A fading summer and finding fall color

Fall is well and truly here and winter is now approaching. The days are shortening, the weather vacillates from rainy and warm to cold and clear with fresh, frosty mornings. Banks of fog gather near the rivers and linger until mid-day, blanketing the world in white.

At summer’s end, I saw the last of the Brown Pelicans at the coast until next year. These birds will never fail to impress me, even though they were an extraordinarily common sight along the shore this past summer, much more noticeable than years’ past. They floated effortlessly over the water, back and forth, up and down the coast, and occasionally thrilled me by flying higher just above the rocky bluffs where I stood watching the waves, the birds, the wildlife.

Brown Pelican in flight along the coast

Late August also brought out a flurry of flycatchers emerging and becoming much more active than and visible than they usually are. They so often elude me, high up in the trees, never staying still for long, but this lovely flycatcher gifted me with this lovely moment of stillness among the activity. I imagine the increase in activity must have been preparation time for them to migrate to warmer climates, or stopping over on the way, fueling up on as many insects as possible. I don’t know what kind of flycatcher this was, but I’m alright with that, given we had a quiet moment together, and the inherent difficult in identifying them.

Flycatcher

Some birds fuel up for a long flight south and some birds are preoccupied with gathering up enough seeds and nuts to help them survive the winter. Red-breasted Nuthatches cache seeds and nuts in the trunks of trees for winter and join mixed flocks with other birds, though they are not shy about competing for food and will boldly compete with much bigger birds.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Squirrels are also busy gathering food to cache in the fall

Fall rain brought desperately-needed water, though it is not enough to abate long-term droughts in the Pacific Northwest, it revived rivers and streams and the cascades the region is so well-known for. Wetlands and ponds that were bone dry over summer began to re-fill with water and new life.

A small fall in the creek along the Tamanawas Falls trail, Mt Hood National Forest
Frogs in a pond at MacDonald-Dunn Forest, Corvallis
Even after fall rain, some grasses remain dry and brittle
A water droplet on a rainy day in the woods

In many places, fall means color but out here, it is harder to come by when conifer forests dominate so much of the landscape. There is still an abundance of color to be seen and the rarity of these spots may make them that much more precious to treasure their effervescent beauty. I managed to catch some beautiful shades of fall while at Mount Hood, where the trees seemed to be turning earlier than those on the warmer valley floor.

Conifer forest in Oregon

 

 

 

Mount Hood hikes through forest to waterfalls & lakes

Mount Hood from the west

Until this fall, I had only ever seen Mount Hood, Oregon’s tallest mountain, northernmost peak of the Cascades in the state, from afar. Getting up close before ski seasons kicks off and after summer tourism dies down proved to be a beautiful time to visit and explore the surrounding national forest.

Autumn was a perfect time to visit. The skies were clear and though the morning and evenings were cool, the days were warm and pleasant. Perfect hiking weather. Mount Hood National Forest is gorgeous and idyllic, like a slice of Pacific Northwest perfection. There are towering trees, moss and ferns, waterfalls, mountains and meadows.

ZigZag Falls

There are so many trails to choose from and corners of the forest to explore, it’s hard to decide where to begin. Hiking to Tamanawas Falls in the northeast and the Umbrella Falls Loop on the south flank made for a day of seeing different sides of the mountain and a variety of landscapes. After a rocky uphill climb, the temperature dropped noticeable along the route to Tamanawas Falls as it wound through a mossy, dense forest of western red cedar and Douglas fir along a creek. Further up, the forest gave way to a boulder field bound by cliffs on one side (where a pika crossed close in front of my feet!) and an eye-catching peppering of fall colored alder and maple trees before reaching the falls.

Tamanawas Falls Trail, Mount Hood National Forest
A stop along the trail to Tamanawas Falls
Fall color along Tamanawas Falls Trail, Mount Hood
Tamanawas Falls

The hike to Umbrella Falls feels quite different and the two trails make a nice pair of contrasting environments. The forest here had a sparser understory, feeling a bit drier without the moss-covered tree trunks and a tumbling creek to walk beside. It climbs quite a bit up a rocky path to a viewpoint over the valley below and passes through a series of lovely meadows speckled with the red and gold of autumn. I imagine the wildflowers would be stunning in the summer. The trail eventually leads to Umbrella Falls and Sahale Falls (though I opted not to trek down the very steep scramble to see the latter due to an injury that I was already pushing a bit) but the meadows and views were the highlight for me.

