Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Sketching Along the Coquille River

This will be a short blog ... a peek in my sketchbooks from a wonderful day along the Coquille River.  I’ll type the text basically as found in my journal, along with the art.  Only the first pileated woodpecker was drawn on location.  I juggled my sketchbook, binoculars, and camera in order to get him fairly well penciled.  Then I finished him at home.  That evening I sketched the rest of the drawings from the images we took that day. ..... such a nice day!

Nov 2:   To the coast....

Beautiful, beautiful fall days this past week – freezing nights and clear skies.  But we’ve been stuck home while our new windows get put in.  Today is Saturday and we have more nice weather ahead of us.  

Sturdivant Park, Coquille River, Coquille:  I walked to the river bank and thought I heard a pileated calling.  Found him on a small alder a little downriver ... just close enough I am sure it is a pileated!  Don’t see those often.  Always exciting.  I think there are two down there, but maybe the second is a Stellar’s jay.  Just too far away.

But then, with lots of calling, the pileated wings his way upriver and lands on a large alder across from me.  When the sun catches his red crest, it almost looks florescent. 
The pileated lands fairly low – just above the thick blackberry bushes lining the river.  He inspects here and there and then starts to pound.  Sunshine catches golden wood chips floating down.  When he moves to the far side of the tree, his hammering reassures me he is still there.  Three or four little birds (kinglets?  chickadees?) come over, perhaps hoping then can grab a morsel. 

We watch for nearly an hour.  He is still hard at work on the same tree when we leave. 
Coquille River, near the mouth of the river:  The western grebe looks sound asleep, yet every so often, head still tucked, he paddles furiously against the current – back to where he started, then bobs gently as the river gradually floats him downstream.  Over an over again.  It is a young grebe – grey, not black and white. 

Usually I’m not quite so close to a pelagic cormorant.  With binoculars I see he has a suggestion of alizarin, blue, and green iridescence.

We found the otter in Seven Mile Slough, part of the Coquille River, near the coast.  No place to park, so we turned around and came back, camera ready.  The buffleheads hugging the far shore and on high alert told me exactly where to find the otter again.  He spooked the buffleheads.  Soon found a crayfish to munch on. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Enjoying the High Country

Crater Lake National Park

After two exceptionally smoky falls, we are having an absolutely wonderful fall.  Rains came early, enough so that the woods were moist and green through September.  Some falls it gets so dry we hardly dare breath for fear a fire will start.  Sorry ..... but living in the West has made me very fire conscious the past few years.  As I write this, California is in the throes of wildfire misery.

Since I drew the wasp and ruffed grouse we have made eight more day trips into the Cascades, including two all the way to Crater Lake National Park.  We enter the park from the North Entrance. ... and are immediately reminded of the fires from recent past summers.  New lodgepoles are already popping up in the stark forest.  Lodgepoles have special fire resistance cones, just waiting for the heat of the next wildfire to release their seeds.  Recovery will be slow at this high elevation, but it will happen.  Fortunately for us most of Crater Lake’s wildfires were far from the road.

One short stretch has an amazing collection of burls.  Every time I go buy I itch to sketch them.  Now that the fire has swept through I can see even more of them.  I’ve tried to find out the cause but even park officials are not sure .... a fungus? ...  an insect infestation?  Whatever the cause, we find a few here and there, and lots in an area about one half mile long.

For Dale and me, one of the big draws of Crater Lake N.P. is hoping to find a pika.  ( See my blogpost:  http://elvafieldnotes.blogspot.com/2014/10/where-are-pikas.html).  

Here are my notes for September 25:

We’re up at Crater Lake for the day .. clear blue sky, pleasant in the sunshine; cool in the shade.  We eat lunch at our ‘pika spot.’  We didn’t hear or see one all during lunch, but then I walked out and sat on a sun-warmed boulder, and sang ‘Ten Little Indians.’  (Sometimes I sing while waiting, hoping to convince the critters around me that all is well.)  One did scold, but I guess he didn’t like my singing. 

Later I walk to the next opening and see two – but far off.
But at the next opening I spot one near the road!  He is scampering with a big elderberry frond.  I can even see his haystack tucked under a large boulder.  At first he just wants to sit and inspect us, but soon he dares harvest another mouthful of greenery.  Trip after trip.  So cooperative!  He lets out a whistle when a noisy vehicle drives by, but is soon back to work. 

We photographed until the light dims and then drive up into the sunlight on the rim. 
Heading home we see this raven perched on a wisp of a snag right on the rim of Crater Lake’s caldera.