In The Backyard

Juvenile Spotted Towhees are spending a lot of time in our backyard right now. In a time of year when there aren’t a lot of birds hanging about our feeders (heck, even the House Finches haven’t been around for a few days), the Towhees are a welcome sight.

These young Towhees, a species which normally forage on the ground, have discovered that suet is a pretty good meal and have learned how to jump from the fence, grab the suet cage briefly to get what they want and go.

juvenile Spotted Towhee

They also spend time on the ground and I watched one scratching around in the mulch yesterday looking for food. While observing it, I heard an adult call and watched the young one cock its head and listen. I wondered if it could have been its parent.

The parents don’t seem to be feeding these guys any longer. They have already learned to forage for themselves on the ground and above!

Juvenile Spotted Towhee

juvenile Spotted Towhee

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Swift Swifts

Last night, we had some Vaux’s Swifts spend some time in the field just beyond our home.

My goodness, these are fast birds.  Did Swifts earn their name from their fast flight?  We couldn’t keep up with them as they zoomed around the field.

At first, we thought they were swallows but could tell quickly they were flying faster and lower than the swallows normally do over our little field.  Their wingbeats are different, their wings shaped differently and they didn’t seem to have tails.

This was the first sighting of Vaux’s Swifts I have seen so close to our home.  They entertained us for an hour or so until we eventually came inside.

I’ve read about Vaux’s Swifts for years. Large numbers of them roost in a school chimney in southwest Portland and viewing events are scheduled late summer each year. It’s something I’ve always wanted to go to but haven’t yet.

A co-worker showed me video of Vaux’s Swifts that roost at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Sherwood recently. After viewing his video a month or two ago, I remember learning that  Vaux’s is prounouncd Voks. For years, whenever I read anything about this bird, the way I pronounced it in my head was Vaux. I’m trying to re-train myself to think Voks.

Swift Swifts make for bad pictures but we did the best we could.

Swift Swifts

Blurry Swift

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Heron Pose

I’d never come across a Great Blue Heron drying their wings in this pose before. It gave the bird sort of a comical appearance and certainly caught my eye. The pose reminded me a bit of when my daughter was born twenty years ago with hip displasia. her little legs would stay in a position similar to this bird’s wings unless she was swaddled.

Heron Pose

Meanwhile, high above it, an Osprey perched in the spot where I normally see Bald Eagles.

Osprey in Eagle Tree

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My Favorite Branch

I’ve talked about this spot before.  It’s just across the street from where I work and I often stop here for a few minutes either before, during lunch or after work to see who might be hanging around.   This spot is a popular spot for birds to perch.

Here are a few cute pics of some juvenile swallows and a House Finch who seems to be hoping it might be fed by the Swallow parents when they come back, too.

Barn Swallow Juveniles

Barn Swallows with House Finch

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Going Batty

Oh the secrets our little beach house holds. Last year, the house had a carpenter ant issue. They dropped from the ceilings onto our heads as we walked about or onto our laps as we sat on the sofa. We put up with it and even rented the place again for a few days this year because of the good things the house offered. It’s pet-friendly, has a great view and we love to build bonfires in the fire pit each nite.

This year, the ant problem was gone. We didn’t see a single carpenter ant while we were there. But we heard strange scratching sounds above and around us while we napped the first afternoon and during the first night we slept. The next morning, four of us wandered about the house looking for entry points for raccoons or squirrels but couldn’t find anything.

The second night around 9pm, my son and his girlfriend were outside with their dog when they noticed bats flying from a very small hole at the top of the roof.

We had read the comments from the previous guests who had written about having to chase a bat from the bedroom when they arrived and suddenly it all made sense. There was a bat colony living in the roof. Pretty cool and yet just a little bit disconcerting knowing they were so close and that at least one of them had somehow made its way into the house!

The next night, we invited my brother and his family over for a bat show. We pulled the deck furniture into the driveway and set up shop. About 9pm, the first bat started leaving the house. We counted 66 bats flying from this space into the night.

I learned a lot about bats during the few days we stayed here. I think these bats are Little Brown Bats and are known to move into roofs or attics during the summer months where they live while raising their young. We saw the adult bats. They fly back and forth into the space all night feeding their young. Bats don’t cause damage to human-made structures. They don’t chew holes or wiring in the house. We didn’t smell anything.

Not everyone would appreciate a bat colony living in their roof. I don’t know that I would want to live with one in my personal home and I worry that someone is going to report the colony to the property management company for this rental home and that they will try to exclude the bats before they finish raising their young this summer. I’ve got my fingers crossed for these guys and hope the rest of the renters this summer are hard sleepers and don’t notice the scratchy sounds above their heads at night.

Bat Exiting

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Flightless Beauties

I know, I know, these aren’t birds. But I appreciate their beauty anyway.

