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Empty Nest

July 20, 2017

Empty Nest….a phrase with multiple meanings, but in my case quite literally.

I followed seven raptor nests from birth (incubation) until graduation (fledge) this season.  An arduous task barely completed, but I’m ready to show you my journey.

I followed three Red-tailed Hawk nests, (Nest #1, Nest #2 and Nest #3)

…a Great Horned Owl, (link to post here)

…Prairie Falcon triplets (link to post here),

…Peregrine Falcon triplets  (link to post here),

…and a Bald Eagle (link to post here).

I’ve followed nests before, but not this consistently or with as much determination; and never from beginning until end.  I did a ‘nest check’ every 4 to 5 days in the beginning, then every 3 to 4, then 2 to 3 days until the raptors were close to fledging when I checked every other day….and sometimes every day!

Starting mid to late March with a couple of nests, I picked up more as I went along.  My last day was July 4th when the Bald Eaglet fledged (I now call him ‘Freedom’, of course!)  Some days I shot thousands of photos, some days only a few, depending on circumstances at each nest site.

What got me started you ask?  I participate in a raptor survey each winter for East Cascades Audubon Society.  This winter I noticed empty nests through branches of deciduous trees and decided to keep my eye on them.  I also noticed a Prairie Falcon perched at the opening of a ‘stick’ nest high on a cliff that was likely occupied by Ravens last season.  A couple of people gave me leads for other nests when they heard about my project and I followed up on those.  Only one location was on private land and I’m grateful for owner permission to enter that gate.

Special thanks to mentor cjflick on this project.  She showed me many historical falcon sites and while together one day, we observed Peregrine Falcons flying into a known location that was formerly a Red-tailed Hawk nest.  She is also instrumental in my education as I travel through this wondrous adventure, always available for my many questions!

Also thanks to Rowena Wildlife Clinic who I called on several heartbreaking occasions.  Leigh put my mind at rest, told me what to expect and how to handle what I observed in the morning before most of my friends were even out of bed.

If you want to learn more about these amazing raptors there are many sources.  I used Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds,  The Crossley ID Guide, took a fabulous Raptor ID class from Dick Ashford at Winter Wings, followed up with many questions to mentors cjflick and others; and chased down each bit of information I came across.  I’ve learned much, but mostly learned I still have much to learn.

I tell the story of each nest as I lived the adventure.  I tend to personify or anthropomorphize so forgive me if I call ‘my raptors’ he or she, Mom or Dad; or even suggest a human relationship action that may not be accurate in the real world of raptors.  I appreciate corrections for any mistakes, comments, and additions that you care to give.

Just so you know, I use a 150 to 600 mm zoom lens and my photos are all cropped.  Most of my nests were photographed from my car without disturbing the raptors in any way.   It’s unethical to bait, lure, flush or otherwise disturb wildlife and in some situations illegal … especially when nesting or raising young.  I also don’t use bird calls from my phone apps to lure or engage.  My goal in this series of posts is to share the stages of each nest with the hope of educating and building respect for these creatures that we share the planet with.

All my photos are now loaded, I simply have to add written content…a task that would be so much easier if I could read my notes.  And if I’d dated my notes.  And if I hadn’t let them get rained on….you get the gist!

 

 


I spent two glorious days at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, thanks to Julee at Mt Adams Lodge for inviting me to lead a group of people on a bird walk.

It felt delicious to catch a sunrise without rolling out of bed at 3am to arrive in time.

During my preview tour of the refuge, I spotted a trio of Northern Harrier Fledglings.

It was delightful watching them practice take-off and landing in a field off Laurel Road.

On my preview and the walking tour, we found Four-Spot Skimmers ~ no they are not birds, but wonderful creatures with wings.

There were plenty of Western Bluebirds actively feeding families in nest boxes.

A few Western Kingbirds could be seen on fence and utility wires.

A Hairy Woodpecker high in a snag.  We decided he was still learning the ways of the world as he scrambled his way to the top.

American Kestrel on a wire off the main highway.

Bunny Rabbit!!!