A meadow along the Umbrella Falls Trail

Gold leaves along the Umbrella Falls Trail
Looking back at the valley on the Umbrella Falls Trail

And since no trip (or at least a first time trip) to Mount Hood seems finished until one has seen the view of the mountain at the popular Mirror Lake, it was a final stop before heading home. Though the clouds were rolling in and out, the peak was visible and the water was calm, allowing a final farewell to Mount Hood.

Mount Hood in Mirror Lake
Mount Hood in Mirror Lake
Mount Hood at Trillium Lake (for contrast with Mirror Lake)

Crater Lake National Park: an iconic wonder of Oregon

Crater Lake National Park is one of those places like the Grand Canyon I’ve seen hundreds of photos of, and just like the Grand Canyon, it was one of those iconic, majestic, awe-inspiring, huge natural places I told myself I would go see someday. This summer, after cancelling a trip to go in 2020, I made it.

The first view I glimpsed after a long morning of driving was just like the pictures I’d seen. But, well, better, bigger and bluer. Much like the immensity of the Grand Canyon, the deep blue hue of the water and the sheer size of it, the steep gradient of the inner slopes, just cannot be quite captured in photographs or words. Seeing something like this in person is truly incredible.

Wizard Island in Crater Lake NP, Oregon

The pale, rocky cliffs with scattered trees somehow clinging to almost nothing only deepens and magnifies the intensity of the water’s color. Hiking back up the Cleetwood Cove Trail from the water’s edge (the only legal access point to the lake itself), I stopped to catch my breath and couldn’t help noticing how amazingly blue the water looked between the green conifers.

Flowers grow right on the edge of the rim at Crater Lake NP
The green trees against blue water makes for a striking contrast of hues

A little further up the trail when I paused again, I was rewarded with the incredible sight of what I at first thought was a squirrel– and on second sight, was, in fact, a Pine Marten! I couldn’t believe it! These mesocarnivores are fairly well-known for being elusive, mostly active at night, and here was one scurrying up and down tree trunks in the middle of the afternoon! I didn’t get a picture because the graceful critter didn’t stick around long, but the memory will last me a long time. I’ve never seen one before and I don’t expect to again anytime soon. It was truly a rare treat definitely a memorable highlight.

A shed at the bottom of Cleetwood Cove Trail, Crater Lake NP
Crystal clear water of Crater Lake

As different from Pine Martens as you can get, Clark’s Nutcrackers made for delightful, gregarious companions in the pine trees at picnic spots and viewpoints along the rim in the pine trees. They play an important role in the ecology of the park and surrounding forest as Whitebark pine rely on the Nutcracker’s seed caches to sprout seedlings. Unfortunately, the Whitebark pines are fighting multiple battles and many of the trees are losing: to blister rust and mountain beetles. Entire ghost forests of dead and devastated trees can be seen at, and around, the park in a possible preview of what the future may hold if the war to conserve the species cannot be won. The Clark’s Nutcracker’s relationship with the pine is a tangible reminder of nature’s connectivity and how damage to a single tree species stretches far beyond the bark, beyond park boundaries, species dependencies, echoing throughout entire ecosystems.

(Read more about Whitebark Pine at Crater Lake National Park and Klamath Inventoy & Monitoring Network’s Whitebark Pine monitoring efforts and results)

Clark’s Nutcracker

There is more than the beauty of the lake, the pines and the wildlife at Crater Lake. So much of the park is dry and dusty (at least in the summer) but along streams and creeks, there are pockets of green vegetation. The trail to Plaikni Falls winds through the forest and along a rocky outcrop before emerging in a vivid green wonderland at Sand Creek that was like a little oasis in a dry woodland.

Summer in the mountains springs forth with a flourish of wildflowers and I think I missed the peak of the season, but there were still spots of beautiful color along trails, streams and in meadows. The orange trumpet flowers below (for lack of knowing their proper name) were like magnets to hummingbirds and they buzzed noisily about the clearing littered with these bright blossoms.

