Thursday, July 17, 2014

A New Egret Colony


This posting is my way of letting our local birds see Douglas County's first great egret colony.  Hopefully others will be interested too. Our help in this little project is a great example of how one can be a 'citizen scientist' without being formally signed up.
Most of the nests are clustered together.

Unless one looks at recent information on where great egrets nest in Oregon it'll probably show locations east of the Cascades. Any coastal colonies are well down in California.  Fortunately birds don't read books.  Close to thirty years ago great egrets started nesting in Coos County along the Oregon Coast.  This year exciting news came to Matt Hunter, the organizer of our local web site on Douglas County birds, www.umpquabirds.org.  Dan Karpa reported great egrets nesting with the double-crested cormorants on Bolon Island, just north of Reedsport, Oregon -- also along the Oregon Coast.  Matt let us know that the Fish and Wildlife Service would appreciate photographs verifying the egret nests.   

Most years taking photos of the colony would be an easy task:  just hike out on the Highway 101 bridge north of Reedsport and photograph.  But this year all pedestrian traffic is closed while they slowly work on bridge repairs.  We needed another way.  Dan kindly offered to take us out to the site in his boat, but before we connected with him we found a way to hike down to the river edge directly across from the colony.  Dan could have gotten us closer, but photograhing from shore probably worked better because we were shooting from solid ground. 
 
Adult and three nestlings.
The cormorant colony on Bolon Island is a striking sight.  Several years of nest have killed most of the trees currently being used by the birds.  At this time of year the bushes beneath these snags are well frosted with whitewash.  The cormorants stick out like little black dots all over the colony.  I didn't count but my very rough guess is at least 60 nests. 

And one tree has white dots instead of black.  At least seven, probably 8-10, egret nests are clustered together amongst the cormorant nests.  They are nesting lower that most of cormorants and visible from the bridge as one drives by.  Both the egret and the cormorant nestlings are quite large at this time of year.  Some might have fledged already.
A different angle of the main nest tree.  This view shows two nest on the upper left side.

Looking carefully at our photos we found three more nests over to the right.  Those adults might still be incubating.  I wish the site was a little closer so we could see the details better. 



This is the second nest tree.  We photographed it thinking there was one nest, but then found two more when we looked at our images.  These birds might still be incubating.
I did a little reading at Cornell's site.  Great egrets usually have from 1 to 6 nestlings.  It takes about 100 days from egg laying to fledgling.  For awhile young birds return to the nest for feeding.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I've Been Busy!

Blackberry Blossom ... field sketch
This is a very quick blog post to let you all know I've been busy, having a hard time finding time to write.  I guess I should confess and admit I finally got a bee in my bonnet to sort though a lot of STUFF that has been accumulating.  Life was simpler when we got transferred every 2 or 3 years.  Now we've lived in one spot for over 30 years.  Oh my gosh!  all the stuff we've accumulated.
Gorse and Shore Pine -- field sketch from along the Coquille River last spring
Magpie in Yellowstone 
But I do try to find time to do a little art no matter how busy I am.  I feel as though I get rust in my veins if I don't pick up a brush or at least a pen on a regular basis.
These are all painted about the size of a post card..... fun to paint.  And most are field sketches like this daisy and butterfly painted at Sough Sough Reserve.
This one I did spent more time on.  Our daughter and her husband recently bought a 'transit van', a small utility van.  They've fixed it up for camping trips and quick day trips out into nature.  On their first trip out they went to a nearby lake and heard a loon, a barred owl and a kingfisher -- a good omen for future trips!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Yellowstone Part III: Marmots and Moose

Yellow-bellied Marmot
The last two weeks of April in Yellowstone feel more like late winter than spring.   Gradually the snow pack melts and ponds have more and more water around their edges.  Several species of birds arrived early:  many species of ducks, sandhill cranes, robins, mountain bluebirds, Townsends solitaires. Other birds are just arriving in late April:  ruby-crowned kinglets, swallows, more ducks, and a few hardy shorebirds.  Many of the spring birds will wait another month:  western tanagers, most of the warblers, flycatchers.


By most people’s standards we arrive too early.  But we like the solitude that comes with our early arrival and is all too elusive later on.  Plus watching spring unfold is a treat.  Both Dale and I grew up in Wisconsin.  I may not miss all those months of winter, but I do appreciate a nice taste of winter when we first arrive in Yellowstone. 

I always feel as though the first marmot I spot is the first one out of hibernation, but in my heart I know theyve been poking their heads out on nice days before we arrive.  Our first sighting was on April 16.  Two marmots were sitting on a tumble of rocks just west of Blacktail Loop Rd.  I caught the near one grooming and he froze -- Maybe she didnt see me. Im of the philosophy that many critters relax more quickly if it is obvious I am in a mellow mood . So I sing. Ive got a tin ear, but the marmots dont seem to mind. They peered down at me from their rocky abode and pretty soon were looking happy again.  So far the marmots have avoided getting their toes in the snow, so they must just pop out of the rocks for a look-about.  As soon as there is a little grass along the roadside, theyll be scurrying for safety when we drive by.  
Another treat that same day is the moose gods were kind to us.  The marshy willow patch just above Phantom Lake has been harboring a cow moose and two calves.  We wonder if the smaller is a yearling and the larger possibly a two year old.  The size difference could just be the difference between their sexes.  The boy calf is much larger.

I spotted one as we drove by.  We turned around and found a place to park.  Soon I saw the second, and then Mama came out of the woods.  The three browsed on clumps of willow that are scattered though out the marsh.  The moose never browsed one willow for very long.  They wandered from one to another, sometimes getting quite close to us.  I could dear twigs crunching as they chewed  and could even hear quiet talking between them.  They sort of mumble to each other.

Sometimes the crust held the moose and sometimes they broke through.  They crunched and munched for at least an hour.  Finally Mama and the girl calf lay down and the boy calf kept on grazing.