July 28: day 15 on the mountain

I’ve skipped many days but it doesn’t matter because it’s in the past.

I took my first shower in 5 days. It’s been 90 degrees on the mountain. Except for two days ago when rain came unexpectedly. We went off to check the nets just as drops started coming down. We figured it would quit soon. As I untangled a MacGillivray’s Warbler it began to downpour and the bird became wet and matted and quite unenthused about it all. So did I.

There’s a Creature that crashes through the dry grass on the ridge above our tents each night. A week ago I laid awake with wide eyes, straining to hear if it was coming closer, heart pounding. Now the sound gives me a sense of comfort and familiarity. Two nights ago Creature was breathing heavy, I fear that he’s sick.

Nighthawks meep at dusk while the tree trunks glow pink. I am tickled by the flowers and sunrises. Trevor and I got rear-ended in town yesterday. Uninjured and undamaged, we went on to the river and listened to the Canyon Wrens yodel in the hot afternoon. We met the rest of the crew downtown and I drank nice beer from a glass as if I can afford to live in a civilized manner. The pretending is denting my wallet and anyway, I prefer to sweat and listen to Chats call from the shrubs instead.

There are fruit flies inside my cooler. And I’ve been drinking milk that’s been lukewarm for days. It would take a lot for my stomach to be upset. Ice doesn’t stay frozen for long in this heat. I think there are still stinkbugs under my tent but my new sleeping pad is so nice and thick that I don’t hear them. They won’t hurt you anyway.

Did I mention the rattlesnakes? There have been 16 sightings now, in just 2 weeks. Steve is still ecstatic. But even Trevor is becoming less amused. I’ve rehearsed in my mind what to do if someone gets bitten, but it’s hard to actually imagine it happening. A forest fire might be more likely. There was heavy helicopter traffic yesterday, so Katie hiked up the hill to look for smoke. It was fine. This time. A helicopter landed on the mountain last week, just to give us all a rush and make us think the nearby fire was gaining on us. It wasn’t. This time.

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Oct 3

We drove to Wood River this morning under a dramatic sky, threatening rain in every direction. As we paddled to our island a lone greater white-fronted goose flew by, frantically. I had never heard one before and found it quite funny. We opened nets just before sunrise and it was quite a fiasco. Many of the ropes had been cut again, some poles missing. The vegetation all had frost on it, and some of the ropes were icy. I forgot gloves. Net 1 fell to the ground. Your typical opening hour.

For the first 3 hours of the morning the thermometer read 0 degrees C and it drizzled on and off. Enough to warrant closing nets, but too little to call the day off. And when the drizzle would pause, we would re-open nets. At least if it had poured we could have left, but that kind of undecided weather is the worst. It was miserable – the cold, cold wetness. Makes me highly apprehensive about the coming of winter. Though among the misery was some magnificence, as there always is if your eyes are open to it. As I fought and fumbled with net 1, I heard a rustle in the canopy and looked up just in time to see a BARN OWL fly out from the island over the marsh! Full frontal view of that white, white face. I have never seen one before. Finally! I had been looking for months. Later in the morning I was examining a group of sparrows and discovered a white-throated!!! I am 90% sure. It’s like Mother Nature, once again, is slapping me in the cheek with beauty in the face of adversity. Not just any beauty, but some that I have been specifically seeking. Though I wasn’t looking today… and that’s why they came to me.  Once again! When will I learn?

We had 9 golden-crowned sparrows today, many of them with large deposits of fat bulging over the clavicles and belly! Most were weighing 32-33 grams, but then we pulled out a guy with such a deeply colored and well developed crown… and he weighed 44.8! Wow!

 

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Oct 1 – sounds in the night

It is 225 in the morning on Oct 2. Sleep doesn’t appeal to me these days. Too much to experience. The stars are spectacular tonight. I stopped off Dead Indian Rd for some moments and tried calling in an owl. What responded was similar to a pygmy, but higher and faster… that means northern saw-whet! When I returned to Rocky Pt I stopped at the mailboxes to star-gaze and I heard quite a racket going on in the trees! Sounded like a sharpie (no, really) screaming, and lots of wingbeats. Maybe juv owls. Now I am at the boathouse to retire. When I left the truck I heard screeching right overhead! Barn owl!? So many mysteries in the night tonight. Can I fall asleep now?

