Misty Morning

I’ve just returned from my morning walk along the river. I started out at day break with a cool mist in the air. The colors of Autumn are at their peak. I stood and watched a Northern Flicker as it jumped from branch to branch in a tree that was filled with golds and yellows. The bird looked beautiful with its black chest and speckled body set against the yellow and gold.
The Coho Salmon are in their 3rd day of coming home to the Umatilla River. This morning was fantastic. I couldn’t count how many fish I saw. Just above the rapids the river becomes really shallow and it almost looked as if the fish were walking up the rocks to get to their spawning area. The spawning ground was filled with deep rich pink colors and flashing fins as they moved around in the shallow water. Occasionally one would lift its narly white head out from the water.
As I stood above the river looking down into the water I could actually witness the “run”. Eight to ten fish would come swimming up the rapids at a time, some would slow down as they swam through the shallow spawning ground. Some stayed, and others continued on up the river.
An owl called out twice from across the river. I couldn’t see it but I smiled any way just in case it was watching me.
Three Lesser Yellow-Legs were out hunting for breakfast as I was walking home. A lone fly fisherman was just outside my back door. He wasn’t having any luck though.
The aroma of fried potatoes, yams, onions, and eggs is coming from my tiny kitchen. I am going in to enjoy a yummy meal, and then back out onto the river I go.

Last week of Summer

It is only the first day of September here but Autumn is in the air. The mornings are cool now and I am reaching for warmer sweaters each day. The sun is coming up a bit later and is hitting the hillside and river at a new angle. The golds and yellows are just beginning to show on the trees and shrubs. Every few days a new flock of Mallards or Common Mergansers show up and feed from the river.

Last week I was 28 miles out of town and driving along the river in the late afternoon. Ahead of me appeared a large black mass coming up from the river and out onto the road. I began to slow down and my eyes widened as I realized that I was seeing a bear. I slowed down even more when out came two cubs. I was stopped in the roadway with a giant smile on my face and a giggle in my heart. I sat there in the middle of the road as I watched the mother bear walk slowly across the road and down into the trees, followed closely by her growing children.

This is the second bear sighting that I have had this year. The time before I was up on the mountain in the early afternoon after a storm. I was scanning the mountain for elk when I saw what looked like a huge boulder. I hesitated because there hadn’t been a boulder there the previous week. I focused in more carefully when the blonde mass stood up and began lumbering down the mountain. I was jumping with joy, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

There are two Mule deer bucks that I like to watch. One is easy to recoginize because of his floppy left ear, and a notch missing from his right ear. They live near each other but it is obvious that they have their own territory. Earlier this week I was out early when out walked the buck with the good ears. He walked proudly and regally out onto a large mound out between the willows and the pasture. He stood in the middle of the mound and began to slowly turn his head from left to right. His antlers were still in their velvet and his coat was turning from its summer tan to the rich dark brown of Fall. He stood there letting the warming morning sunshine dance against his head.

Below him in the pasture was a fawn who was bouncing around in the grass trying to get the bucks attention. It was as if the fawn was saying “Look, dad. Can you see me?” Back and forth, back and forth, the fawn would bounce in front of his father. I could see the fawns mother grazing on willow leaves over to the left of the mound.

I am beyond Blessed to get to see nature in her finest each morning. Thank you Lord.

Red-tailed Hawk

As I was walking home this morning I heard Crows cawing and others flying in from every direction. Some were flying around a willow tree and others were gathered in a tree across the river. I counted twenty one in all, with one flying in and out of the tree. The willow was so thick that I couldn’t see what the crow was trying to scare out.

After a minute I contined on to check on the Osprey chicks. All was quite there and the morning air was heating up fast so I decided to come on home.

As I approached my yard I saw a large bird come flying out to the willow tree and into a locust tree in my backyard. I looked up into the tree with my binoculars and saw a fledgling Red-tailed Hawk.

It started calling out for a parent so I stood and watched. I was so close that I could see its tongue inside of its mouth as it called out. What an incredibly beautiful bird. It called and called for its parents, not wanting to scare it I came inside the house. I could hear it calling for another hour.

An hour went by with it still calling out and then it finally flew back to the willow tree. I haven’t heard it now for an hour so hopefully it has been reunited with its parents.

That was an amazing experience, thank you Lord.

Fawns

I was Blessed on this mornings walk …

First of all I spotted a doe up on the hillside followed by another doe walking down the trail behind her. The one in the front stopped and looked over towards the thicket where I have been watching eagerly in anticipation of fawns. She began to trot over that way followed by the other doe.

I took a few steps up river and sure enough, there was a fawn walking out of the thicket. It walked over to its mother and then two more appeared and met up with the doe that was behind the others.

The lone fawn bounced over to the twins and wanted to play but the twins mother was not having any part of that. She pawed gently at the fawn and then at the ground. The lone fawn took the hint and turned around and went back to its mother.

That excited the twins who began bouncing around on the rocky trail that they had been walking along just moments earlier.

The lone fawn spotted a Eurasian-collared Dove that was sitting on the ground just below it on the trail. The fawn put its little nose down near the ground and walked up to the bird. The bird gently flew up and moved about twenty feet away.

Well, that excited all three fawns and they all began bouncing around on the trails. I stood smiling and giggling to myself, Bambi.

Just then the mother of the lone fawn turned her head and looked up the trail. Out walked a 2 pt buck. The mother did not like that at all so she chased him off with her fawn tagging along behind her.

