If you hadn’t heard what happened to the bald eagle pair tending this year’s nest at the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge, the pair I’ve mentioned several times in the last few months (A Pair of Eagles), I apologize for bringing bad news. Many of us have been following the nest this spring and hoping to see hungry eaglets Sadly, the wild winds of last Tuesday morning sent the tall fir tree, along with the eagle’s nest, into the river.
I was compelled to go see the damage this morning and was able to talk to a woman who had been watching when the incident happened. I also read an account by a photographer who had been there.
Both witnesses said that the tree fell very quickly and that the distraught parents circled again and again above the spot, obviously in shock and confusion.
The woman I spoke to this morning said she has only seen one eagle in the last few days. As I left the refuge I saw one eagle in the top of the huge oak tree near the visitor center.
It’s a sad outcome for this year’s eagles at the refuge, but those parents are big, strong, beautiful birds – and there is next year. it is still springtime, it is still the season of hope, the season of growth, and a time for renewal. There is much to love about this time of year.
was a sign that they are nesting. I could hardly wait to find out this morning. There she was, sitting high in a tree across the river, safe from human traffic. A Bald Eagle’s nest can be eight feet wide and weigh as much as a ton. In Alaska they have been known to get much bigger and weigh up to two or three tons. Sitting at the very top of a tall tree, as this one is, makes them an engineering marvel, but most bird nests are.
That white head barely showing above the nest is everything I hoped to see.
Next time I go to the refuge I’ll be checking out the half-chewed tree below to see if the Beaver came back to finish the job.
On a recent Sunday afternoon the family took a walk trough Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville. The park was open and there were several small groups enjoying a beautiful spring day while maintaining social distance and mostly wearing masks.
We walked in sunshine for quite a while and then we walked in the rain. It was a short but delightful break before returning to home and quarantine.
More than ever I have been conscious that the only thing that matters right now is the moment. Where will we be tomorrow? Will the economy collapse completely?. Will we or our loved ones get sick?
Though most of us are making sincere efforts to follow health, social, and economic best practices, we have no real control.
We have never had control. We only do our best and after that what happens is what happens.
What we can do is relax our expectations while holding on to our dreams and desires. Life really does happen in the moment and the terrain constantly changes.
Living life well is doing our best at any given moment, not looking at the good times as the life we are striving for so much as being present for what is and for whatever comes next.
There is nothing new in these thoughts, but being reminded can help.
It really is about the journey, not the destination, and what a joy that is (when we remember), because we spend every moment on the journey – and the destination is the stopping place.
My walks always begin with the expectation that I am about to discover a “gift.” I am never disappointed.
Sometimes the gift is a song sparrow enthusiastically singing his little heart out near the top of a shrub. Rarely it’s a glimpse of two bright-eyed baby raccoons hiding under a sidewalk drain, peeking at Teddy and I as we walk down the street in the early morning.
Sometimes the gift is the brief sighting of a doe or the mid-day surprise of a large Barred Owl staring at me through a tangle of branches.
Most often the gifts I find are modest; a small patch of violets in the grass, or a particularly charming mushroom I’ve never seen before. I notice them because I’ve chosen to pay attention during my walks, to be fully present, because I’m looking for the gift. These small experiences stay with me for at least a day, sometimes for years.
From now on, I plan to begin my days as I begin my walks, confident that I will find gifts in the midst of cleaning the kitchen, folding clothes, watering plants, laughing with family, coping with small irritations and social distancing, working in the yard, visiting dear friends over Zoom, and watching the baby discover the world.
If we expect something delightful, we will find it. That’s what I learned on my walks, and it’s what I hope to remember more often.
Feeding wild birds can be a delightful distraction in these days of social isolation; but not so much when you find yourself dealing with sprouting seed under your feeder, wet and rotting bird seed, and squirrels who hog what little is left. It took years, but I finally learned that it is possible to enjoy feeding backyard birds without the mess, the spoilage, and the waste, and without inviting rodents to share the feast.
I learned by making mistakes, many mistakes; none more disconcerting than the sunny afternoon I realized I was hosting a family of rats under the feeder (The Honeymooners). Having made so many mistakes, I’d like to share some things that took all the fuss out of what should be one of life’s small joys.
