Friday, April 25, 2014

April- A Time of Transition

Here we are:

Where are we? The first 3 weeks of April have been busy and a time of transition. Since the beginning of the month we have moved the trailer from our wonderful spot in Arizona to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon, sold our house in Ashland, sold our Toyota Rav4 , sold all of the contents of our house, moved personal items and documents into storage, brought the trailer to the manufacturer for annual service, and even done a little birding along the way.

We could not have accomplished all of this without the help of our friends. We had many earlier discussions about how we were going to get all of this done. In the end we simply had to ask for help. This was an important life lesson for us- we typically try to take care of everything ourselves. The outcomes were beyond our expectations because of the wonderful people who made it all possible. We want to thank Joyce, our amazing neighbor who kept a constant eye on our house for us and was one of our best friends throughout the 7 years that we lived there. We want to thank our realtor from heaven, Patie Millen, who somehow manifested the sale of our house in 4 days and got us more than we asked for!! We want to thank Wendy, who somehow organized all of our household stuff and got it sold in 3 days. These are just a few of the folks that have helped us to make this lifestyle change.

How we got here:

How did we come to this point of living in an RV full time and selling our house and personal belongings?

The decision to move into an RV full-time and volunteer for conservation organizations did not happen over night. The process has been unfolding for at least the last 3-4 years. Both of us had major challenges with our health which we overcame but caused us to re-prioritize what we wanted to do with our lives. We became laser focused on what was really important to us.

In 2010 we started spending winters in Stinson Beach because of work. Many shorebirds hang out on the coast during the winter and we quickly fell in love with them. We discovered a group of Snowy Plovers on the beach where we walked. When we noticed some of the plovers had colored bands on their legs, we contacted Point Reyes Bird Observatory to ask if our observations would be of interest to them. Low and behold, they requested that we begin sending them regular plover observations. Again, many of the plovers were banded so it was so interesting to be able to learn some of the birds' history. We even got to see the nest and eggs of the Snowy Plover below.  The nest was not successful but it was the first recorded nest on that beach since the 1980s. This is important because the population of Snowy Plovers that successfully nest on the coast is in sharp decline due to the increase in human and predator activity.

Who can't love these little birds, they are only ~6"

A little bling:)- we call this bird GOGO (that stands for the color bands Green Orange:Green Orange)

Taking a break from sitting on the nest

We have been blessed with being able to spend quite a bit of time birding on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The number of birds may be limited since it is an island but we were able to become familiar with amazing endemic birds and see some interesting vagrants from time to time. One of the lessons learned from birding and living on the Big Island is that we live in such a fragile environment. There are more extinct and/or endangered birds per square foot in Hawaii than anywhere else in world! One of the most shocking facts to learn was of the Hawaiian Crow- who would ever think of a crow going extinct in the wild? It has definitely caused me to never take a bird for granted.

The bird below is one of our favorites: the Akiapolaau. It is a member of the Hawaiian honeycreeper family that has evolved to fill the niche occupied by woodpeckers in other parts of the world. This bird is endangered due to loss of habitat and is only found on the Island of Hawaii. Its population is less than 1,000!

During the spring of 2011, Bob planned a spur of the moment trip to SE Arizona that opened our eyes to the challenges that face many of the neotropical birds that migrate up from South America and other areas in the Southern Hemisphere. The San Pedro River has over two-thirds of North Americas songbirds migrating through it and the river is only a trickle in places due to the increase in agricultural use and development. This sparked a desire to want to help......what could we do to make a difference?

The bird below blew me away when I first saw it- a Blue-headed Grosbeak!

In July of 2011, Bob & I found this 1987 VW Vanagon that began nurturing the nomad in us both:) The photo below was taken in Hart Springs on Hart Mountain,  OR not that far from where we are in Malheur NWR. We were actually on our way to Malheur Field Station for the first time!

Instrumental in our learning and growth as birders were two very dear people: Vince Zausky and Otis Swisher. We were so fortunate to become friends and fellow birders. We are always learning whenever we bird with Vince & Otis. They have a way of nurturing the desire and spirit to enjoy each bird. In August 2011 Otis invited us to a very special birding spot near the base of Mt. McLoughlin, OR that we soon called Otis's Pond. This became our favorite place to bird instantly. Not only do you get to see all different types of birds but you get to see them bathing and drinking at the water's edge of this little spring fed pond. Where would you ever get these types of views? This experience provided us with a peek of what was possible if the right environment was provided where birds could not just survive but thrive.......

Black-capped Chickadee

Hybrid Red-breasted & Red-naped Sapsucker bathing

Western Tanager at the water's edge

Townsend's Warbler bathing- they typically hang out on the tree tops of the tall pines

Male Evening Grosbeak drinking and bathing

Black-headed Grosbeak female

Nashville Warbler bathing

Hermit Warbler- another tree top warbler

Clark's Nutcracker

Isn't Otis's Pond amazing???!!

The following photos were taken on a recent trip up to Howard Prairie Lake with Vince, Candace & Otis. We will miss these regular outings with our Ashland friends but we will be back to Ashland for a visit to Otis's Pond at the end of the summer:)

Tree Swallow-everyone was protecting their nesting spots

Female Mountain Bluebird protecting her nest box

The male Mountain Bluebird watching from above

It began to be apparent that we really enjoyed visiting wildlife refuges when Bob planned a trip to the Olympic Peninsula. As a part of the trip, Bob planned stops at refuges along the way. We loved the Olympic Peninsula but the highlights of the trip were the refuges:  William Finlay NWR, Gray's Harbor NWR, Crooked River National Grasslands, Ridgefield NWR. Up until that point, we had talked about visiting all of the National Parks but ended up changing that plan because we felt much more connected to the wildlife refuges.

In May of 2012, we took a birding trip to Panama. It was an incredible experience but we realized we wanted to be more involved in learning about the birds and their habitats and challenges than simply listing sightings. It was that winter that we took our first trip Midway to volunteer for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service counting Albatross nests. This trip convinced us that volunteering full time was what we wanted to do going forward. We saw the tremendous need and loved being involved in helping the wildlife and the conservation organizations dedicated to their well-being.

Here we are now living our dream. We are so excited about our new path but will definitely miss our friends in Ashland: Joyce, Vince, Candace, Otis, Debbie & Ken, Genna & David and the gang at North Mountain Park! We will be back and send you nothing but love.

Up, Up & Away,

Turtle & Hawk

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