The stump reminds me of Wilson in Castaway with its crazy hair. The seashells that have lodged on the side of it looks almost like a flower. I like the mix of textures.

Ancient Tree Stump

This is the first sea star I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of pictures I used to draw of the sun when I was a kid.

Sea Star

Last, this goat was guarding the end of the county road at Big Creek Reservoir. There were large signs proclaiming the end of the public road and that we were about to enter private property and were under video surveillance. It was kind of creepy. A house on the hill at the end of a road with cameras trained down on us. The goat put a comical spin on it as we labored to turn around before someone came after us with a shotgun.

Goat on Shed

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When You Least Expect It

When we come to the beach for a few days, I generally have just two things on my list of things to do. Look for agates and eat copious amount of clam chowder and garlic bread from Mo’s. This is repeated each day over the course of our stay. Mixed in with this are various other activities depending on who’s with us. My brother has been raving about a fishing spot near Newport called Big Creek Reservoir where he likes to take his kids fishing. Fishing is not my thing but when my parents went with them the other day and told us about the Osprey, Kingfisher’s, Otter’s and Great Blue Heron’s they saw while fishing, we thought we would take a trip out there for a few hours to see what it was all about.

We parked our car and took off on a trail that we hoped would loop around the reservoir. It was a drizzly, wet morning and as we entered the woods, I started to hear the thrushes. Most of us, including myself, associate seagulls with the beach, but when I think of the beach, I also think of Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes. I hear them every summer when we stay for a few days at the coast. Their sound is everywhere here but views of them are fleeting. Searching for them by sound can be frustrating. I don’t have much luck.

We heard both Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes as we walked around the reservoir. Most birds in these woods seemed to prefer to remain hidden, their songs and soft alarm calls the only evidence we had that we weren’t alone. A pair of Black-Headed Grosbeaks were the only birds in the woods we were able to photograph. We heard their alarm calls and paused for a bit to try to find them in the dense cover. I had spotted what I thought was a nest and although they wouldn’t approach it while I watched, they wouldn’t leave the area either. We finally left them in peace to go about their day.

Although we weren’t able to photograph the thrushes in the woods, we enjoyed the walk and listening to their sweet music as we made our way around the trail. I was reminded to live in the moment and to enjoy what was in front of me instead of spending my time and energy frustrated by what wasn’t meant to be on this day at this time.

Later that afternoon, back at the rental house, a Swainson’s Thrush spent a few minutes on the back fence allowing us a pretty good view. What a lovely gift.

Big Creek Rd. Trail

Red Elderberry

Black-Headed Grosbeak


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A Day at the Beach

Hunting for agates when I’m at the beach is one of my favorite activities. I research the low tide times and then strategically plan to wake my family early enough to hopefully be on the beach hunting agates while the tide is still going out but not early enough that everyone is mad at me for the insanely premature wake-up call. Delivering a freshly brewed cup of coffee to a sleepy spouse and adult kids usually helps soften the blow a bit. If I am really trying to get in their good graces, I will even have breakfast prepared for them, too. Occasionally, I will go off on my own but learned a long time ago it’s not as much fun alone. Discovering a sparkly treasure hidden in the sand is meant to be shared with oohs and ahs seconds after unearthing it. Plus, it’s much easier to squat in the sand looking while someone else is holding the camera bag and binocs. Thank you, Tygh.

We spent a morning at Fogarty Creek State Park after chatting with some folks at Boiler Bay who recommended the park to us. I’ve lived in Oregon all my life and never stopped at this park. We have missed out. It’s much quieter than Beverly Beach, which has a campground attached to it. The park itself is beautiful and natural and wild. We saw and heard, but didn’t photograph, or photograph well anyway, Wilson’s Warblers, Purple Finches, Swallows, Northern Flicker’s, Swainson’s Thrushes, Junco’s, American Robins. Then there is Fogarty Creek that winds it’s way to the ocean from the park. It’s gravelly bed is an agate-hunter’s dream. I could have spent all day here.

Here’s a few pics from our morning at Fogarty Creek State Park.

Morning Haul

Water Skipper

Purple Finch?

Back to the Beach

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Where’s the Picnic?

Waiting for someone to show up with lunch…

Where's the Picnic?

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The Ant House

We are spending a few days at the beach.    Relaxing, walking, playing and maybe learning to ID a seagull or two…I think the ones pictured below are a Heermann’s Gull and Western Gull, second year.

We nicknamed the house we are staying at The Ant House a few years ago because of the carpenter ants that would literally drop from the ceilings onto our heads. It didn’t stop us from renting the place again…the backyard firepit and view are a bigger draw than the ants are a detraction.


Orange Star

Easy One

Ancient Stump



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