Thursday, August 29, 2013

Little houses on the prairie

It is so expansive and beautiful here on the prairie. We have never really been in a true prairie environment so we are learning something new everyday on many levels; sometimes it relates directly to the restoration & conservation practices of The Nature Conservancy(TNC) and other times it relates to volunteer activities. We have been blessed to have Melissa & Johnnie (M&J) as our guides & mentors in our new journey as environmental conservation volunteers. M&J have been volunteering with TNC all over the country. Their insights and guidance have been invaluable!! The following provides an overview of activities for the last few days:

 8/26- Monday we arrive to the "little houses on the prairie" otherwise TNC's Summer Camp

After scouting out are route to our new home on Saturday we made the executive decision to drive the trailer out on a very bumpy 2 track road. The average speed was 5 miles an hour for the 3 miles. We arrived all intact with the exception of 1 single screw from our ceiling fan- a miracle!

               The barn- believe it or not this barn is from the Sears catalog and still standing:)

 Here is the power shed- consist of our power supply - solar with a back up propane back up generator

                              This is the School House and Doc's House (M&J) live in Doc's House

                                                      Another view of Doc's House

The road back to the canyon behind us- a wonderful riparian habitat

Our "little house on the prairie"

M&J are there to greet us- they are charming and welcoming- they even cooked us a beautiful dinner:) Our morning consisted of the slow drive out from Enterprise. In the afternoon M&J(incredibly well organized and efficient) had a list of the volunteer activities to be accomplished with associated priorities.

8/27- Tuesday-After a great night's sleep- we did our yoga and breakfast routine. We met with M&J and continued review of projects in more detail along with maps. In the afternoon we all went to the Horn Lark Trail to post boundary signs, fix fences and check on aspen exclosures. Exclosures are wooden or wired fences built to keep cows, deer & elk out. TNC is trying restablish both Aspen groves and riparian trees such as Willows that were historically grazed to death (literally). It was a full 8 hour day! We are so lucky to have M&K to show us the ropes !!

8/28-Amazing lightning storm awakes us around 2 am. It was a primordial experience with continuos thunder and lighting for 2 hours! Luckily rain showers because we did hear later that there were 3 nearby lighting strikes that did start small fires that were extinguished by the rain. 

So we were up for the day:) We started with our usual yoga & breakfast and then a walk down the canyon where we are stationed. We have many Barn Swallows around the building with hungry babies to feed. We saw a family of song sparrows and spotted towhees along with a pair of rock wrens calling to us from the canyon walls above. We also had a few Vesper Sparrows and juvenile Chipping Sparrows hanging out together.

                                      Juvenile Say's Phoebe loves hanging around the Summer Camp

Say's Phoebe

                                       A pair of Rock Wrens were calling to us from above

An adult Spotted Towhee

Juvenile Spotted Towhee

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

Our TNC activities started out with a meeting with our TNC contact, Justin (who reminds us of Seth Bullock from the TV show Deadwood). Our volunteer mates, Melissa & Johnnie think Bob looks like the character that plays Batman:) We have the beginnings of a Hollywood studio going on here. 

After the meeting we all went to focus on tasks at hand: Melissa is filling woodpecker / starling holes in the side of one of the old buildings. Bob & Johnnie went to work building a skid to help the guys load and unload their fire truck with their firefighting equipment. I used my energy background and performed an inventory of electrical load for each building to feed into an analysis the is going to make sure the solar/back up generator are sized properly.

Melissa working on a patio area

Johnnie & Bob putting the skid together

The devil is in the details

Finished product!

This morning we hiked Patti's trail- beautiful prairie and riparian area. This must be amazing in the spring and early summer with wild flowers.

We are having a blast! The days are packed and we are sleeping like babies. 


Sunday, August 25, 2013

The alps and prairie in two days

We are getting ready to pack things up to head up to the Zumwalt prairie to begin work with the Nature Conservancy for the   next 4 weeks and are very excited. The location is relatively remote so we will have limited access to send out blogs as far as we know. We will see. The following provides an overview our adventures for the last few days. 

