Saturday, July 21, 2012

Whistler's Bend

 Whistler's Bend, Douglas County, Oregon, USA

Dale and I often sit in one spot for hours ... but usually because we watching a specific wildlife event, or at least waiting for something specific.  A few days ago we spent a delicious, long day in one spot, but with no real agenda on our minds.  We headed out early to meet friends.  Weather reports sounded as though we’d be roasting by mid afternoon and ready to head home.  
But the weatherman is far from perfect!  It was deliciously cool all morning.  The sun didn’t come out until noon.  Meanwhile we our friends, Norma and Scott, were there ahead of us.  A few photographs got taken, Norma and I painted, but mostly we talked and talked ... and talked.  We did move from one picnic table to the next to keep in the shade.

Of course a few things caught our attention during the day.  When we first arrived two bald eagles perched across the river from us.  
The eagles soon left but before long we spotted a great blue heron, also across the river.  Unless he was temporarily behind a rock, the heron was in sight for the rest of the day -- Norma and I both painted him.  Part of the  day he slowly stalked prey along the river edge.  Twice he had long sessions of preening.  Herons are unusual in that they have a ‘pectinated’ middle toe nail.   Big word.  It means the edge of the middle toe nail has a comb-like serrated edge, enough to enhance their grooming abilities, but not so serrated as to actually cut.  Someday I hope to see this serrated edge for myself.  At least I found an excellent photo on some else’s blog:

Another pleasant visitor was a gangly group of large common merganser chicks.  Their bodies were nearly full sized, yet they still didn’t have any decent flight feathers on their wings.  At this stage of life they are already masters of their watery world.  Lots of busy feeding  in the swift, but shallow  water; then a cozy nap on a nearby rock. 

Our last find was a beautiful beetle.  It was only about half an inch long, but its iridescent greens and reds more than made up for its size.  Even its underbelly was a coppery bronze.  Once we got home Norma had him identified before I even had time to wonder -- it is a metallic wood borer, also known as a Buprestid beetle.  There are several species of metallic wood borers.  Ours is probably a Buprestis aurulenta.  It’s a common insect found in forests of the Northwest.    The adults eat Douglas fir needles and lay their eggs in bark crevices.  The tiny grubs that hatch out usually take ‘a few years’ to mature, but under less than ideal conditions, such as in the wood of a picture frame or a rafter, they may even take 40 years to mature and one web site says even 50 years!  
Several time in my life I’ve had wood boring beetles invite themselves into my home, but the one that brings a smile to my face are the ones that came out of a madrone cane my husband, Dale, made and my father, Hammy, used.  Dale figures he cut the madrone at least five years before Hammy used the cane.  Then, during the brief period my father needed a cane, Hammy noticed a couple little piles of saw dust when he left the cane overnight.... and then he saw a black beetle.  We hurried up the emergence of the rest of the beetles by ‘ginning’ them, i.e. we put little drops of gin down their holes.  Sure enough!  Out came a couple more black beetles.  

That fond memory was the last nature encounter I had with my father.


  1. WONDERFUL PAINTING. I just love Herons. I came to see the painting and got hooked on your story. Loved the story about the beetle in the madrone stick. That's a very hard wood too. Amazing creatures.

  2. I enjoy your photos and your paintings. A nice day sitting in one place!

  3. Fabulous day! Excited about upcoming Africa trip, but doubt if any of those days will be able to top our fun with you and Dale. Your knowledge and enthusiasm are infectious. Big thanks for your time! Love how our beetle brought back the story with your father. Truly amazing to think they can live so long let alone inside a hunk of wood.

  4. I always love seeing your work. Are you a member of WSO?