Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Olympic Peninsula


As Malcolm posted earlier, we traveled to Northwestern Washington over the last (extended) weekend. We stayed in a house in Port Angeles and had an excellent time exploring and hiking the beautiful landscape. For a couple of nights after Abi went to sleep, Malcolm and I went down to the pier and Ediz Hook to enjoy the sunset and for Malcolm to get some extra birding in. Here are some views from those outings:


The first day we went to Cape Flattery, which included a nice hike down to the waterfront. Cape Flattery, Neah Bay, WA is the Northwesternest most point in the continental US. Pretty cool! Here are some pics of the rocky shore and seastacks:

HURRICANE RIDGE: Olympic National Park

The second day we went to Hurricane Ridge just north of Port Angeles in Olympic National Park. I have to say I was less then enthused to start the trail to the top of Hurricane was uphill for over a mile. Hmmm, didn't sound like fun to me :) But we went and it was wonderful and we were treated to a mountain goat at the very top and end of the trail.

HOH RAINFOREST, Olympic National Park, WA:

On Sunday, we went to Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, which included a drive through Forks, for all you Twilight fans. (Tonight is Eclipse movie night, yeah!) The trees were so amazing there and it was just awesome walking through all the moss covered trees. I think I could have spent the day there with my camera and taken a zillion pictures. Instead, we enjoyed a nice hike, which included seeing the winter wrens that Malcolm posted about, up close and personal.


See the ship in the background horizon? I really enjoyed all the ships going through the strait, I find it absolutely amazing that man can build these HUGE ships that travel the ocean.


Yesterday, Malcolm unexpectedly had the afternoon free as the boys' fishing trip got cancelled when the starter on the boat went out, so Malcolm and I ran up to the Columbia River Gorge for a peaceful drive and went to the waterfalls.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Trip Bird Report: Day 6 through 10

After sleeping in Thursday morning we, my sister and her husband and ten month old as well as my wife and I, piled into a rented Camry and drove to Port Angeles in northwest Washington. We had wonderful days on the Strait and in Olympic NP overall. The first night in Port Angeles I saw Pigeon Guillemot, Glaucous Gulls, and Pelagic Cormorants at the City Pier. We would see these birds every day while up there, but the first time seeing any bird is exciting.

On Friday we drove to Neah Bay to hike Cape Flattery, which is the most northwest corner of the continental US. On the drive west and at the Cape we saw a sea otter, sea lions, seals, but no whales on the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. In addition to the scenic sea stacks and Tatoosh Island at Cape Flattery I saw life birds Brandt's Cormorants, Northwestern Crows, Black Oystercatchers, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelet, and Rhinoceros Auklet. While all of the life birds were great to watch, perhaps the most entertaining were the five Peregrine Falcons and their Pigeon Guillemot meal.

Friday night Christine and I drove down Ediz Hook, a man made sand spit with lighthouse and Coast Guard station in Port Angeles. We saw Harlequin Ducks in addition to more Brandt's Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Pelagic Cormorants, and Pigeon Guillemot.

On Saturday we visited the farmer's market in Port Angeles and hiked Hurricane Hill Trail on Hurricane Ridge. Marmots, Black-tailed Deer, and a very patient Mountain Goat graced our hike in addition to Vaux's Swifts, Ravens, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and 'Oregon' Dark-Eyed Juncos. Sunday we visited Hoh Rain Forest, with singing Winter Wrens we hiked among the moss covered trees and ferns.

Monday we checked out of the rental house and walked a bit on the Spit in Dungeness NWR. The overcast weather and wind, as well as season, did not yield the large potential of birds that can be found on the spit. None the less I still added Western Sandpiper, Western Gull, and Pacific Loon to my life list. After the hike I talked with a refuge employee and I would have never imagined the potential for winter birding on the Spit, the Brandt supposedly left in April.

Along the drive back and forth from Port Angeles and Oregon City I identified a Great Egret and a group of Brandt along the sound. Both would have been outside of the norms for the region and I did not ask the car to stop to satisfy my birding curiosity and verify the 60 mph identification.

