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3.23.17  I’ve watched this Bald Eagle’s nest for at least five years, intermittently photographing the family.  This year I decided to photo-document every 4 to 5 days, (then 2 to 3 days, then every other day as the eaglet grew closer to fledging) to see and share the progress with you.  In addition to our national emblem, the Bald Eagle is a spiritual symbol for our native people.

After my first shots of the eagle nesting I headed out to see how fast and furious the spring waterfalls were flowing here in the Gorge.

4.9.17  Mom’s still on the nest.  Bald Eagles mate for life and this pair return to the same nest each year.  Another resident pair of Bald Eagles on the Oregon side of the Columbia also return to their nest each year.  Both parents share nest duty, but the female has the larger share while the male hunts or fishes.

4.16.17  A gorgeous sunrise over Mt Adams on my way down to the Bald Eagle nest.

As I arrive, Mom is on the nest.  As with most raptors, the female is larger than the male.

After a little while, Mom begins calling for Dad…Dad arrives and immediately starts calling for Mom!  At one point they were in the nest together, which makes it easier to tell who is who.

Dad left shortly before Mom flew back into the nest.  She settled in and I quietly crept away, delighted to see the family interaction.  This is a nest I hike to, down a steep hillside and heavily trafficked road.

4.23.17   A breezy morning, my view of the nest is constantly hidden by foliage on nearby trees.  Bald Eagles can live long lives ~ the longest known eagle in the wild was over 38 years when it was struck by a car and died.

Not sure which parent is in the nest and which is on the branch.  They must be side by side for me to tell them apart at this stage of my Eagle Education.  The white head indicates they are at least 5 years old.

4.25.17  Parent is still incubating in this huge nest.  Bald Eagles build nests that are typically 5 to 6 feet wide and 2 to 4 feet deep.

4.28.17  The Bald Eagle parent sits at the side of the nest today instead of incubating, so a chick probably hatched between 4.25 and 4.28.17   No photo to share as my informant didn’t take one.

4.30.17  Dad is waiting for Mom to come home so he can go fishing.  They typically eat fish, but will also consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, and small to medium mammals.

Mom’s home! They’re not quite side by side but you can see Mom in the back is slightly larger than Dad.

Dad takes off to do a little fishing for the family.

Isn’t he Gorgeous!

Mom ‘rearranges furniture’.  When they build a nest, both mates bring sticks (and branches!), and grass, moss, and soft plant material to line the nest, but the female does most of the arranging.

She ruffles her feathers…..

…then tends to her chick.  The chick in the nest that I still can’t see….

5.4.17   This morning I arrive in time to hear one parent calling to the other…and look closer!

We have an EAGLET!!  Isn’t he adorable?  He’s now called a ‘nestling’ and will remain so for 56 to 98 days.

5.11.17   A rainy day, one parent perches above the nest while the other parent works to feed the family.

Little Eaglet is already losing his white downy fuzz.

5.15.17  Today I arrive in time for breakfast.  Mom brought in a fish earlier for the youngster.

Looks like a tasty bite of salmon.

Mom also gets a little nourishment.

I personify, and emotionally attach myself to this family.  And wouldn’t you agree this is a tender beautiful moment.

Mom hires me to take a parent and eaglet portrait

5.19.17   A hot sultry day, everyone is trying to stay cool under the hot sun including me.

5.23.17   I’m invited to another meal at the Eagle Nest.

5.28.17   Even though I began the previous day at 4am I chose to stay up for the Aurora Borealis prediction.  If my eyelids could have stayed open another 5 minutes I would show you pillars and waves but alas I needed sleep so headed home for a couple of hours sleep before checking on the eaglet.

Steller’s Jays harass the eagle family today and swallows often fly around the nest.

Little Eaglet stretches his wings as Mom perches above the nest and Dad perches below.