To get the most pleasure out of your yard birds you really only need a few things, a source of water, a good quality feeder and the right food.
Whether you feed or not, consider a bird bath filled with fresh, clean water. Thirsty birds will gladly stop by, and the antics of bathing birds are endlessly entertaining. An inexpensive concrete bath is perfect, but a shallow bowl or ceramic container will do. Even a large rock with a natural indentation makes a lovely bath.
Most important is a clean bath and fresh water. The bath should be kept free of scum. I keep a stiff brush by the faucet to quickly clean the concrete bath as I replenish water. The best bird baths have a gradual slope so that the birds can wade into the depth they prefer. If yours doesn’t slope, a few decorative rocks of different sizes will enable birds to use it more easily.
Feeder and Seed
Your feeder should keep seed dry. Rotting seed, wasted seed, and the mess under your feeder, can kill the birds and will eventually make you feel like trashing the idea of bird feeding.
I stick with a gazebo style feeder and keep it full of sunflower “hearts” (chopped sunflower seeds). Sunflower hearts are the only seed I buy. Since they are already shelled and broken up, even finches love them.
Don’t waste your money on bags of seed mixes. They contain a large percentage of “filler” seeds that the birds don’t eat. You’ll find sunflower hearts in the in the garden section of your grocery store, not the pet section. You can also get them at bird shops, and yard and garden stores.
The gazebo style feeder is ideal for beauty and practicality. Food stays dry until the bird enters the feeder and coaxes the seed from the plastic center cone. A mesh floor keeps water from collecting in the feeder. Because the seed is dispensed in the center of the gazebo, and because it holds only shelled, chopped, sunflower seeds, not a single shell or seed hits the ground. There is absolutely no waste, no shells to attract rodents, and no rot to sicken the birds.
Placing your Feeder
Pick an open spot in your yard, about ten feet from overhanging branches, or any structure which will allow a clever squirrel to jump on top of the feeder. Don’t place your feeder near undergrowth where your neighbor’s cat can lay in wait. Mount your feeder about five feet high (a metal pole in a concrete block is ideal). Don’t forget to add an inexpensive metal squirrel baffle under the feeder, about four feet above the ground.
Now you are ready for years of bird watching without the mess.
If you are interested in attracting colorful woodpeckers, and delightful flocks of tiny Bush Tits, you may consider offering suet to the birds. Suet is fat from cattle and a delight to woodpeckers and other insect eaters. Directions for making suet are available online but I much prefer buying suet blocks at same place I get seed. It’s not expensive, and the birds have not complained.
Suet can also attract more aggressive birds like Starlings, Crows, and Jays; birds that can quickly finish off a suet cake and discourage the birds you want to feed. The trick is to buy a holder that is only open on the bottom. Woodpeckers and Bush Tits are fine hanging upside down while they dine; crows and starlings don’t like it at all and will soon give up trying.
Hummingbirds are fascinating back yard guests. The often behave like ferocious little terriers of the bird world, zipping after each other like fighter pilots and keeping the area around a feeder exciting. The formula for food is simple, four parts water, one-part sugar. Never use honey or any other kind of sweetener and never add coloring. It’s important to thoroughly wash the feeders and give fresh food frequently.
I’m hoping there is something here that will make your bird feeding simpler, less messy, and much more fun. Wishing you a happy spring enjoying the wild birds in your own yard!
Most of us have been sequestered during the last couple of weeks, preoccupied with the health and well-being of our loved ones and ourselves. Some have been busy providing health care and other critical services.
Thanks to wet weather, Teddy and I have stayed close to home on our walks. It’s been an opportunity to appreciate spring in the neighborhood. Waving at neighbors and greeting them (from 6′ away) is one way to hold on to a feeling of connection.
Despite the human state of anxiety, the natural world has moved forward and suddenly it is spring.
Teddy stopped to examine pee mail the other day and I noticed tiny red maple leaf buds beginning to stretch and uncurl, ready to meet their season in the sun. Other trees are heavy with so many blossoms there is enough left over to carpet the ground.