Trip Bird Report: Day 3, 4 and 5

After the awesome birding photo extravaganza at Bowdoin NWR, we slowed down our shutters for a while. Monday morning as we drove toward the east entrance of Glacier the weather turned from sunny to overcast and rainy. I'm not sure how much Christine will post on these couple of days, so I am including a few of her scenic pictures along with the birds.

We started at Many Glacier, stopping at the lodge to scope the Bighorn Sheep. On the drive out I heard a loud bird sound that I did not recognize, so of course we stopped and were rewarded with wonderful views of a MacGillivray's Warbler. The only road through Glacier NP, Going to the Sun road, was closed but we decided to drive in from the east entrance as far as possible anyways. I'm glad we did as we found both a Ferruginous Hawk and a Rufous Hummingbird, both life birds for me. The rain intensified as we drove around to the west entrance and we ditched the plan to camp in the park. Instead we kept on down the road, heading toward Rainier NP with the extra day.

Monday night we stopped at Kootenai Falls in Idaho along Highway 2, as the rain had stopped at it was time for a small hike. Chestnut-backed Chickadee's greeted us on our walk in as well! We safely braved a suspension bridge which tested both of our bellies. We drove until 10 pacific time, which ended 19 hours of driving that day, when we arrived at a hotel in Spokane WA for the night. We were generously upgraded to a hot tub suite and slept in before heading out Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning we stopped at Turnbill NWR finding life Pygmy Nuthatches, American Bittern, and Red-napped Sapsucker. We continued on to Rainier NP and arrived around 7pm. We quickly set up camp and headed to Paradise for sunset. Along the way we found Steller's Jays, Gray Jays, Sooty Grouse, and 'silver phase' Red Foxes. The sunset was nice and we took a few scenic pictures as well.

On Wednesday we drove from Rainier to the Silver Lake Mt St Helens Visitor Center. Walking around the mile trail I saw Vaux's Swifts, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Bewick Wrens for the first time. We also did the auto loop at Ridgefield NWR before heading to Portland. We did not see any new life birds at Ridgefield, but a Cinnamon Teal posed for Christine.

As we pulled into Aubrey and Steve's Oregon City residence we saw a western scrub jay hopping around. Life birds everywhere!!! After sleeping in Thursday morning we packed up and headed to Olympic NP, which was awesome.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trip Bird Report: Day 1 and 2

We are now five days into the trip, having arrived at Steven and Aubrey's place in Oregon City last night. The miles are piling up quickly, but luckily we have been able to make frequent stops to bird, see life birds (*), take pictures, or stretch the legs.

On Saturday we left Staples MN and headed west, stopping first at Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central ND. The overcast weather made picture taking tough, but we did see Western Grebes, an Eared Grebe, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a Willet*, and Marbled Godwit* among others. With rain starting after an hour of walking we headed toward Teddy Roosevelt National Park (NP) where we camped for the night.

We drove into Roosevelt NP campground late, having little time to bird afterward. We did however have a nice chat with a few birders, getting a suggestion for finding a Rock Wren as well as other birds of the park. The next morning we awoke to heavy fog and headed out for the loop and a couple of hikes. The hikes came up empty on any targeted bird, but luckily we found a Rock Wren*, Lazuli Buntings*, Vesper Sparrows, Mountain Bluebirds, Spotted Towhees*, Yellow-breasted Chats*, Western Meadowlarks, Western Wood-Pewees and others in the park.

We also saw other animals, including a strange Mule Deer sighting in Roosevelt NP. After a lovely morning we packed up and headed toward Bowdoin NWR on Highway 2 in north central Montana. Luckily we avoided the Billings tornadoes by heading north also.

At Bowdoin NWR we saw up close views of many gorgeous birds. The auto loop is takes you through the property and took us about four and a half hours to complete. We saw American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Marbled Godwit, Grasshopper Sparrows, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, White-faced Ibises*, a Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-billed Magpies, Willets, Wilson's Phalaropes, and others. This was a truly wonderful drive with a great many photo opportunities. Some of the pictures are below from Bowdoin.