Western Meadowlarks were plentiful, I love their song.

We heard Sandhill Cranes, but they didn’t venture close to us.

Cliff Swallow fledglings begged for food from their parents and each other.

Saw a herd of Rocky Mountain Elk shortly after sunrise while driving around the refuge before our after-breakfast-bird-walk.

Ruffled feathers on this Western Bluebird from feeding all his babies?!!

Tri-colored Blackbird sitting on a refuge sign begged to have his portrait taken.

I found Fireweed in several spots around the refuge, Community Forests and Mt Adams Lodge.

I’m not quite comfortable identifying warblers, but I am pretty sure this IS a warbler!

There were Mariposa Lilies growing in several spots.

Eastern Kingbirds were in their ‘usual locations’ on the refuge.

Another Western Meadowlark singing for me.

Common Yellowthroats were also seen in several places on the refuge and beyond.

Red-winged Blackbird mom heading back to her nest to feed the kids.

I found Common Paintbrush in a couple of spots on Kreps Road.

Lucky me to see this deer with TRIPLETS!  I could not stop and grab my camera fast enough!!  Glad no one was behind me on the road!!

I have a great butterfly book, but I couldn’t find this butterfly in it.  If you know the identity, please share!

I happened upon this Twelve-spot Skimmer!

I was given a lead that this Western Wood Pewee had a nest near the viewing platform on the Willard Springs Trail but no one in my group could find it.  He entertained us as we searched for his nest with our binoculars.

Spotted a few Dark-eyed Juncos during our walk.

An unidentifiable (to me) hummingbird resting as we hiked by.

Late in the afternoon this Tiger Lily glowed against the dark forest background.

An American Robin watched us watching him as we walked the trail.

This Red-breasted Sapsucker fledgling was so cute but alas wasn’t there when I took the group back to his neighborhood.

Yet another Four-spot Skimmer ~ aren’t they beautiful?!!  They were a golden glow in sunlight.

Tree Swallows are in many of the nest boxes along the Willard Springs Trail.

Group photo taken by Carya Meacham Bair from the bird walk event sponsored by Mt Adams Lodge.

I think a Sunset over Mt Adams on the refuge is a good closing photo.  A fabulous time was had by all!

My next several posts will spotlight a major undertaking that used ALL my time this spring and early summer.  I can’t wait to share it with you, but will take some time to organize my thoughts and photos….stay tuned!

Yes, its June, but I’m playing ‘catch-up’ today and I wanted to ‘plug’ an upcoming event!!  I’m leading a bird walk at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge thanks to an invitation from Julee at Mt Adams Lodge!  Saturday, July 1st right after breakfast at the Lodge.  Hope you can join me!

Thanks to a lead that Pintail Ducks were at ‘Pintail Lake’ I went up to the refuge in spite of the dark & dreary April day.

Lucky me, I found a huge herd of ELK.  I counted over 40!

Later that morning I saw the herd running through a marshy field while I searched for Sandhill Cranes.

The raven looked very black against a gray sky…wouldn’t a BLUE sky have been better??!!!

Red-winged blackbirds are so melodious, I love them and they were everywhere!

I also found a pile of snakes!  This one let me grab his portrait.

 

Swallows were building nests underneath a bridge.

Brewer’s Blackbird…

Northern Flicker….

Western Meadowlark….

I was surprised to find a Wilson’s Snipe!

And some birds we could see on our July 1st birdwalk, that I’ve seen during this time of year:  Yellow-headed Blackbird

Spotted Sandpiper

Eastern Kingbird

Western Tanager

Sandhill Crane

Cedar Waxwing

Maybe we’ll see dragonflies!  I know we’ll see a lot more than I’ve shown you here.  Join me!!   Mt Adams Lodge Saturday July 1st right after breakfast in Glenwood WA, at the base of Mt Adams!

No experience necessary, just your curiosity, willingness to take a walk looking for birds in a beautiful place.  Binoculars &/or your camera are good things to have with you.

