Original Post submitted to the PBC Newsletter (Jan 2013 edition)

I started my daily walks here in Umatilla County on July 4th of 2012. As this goes off to press that makes 198 consecutive days.

I am into my third season and winter has proven to be quite a challenge. I lived in the Portland area for nearly forty years, cold was not what I had to worry about. Staying dry was my challenge there. Here in Pendleton the cold has made a new woman of me. I bundle up and question my sanity as I trudge out the door into temperatures in the teens.

Winter has shown me it’s own unique form of beauty. Walking in the frozen fog or snow searching out animal tracks has been fun. I have followed deer, rabbit, and coyote tracks this month. One morning I saw a rabbit sitting in the snow until it hopped away and into a bramble bush.

The Beaver has not been very active at its den, though I have seen it swimming in the river twice. I have also spotted otter, mink, and muskrats this month.

For two days there was a sheet of ice on several places on the river. One morning it was sunny and unbearably cold, the sun was just rising upon the river and it began to sparkle and gleam as the morning light hit the frozen ice that was clinging to the reeds and grasses, it looked like diamonds dancing along the waters edge, it was so beautiful.

The Great Blue Herons are changing their daily patterns over the last two weeks. They are bunching together near the rookery and hanging out together on the cliff above the river. One morning I actually got to watch one of the Herons carry a branch up to nest 2 and tuck it neatly into the inactive nest.

The Kestrels have been active too this month. Once I even observed one fly into a hole in the side of the cliff, coming back out into view about a minute later.

There are a few Belted King Fishers out, nothing like in the summer though. The Flickers are active as well as the Chickadees and Juncos. One afternoon I got to watch a Sharp Shinned Hawk as it hunted along the cliff. That same afternoon I saw a flock of Golden Crowned Kinglets as they scavenged along the rivers edge.

There are three female Hooded Mergansers that have taken up residence amongst the Common Mergansers. Two male Common Mergansers have joined the females. They actually got into a small tift earlier in the week. All of the Mallards are now paired up for the arrival of Spring.

This last week has brought fifteen Ring Billed Gulls to the river. They have been fishing for small 3-4 inch silver fish, always starting as the sun hits the water.

As of this morning I have seen four Bald Eagles this month. Last Saturday I stood across the river from a two year old juvenile as it sat in a snag. I was beyond blessed when the giant bird turned to face the morning light. There we were, together, watching the sun come up on a new day.

Another blessed morning today as I once again stood across the river from an adult Bald Eagle. Its head and shoulders were wet so I assumed that I must have just missed an early morning dive into the river. As I watched the Eagle I noticed a small bird sitting about ten feet away. It took off and flew over to a tree near me. It turned out to be a Downy Woodpecker. Pure Joy …

I have seen two lady bugs this week … hope that Spring is coming.

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

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