Plaikni Falls, Crater Lake NP

The name Crater Lake is a misnomer. The lake was not formed due to an impact but by the eruption of Mount Mazama 7,700 years ago, which then filled with rainwater. So there is no input or source of water to the lake other than what falls as precipitation and its waters are some of the purest in North America. Fun fact: Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. The ash deposited by the eruption of Mount Mazama is a highly useful and distinct time marker for geological studies in the western US and Canada.

Downstream of Plaikni Falls (above) on Sand Creek, just on the edge of the National Park boundary is an easily-accessible volcanic feature: The Pinnacles (below). They are remnants of fumeroles, or volcanic vents, originally beneath pumice that have been eroded to the spires seen today. Of course, the famous Wizard Island (top image) was also formed by more recent volcanic eruptions and Mount Mazama is active and will erupt again someday.

(Read more about the Geology of Crater Lake and the Mazama Ash deposit)

The Pinnacles at Crater Lake NP
The Phantom Ship at Crater Lake NP

Volcanoes and near distant wildfire smoke are a reminder that the earth is in a state of constant flux. Sometimes the changes happen in a moment or a season and sometimes they are slow on a human scale. That does not mean we should sit idly by as trees are swallowed by beetles and decimated by fungus exacerbated by a warming climate caused by us. Only we have the power and ability to make the right choices for the world in which we live, to support earth as she supports us and we should treasure the beautiful, preserved places like national parks as well as the habitats and life closer to home.

The view east of Crater Lake and wildfire smoke

Mindfulness & gratitude in bird-watching

There is a moment, when watching a bird, when everything else falls away and there is nothing in the world but you and that bird. Worries are forgotten. Hunger, cold, heat, rain are not felt. You are in tune, in harmony, with a little feathered creature and their habitat and you let it fill you up.

Joe Harkness said it best in his book Bird Therapy:

“… I had also started to recognise just how positive I felt when I was immersed in the world of birds. My worries seemed to fade into insignificance and when I was feeling stressed, if I counteracted it with some time outside, watching them, it drifted off like birds do, in a stiff breeze.”

This is the real reason I love watching birds. It took me a few years to realize what I was doing was a form of mindfulness. A moment where your attention is focused on nothing but the present. To seek a connection, no matter how fleeting, with another creature. and pull me out of myself and into the world around me.

It’s a wonder that such a small thing can make such a difference, a little thing with feathers. Birds have brought me so much joy since I started to really become aware of them and they were there when times were low. They are beautiful and charismatic, funny and entertaining, fascinating and full of surprises. I am grateful and love every one; the brightly-hued migrants, the little brown birds, the fierce raptors and the tiniest songbirds. Here’s to you, every member of the Aves class, but especially the ones who’ve graced me with their presence over the years and more recently.

This is my second ever independently seen/identified Western Tanager seen today! I first noticed an unfamiliar bird sound and he was kind enough to perch at the top of this tree.
Osprey were the first birds that really got me seriously interested in bird-watching when I noticed their nest where I worked. It’s been a passion ever since and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Osprey will always have a very special place in my heart.
Marsh Wrens may look drab, but any kind of wren is a favourite bird of mine! Their very loud chatter belies their small size and seeing them is always extra special because they are so hard to spot among the reeds and grasses.
Song Sparrows may be considered another boring brown resident bird to some, but to me, they are absolutely gorgeous and some of the most photogenic birds of all time with the varied coloring of their plumage, not to mention their impressive breadth of vocalizations.
Mallard ducklings are so common around city ponds and parks in the springtime, but that does not make them any less special or adorable to my eyes! Ducklings (and all baby birds and animals) are one of the best things about springtime.
Brown Pelicans are not a bird I see very often, but I saw quite a lot of them flying back and forth along the coast yesterday, including some very impressive up-close views as they drifted by on out stretched wings, flapping only occasionally and skimming across the water’s surface.
Purple Martins are also some of my favorite birds (though once I start choosing, its very hard to stop!). I don’t see them as often as I did in Victoria and I always loved their non-stop high-pitched chattering and their cartwheeling flight then, but somehow it is even more special when I do get to see them now.