 

 

 

Spring has been an amazing adventure that I can’t wait to tell you about, but first I want to finish this series from Klamath Falls…….After our last Winter Wings organized field trip, refreshed, refueled and nourished, my friend Nancy and I headed back to Lower Klamath NWR to see what we could find.

Such an amazing place…the East Cascades Audubon Raptor Survey coordinator told me that I’d want to live there after experiencing it.

He was partly right.  I can see that I’d be at the refuge constantly!

There were ducks and geese in every waterway we drove by…

It was fun to watch this set of Northern Shovelers taking off…

…and fly right in front of us….

…only to land even closer to us!  Aren’t they an interesting duck?   One of my faves.

Ruddy Ducks are so fascinating with those beautiful blue bills.

We also saw more Pintails close to the road as well as Buffleheads, Wigeons, and so many more.

We saw Northern Harriers everywhere…..

We stopped at the owl nest that Dick Ashford took us to and we found Mama sitting on the nest but could not see Papa anywhere.

We watched this Rough-legged Hawk for a little while….

…until he took off to grab a snack.

Not sure what he found, but we left him in peace to enjoy it!

My friend & I stayed to shoot the sunset, but alas it wasn’t as spectacular as the rest of our day had been.  Still, it’s a beautiful place with much to see.

The end of another fabulous day on a National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Oregon….

Mother’s Day Tribute

May 13, 2017

Happy Mother’s Day to all who make a difference in a young life.

This year I want to acknowledge and pay homage to all our younger Mothers.

We typically honor those who raised us and rightfully so but each year I marvel at what good Moms my daughters and their friends are.

They are raising kind, honest, and intelligent children who will go out and live authentically in our world.

My daughters are raising their children to be thoughtful and considerate of others….

…yet able to stand their ground on issues important to them.

I so admire their strength in not giving in to toddler or teenager tantrums.

Instead they’ve been incredible at redirecting focus.

I’ve learned so much from them and admire their parenting skills.

My collective grandchildren will be an amazing group of individuals thanks to their Mothers (and Fathers).

Maybe it takes a village, but it starts with a Mom and Dad.

I share these photos of parents and children in their environment in honor of Moms everywhere….

…especially young Moms ~ they deserve applause and gratitude.

Wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to my daughters, my surrogate daughters, and your daughters.

I love, admire and cherish you…..and am forever singing your praises, xoxoxoxo

Sunday, the last day of Winter Wings Festival, we woke at 4am to heavy snowfall with 4″ built up in the parking lot.

It was cold, dark and early but we headed over to the OIT to catch our ride for the last event my friend & I signed up for, “Call of the Wildfowl” with Jim Szemenyei.

After discussion about weather and road conditions, only 5 of us decided to go on our field trip to Lower Klamath NWR in the heavy snow.

We let our bus driver off the hook and drove slowly down the highway in Karl’s 4WD.

Because we were late, I watched a magnificent sunrise from the backseat, and as we arrived waterfowl were already bustling about their day.  (Lucky me to see my first Eurasion Wigeon pair!)

I must say this was one of the most amazing nature scenes I’ve ever witnessed……

….for hours and hours.

It was cold and windy but the sun peeked out from behind clouds off and on all morning.

Each time an eagle flew overhead a giant flock of birds would take off, fly across the marsh and land at a nearby section.  Swans, geese, ducks, blackbirds, all taking off at once amidst a cacophony of calls.

Jim, our guide let us know Pintails are his favorite duck so I snapped a few shots for him.

I’d not seen a Greater White-fronted Goose before.

Did I mention the noise?  It was incredible.  Like being in our own PBS nature show.

An American Wigeon flew oh so close to us.

Another herd of Pintails….yes, I know they are not herds, hahaha.

As the morning progressed more Tundra Swans flew overhead.

Snow Geese were constantly in motion.

This group of swans were settling farther out than where we would have liked.

I thought this was an interesting view of a Northern Shoveler.

There goes another eagle hunting across the marsh.

Then we saw Sandhill Cranes arriving!

Canada Geese…

More Pintails!

