Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Why We Live Here"

The Sauvie Island Community Association's weekly e-news always has a photo at the bottom under the heading, "Why We Live Here." Neighbors regularly send around photos they've taken that prove the sentiment. So here's my sunrise contribution of the moment.

What Floats Past, Volume 3 (I think)

Having a front-row seat on a working, playing, and wildlife-rich river is highly entertaining. Whenever I see something interesting go by, I run out and take a photo. Here is the latest collection.

The Three Coot-sketeers, or Muske-coots

January, 2017

Coots are not a bird I'd noticed hanging around the houseboats. But a few months ago, there was one regularly in the backwaters. Then, curiously, there were three that have been hanging out for weeks right outside my window. They are very charming, small birds with white beaks, and because the river is running fast and strong I see them bobbing their heads and seemingly using a lot of energy just to stay in (my) place. I have seen them eating moss from Courtney's swim float logs.

These three just hang around together all the time. Yesterday I saw a log come by with birds on it, and when I looked with binoculars, I saw it was the three coots, who floated past and hung on until the log bumped into Courtney's swim float and they flew off.

Oh So Many Hummers

January, 2017

With the long stretch of freezing weather, hummingbirds were voraciously hungry. I have three window feeders with a total of 9 holes, and two hanging feeders, with a total of 8 holes. I was filling all these feeders sometimes two or three times a day. In the morning they would be partially frozen and I would bring them in, defrost them in the microwave, fill them and put them back out.

I can see the two hanging feeders from my desk. I would watch as one hummer hogged the one on the right side, while on the left side, two or three would be vying for and sharing one hole. That was the first time I'd ever seen that kind of hummingbird-sharing.

Snow Visitors

January, 2017

As the snow began to melt, I got visitors looking for something to eat.

They stayed past dusk, where I could see them from my desk. 

A Really Big Snow

January, 2017

The average annual snowfall in Portland is about 4 inches. So it is a shock to get 14 inches overnight. And because we live on an island with a lot of trees, power lines go down and we are without power. Which means, because we are on well water, that we have no electricity nor running water. On top of that, houseboats float, and when they get weighed down with heavy, wet snow, they start to sink.

That means that while the rest of Portland was mostly shut down with a fun snow day, we moorage folks were going from houseboat to houseboat shoveling snow off people's roofs and decks. Getting snow off the roof is the most dangerous. Tom Hekker, Junior, a professional roofer, and younger than most of us, did the lion's share of that work. But others were up on roofs, too. My next-door neighbor was up on her roof, put her weight down on her wrist and broke it. Another person was trying to tie up a boat to reach the snow on a roof and landed in the frigid river.

Fortunately for us on the moorage, the electricity was out for less than 24 hours. Some of our land neighbors were out of heat and water for days because the top of an electrical pole had broken off and the whole pole needed to be replaced, and Portland General Electric had something like 850 repairs to do and an island with a small population is not a top priority. But after the first day, when all our houseboats were stabilized, I went out to Wapato park, first trying to x-country ski but there were too many fallen-over trees, so then I hiked with neighbors, and we went and visited other neighbors near the park. That part was all lovely.

The snow fell the night of Monday, January 10th, It stayed cold and everything stayed snowy and icy. People with 4WDs got out, but I -- with my tiny un-snow-worthy smartcar -- did not get off the island under the evening of January 19th.

Tracks in the Snow

December, 2016
Heron tracks on the walkway

Portland doesn't get many snowfalls, so unless it causes everyday life to go awry, it's beautiful and a pleasure. This time, I noticed animal tracks along our walkway that gave clues to what critters are here and where they are coming and going. We suspected raccoons, and sure enough, they're all around our houseboats and decks. The river otters seem to like Ron's place. And herons are up and down the walkway, and were even up in the parking lot, well above river level.

Raccoon tracks

River otter tracks. They are smaller and more
rounded than the raccoon's.

More raccoon tracks coming from a tenderhouse

Winston O'Neil's Houseboat Vision

October 23, 2016

My friends Ali and Dan's son Nick is going to Reed College. They were coming down from Spokane to see him and spend a weekend with me at my/our favorite house on the Oregon coast. Nick brought with him a still-in-high-school friend, Winston O'Neil. Winston is a budding photographer, has a part-time job at a photography business and was taking photos the whole weekend. On Monday, Ali sent me a link to Winston's Instagram account, and here was his amazing night how-did-he-do-that? view of my houseboat.