Small white daisies adorn neighbor’s lawns, and daffodils are already nearly done blooming.
I noticed a robin, just one, sitting and singing from the most prominent peak of each house on the block. One robin for each house. I admire the robins for their equitable distribution of territory.
Peace that comes from getting close to nature can be as simple as stepping outside and paying attention. I hope you are clinging to good things, the people and things that keep you grounded while we wait for this strange time to pass, and it will pass. Be well.
It’s been weeks since I’ve been outside, really outside, by myself, soaking up all the goodness of the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. Finally, I went to the refuge last Sunday and it felt so very good.
A pair of geese met me near the path and a small flock of geese quietly strolled the grassland in the distance.
I’ve let other things keep me from taking the time to do the thing that keep me balanced and make me happy to my very core. It’s my own fault, I get busy doing the things I think I should do and forget to do the things I love. In this time of uncertainty, and fear, a quiet walk and connection with nature can set you back on an even keel, that’s what it it did for me.
Maybe there are places where the Tualatin River runs hard and swift, but the vantage points I’ve had make it seem the very definition of a lazy river.
AS I walked through the refuge, a small flock of Chickadees focused on their search for insects and paid no attention to me. Chickadees are always charming and friendly, never seeming to worry much about the presence of humans.
While watching the Chickadees I was excited by a quick glimpse of bright blue wings and rosy chest. Was it a Bluebird? I haven’t seen a Bluebird for quite a few years. In my excitement, I wasted time unsuccessfully trying to get a picture, instead of just enjoying the lovely creature. I’m choosing to believe that I saw a Bluebird Sunday morning.
The forested part of the refuge was wet and muddy thanks to recent rain and snow. I made a mental note to take my shoes off in the garage when I got home. It was worth the mud to find this tall Oregon Grape brightly blooming in the midst of a tangle of trees and brush.
A fellow wanderer pointed out a small bouquet of Trillium deep in the underbrush. If Trillium are blooming, it really is spring!
My Sunday morning walk in the fresh air with birds, trees, the Tualatin River, Rock Creek, and the brisk cold wind for company was long overdue. I must remember not let other things get in the way.
Please take time to remember the small pleasures that give you peace, and stay well.
The highlight of Sunday morning? I saw a Western Bluebird! Maybe.
I’ve been sick and tired of the cold, gray, wet world we’ve been living in for weeks. Then, as though to answer a prayer, the sun came out to play for an entire day recently!
By early afternoon, I only needed a light jacket to be outside. The streets had filled with children riding bikes and scooters, tossing balls, and celebrating the arrival of sunshine.
Grownups were walking dogs, and greeting each other on the street. There is a particularly friendly ambiance in the air when an unexpected sunny day follows weeks of cold rain.
Teddy and I eagerly left the house planning a long walk around Gettman Trail, but we were barely out the door when he began favoring his right front paw. For his sake, I opted for the shorter walk around Shaad Park. His limp disappeared by the time we got to the park making me wonder if the little dog had a reason to fake it.
The last time we visited Shaad Park it was a cold and foggy morning (Cancelled Flights). Teddy and I were alone on the hill that day. there were no hikers and no children using the playground.
This sunny day was different. Grandparents sat on a bench near the playground watching children use the slide and play in the sand.
With the fog gone, we found brilliant views waiting for us on top of the hill. Teddy and I stood by ourselves soaking up warm sunshine and fresh air, feasting our eyes on the valley and the hills surrounding it.
Blue Jays, perky little wrens, and Robins flew noisily from one large old oak to another. They were far too busy to pose for me. The ground was wet and sponge-like from recent rains. Muddy water threatened to fill my shoes but I took the soggy path anyway.
I knew it wouldn’t last of course. It’s not really spring just yet. That sunny day was just a short reprieve from the monotony of winter, but it did remind me to be patient.
In only weeks, the birds will begin the busy nesting season, daffodils will push through moist warming soil, and lipstick-red tulips will brazenly declare true spring. Thanks to a little taste of sunshine the other day, I’m willing to wait.
If the fish in your backyard pond kept disappearing, you’d get tired of replacing them. You’d start focusing on getting rid of the character who was eating them, most likely a raccoon.