Swallows, bitterns and spring songs

Let it be known that spring means swallows! They are one of my most look-forward to birds of the season along with warblers and Osprey.

Normally when I go birding, I don’t set expectations or look for specific birds. But because I love swallows so much, today, I went out in search of some spots I know they favor. Though there were not as many Barn Swallows in my tried-and-true spot (maybe a little early still), I did find them!

Tree Swallow pair
Barn Swallows

I also saw lots of Tree Swallows swooping and searching for cavities in trees to use for their nests. Barn Swallows have a special place in my heart, I’m not even sure I can explain why. Maybe its a combination of their vibrant colors and behavior, their high-pitched chittering calls and the free and effortless way they fly and dive.

An unexpected surprise was the best view I’ve ever had of an American Bittern. They are experts at camouflage, blending in seamlessly with their environment. Probably why I almost never see them. It was a treat and privilege to see this heron close enough that I could see each individual toe spread out as he slowly stalked through the grass.

American Bittern
In a small pond, a turtle enjoyed the peace and quiet and intermittent sun.

The Marsh Wrens were especially chatty and I even managed to spot one instead of just hearing one hiding in the reeds and cattails. He was singing his little heart out beneath the clatter of the Red-winged Blackbirds doing much the same.

Red-winged Blackbird

If the birds are not enough to tell us that spring is here, the beautiful blooming camas is. There is still new life, new beauty, new sights and sounds waiting to be discovered in nature.

Camas

 

Searching for spots of winter color

Ring-necked duck

Life in Oregon can be pretty grey and dreary during the winter. I don’t mind rainy days until it starts to feel like I haven’t seen the sun in weeks. The rain gives us our beautiful temperate rainforests: it feeds the thousand-year old trees that have lived for thousands of years and dusts the canopy with lichens and moss. Winter can often seem dull but little bright patches of colour can be found in almost every colour of the rainbow!

Berries burst with color in January
An Acorn Woodpecker’s cap really shines on a rainy day
Orange mushrooms sprout from the mossy trunk of a tree

All colors can be seen in the forest and trees, birds and berries, if one takes a moment to look. Acorn Woodpeckers, as the purported clowns of the woodpecker world, are always very fun and uplifting to watch their antics with one another up in the oak trees!

A Ruby-crownd Kinglet overcame his shyness and danced among the raspberry brambles. I watched him for a while as he hovered like a hummingbird and flitted among thorny branches perhaps in search of a tasty meal. A flock of Golden-crowned Sparrows mixed with Dark-eyed Juncos skittered along the grassy edges of a path. When I hear their sweet, forlorn song “Oh dear me”, I look out for their bright sunlit crowns and bold black stripe.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned sparrow
In the woods, the mossy trees are bathed in gold with the late afternoon light

Ducks are a splendid part of of winter, the sight and sound of them sure to cheer me up even on cloudy days. They are North America’s smallest dabbling duck and they have particularly beautiful plumage. The males (left, below) have gorgeous green and cinnamon colouring on their heads. Both male and female (right, below) have green patches under their wings but it really stands out remarkably bright on the females.

Steller’s Jay

The sky is sometimes blue even in our rainy winter but the Steller’s Jay shines bright and proud of his cerulean plumage! This one was so unusually still and subdued, I nearly did not see him. He seemed too pre-occupied with preening his feathers and fluffing his mohawk to pay any mind to squawk at me.

In drafting this post of some photos from this past winter, purple eluded me. The closest thing I had a photo of was the iridescent violet-black heads of the European Starling. No matter what you think of these Shakespearean-inspired non-native songbirds, to me, they are quite beautiful. They cannot be all bad if Mozart kept a pet starling who may arguable have inspired snippets of his compositions.

European Starling

A distant summer of birds

Earlier this spring on a forest stroll, I spotted this American robin with a meal for her chicks. She was very careful to flit about on her way to her nest so as not to alert predators of her chicks’ whereabouts. They might be considered a common bird, but I still find them beautiful, especially their cheerful song.

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American robin

In an exciting first, I spotted my first and second Lazuli Buntings! I’ve seen them once before on a group bird walk, but I don’t tend to think it counts until I can spot and identify a bird on my own.

