Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It Just Keeps Getting More Amazing

Time is flying by out here!!! We are starting to get some crisp cold nights but the days are still pretty warm. You can definitely feel fall in the air.

We have had another week full of amazing sights and sounds:

9/6 Friday-

Elk elk elk- we were working on boundary fence and repair for the north border near the Horned Lark Trail. Intermingled amongst the most incredible canyon scenery we came upon 2 groups of elk. The first was a single male dominated  harem of 30 individuals. Snapping at his heels was a group of 7 smaller males probably looking to take over his harem. They are running in the distance (this was taken with my iphone)

It is difficult to describe the sheer steepness and depth of the canyons that abut the prairie. 

One of TNC's goals is to create a sustainable and economically viable model for the cattle industry across the country. The photo below demonstrates the difference between the TNC model and abuse of the prairie. (TNC on the right side of the fence)

9/7 Saturday 

We started the day with the usual yoga breakfast bird walk. We worked a bit on the patio project

Justin with TNC stopped by to see if we would be interested in taking a drive to check some Aspen exclosures as well as an area where we will be removing some old barbed wire fence. OF COURSE WE WERE INTERESTED - SO OFF WE WENT:)

Aspen exclosures are areas of aspens that TNC is fencing in to protect the aspens from the Elk and deer populations. (Mostly the elk population which has really grown in the area) The whole theory behind why is fascinating. The belief is that after WWII the ranchers began building stock ponds on the prairie. Before that the elk would leave once the summer water dried up. The elk started hanging around the prairie year around and as a result feeding on the aspens groves has intensified. Exclosure below:

We had the opportunity to drive up to the top of Coyote Butte and had the following amazing views 

Continuing to increase the birds we see- we came upon Oregon Juncos,
Wilson Warbler, yellow rumps, Hammond's flycatcher , Cassin's vireo, white breasted nuthatches to name a few. And another 120 elk. 

9/8 Sunday-

We worked on the patio in the morning. The barn swallow fledglings are getting big

See the difference between the tail length of the young swallow compared to the 2 adults on either side?

These guys don't want to leave the nest even if they are too big:)

 What a cutie!

We took a walk later in the day back along Camp Creek behind Summer Camp- Savannah's, Orange-crowned warbler, Lincoln's sparrow, White crowns- eating berries (having just arrived) Lewis 's woodpeckers , Northern Flickers,  & ravens to name a few

Lazuli Bunting (female or juvenile)

Lincoln's Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow hiding in the bush

Juvenile Spotted Towhee

Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow

Adult White-crowned Sparrow

Here are parting shots of a Red Shafted Northern Flicker

9/9 Monday- We did a section of boundary fencing and had a few beautiful sightings

Bob with a Praying Mantis on hat

Then we headed north to Buckhorn Overlook- WOW- this looks out over Hell's Canyon Recreation Area. I can only imagine what the pioneers that tried to cross this canyon had to say:)

Besides the view we came into some very active birding spots. (Mountain Bluebirds, Cassin's Finches, Chipping Sparrows, Mountain Quail, Spotted Towhee)  Here are a few of the following birds we saw

Ruffed Grouse

Hairy Woodpecker

9/10 Tuesday- We were asked to help create a support structure for the water troughs used for the cattle. TNC is trying to keep the water sources clean and rehabilitate the edges of these stock ponds which means keeping the cattle out. They have devised a method to syphon the water from the enclosed stock pond (photo below)

to the blue trough (photo below) with water from the stock ponds. The cattle are pretty hard on the plastic tubs and floats so we added some supports and protection.

We are hoping it will help. We even got a few lodge pole pine coasters as a bonus from the left over materials and the result of the expert chainsaw handling of Jeff Fields!

The evening of the same day we ventured back to this riparian corridor to see if any of the birds of the morning were still around. The late day sun was hot but as it started to set the birds became more active- we saw lots of Cedar Waxwings, White-crowned Sparrows and we even saw a Golden-crowned Kinglet traveling with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. They both had beautiful plumage- there was nothing dingy or fall looking about either one.

We can't believe our month is coming quickly to an end and we will be heading to Bill Williams River NWLR in a few weeks!!

One more week to go:) Needless to say we have fallen in love with this area and will be back!


Our home in the fall sunset light

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