Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back to the Coast

 We’ve been back to the Oregon Coast twice since we saw thousands of sooty shearwaters on Sept 12.  Lots of shearwaters still being seen along the north coast, but not where we go on the central coast.  Ah well, treats like that don’t come along every day.  

Meanwhile a trip to the Coast never fails to be enjoyable.  September 12 was sunny, cool and a brisk breeze blew most of the day.  The fifteenth was a much mellower day:  first cloudy, then sunny for about an hour and then early fog rolled in completely erasing what I was drawing.  We picked up fish and chips and drove inland about five miles to the Dean Creek Elk Refuge. 
 Here are my elk notes:  

I just had fish and chips from Ungers with 14 bull elk and Dale.  We are obviously looking at the ‘wanna-be’ club, i.e. the bulls that haven’t been able to gather a harem.  As we ate we watched several half-hearted sparring matches, some grazing, some resting, and one bull did a through job of urinating on his long neck hairs before heading off in the direction of another bull’s harem.  Why do cow elk find stinky bulls attractive?  

After eating, we drive on down the valley to park on the roadside and watch a bull tending his harem.  This is a handsome fellow.  His dark rack with light tips is the biggest of the racks we’ve seen this evening.  Both the bull and his cows look sleek and athletic.  His has about 20 cows bunched in a meadow.  

He was slightly off to the side when we parked, but soon lowers his neck, tips back his antlers and flehmulates (flehmening = a deer or elk peeling back his upper lip and sniffing the air to see if a female is in estrus).  The bull picks up speed and enters his herd of cows.  

Lots of sniffing, but none of the cows seem ready.  

This end of the valley has long been darkened by shadows.  In the distance sunlight is just leaving the last bit of meadow.  Night will soon take over.  Time for us to head home.

September 19
Mellow, grey day on the Oregon Coast.  The weatherman promised a sunny afternoon, but he was just pulling our leg.  Still, it’s very pleasant.  No wind.  Even though visibility is decent a foghorn blows long, low blasts.  

While we eat lunch (fish and chips again), one immature gull waits patiently.  As soon as I feed him a couple of French fries, his companions fly over.  

This adult called and strutted and tried to convince the others that all handouts should be his.  All his posturing doesn’t keep me from tossing fries to everyone.  

When we run out of food for the gulls, all but two fly back to their central-waiting-area, a good spot from which they can watch for any humans with food.  The two gulls near us plop down on their bellies and digest.  
(end of journal notes)

I was lucky.  I gulped my food down -- yummy -- and started drawing.  Our friend Eleanor ate slowly and Dale fell asleep after his fish and chips.  I drew all three sketches before Eleanor and Dale were ready to move on.  .... Well, I did finish the crosshatching later.  

1 comment:

  1. OH WOW Elva What a wonderful photo of that Elk. and the drawings too. What a fun trip you had. Great sightings. I have never been to the coast there when there wasn't a cold fog.