As our morning came to a close, Jim noticed this tree filled with Bald Eagles.

We walked over to investigate as waterfowl continued their routine.

A giant flock of Red-winged Blackbirds tormented us by not sitting still for portraits.

Another take off and landing for Snow Geese.

More Tundra Swans overhead.

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Edit:  I failed to mention I saw my first Tri-colored Blackbird.  Not the best photo, but yay!

My friend secretly grabbed this shot of me sitting back for a minute, joyfully taking it all in.  Another beyond fabulous day and it wasn’t even noon yet!

Note 2 hats (and I eventually pulled my hood up!), 2 gloves with hand-warmers, 2 shirts, a sweater and coat; 3 pants, 2 socks with toe warmers slipped inside insulated boots!  Alas I left that scarf somewhere in Klamath Falls!  It was deliciously warm on all my cold winter outings this season.

Our group headed back to campus to warm up, grab food and head out in different directions.  Nancy and I went back to Lower Klamath that afternoon and found delightful treats that I’ll show you in my next post!

 

 

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On Saturday morning, my third day at Winter Wings Festival, I went on a field trip with Dick Ashford to improve my ability to identify raptors in the field.  Lucky me, I was placed in the lead car with Dick!

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After Friday’s classroom training, I was already far more confident in my ability to age Bald Eagles and identify various Buteos

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Most of the raptors we saw were far away sitting in a field atop a pivot, or like these in flight far above our heads.

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These were a pair of juvenile Bald Eagles, one chasing the other hoping to steal food.  If you look close, you can see a rodent trapped in the front eagle’s talons.

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We don’t know how it ended, they continued the chase until well out of sight.

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I saw something move on the ground and look!  More Coyotes!!  This pair was hunting for rodents or perhaps small squirrels that race across the fields then dive into underground tunnels.

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We saw several Rough-legged Hawks ~ aren’t they gorgeous?!!

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And THEN I saw my first Ferruginous Hawk!!  He didn’t stay long for this portrait.

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Shortly after we arrived he took off in flight and of course I followed as best I could.

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We saw a few more that day, but this was the only one close enough for me to get a good shot at.

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We saw a few American Kestrels and they are always a challenge to capture because they’re so fast.

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I was thrilled to keep this one mostly centered in my viewfinder until he landed….

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….and then he let me take a portrait while he hunted from his wire perch.

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We saw over 100 Bald Eagles.  We tried to keep track of what we saw, but I didn’t hear the final tally.

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We watched him fly closer to us…

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…then he turned and flew away….

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We moved on to find a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a post and Dick indulged me to grab this photo because the bird was right next to the road.

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One of our last stops of the day was for this Great Horned Owl sitting in her nest.  If you didn’t know she was there she’d be easy to miss.

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Wherever Mama sits, Daddy is somewhere nearby and one of our participants spotted him right away.  I went back another day but could not find him again.

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Lucky us, our last sighting of the day was a Golden Eagle.  Like any bird, he was not going to sit for us very long at this close distance, so in order for everyone behind the lead car to get a good look at him, we drove past him pretty fast after I took a few shots.

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Sitting in the back seat, window down, driving fast over a very bumpy road I grabbed as many shots as I could while we drove by.  This is a ‘drive-by-shooting’ in my world.  I mostly got shots of his feet, his perch, and air ~ check out those talons!  Lucky me, I also managed to capture this ONE shot.  All in all it was an inspiring day filled with literally hundreds of raptors mostly in the Butte Valley and near the two refuges south of Klamath Falls, Tulelake and Lower Klamath.

Saturday’s keynote speaker was author and researcher Scott Weidensaul who shared his research on Snowy Owls and Project Snowstorm.  Again my friend and I sat in the back row because there was no way we’d stay awake until the end of his talk after yet another full day that began too early.  You guessed it…mesmerized by his talk, we stayed for his book signing because after hearing about Project Snowstorm we HAD to have his new book, “Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean” …with autograph of course!

Tomorrow will be our earliest wake-up call ~ 4:30am to get to our field trip on time….

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