5.30.17  Eaglet is on the other side of Mom on this windy day, probably just lying low.  I always worry about the eaglet falling out of the tree-top nest; it has happened in the past.

6.3.17  Little Eaglet is home alone today!  

I watch him preen his beautiful feathers.  He’ll remain dark for his first year and will keep that dark beak and dark eyes.

6.8.17  I can barely see the eaglet hunkered down in his nest as a parent perches on a branch above.  We have a cold, rainy day in the Gorge and I would hunker down too if I were home.

6.11.17   I went down to the Eagle nest early in the evening for better light and found him stretching his wings and jumping in his nest.  I’ve seen this action before and it’s fun to watch a raptor learn how to fly…I equate it with kids jumping on the bed.  Eventually wind will catch his wings and lift him up off the nest.

He dances around the nest for half an hour, then settles for a minute and dances again.

He’s still very young and won’t be ready to fly for a few more weeks…..

….but what do I know…look at him go, it could be any day!

 6.13.17  Each day his wings are stronger and I’m happy to arrive during his dance sessions.

He has more oomph in his efforts…

…until he finally has lift-off, and jumps higher.

6.15.17  Another gray Gorge day, the Eaglet lays so low in his nest I can barely see him.  For a moment I thought he fledged without me!

6.17.17   A beautiful day in the Columbia River Gorge!

I went back to the Eagle nest near sunset hoping for more great light.  Evening is so much better than morning light for this nest!

Little Eaglet practicing flight techniques as I arrive….I can feel the power in his wings growing.

And he’s learning to master the wind!

He is incredible to watch, I could stand here for hours on end.

As the sun goes down the eaglet lays down to rest.

All evening I’d heard his parents calling from above and finally caught a glimpse of one.

6.22.17   Another early start, looking west down the gorge on my ‘commute to work’.

Little Eaglet is my last stop of the day and I watch him as he looks out over the Columbia River.

The late afternoon light is lovely today as he practices his flight techniques.

He looks so determined in this shot like he’s going to jump right off that nest and into flight.  He’s getting so close to the edge of the nest lately that some of the nest material is spilling out.

6.23.17  Little Eaglet looks almost as large as his parents.

6.24.17  I check the nest frequently now because it feels like the eaglet will fledge any day.

He continues to practice his flight skills.

6.26.17  Just chillin’.

6.27.17   A windy day, his feathers need some preening to put them back in place.

6.29.17   It’s always amazing to watch the family dynamics of the Bald Eagles at meal times.

Dad arrives home with breakfast.

Little Eaglet with head down and shoulders hunched politely waits his turn to eat.

Mom and Dad converse….

Dad takes off and Mom finally says it’s ok for Junior to eat.

7.1.17  Little Eaglet is resting on another windy afternoon.  I hope he navigates his way through a long life.  The most common causes for Bald Eagles’ deaths are electrocution from power lines, trauma from impact with cars or buildings, and poisoning from lead bullets or chemical pollutants.

7.2.17   Little Eaglet jumps higher and higher in his nest.

He lands with a firm touch-down.

And then propels himself higher than ever!  Are you ready to fly little guy??!!

A parent flies in with breakfast…

…which makes him focus on eating instead of jumping.

Right after breakfast, Little Eaglet goes back to jumping in the nest!  He is SO READY TO FLY!!

7.4.17  After another jumping session this morning, Little Eaglet jumps high and steers himself to the perch above his nest.

His parents have tried to lure him there by calling to him from the perch, then flying off either to fish or to the perch where Dad sits.

He kind of skitters and clumsily lands it, but he has officially fledged.

And here he sits!  A Fledgling!!

I saw him there again a couple of days later; then not again for several days.  The last time I saw him he was back in his nest eating a fish that I hope he caught himself.  On subsequent visits Little Eaglet wasn’t home.  His parents will be back to rebuild this nest next year and this winter we’ll host hundreds of migrating eagles on the Columbia River.