The first bunting was calling from a treetop and caught my attention because I didn’t recognize the sound. I spent a while watching and listening until I got a good look of his bright blue head and orange chest! Ah-ha! A Lazuli Bunting! The second one I saw was also singing from the near the top of a tree.

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Lazuli Bunting

On that same walk, not far away, I first heard a Common Yellowthroat tch-tch-ing and waited for a while to see if I could spot him. His dainty feet perched on tall weedy stems as he darted about and called from the grasses.

I heard a second call coming from away on my left and I had to be very patient and attentive to spot a female Common Yellowthroat, who I suspect was his mate. The female has always been much more elusive to me and this one was shy as she mostly hid among the lower branches of a tree.

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Common Yellowthroat (male; center)

Watching Western Bluebirds has been another summer highlight for me. Since I’ve been monitoring nestboxes (which I hope to write about soon), I’ve learned a lot more about them just by watching and listening. I’ve enjoyed getting to know these birds more intimately and watching their chicks grow up (though they don’t always make it).

 

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I’ve had quite a few reptile sightings on walks lately, too! I’m not an expert, but I think the first snake is a Pacific Gopher Snake. From my reading, because they look like rattlesnakes, they will hiss and shake their tail when threatened. The lower snake is a Garter Snake, my guess would be a Northwestern Garter Snake, but I am not really sure. They are pretty common around here though that was the first Gopher Snake I’ve ever seen!

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Gopher snake?

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Garter snake

I hope you have all been able to safely get out into nature and enjoy some birds, snakes, plants and everything else there is to see!

Notes of a distant spring & early summer

Well its hard to believe we are halfway through 2020 already. I find myself wondering where the time has gone…its been a bit of a whirlwind year. From January to March, I was busy with work and classes. Then the end of March hit and Oregon went into social distancing and everything slowed down for a little while.

While social distancing and closed parks have limited some of my bird-watching opportunities, you’ve got to make the best of what you’ve got! I’ve managed to see quite a few more spring and summer birds than I anticipated back in March.

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Pacific Wren

On a short walk around a small-ish forest park, I was lucky enough to photograph this lovely little Pacific Wren singing his little heart out! I am always amazed at how loud and how long the Pacific Wren can sing for as it echoes throughout forests with lots of old wood and fallen tree debris.

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Brown Creeper

The Brown Creeper is ever an elusive bird to me. I find they difficult to spot and I still remember how excited I was when I saw my first. This one soon disappeared from the moss, blending in with the tree bark as he crept up the tree.

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Orange-crowned Warbler

One of my favorite spring arrivals is the Orange-crowned Warbler! I think I spotted this one with a bit of luck (which is sometimes what you need watching birds) and by his somewhat indistinct song! At the beginning of every spring, I struggle to remember how to distinguish their song vs. the Dark-eyed Junco. Its a challenge I welcome.

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Golden-crowned Sparrow

Meanwhile, I saw the last of the Golden-crowned Sparrows until they return again in autumn and winter! I saw a whole flock of them filling up on seeds to prepare for their journey north to breed.

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White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows were singing their songs across open woodland meadows, urban parks and parking lots and along the edges of forests. I am sure they must be busy now with chicks or fledglings to look after, possibly even onto their second brood already!

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invasive American Bullfrog

Of course, there is more to see than just birds. This American Bullfrog scared me as I nearly ran over it on my bike. They are incredibly loud and very invasive around these parts and he certainly seemed to think he owned this part of the path.

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Pacific Tree frog

The Pacific Tree frog is quite a bit smaller and definitely native. They can be found around the Pacific Northwest and occupy a variety of habitats including woodlands, backyard ponds, pastures, grasslands and can even be found in alpine zones!

Despite some limitations, which required some creative thinking to get out and about, I’ve been able to have some nice moments in nature which are always healing, restorative and energizing. They remind of of the small beauties in life when many things in the world are turning quite ugly.

Connecting with wildlife from home

This post is as much for me as it is for you. I hope you are all coping as well as you can right now. With spring approaching, I had been looking forward to seeing spring arrivals and migrants in the bird world. The swallows, who are honestly my most looked-forward-to birds, osprey returning to their mates and nests and everyone else looking to breed this summer season. I’ve signed up to monitor bluebird nestboxes this summer and have been eagerly awaiting seeing and learning more about them while contributing to a long-term scientific study.