After spending most of the afternoon and evening at Bowdoin NWR we did not make it to Glacier that night, rather we found a rest area and slept in the car. Day 3 and beyond bird posts will come later.

Miles, Miles, Miles

So, we have finally arrived at Aubrey's in Oregon as of last night. It is a LONG way here to drive, but we have had a good trip, with almost perfect weather and lots of beautiful scenery and new birds.

Our first day we took off in the late morning and made it to Long Lake Reserve in ND and then Teddy Roosevelt National Park in the evening to camp. WE camped in the valley and when we arrived in the campground there were 3 wild horses right on the road or nearby. Also, lots of Western kingbirds, which I don't think I've ever seen, they are much more pretty than the Eastern Kingbirds we have. Our campsite was right near the river and was in our opinion the best campsite in the campground. Though, we figure no one else wanted due to the large amount of 'dung' from some large animal that was in the site:) When we woke up in the morning, unfortunately a bird decided to wake us up very noisely! But that allowed us to get up and get going. The valley was thickly covered in fog, so we could see a ton of birds and no pictures in the campground, but once we got to a little higher elevation we could finally see better. Malcolm, I am sure will post on all the birds we saw, so will mostly not blog about those. The view was spectacular as we drove around the park as the canyons were partially covered with the fog that was slowly rising and moving through them. It was awesome. I didn't get great pictures as when we went for a walk I forgot to grab the wide angle lens and only had my 80-400mm birding lens. Which doesn't quite get the whole effect.

Oh, and check out this next picture...what is this deer doing? Deer don't poop standing up, right?? So is he just sitting there, resting?? We were lost, but had to take the picture so if anyone can enlighten us, that would be cool :)

We saw various herds of the wild horses and I took a couple pictures of a foal and a particularly gorgeous black horse.

On to Montana, for our next blog...stay tuned!

Oh and, Aubrey, Steven, and Abi and Malcolm and I are on our way to north-western Washington in a few hours, it should be awesome!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Park Pictures

Here are a few pictures from this past week at Wildwood Park and the Dragon Playground.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Date Night at the Duck Pond

Last night we paid a babysitter for the third time since moving to Marshfield. A lady I work with excitedly agreed to watch the girls, and was wonderful with them even getting them to sleep before I write Danielle is still awake at 8!

Maybe it is age or perhaps it is just our personality, but Chris and I went to the Wildwood Park ponds and watched Wood Ducks, Mallards, Canada Geese, a Great Blue Heron, and a Cormorant while eating sub sandwiches. The highlight was a mother Wood Duck and her seven little ones that came within 25 feet of where we ate. Of course Christine was ready with the camera! The weather and company was wonderful!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pony Rides and another toy

This past weekend was Dairy Fest in Marshfield. We went with the intentions of letting the girls see the animals, which is always a highlight for all of us. We were completely shocked that the only animals there were the people dressed up as cows, dogs on leashes, and the ponies. Luckily the girls, all three, like pony rides.

I've been looking for a spotting scope since last fall. Christine gave me the go ahead to make the decision on my own, and I finally found a Swarovski for the right price and it showed up this weekend as well. I really wanted one to take with on the trip to look for animals in Glacier and look at shorebirds in Dakotas. Who knows, maybe we'll even get a picture with it or see a pelagic bird while visiting Aubrey and Steve.

A Swarovski AT-80

TSL-800 Adaptor turns the scope into a 800mm F10 lens

A very fine tripod indeed

We took the scope and adaptor to Wildwood Park to test it out. The view in the scope is almost as good at 60 power as it is at 20, which is wickedly awesome. I think the photo adaptor will be a thorn in my side however, as I had a great admiration to individuals that take excellent pictures through these things. After trying it once with the adaptor, which I have read to be easier to use than with a separate camera through the lens, I now believe they are amazing. I took many of a close stationary Great Blue Here and they were definitely less than ideal!