For more about Bald Eagles check out  National Wildlife Federation, Audubon, Cornell’s All About Birds, and Wildlife Society Bulletin

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I post them is Empty Nest

 

5.2.17   My friend cjflick was helping me with the Prairie Falcon nest site, confirming some facts and shared some historical falcon nest sites with me.  As we looked at this particular site we spotted a Peregrine Falcon in flight with prey, so followed it to see where it landed.

We were practically dancing with delight when we saw it land on this former Red-tailed Hawk nest and watched its mate fly away.  Peregrines typically lay their eggs on bare rock, called a scrape; or take over an old nest and parents share nest duty.  Incubation takes 29 to 32 days.

This nest is high on a cliff ledge, the furthest distance of all the nests I follow so please forgive my picture quality.

5.4.17  I watch the Peregrine Falcon flying in toward the nest with prey in its talons.  They generally eat birds and surprising to me, bats!  The pair mates for life as do many raptors and return to the same breeding ground each year but not necessarily the same nest site.

The parent lands in the nest with breakfast.  The falcon blends in with background cliff rocks.  Nest sites are generally on high cliffs, away from predators.

5.11.17  Today I don’t see any Peregrine Falcons but that doesn’t mean she’s not on the nest.  Incubation period is 29 to 32 days if she’s laying on eggs.

5.15.17   I see a Peregrine Falcon adult on the nest, not incubating according to its posture,  so I’m guessing we has chicks!

5.19.17   I can see a FUZZY WHITE CHICK but barely!!  His head pokes up toward the left middle part of the nest and stands out against the dark rock background.

5.23.17   Today I can clearly see three Peregrine Falcon chicks high up in their nest!!!  Nestling period averages 38 days.

5.25.17  Peregrine Falcon chicks are still difficult to see, but their fuzzy little white heads are peeking up just above the rim of the nest.

5.27.17   A downy little Peregrine Falcon chick is oh so close to the edge of his nest, just beginning his young life.  The average life span of these raptors is 7 to 15 years.  The oldest banded Peregrine was close to 20 years old according to Cornell’s All About Birds.

 

Even though my day began at 4am I chose to stay up for the Aurora Borealis prediction and am so glad I did.  I must tell you that if my eyelids could have stayed open another 5 minutes I could have shown you pillars and waves but alas I needed sleep so headed home.

5.28.17  A Peregrine Falcon parent sits in a tree high above the nest while I listen to the chicks calling.  Osprey also loudly call and fish nearby.

The kids must all be asleep, I see no activity.

5.30.17   I’m trying to remember to show my surroundings while ‘nest-watching’ and this is another early morning start to see as many nests as possible in a day.

Even though I’m far away, I can see dark feathers growing on the nestlings.  Like Prairie Falcons, chicks are called Eyases….a fellow raptor enthusiast suggests Falconette, which I like better.

Peregrine Falcon chicks stretch their little wings, showing the dark flight feathers growing in!  I’m guessing they’re about 5 weeks old based on what I’ve read.  Peregrines are the fastest bird in the world, diving over 200 mph in pursuit of prey, with a normal ‘cruising’ speed of 24 to 33 mph.

6.3.17  Another very early morning to check my nests, starting with the Peregrine Falcon.

The chicks are quickly growing, compare this shot to the fuzzy chick’s first wing stretch just a few days ago.  I can hear them steadily call for their parents.

6.8.17  In five days time most of the remaining white feathers have turned brown on this trio of Peregrine Falcon chicks.

Rain with gray sky ~ not the best background, but still happy to see the falcon parent hunting overhead.

6.10.17   The Peregrine Falcon chicks explore the rim of their nest and surrounding rocks and crevices.

They race back and forth across the nest.  Look at those wings!  It makes me think they’ll fledge sooner rather than later!

6.13.17   The trio matures at a fast pace, exploring more outside the nest.  Parents place food farther away, luring the chicks farther beyond the nest.  Eventually parents will exchange food with the fledglings in flight, training them to catch flying prey.

