March 27, 2010: Funny how one thing can lead to another. Dale and I have been wandering/photographing in an almost empty campground for three hours. A mallard pair preened on an old log floating in the nearby pond; two cormorants perched high in a Sitka spruce; a great blue heron flew by and landed out of our range; a kingfisher just plain flew by. The little birds aren’t cooperative. The most exciting find was two rough-skinned newts. Pretty quiet.
Mid-afternoon we decide to try another area. While Dale rearranges gear in the car, I grab my sketchbook to finish a sketch of salal blossoms I started earlier in the morning. The buds closest to the car are still closed so I move around to the warmer, south side of the salal bush.
I spook a damselfly, the first of the season. But what kind? I put the sketchbook in the car and grab a camera.
I got pretty chilled this afternoon even though I have on a heavy shirt. Any hope of finding the damsel fly again will be in a sun-warmed spot. My first find is a garter snake sunning itself. Its bright red and yellow stripes flow and he slips under the leaf litter. Then I see a Pacific tree frog nestled on a salal leaf. He is a brilliant emerald green with a jewel-like gold and black eye. And there resting on another leaf, is my elusive damselfly. It’s a male. That’s good. Many of the females can only be identified with a hand lens. They are so tiny, long, and skinny that it is hard to get the whole 1.3 inches in focus. So I click on the whole damsel fly, then focus on its head and thorax for another shot, and finally on its tail for the cerci and paraprocts. That should do it.
I’m suddenly aware that this dense bush holds more than a tree fog and a damsel fly. At least two wrentits are very unhappy. They make far too much fuss for me to be the source of their concern.
Then I see IT! Sharp claws scrambling on bark make me look up. There, at eye level with me, is a pine martin (North American martin). He watches me and I watch him. What a treat. I take about a dozen photos before he zips down the tree. The bushes shake and rattle again for about a minute. I wait for another five minutes, but all is quiet.
I feel privileged to have now seen martins in the wild four times, once in Alaska, twice in Yellowstone, and now here, on the Oregon coast.
Once home we identified the damselfly as a swift forktail, Ischnura erratica – one of the earliest damselflies of springtime. The salal drawing will have to wait for another trip.
Swift forktail drawing done from my photos. Pen and ink plus watercolor.