked along listening intently with my ears instead of using my eyes to spot movement. I walked for a mile not seeing anything. I was standing at the waters edge hoping to get a glimpse of the owl, not happening this morning. 

The fog began to lift so I headed west toward home. I haven’t seen the black goat for three days now, the brown was was out though. Logan was sniffing all about and around the bottom of the cliff, below the horse pasture. The deer maybe?

A quite walk home until I reached the fox den. I started counting … one … two … three … six … ten … thirteen … a total of sixteen does all in one place. I have never seen this before. I kept scanning, one of the 3 point bucks was moving south of them and heading east. He went behind the ridge following two of the does. The rest stayed put, five of them actually bedded down. I scanned and scanned hoping that the 4 point would show up but I never saw him.

Yesterday, in the same place I watched the same 3 point walking along with five does, sniffing about as he walked, hoping to find a doe ready to breed. Another 3 point walked into the scene from behind the ridge to the east. The does scattered and the bucks faced off. Oh my goodness, was I about to see some action?  No luck, the smaller buck walked off alone towards the east. This is the third time this week that this poor guy has been cast out to walk along the edge of the herd.

As I was watching the herd I heard and then saw a female Red Necked Pheasant as she flew up out of the thicket letting out a call as she flew up into a tree. This is the same location that the fox hunts. I looked and looked but saw no sign of it.

I spotted movement up on the very top of the ridge, I focused in quickly thinking that it was going to be a buck. It was a human being crouching down. I stood and watched, praying that I was not going to see a rifle. Deer season is over and we have at least four bucks that have survived. The does didn’t seem to notice or not mind the presence off in the distance so I walked home.

I am going out again this afternoon … I want to see …

Rainy Monday and Giggles

I opened the door and stepped out into a rainy but warm morning  …

I hadn’t walked 100 feet when I spotted a doe, I quickly got behind a tree. I lifted my binoculars to see another one, and then another one. Five does were walking along and forging in the willows across the river from me. I giggled inside and said “thank you Lord” as the 4 point stepped out of the willows. He didn’t see me so I got to watch him as he walked down to the river and then back up to his does. By now I am crouching down trying to make myself as small as possible, I was so hoping that Logan wasn’t going to bark. From the west out walks the 3 point. I am now a giggling fool. “thank you, thank you, thank you Lord”. I watched them for about 10 minutes, me getting just soaked but not caring one bit. I had to constantly wipe the lens of my binoculars with the slightest of movement but I did it. The 3 point always stayed where the does were between him and the 4 point.

I saw two people out on their morning walk approaching me from the east so I stood up and walked on. My giddiness lasted all the way to the overlook. It was quite there, peaceful and serene as the rain fell and a few more heart shaped leaves fell from the big Cottonwood tree.

I headed on down the path to go check on the goats and the owl. No goats out this morning. I got a glimpse of a bird flying low to the ground over by the farm house but by the time I got my binoculars wiped off and  up to my eyes it was no where to be found. It was large, like maybe a hawk.

A flock of Mountain Chickadees were flitting around in the bushes on the edge of the pasture. I turned to head down the path to the water when I startled a doe as she was coming down the hill from the horse pasture above me on the hill. I stopped and immediately started walking backwards hoping she would calm down. She took off running and a 3 point buck came charging down the hill after her.  She ran through the gate that divides the horse pasture from the goat pasture. The buck didn’t even see me as he took out after her, leaping over the fence … “Magnificent Lord”

I stayed hidden behind a tree and watched as she raced around with him right behind her. He chased her out of the  horse pasture and back out into the open, she turned and ran back in. I slowly walked away leaving them standing next to each other with the fence between them.

The walk home was uneventful until Logan spotted a squirrel hiding in a downed tree. I let him sniff around a second and then we took two steps and my heart jumped when a female Ring Necked Pheasant came flying out right in front of me. 

Got home, took off my wet clothes, and now my steal cut oats are awaiting …