I wonder how much more time I’ll have with this little family as the chicks gain maturity so quickly.

The Peregrine Falcon parent is easy to spot in the sky, but difficult to catch as she’s so fast.  Like most raptors, the female is larger but it’s difficult to tell them apart when not together.  According to Jim Watson, Wildlife Research Scientist at Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, the wing beat for a male in powered flight is more rapid and Kestrel-like, whereas with a female you can better distinguish individual wing beats… also the male is bluer than the female.

6.15.17   The Peregrine Falcon Chicks have a quiet morning.  Many fledglings do not live past 2 yrs old.  Several reports I read indicate until they grow wiser, they run into buildings, windows, fences, and airplanes while aggressively chasing prey.  DDT is banned in the US, but not in every country this raptor travels to, so pesticides are also a cause of death.

6.17.17  One chick is completely out of the nest!!  A fledgling!!

Look how high he can jump, as he returns to the nest.

Grabbing onto sticks to further propel him back in while his siblings watch and learn!

6.19.17  The chicks are gone!  They fledged so fast!  I stop by the nest every few days, then once a week while on my other nest checks but I saw no more of this Peregrine Falcon family.  My friend cjflick has monitored Peregrines for years and says  they usually traverse the fields over Catherine Creek as they grow stronger, learn how to hunt and improve flight skills.  Hope I get to watch them next year, I’ll keep a closer eye on them.

If you’d like to learn more about Peregrine Falcons, Cornell’s All About Birds, Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy for a great start.

The introductory post in this series where you’ll find links to my other nests as I write them is Empty Nest

 

Birds on the Hook

January 16, 2017

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It is STILL snowing in the frozen Columbia River Gorge, a good month after it started.  As I post pictures that look black & white you can see snow falling in many of them.  I finally have a system to stay warm when I leave the house in 7º temperatures, without investing in ski-wear:  heavy leggings under my thick hiking pants with rain-pants over; 3 tops plus wool sweater and coat; wool socks over regular socks plus toe warmers slipped into fur-lined boots; a heavy scarf covering my head, neck and ears with 2 hats over that; and finally glove liners inside my gloves with hand warmers between and mittens over.

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Yesterday at ‘The Hook’ a group of friends met for coffee then a bit of bird-watching…or finding….or simply enjoying.

steider-studios-bird-walk-1-15-17-16It was frozen, quiet and snowing and most of the birds we saw looked like they were doing their best to stay warm.

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The first bird we saw after a couple of Bald Eagles was a Great Blue Heron.  Doesn’t he look cold?

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Shortly after seeing us he took off upriver to the next frozen rock outcrop.

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We saw Greater and Lesser Scaup resting offshore.

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A Bufflehead flew close to the river…

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…and unknown (to me) ducks flew high overhead.

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Lesser Scaup drake…

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…and another Lesser Scaup drake.

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Greater Scaup female.

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Snowfall diffused sound but we heard a train heading toward us.  Looking west between shoreline and Wells Island we used scopes to see waterfowl including Gadwall, Canvasback, Coot, Grebes, and Canada Goose.

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Mallards swam near the shoreline on the west side of The Hook.

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A Bald Eagle perched near the nest on the north side of Wells Island with a snowy Underwood Mountain in the background.

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A Common Merganser female appeared from around the corner…

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…and took off as soon as she realized I was there!

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Looking across to Wells Island we saw a swarm of blackbirds and robins foraging on the shoreline.

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This is the south side of Wells Island, looking west down the gorge.

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A Killdeer hopped along the shore as I stood looking at Wells Island.  Did I mention it was snowing?

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A Horned Grebe fished in the distance.  Notice the ice chunks?  By now it was about 14º.

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We headed back to our cars but watched the river as we walked and spotted a female Redhead!

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Thankfully my friends are expert birders and discussed details that identified her species for me.