A lot of these things, plus a trip to southern and south-central Oregon have been affected, but I know things could be a whole lot worse. I’m looking forward to rescheduling my trip and trying to remain optimistic in the meantime. Amid all the gloomy news barraging us each day, it can be hard not to get lost in anxiety. However, we can still connect with nature from home. We’re fortunate to have a number of webcams to watch life unfold before us and I thought I’d recommend a few.

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juvenile Bald Eagle perched just outside the nest

If you want to watch Bald Eagle nests, I’ve found two excellent cams hosted by the Hancock Foundation in the Vancouver, BC area. For me, its nice to watch some webcams from familiar places; it makes me feel more connected to my region. There are cams in Surrey and Delta; both nests currently have eggs and should be hatching eagle chicks any day now! Remembering the plight Bald Eagles faced 30 years ago, its uplifting to see them able to successfully nest today.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a huge number of bird webcams from all around the world hosted on their site. My personal favourite is the backyard FeederWatch cam at the Cornell Lab in Ithaca, NY. I love the audio on this one, too. Today when I checked in, I spied Black-capped Chickadees, Mourning Doves, Red-winged Blackbirds, a Hairy Woodpecker (I think!) and possibly a Rusty Blackbird, but I’m not totally up on the east coast birds which is part of the fun. I’ve seen nuthatches and cardinals before, too. My cat can enjoy watching this one, too. Bird-watching is one of her favourite past-times.

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Amber watching birds out the window

I was very excited to find a webcam at the Royal Albatross colony in Dunedin, New Zealand at the Cornell site. Being autumn there, the parents are currently feeding the chicks at the nest and I watched a chick begging their parent for food, who honestly seemed somewhat disinterested. Read about Royal Albatross lifecycles here. Its pretty amazing that we have the opportunity to watch something like this from afar, without disturbing the birds, giving us a chance to see a part of wildlife we would likely not otherwise have. For me, its extra special because Dunedin has to be one of my favourite places on earth and it makes me feel a little bit nostalgic and homesick for a city surrounded by such beauty and wildlife.

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Osprey will be busy rebuilding nests soon

One of the most entertaining birds to watch at their nest, osprey, ought to be arriving soon. I’m not sure if the webcam on the nest I used to watch at the University of Victoria will be live or not, but I did find one from Cowlitz County Public Works in Washington state. I suppose we’ll have to stay tuned.

Back to B.C., we can watch the Great Blue heronry at Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver. It was hard to tell what stage they’re at and I haven’t seen any eggs, but it appears there are heron sitting on, or at, nests, so perhaps they’re still getting ready.

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Common Murre juvenile at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

I also had fun checking in on the seabirds at the Oregon Coast Aquarium where you can watch Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Murres. Its nice to see what my neighbours to the west are up to. If you’re looking for something a little different and want an even more nautical experience (or perhaps feel like a James Bond villain) tune in to their fish and shark tank and forget all about pandemics and quarantine.

If you want something truly uplifting, check in with the rescue cats at the TinyKittens HQ streaming on YouTube. Also based in B.C., this group rescues feral cats. Pregnant cats are often featured and you can watch them give birth and see their kittens grow up, as well as some of the challenges they face along the way.

Again, not wild animals this time, but if you’re looking for an idyllic farm scene, check in with the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glens, NY to see what the alpaca, sheep and cattle are getting up to. When I checked in at the Cattle Pasture, a herd of White-tailed Deer greeted me instead.

nz newzealand sheepOf course, if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, spend some time in it! Get to know the locals and appreciate the little things you might normally overlook. If you want to bring some wildlife to your yard, put up a bird feeder (please read important tips before starting) and see who comes to visit. Take care of yourself and enjoy what nature you can right now!

Watching some of Oregon’s wildlife

I often write about birds here, but there’s a whole host of other wildlife and natural wonders and beauty to behold, too! I enjoy getting out and experiencing and seeing them as well. Now that I’ve lived in Oregon for over a year now, I’ve had the chance to see some of the wildlife that lives here.