I walked a few more feet and saw another doe bounding through the meadow to the east of the others.

I continued on my walk and met up with still another 2 pt buck about a half mile upstream.

“What a Morning, Thank You Lord”

The Flickers Nest

Flickers Nest

Flickers Nest

This morning I stand at the kitchen window looking out into the backyard where a Northern Flicker is busily pecking away at the dead Locust tree.

This is day #5 of nest building. It started Sunday afternoon with the pounding, pounding, pounding against the bark of the dead tree. This morning it is just a pecking sound as the bird picks away at the inside of the tree. It works for a few minutes on the top hole and then walks down the trunk to the second hole and works on that one for a few minutes.
Like I said, this all started on Sunday afternoon (Feb 2nd) with the pecking at the bark. This morning the birds head is all the way into the tree up to its shoulders.

I stand at the back door in two pairs of socks, it is 7 degrees outside with frozen snow covering the ground and the top of the tree. There are deer tracks all over the back yard where a deer has come up from the river, over the levee, and down into my garden. Upon leaving the garden the tracks go out beside my car and up and over the levee wall. I wonder if it is the same one that came to visit back in December?

More snow is expected this weekend, what creatures will come to visit my yard?
I will post again in a few days to let you know how the nest building is going.

This truly is exciting to watch, thank you Lord for such a beautiful experience.

Raccoons at Daybreak …

I was out along the river at daybreak when something popped up over the levee wall. At first I thought that it was going to be a cat but four more of its kind followed.

I lifted my binoculars to see a mother raccoon and her four young ones. I had my dog with me so I stopped and just watched. The mother stood frozen on the walkway as the young ones moved around full of curiosity.

I could see that they were headed over to a huge maple tree that would easily provide the shade and protection that they needed from the hot morning sun that was rising up into the sky.

I was in a bit of a hurry because I had to be to work in an hour so I took a few steps forward towards them. The mother stopped moving and stared right at me. I took a few more steps, this time she stood up on her back feet and stared right into my binoculars.

I could still see the young ones curiously scavenging around near her side. I took another few steps toward her and could see her breasts filled with milk as she stood facing me. Her eyes would move from me over to my dog, and then back to me.

I took a few more steps toward her and this time she dropped down to all fours and jumped up onto the levee wall as she chattered out to her cubs. Three of them immediately turned and ran towards their mother along the wall. The smallest one ran over to the wall but had a hard time jumping up onto it. 

I took a few more steps forward. The mother reached down with her left hand and held it  out to her youngest. I stood watching in amazement as the little one grabbed ahold of its mothers hand as she pulled it up next to her on the wall.

I took a few more steps knowing that I was going to now scare them away. All five of them jumped down from the wall and scurried off down toward the river bank. My dog loved it when he got up to where the raccoons had been. His little nose went nuts. I paused so that he could get a good scent of what it was that I am trying to keep out of my garden.

Yesterday morning I found a lone green tomato laying on the ground in my garden. I picked it up and brought it into the house. It wasn’t until I got home from work that I noticed two little teeth marks in the tomato. Raccoons?

This morning the heavy laden bush was over on its side. I picked it up and secured it back into the garden soil. Raccoons?

 

 

Goats Along the River

This is my piece that I was asked to write for our local Bird Club Newsletter. This is not the monthly column that I usually write.

 

Goats Along the River

I have just returned from walking 383consecutive days along the river here in Pendleton. I am not your casual walker who listens to music and/or chatters away as I walk. I walk purposely, quietly, and always staring intently into the trees, the thickets, and along the rivers edge.

 What I have been able to view, to witness, and to hear has been an incredible blessing to me. As you read this you are probably expecting me to tell you all about the birds, the wildlife, and natures incredible beauty, but sadly, I am not.

 Instead, I am going to tell you about the horrible destruction of natural habitat and wildlife that is happening along our beautiful river. You may choose not to take part in walking along the river levee, or maybe you physically are unable to, but I desperately need to educate you on what is really going on.

I have documented 41/2 seasons now. I am watching everything slowly die off or leave the rivers edge. In case you are unaware, the city of Pendleton has allowed goats to graze along the levee for 2 years now. Each year they make 2 passes along the rivers edge. The following is what is happening to our river.

 Between Main Street and the east end of the levee, just this year alone, over 120 trees have been stripped of their bark, which will lead to them having to be cut down. The shade that once protected the rivers edge from the hot afternoon sun has all but disappeared. The rivers edge is now heating up and will cause havoc for the Salmon and Steelhead.

More than 20 species of birds that should be living along the river during the summer months have disappeared due to the loss of habitat.

The goats came through for their 1st trip in early May. This caused all of the birds nesting on the ground and as high up as 6 feet above ground to loose their nests to the goats. One morning I stood with tears in my eyes as I watched a pair of American Robins frantically trying to repair the nest that the goats had torn the bottom out of, just a day earlier.

 The Northern Flickers and Cedar Wax Wings should be filling the rivers edge foraging for food and insects this time of year but their food and shelter have disappeared.

The otters have only been spotted twice this year. They do not like their habitat disturbed and go up river and into the creek when the goats are nearby.

I can go on and on but instead I am reaching out to you to help me to save our river, the wildlife, and the birds.

On the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month the City Council holds a meeting. I need your support, whether it is physical or verbal. We need to stand up and tell the council that we want our natural habitat to be preserved and that there are better ways to “clear” the rivers edge than the way it is currently being done. I hope to see you at the next meeting on August 6th. I will speak promptly at 7pm.