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We continued watching ducks arrive as we slowly headed back to where we parked.

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Last shot of the day ….a female Greater Scaup taking off down the river.

Sunday Drive

September 5, 2016

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I don’t enjoy crowds, so instead of hiking in the Columbia River Gorge or going to a waterfall on Sunday (a three-day holiday weekend), I took a drive.  Surprisingly I ended up at one of my favorite places, Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

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It was a lovely quiet day and felt like I had the entire place to myself!  The shot at top was looking east and this shot was looking west.  Sun on one side and rain on the other!

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After watching a bachelor of bucks close to home practice their rutting techniques the previous night, I was hoping to find elk doing the same.  Alas, no elk and very few birds revealed themselves to me.

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Instead I found a ton of dragonflies!  I watched this one eat a bug!!

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And a Sulphur finally let me capture it!  I can’t tell you how long I’ve chased these beautiful butterflies hoping for a picture!

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I did see several sparrows ~ I believe this is a Song Sparrow.

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Swallows are still filling the sky and I managed to capture this Violet-green Swallow in flight!

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I entertained myself for a moment studying this stand of Quaking Aspen.

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From the top to bottom they are a magnificent tree.

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Just look at that beautiful bark!

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Speaking of magnificence, wildflowers abound on the refuge.  I’m not sure, but I think there were two bees sharing pollen in this aster.

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Goldenrod lit up some of the roads…..

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…interspersed with Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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I thought I heard a Western Meadowlark!   He pretended to not notice me as I pretended to not sneak closer to him.

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He thought he was invisible and he almost was.  My camera had a hard time focusing through the branches so I had to give it a little help.  Yes, I can still focus manually!

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House Wren made a lot of racket as I chased some nearby butterflies.

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Sandhill Cranes are still roaming the refuge, but I only saw 6 all day long and they were in flight.

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I think this is a Golden-crowned Sparrow, but it could be a juvenile White-crowned.  Help with ID is always appreciated ~ especially for sparrows, the ultimate of Little Brown Birds!

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As the afternoon wore on, dark clouds moved closer and a few spots of rain hit my dusty car.

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The dragonflies didn’t mind.

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Oh look, another Sulphur resting long enough to let me watch him.

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As I thought about calling it a day I heard Sandhill Cranes calling from afar…

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…and watched a Heron crossing Kreps Lane ~ first time I’ve seen them in this area!

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With the arrival of colorful foliage, I wish you a Happy September my friends.  I’ve had a magical summer and hope to stay at my computer long enough to tell you about it!!  One day soon…..I promise….I hope….maybe…..after my next adventure!

By the way, I’m now on Instagram, I hope you’ll follow me there!  Just look for Steider Studios!

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We chose the Spit at Hood River’s Marina for today’s monthly Columbia River Gorge Bird Walk.  After a fabulous breakfast with riverfront seating at Riverside, we headed over to the beach.

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We couldn’t help stopping for a Great Blue Heron basking in the sun as he stood in the river.  I barely caught him before he flew away.

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Our intent was ‘Peeps’ or Shorebirds and we found a Least Sandpiper scurrying over the rocks.  We also saw a Spotted Sandpiper and a pair of Killdeer.

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We watched a juvenile Least Sandpiper.

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As the others moved onward, I stayed back to grab one last shot of the juvenile because he was just too cute.

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It was a ‘Gorge~ous’ summer day with Purple Loosestrife complementing yellow Coreopsis blooming amidst rocks and sand.

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Alas we saw no more ‘Peeps’ but heard many little birds tucked away in the shrubs.  Two are shown here, can you find and identify them?

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A group of Cormorants flew west along the Columbia River…

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I think the smaller the bird, the faster they are…see him?  NO.  He flew away before I could even focus!!

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A Scrub Jay posed for a minute and let me photograph him…..

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…and Osprey were plentiful.  Large, slow enough for me to catch and a beautiful blue sky background!