Yesterday we went to check out the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve Summer camp where will be living for the next 4 weeks. The drive is beautiful as you drive northeast from Enterprise. We climbed for around 15 miles up to the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve. This is the largest intact prairie in the U.S.  We saw American Kestrels everywhere. The last few miles of the drive are a bit bumpy- it will be a slow drive in with Shak3. 

After checking things out at the camp we drove down the road a few miles to the Horn Lark Trail. It is beautiful and the smell of the grasses were so sweet and new to me. 

At first glance the prairie looks quiet and a bit desolate - but then you start to see and hear the grasshoppers all around you (bouncing off of us occasionally) We think the Kestrels were feasting on these insects :) It is very much alive. 

Then the Vesper Sparrows started popping up all around us. 

A Red-tailed hawk was sitting on a bluff keeping a close eye on us. 

We had a few Swainson's Hawks putting on a show as they were hunting the grasslands around us. (They migrate all the way to Argentina!)

This is a Northern Harrier that flew right by low along the tops of the grasses taking us by surprise. We then came upon a little pond.

The photo above is an Eastern Kingbird- considered a "rare" bird for this location. We also had 2 Westen Kingbirds in our campground the same morning. 

As we were walking we heard this low wail coming from the hillside above. We put our binoculars up and there were fields of elk!! We estimate at least 300. 

There was a coyote sitting in the grass below the elk just watching us. 

Today we went the other direction to the Wallowa Lake State Park. The sign said "Little Alps". This is the headwaters of the  Wallowa River. There were a number of trail options - we took the Chief Joseph Mountain Trail. It was splendid!

We were strolling along keeping our eyes and ears aware for birds. We saw a grosbeak and Gray Jay and heard nuthatches and chickadees - but then we  came upon a Black-backed Woodpecker!! This was the first time we have seen this particular species and it was wonderful. It just hung out very focused on feeding and did not mind our presence. 

That brings us to Sunday night as we batten down the hatches and get ready for our next adventure. 

We will be in touch :)


Saturday, August 24, 2013

We made it to Enterprise:)

We left La Grande around 8:30 am Friday morning after Curt of Curt's RV fixed a few last minute items on Shak3. It was a gorgeous morning for a drive after a big rain storm the night before. Everything smelled so clean and fresh. The scenery along 82, which included the Wallowa River, was breathtaking. 

We arrived into Enterprise around 10:30. We really like the feel and functionality of this town- 2 hardware stores, a Safeway, 2 Mexican restaurants & a Pub- what else do you need.  We got settled in at our campground and then went off to explore  the town of Joseph and Lake Wallowa. Joseph looks very cute but a little on the touristy side. 

We stopped at a little road side State Park that commemorates the travesty of the Nez Pierce Indians. We took a hike up the hill and to our pleasant surprise were greatest by this meadow and pond and a great hike along the river. 

Here is the entrance way to Lake Wallowa- and what an entrance:

This is the north part of the lake looking south. 

At the south end is the State park- and a huge busy campground. It looks like the alps with lots of trails to explore:)

We needed to head back to town for our meeting with Justin, the Nature Conservancy representative, to set things up for us to start work on Monday. 

We topped off the day with an excellent meal at a local Mexican restaurant :)

Hasta luego,

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Oh My- Oregon Hwy 244

Our route from John Day to La Grande  took us on Hwys 395 to 244 to I-84. Highway 395 is stunning - we followed the Camas Creek for the 2nd part of our journey on 395. On the right hand side is the 24 square mile Bridge Creek Wildlife Area. We stopped for a few minutes to take a look at the beautiful creek and 2 American Kestrels took flight not 25 yards from where we stood. Then 2 flickers flew in. Needless to say we can't wait to go back to this wildlife area. Access is through Ukiah.

We took a right onto 244 which led us into the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest- wow! The Grande Ronde River was on our right the last 20 miles or so of 244. It is a lovely river and stretch of road. There a handful of state and National Forest campgrounds with barely a human insight. 