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Roosevelt Elk at William L Finley NWR

Here in Oregon, we have two species of elk: Roosevelt elk (same as those we had on Vancouver Island) and Rocky Mountain elk. The basic range divide is the Cascade Mountains with Roosevelt in and west of the Cascades and Rocky Mountain elk in the east. Around here, I most commonly see a herd out at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge during the fall. There are also Black-tailed deer about, but I don’t see them nearly as often as I did in Victoria since I don’t have them roaming about my neighbourhood anymore.

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Black-tailed Deer at the Hoyt Arboretum, Eugene

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Nutria at Sunset Park, Corvallis

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Young nutria at Sunset Park, Corvallis

Beaver are strongly associated with the state of Oregon, but unfortunately, its common to see nutria in some places. Nutria, or coypu, are invasive rodents from South America. They are smaller than beavers and have long tails similar to a muskrat. Most of the time I see them in wetlands in the water or on the banks munching away on vegetation. They might be invasive, but I have to admit they’re still cute…

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Mink at Talking Water Gardens, Albany

Another semi-aquatic mammal, I’ve only seen mink a couple of times in Oregon. They can be found just about anywhere with water in Oregon and I used to see them only rarely on Vancouver Island as well. If you ask me, I think there’s something beautifully sleek about them.

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Coyote at OSU

I am longing to see wolves in the wild and have yet to, but I don’t mind seeing their canine cousin the coyote sometimes. There seems to be at least one, if not more, that can be see around the agricultural land at Oregon State University. I’ve seen them fairly regularly especially near dusk and dawn. I watched this one hunting, intent and focused on its prey, then pouncing on it.

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Grey whale at Boiler Bay

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Grey whale at Boiler Bay

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Grey whale at Boiler Bay

I’d only ever seen whales twice before I moved to Oregon. A humpback whale and orcas, though technically orcas they aren’t actually whales. Since then, my whale-spotting has increased significantly! While the grey whale migration includes the Oregon coast during the winter, a number of them spend their summer off our coast. They can often be seen from shore because they feed in shallow water. Its been pretty amazing each time I’ve seen these whales off the coast here and I was very excited to see one on my birthday last year!

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Steller Sea Lions (and a cormorant)

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Steller Sea Lions

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Steller Sea Lions in the water

Staying at the coast (my favourite place), we have Steller Sea Lions and Pacific harbour seals (as well as other seals and sea lions). Steller Sea Lions can be seen at the Sea Lion Caves near Florence, which could be seen as a tourist trap paying to access the caves, and of course, my wariness sets in immediately at such things. However, it seems they have the good of the sea lions at the heart of their mission. Is it better to pay to access the caves and watch the sea lions under the watchful eyes of staff and volunteers or to access the caves for free and potentially get too close? (You know there’s someone out there who would…).

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Harbour seals at Yaquina Head, Newport

With lots of forest in Oregon, we have lots of forest creatures, too, including a variety of squirrels, chipmunks, martens and wolverines. No, I have not seen half of those animals, but have seen a couple of these  chipmunks in the Cascades and on the eastern foot of the mountains. I think this one might be a  Yellow pine chipmunk, but I am no expert!

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Chipmunk in the Cascades

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Watchful ground squirrel mama and young at Fitton Green Natural Area, Corvallis

Of course, we can’t forget the unfurry animals, too! There are lots of snakes, frogs, lizards, salamanders and newts roaming Oregon but these are just a couple. I found this snake hanging out in a tree sunning itself at the Oregon Garden. I see Rough-skinned Newts while out hiking in the forests and can never get enough of seeing them. Its interesting to watch how they move, almost like they are swimming on land, paddling through mud with their webbed toes. They are toxic to eat (as advertised by their bright orange bellies), but a fun fact I just learned is that Barred Owls are somehow still able to eat them! Keep your eyes out on the trails around Oregon for them as they often blend in very well!

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Garter Snake at the Oregon Garden, Silverton

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Rough-skinned Newt on the forest floor

Oregon sure has a wealth of wildlife, from large to small, furry to scaled, coast to Casades. I’ve enjoyed meeting and learning about some of these animals and am always hopeful to meet more if I can!