That’s why Debbie and Jerry bought a large Havahart live trap, set it up near their pond, baited it with tuna fish, and waited. Several mornings later Jerry stepped out the back door, saw they had something in the trap, and was immediately disappointed to realize they had apparently caught someone’s black and white cat.
Fortunately, Jerry was approaching the trap from the rear when he realized what he really had in that wire cage.
The back end was all Jerry could see of the little skunk. That was good. It meant the skunk could not see him.
Quietly, Jerry backed away from the cage. He would much rather have dealt with a thirty-pound snarling raccoon than a five-pound skunk. He needed advice.
Clackamas County Fish and Wildlife said, “You have to release it. Take it five miles past the Oregon City limits and let it go.”
“Don’t you have someone who can come out and help me?” Jerry asked.
It’s a skunk in a large wire cage. I won’t be able to get anywhere near it!
“We don’t do that, sir. You have to take it out of town.”
How about a humane way to get rid of it without getting close?” Jerry asked.
“No! You are required to take it five miles out of town.”
Jerry was running short of patience by then, “How about I take it to your offices and release it there?”
“No! Do not bring it here, sir and do not do anything to that skunk! We may send a officer out to your house and make sure you properly release it!”
Jerry had to work that morning but he came up with a plan.
Debbie grew up on a farm in Colton. She knows skunks and she says, “If a skunk can’t see you, it won’t spray you.”
Holding up a large tarp so the skunk couldn’t see him, Jerry tip-toed quietly through the tulips, past the pond and right up to the wire cage. Still hidden, he carefully covered the entire cage with the tarp. Then he used several bungee cords to make sure the tarp was tied down tightly. Next, Jerry lifted the large cage to the back of their small Chevy pickup. The skunk was quiet.
Jerry planned to park the truck in a shady spot at his office and then, after work, take the skunk out of the city and release it.
Sailing down I-205, with the skunk in the back of his truck, Jerry was feeling pretty confident.” So far so good,” he thought!
It wasn’t long before Jerry noticed honking, a lot of honking. Then the driver of a white Toyota flew by and scowled at Jerry. Suddenly Jerry picked up the powerful scent of skunk. Panic took hold of him when he looked in the back of the pickup and saw the tarp flapping in the wind. People in the lane next to him flew by as fast as they could, some of them were gesturing toward the back of the truck. Many were making obscene gestures. Those who passed carried with them the scent of a terrified freeway-riding skunk.
They say that a skunk can spray about six times in a row to a distance of ten feet. But this skunk was really terrified and Jerry swears the skunk never stopped shooting until they arrived at Jerry’s work. In any event, the ten-foot range must have been extended to hundreds of feet behind the truck – what with the wind produced by the freeway speeds.
Jerry made it to work and parked in a shady spot far away from any other vehicles. He told his work buddy, John, the tale of his morning adventure.
“Skunks have never bothered me,” John said, “I’m a single man with a cabin in the woods. Bring the skunk out to my place and let him loose. He’s welcome!”
After work, Jerry carefully tied the tarp down again and followed John out to the cabin. In a pleasant wooded spot they slowly lifted the tarp from the front of the cage.
John stood behind the cage, held the tarp in front of himself, and lifted the door of the cage. The skunk could see nothing but freedom.
He waited. And waited.
Jerry couldn’t see any reason to wait for the skunk to gather courage so he went home.
Now it was just John and the skunk.
John continued waiting for several minutes.
Since he was hiding behind the tarp, John couldn’t see the skunk but he was pretty sure it hadn’t left the cage yet.
He continued to wait.
After a while, John peeked over the tarp, just barely, he was too nervous to pull it back far enough to see the cage.
He continued to wait. There seemed to be no movement from inside the cage.
Then he thought, “Maybe I looked away for a second, the little guy ran out, and I missed it completely.”
So he lowered the tarp a little bit more, peeked further over, and looked into the shiny black eyes of one mad and disoriented skunk. Before John could think, the skunk turned, fired, then proudly waddled off.
Too late John dropped the tarp and ran to his cabin.