It was so beautiful that we had to go back today to explore while Shak3 was having some work done. We stopped at Hilgard Junction State park right along I-84 and 244. There was lots of highway/truck noise but we thought we would check it out. It was amazing!! We had many warblers (Nashville and mostly Yellow), a family of Red-naped Sapsuckers, male Belted Kingfisher, chickadees, Downy woodpecker, American Dipper and we heard a Gray Catbird! 

Some photos from the day:

           Red-naped Sapsucker

                Yellow Warbler

              Lurking Song Sparrow

We went on to visit Red Bridge campground, right on the Grande Ronde River and it was pretty quite - a few campers and fewer birds. You be never know what you are going to find- that is why we love birding:)

We then went on to Birdtrack Springs campground - woo hoo! We will be back here.  Beautiful forest with an 1.5 mile interpretive trail that follows along the Grande Ronde River. Lots of warblers, Western Tanagers, Robins, Red Crossbills, Red-tailed Hawks, Golden Eagles, Warbling Vireo and 4 Ruffed Grouse (red morphs) displaying with their neck ruffs(brownish red) fluffed out in some type of display. That was a first!!

Back into town to do some errands and pick up Shak3. All in all another spectacular day. As Bob says- our life is one extended field trip from here on out!

Ciao for now,


 Red Bridge Camp State Ground

Bird Tracks Spring NF Campground 

Hilgard Oregon StAte Campground 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We have fallen in love with the John Day River region

The morning started out with Bob cooking breakfast. I love the sunbeam coming down through our skylight. 

Bob gave me the whistle to bring my camera. This who we had sitting outside our back window:
          A female Kingfisher:)

We took a drive to visit the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This is such beautiful, unique country. There are 3 -4 forks of John Day tributaries that feed into the main John Day River that flows north into the Columbia River. The surrounding hills sides are ancient fossil beds. 
                  Sheep Rock Trail

          Petrified Dawn Redwood

You never know what your going to find. On our way home we stopped into an Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife office and found information on a protected wildlife area along the South Fork of the John Day River. 50,000 acres of incredible pristine habitat. It claims excellent birding year round and populations of big horn sheep, mule deer & elk. Lots of places for us to camp!

And here we end a lovely day with the coyotes howling in the background. It is a full moon tonight :)

Good night~ B&B 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Home sweet home:)

We are settled into this beautiful Oregon State Park- Clyde Holliday - for a few days. We are parked right on the John Day River - right where the otters are reported to come out of the river. 

We took a walk along the river and there are tons of birds- cedar waxwings dominate- flycatchers- kingfishers - warblers- cliff swallows and swifts to name a few. Can't wait for our early morning bird walk;)


Saturday, August 17, 2013

It is amazing how beautifully things unfold if we only get out of the way:)

It would be an understatement to say preparing to go on the road full-time has not had its challenges ... For a bit if it was not one thing it was another from my macbook dying and me having to ship it to Apple -to our new South Dakota license plates not making it on time before we were leaving -to having issues with the location we were planning on storing Shak3 while getting her ready for the road~~~ but in the end we went with the flow and every thing resolved itself! Apple is shipping my repaired MacBook to Zumwalt and will be waiting for me- we got an extension on our temporary tags and we ended up finding a camping spot right outside of Ashland to park Shak while we got her all ready for our big adventures. It was the greatest spot on Neil Creek with lots of old Oaks and birds to keep us company. The sound of the bubbling creek was worth the price of admission. 

Saying good by to our feathered friends that Bob has been feeding was not so easy. A few of our regulars were trying to figure out where the water went:

Our destination for our first stop on the way to Zumwalt was La Pine. We headed out of town on Hwy 62 towards Crater Lake. We happened to pull into MacGregor Park and who do we see fishing the Rogue but our dear friend Otis    . It was such a great way to leave the Rogue Valley- seeing one of our favorite people doing what he loves to outside fishing:)

We had a beautiful day to drive. It took around 4 hours to get to our campground in La Pine. I came out of the office to check in and Bob told me to get my camera- there was a flock of Red Crossbills bathing and drinking in the fountain right there at the entrance!! 

We ended the afternoon with a lovely walk in La Pine State Park :)

What a wonderful way to slip into to our new life. 

Going with the flow,