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It was maddening to have these beautiful Yellow Warblers land for less than a second then take off before I could document them.

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Until this little guy towards the end of our stay.  They blend with habitat so well that unless I see them move, they’re difficult to find.

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We looked up just as a Western Kingbird flew over the Columbia River.  We speculated migration could be taking place a bit early this year.

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We watched a pair of Western Wood Pewees flit from perch to perch, across the beach and throughout the thickets all morning.  I am grateful one finally landed on a branch were I could get a good view!

Most people go to the Hood River marina for water sports but it’s also a great place for birding.  While there we also saw a Green-winged Teal fly overhead. Moving too fast for me to photograph or inside dense thickets were a Willow Flycatcher, Bewick’s Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Savannah Sparrow (shown in the picture above where I asked you to guess!) and a Brewer’s Blackbird.  Black-crested Night Herons typically overwinter here and I look forward to their return each year ~ it should be soon.

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Have I mentioned I love the American Pika?  Today I hiked around the Horsetail Falls area in the Columbia River Gorge, hoping to see these cute little critters.

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I overslept a bit so didn’t expect to see any since I arrived later than planned.  But LOOK, he popped his little head up as if to say “Here I am!”.

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I ended up seeing two and hearing at least 2 others in the distance.

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A couple of families stopped to ask what I was capturing with my camera and I think I convinced one kid playing Pokemon Go to seek out Pika instead of Poke!!

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As long as I was above Horsetail Falls I decided to hike in to Ponytail Falls.

Steider Studios.Pika.Horsetail.8.10.16-7It was by now lunch time and a bit crowded, so I creatively eliminated people from my viewfinder.

Steider Studios.Pika.Horsetail.8.10.16-8From inside the cave….

Steider Studios.Pika.Horsetail.8.10.16-11Heading back down the trail…

Steider Studios.Pika.Horsetail.8.10.16-9Another beautiful day in the Columbia River Gorge…

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I watched for more Pika all the way back down, but I think they were in Siesta Mode.

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I DID see a Robin!

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Back at the bottom of the trail and surprised at how few people were gathered around Horsetail Falls, I grabbed a shot of it while there.  I look forward to comparing it to the shot I took in January when the falls were raging and ice formed along the rocks.

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At the very bottom of the falls, the water level was low enough I could climb down the rocks and take a shot at creek level.

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Here’s my little Pika friend again for your enjoyment.  Did I already say I love these little critters?!

Worth It

July 28, 2016

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I decided to take myself to the top of Angel’s Rest on this hot summer day.  I’ve been on the trail, searching for Pika with Cascades Pika Watch, but for various reasons never got to the top.  Above is the view looking west toward Portland.

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I headed up the trail at 7:30am and arrived at the top just after 9.  I stopped here and there to catch my breath.  Watching for Pika along the way gave me ample reason for frequent stops.

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It’s only 2.3 miles up but with an elevation of 1600 feet, it felt steeper (to me) than it probably is.  Heading back down I stopped for a snack in a likely place to see Pika.

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They didn’t disappoint!  Unfortunately, I only had time for a couple of shots of this American Pika before a noisy trail-runner scared him off ~ I was hoping on a weekday I’d have a quieter hike, but alas it is summer and the trails were busy by mid morning.

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Heading down I decided to stop at the stream that feeds Coopey Falls and found some stacked rocks that someone kindly left me.

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A tiny bit further I followed a lesser trail to view the stream cascading over some rocks at the top of Coopey Falls.

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Just beyond that is the last part of the stream near the top of the falls.  Any further downstream, I’d be tumbling in the waterfall (which is only accessible via private property).  Steider Studios.AngelsRest Hike.7.28.16-7

Back down at the trailhead at 11:30, I grabbed a shot of the sign, a memento of another fine day in the Columbia River Gorge.  Such a beautiful place to live and play!  It was definitely worth it!

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