Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Heron on Wire -- Balancing Act

I was startled one day to look up and see a heron high up on a wire. I don't recall ever seeing one perched that way and was amazed at how its bulk could be balanced on a narrow wire that has some give in the wind. Maybe it's no different from a branch, but out in the wide open it's is quite the sight.

The Purple Marten Scouts Return

Rita Price is our local purple marten coordinator, taking her lead after Dave Fouts passed away. A few weeks ago she held a Sunday gathering where people on the island with purple marten gourds gave updates on last year's nesting. Rita followed that with an email:

There was a documented female Purple Martin sited  abt 15 m ssw of Olympia WA this week!  Seems like we may have another early year… Keep your ears open for their song, and if you do see one, please report it to the PM scouting site.  https://www.purplemartin.org/research/8/scout-arrival-study/

(or drop me a line and I’ll gladly do it for you!)

Whoooo hoooo!!  Here we go!

So of course when on the Sunday morning of April 7th I heard and then saw my first purple martens of the year, I dropped her this note, and not long after I wrote it, there were 8 of them--enough to fill all my gourds with nesting martens ... 

Hello Rita,

Three purple martens this morning! I am thrilled to hear and see them. I went and signed up on the conservation site and filed a scout report.

Thanks for keeping us informed and for all that you are doing for the martens. 

Pink and purple sunset

Having lived in the woods for so many years, I never stop being thrilled to see a spectacular sunset sweep across the river's open horizon. This time I saw the pink and purple colors reflected on the water in front of my desk and went outside to get the full view. I can't resist standing there until the sun has fully set and the afterglow is gone.

Gutter Garden -- How Embarrassing

Sometimes one's place is just an embarrassment, with maintenance flaws in full view. That was the case with one stretch of my gutter facing the river. There's just not an easy way to clean it, and so I didn't. First grasses were visible growing out of it, and then something that looked like a bush or small tree. People would paddle or float by and laugh and comment. Finally I got worried that having a blocked-up gutter might damage the house. 

I gave myself a sunny Sunday morning to tackle it. I asked my neighbor Courtney to come over and spot for me while I climbed up the ladder with a hoe taped with another into an extra-long pole. I strapped the tall extension ladder to a trellis so that it wouldn't move. Courtney came over and looked at the ladder and looked at me and volunteered to go up herself, since she's taller and has longer arms. I accepted her offer. She got some of it out, but a lot of it wouldn't budge.

Then suddenly, here comes a person walking across the roof--her next-door neighbor, Tom Hekker. "What are you guys doing?" he asked with a laugh. He walked over to the gutter, pulled out the remaining "garden," tossed it in the river and walked back across the roof home. We couldn't even figure out how or where he got up on my roof and he wouldn't say. After Courtney left, I went and reached down and picked up the line of plantings, now floating, to take pictures of what had been. I lined them up on my deck and left them there as a reminder that some maintenance tasks ought not be left undone. 

Squall then a double rainbow

(Note: I can't figure out how to get these blog images to run side-by-side. No matter what I try, one leaps to the next line, so you will just have to image these two photos as a panorama.) Late afternoon we had a horrendous squall come through. The rain was thick and heavy and you could barely see past it, and loud and raucous-sounding. I had to go out soon and I was not looking forward to walking all the way from my houseboat to the parking lot in such a downpour. Then right before it was time to leave, it all stopped. I got in my car and as I drove past the island's wide open farm fields, this double rainbow appeared spectacularly. Both the main rainbow and the "ghost" rainbow above it went from horizon to horizon. The main rainbow was bright and brilliant colors. I pulled off to take this photo and on that short drive to the bridge saw two other cars pulled over and people doing likewise. 

"Swimming Upriver" art bench by Donna Mauch

I could hardly believe that "Swimming Upriver" was the title for this beautiful bench. I am a big fan of the artist Donna Mauch and have a number of her handmade bird houses. Mostly I've bought them at Cracked Pots--my favorite of all the art shows, where everything is made from recycled stuff. I typically go with $100 that I have saved up, and arrive the first thing on the first day to find the best art before it gets snapped up. This year I had extra money because a friend I'd helped with some medical problems gave me another $100. I wasn't sure what I would buy--one big thing or a lot of small things--when I came to Donna's area and saw this bench. It is made from the frames of two chairs held together with cast-off wood, painted in shades of blue. I'd had a 30=year old teak bench that had eventually rotted away and I could see this would be perfect for perching on my deck. It was too big and heavy for me to take that day so Donna and a friend delivered it. It looks glorious on my riverside deck, although I have to admit it's positioned to look downriver.

The burned-out phone line box

This is what you get when the person hired to power-wash the walkway doesn't realize how hot the washer motor can get. Nor pay attention to the fact that said motor is at the exact height of our Century Link phone boxes, which are exposed along the walkway. Inside the house, what you get is a dead phone line and no WiFi connection. Ah, well, life is like that and the fellow was young and we all make mistakes. Good thing Century Link was great and came out the next day, replaced the box, and made sure everything was up and running. Yay!

Heron by Moonlight

I guess you can't see the heron in this photo, despite my copying it at the highest resolution. No matter. This is our moorage walkway and there is is, in the distance, outside my door. I love coming home at night and encountering a heron as I walk along the floating pathway with its warm yellow lights. Sometimes one will be on a side deck of a building. Or maybe on a roof. Often I don't see it until I come upon it and it flies off silently into the night. I always think it's a good sign that it flies off silently, my hearing just its wingbeats, instead of the heron's usual why-have-you-disturbed=me sqwa-sqwa-sqwa. Most morning I see heron poop splat on the walkway, but this was the first time at night I'd ever seen the heron itself--made more special because it was right in front of my own doorstep.

What is this crazy swallow doing?

I have not been able to figure out what this crazy violet green swallow is doing, nor can any of my birder friends. It is flying up to the window and landing--not as if it's trying to get in, nor as if it sees a rival out there. I feared that it would hurt itself, and so I pasted orange sheets of paper across the window, thinking it would not see any reflections and not consider that area as a place to land. No such luck. It just landed on the edge of the paper. It is part of a nesting pair of violet green swallows living in an Audubon-store violet green nest box right above this window. The box has an elongated oval hole to keep out unwanted species. Eventually the pair raised three young and the mystery was never solved.

The Green Heron Who Follows Me As I Swim

Ah, the greenback heron has returned again in summer. I will presume it is the same one that's been here the past few years. As I do my regular circumnavigation swims around the moorage, when I'm in the backwater I try to move as unnoticeable as I can, as though I'm a log that happens to float upriver, just in case the greenback is around, so I don't scare it off. This year I have had a thrill--it has been on the shore and "walked" along upriver as I moved by, following me until it gets into a deep thicket and disappears from view. In this photo it is sitting on a walkway stringer outside my guest room window.

Hummingbirds Watching the Olympics

When I started watching the Olympics, the hummingbirds at first were freaked out and would fly up to the feeders then fly off. I presumed they were scared off by sound they could hear through the windows and the flashing images on the screen. But as I kept watching, I guess they got hungry (hangry?) and figured What the Heck and now land. But what they do is take a sip, then look up at the Olympics, take a sip, look up at the Olympics, and repeat for umpteen times. I tried to take a photo catching the hummer’s head pointed toward the TV screen, but even saving the highest MBs on my iPhone I couldn’t get a good enough image to enlarge enough to really see, but you get the picture.


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.