Squash on my Stoop

Autumn, 2016

You never know what you're going to find here in the way of neighborliness. We loan each other items when asked, do favors, look for good deeds, ask if we can help, and in general watch out for each other with a spirit of generosity. When harvest season comes, those who've planted gardens will put extra vegetables and flowers out at the top of the ramp with a note that says FREE. Many a time have I come home from a complicated day, thrilled to be able to bring down a bouquet of bright flowers. Or made a meal out of some veggies left to share. But one day this autumn the generosity came home to roost -- a spaghetti squash was left on my stoop. I figured it was Diana and asked her, and she just responded, "I thought you'd like it." And of course I did.

Memorial to the White and Gray Goose

Summer, 2016

This is my fifth summer here, and an everyday occurrence, whether one likes it or not, has been a visit from the pair of geese. No one knows where they came from, but they have been inseparable, a twosome, always together. They swim together. Rest on a log together. Stalk the walkway squawking at passers-by together. Begging for handouts together. Making a loud racket together.

Then suddenly people noticed the gray and white goose had disappeared. People saw the white goose seeming to hunt all over, along the shores, calling out for its companion. It never returned. We had no idea what happened to the goose, whether it died naturally or was killed by a motorboat or what.

The white goose for awhile was hanging out with a family of Canada geese, but as time passed, it ended up alone, and we see it alone daily now, a reminder of life changing and what we lose. This year has been full of many losses of people dear to me, and the lonely white goose is a reminder that we all must cope and adapt.

Whose Shoes?

Summer, 2016

For a number of days, this pair of shoes sat on the walkway at the bottom of the ramp. I asked any number of people whose they were and nobody knew. Then one day they were gone. Ah, the mysteries of the moorage ...

Heron on my Deck

August 31, 2016

A wondrous part of living here is feeling close to wildlife. It doesn't get much better than when a great blue heron lands on your deck, a few feet away from where you're sitting.

Mud Swallow Nest in View

Summer, 2016

Swallows that build mud nests -- they might be barn swallows or cliff swallows -- have been building nests every year at most of my neighbors' places. One year I built a shelf to try and lure them here but no luck. Then one day I happened to notice that outside my office window, there was a mud nest right under the roof overhang. I could hardly believe it. Finally! It was a delight to watch the babies in the nest, and then to see the parent "on guard" on the arm of my seed bird feeder right outside my window. I was amazed one day that it didn't fly away one day when I was out there filling up the feeder.

Stringer and Flotation Maintenance

Summer, 2016

My neighbors Ann and Linda are having some flotation and stringers replaced. Like all the maintenance on these floating homes, it's fascinating to watch.

New flotaton arriving by barge
Stringer replacements 

Cubes of styrofoam flotation
Old flotation removed

The Green-backed Heron Returns

Summer, 2016

The summer is mostly gone and I've not seen the green-backed heron. I know they are rare, but one has been hanging around the backwater for the last few summers, and I keep hoping it will return. Then a few of my neighbors say they have seen it. I watch for it when I take my swims circumnavigating the moorage. At last, I spot it and it doesn't fly away as I swim past. Then one day when I am walking home I see it on the backwater shore behind the Hekkers' tenderhouse.

I Recognize the Sound of the Sea Lion's Breath

Summer, 2016

I sit at my desk. I have no air conditioning. When it's warm out, I keep the windows and sliding glass doors open with screens. And thus, I discover that it's so quiet here, and I am so attuned to it, that I recognize the sound of a sea lion's breathing. I grab my camera and run out. I see that, yes, that's what I heard.

Another Donna Mauch Art Birdhouse

Spring/Summer 2016

Spring came, and it looked to me like the tree swallows who had nested in Donna Mauch's art birdhouse were back, and now last year's young as well as the adults were looking for a home here, and squabbling over the one birdhouse. So I called Donna to see if she was going to be at any art shows coming up, sure enough she was, and I went and picked out this birdhouse -- with spots for four bird families to nest. Donna said that the holes weren't the right size for tree swallows, according to her Audubon guidelines, and so she took it home, made the holes bigger, and delivered it in person to my houseboat.

Right away -- it might have been the next day -- the swallows began taking up residence in the house and I ended up with two sets of fledglings. Here's one gingerly peeking out. One of my neighbors was envious of the bird show and went and bought a birdhouse from Donna Mauch, too (You can reach her business, 2nd Site Yard Art and Furniture, at 503-312-5633.)