Sept 29

Yesterday evening, just before dusk came over our clearing in the woods, I heard such a peculiar bird. It sang a series of different tunes, almost resembling a chat’s wacky melody. Some quality of it somehow reminded me of a brown thrasher, even though I haven’t heard them in years. It seemed almost fake, as if someone was over there doing playback. It sang again, beginning with a funny trill, which reminded me of those damn squirrels. And then I realized – it was a damn squirrel – a mockery of one! It was a mockingbird singing! I haven’t heard one of those in years either, what a delight!

Before falling asleep I laid on my back marveling at the stars, and an owl silhouette flew right across the frame! Something smaller than a great-horned, saw-whet maybe? And then a shooting star fell, and I drifted off with a smile.

We awoke this morning to fairly strong wind – too strong to open nets, but we waited to see if it’d let up. Besides the gusts, it was an incredibly beautiful day. Evening grosbeaks cheeped from the swaying tree tops all morning! We are camping here again tonight in attempt to make up for our lack of banding tomorrow morning. On our drive in we encountered a poorwill on the road! He was feeding pretty actively so we got to watch him flutter about before us for a while. The eye sheen is red-orange! Different than any owl or mammal I’ve seen. It was still windy driving in and I can hear the treetops rustling now. No telling yet what dawn will hold. Hoping (always) for owl sounds in the night.

May 8 – I meant to write sooner…

It’s been days, I know. I meant to write yesterday but I didn’t drink any coffee all day so I was unenthused about most things. I am admitting I have a problem. We set up WOOD (Wood River site) and I heard a sora rail for the first time which was pretty exciting, they have such a cool sound. There were also tree swallows, goldfinches, yellow warblers. On the way was a beautiful bald eagle perched and we drove past pasture after glowing green pasture with really beautiful cows – their coats seem so healthy, so deeply colored, their ears so fuzzy looking, I can’t stop admiring them! I wonder I they look different than Cold Creek cows because of the environment here or if they don’t actually look different at all. It took about an hour but I changed my oil myself. Then I went to Medford for about the 3rd day in a row with Eva to visit REI and get sonic shakes – half price after 8! I went to bed too late for about the 6th night in a row and got up late for about the 6th morning in a row.

I meant to write the day before yesterday but we had to finish clearing 7 Mile (one of our banding sites) and then spend all afternoon in Medford exchanging waders and waiting for Louiza & Pedro’s flight to land. On the way to 7 Mile we saw an owl perched on a tree near mile marker 7! At quick glance it looked like spotted but I guess it could have been barred. I was driving the stick and I’m not to good at stopping quickly so I scared it away before we got a better view, oops. We saw Canada Goose goslings in Medford and Eva got so excited because she’s never seen them before and they’re adorable, so I did a U turn on the highway and went after ‘em. We got Thai food and drove through downtown Medford which we were delighted to know exists.

I meant to write the day before but we spent allll day in Medford running errands and getting the wrong waders. We set up what we could at cabin. And I reinstalled the mailbox after installing it so badly the day before that the mailman left a note saying it sucked.

I meant to write the day before that but we were busy setting up Odessa and 7 Mile where I heard a bald eagle and Cassin’s vireo. And then we went morel hunting on Rocky Pt Rd. Then we played cribbage until after 10pm while it rained and thundered beyond the cabin walls.

I mean to write the day before but we were busy unpacking the kitchen and organizing and picking up Lulu (the Toyota).

I meant to write the day before but I arrived in Klamath Falls so late at night after shenanigans in Shasta.

Tonight I’m in Ashland at Emigrant Lake for the night. We set up Willow Wind today and have our first day of banding there tomorrow! I’m excited, but also nervous and anxious. I became a mother on Mothers Day – one of the seeds in my garden sprouted! I can’t even tell you how excited I was. Although my kombucha is looking funny, not sure about my sour dough, and my sauerkraut is floating.