Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Beach Weekend

After an exhausting week in Portland, Sarah and I enjoyed another relaxing weekend at Pacific City with no work, television, or computers involved.

Haystack rock has been whitewashed by the uric acid of thousands of seabirds.

While surveying Bob Straub State Park for beached seabirds, we observed an American Crow employed in a grisly foraging tactic.

It was pulling Pacific mole crabs from the sand and snapping off their tails, which are used to cover bright orange egg masses.

With the tails removed, the crows consumed the eggs, leaving the unfortunate female wiggling on her back. I guess a crow's gotta do what a crow's gotta do.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Salad Season

During the winter, Sarah and I avoided making green salads until we could could grow or buy local greens.

Now we have all of lettuce, arugula, and other greens we can eat. To keep the salads interesting, I have been making different dressings each week, based on what is available.

Last week, we received our first bunch of fresh basil, so I collected some leaves and some green garlic tops.

I added olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard,

then mixed it all together with an immersion blender.

I poured it into a bottle and was set for the week. I have also made strawberry, raspberry and green onion vinaigrettes. I look forward to making additional varieties as our produce options change.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Snake in the Ash

While mapping a flycatcher territory at Killin Wetlands, I found myself face-to-face with a garter snake coiled several feet above the ground in a small ash tree. When I was finished with the flycatcher, I returned to the ash with my camera so I could take a picture.

As I approached, I noticed a bright red insect attached to the back of the snake's head. It was a blood-filled mosquito! I am usually not bothered by mosquitoes at the wetland, so they must have a preference for reptiles. This snake was about as thick as a pencil, so imagine what it must feel like to get bitten in the back of the head by an insect proportionate in size to humans as this one is to the snake. Yikes!

During the last few weeks, I could not have asked for better weather. It has been cloudy and cool in the mornings with some sun in the late afternoons. I am not a big fan of working outside in the heat, so I hope this pattern continues for a while.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Out of the Apartment

I have been spending a lot of time away from the apartment lately, so I have not been posting as frequently as usual.

I have been gardening at the Turner House, where there is no shortage of greens to eat.

Along with tomatoes, I planted a row of squashes and melons. I had mixed results with squash last year, so it will be interesting to see this year's outcome.

The garden is surrounded by a large green fence that protects our plants from the hungry neighbors.

The Oregon strawberry season is finally underway. We picked 16 pounds of Shuksas in Helvatia last week. We froze three quarters of the batch and ate the rest fresh, which took several days.

Goldfinches are also in full bloom. American and lessers are making their way through many ounces of thistle seeds each week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spring Peaks

The deck of our apartment faces the rooftop of another building. Lately, several species of birds have used the peak of this building for a singing perch or a lookout.

A male violet-green swallow watches for rivals or predators while his mate builds a nest in a dryer vent below.

A mourning dove takes a midday rest.

An American robin male uses the peak for his 4:00 am song perch and surveys his territory during the day. Other birds using the perch lately include red-winged blackbirds, dark-eyed juncos, and American kestrels.

Another sort of peak is occuring at Killin Wetlands, 17 miles west of the apartment. It is the peak of the avian breeding season and, with the help of several hardy volunteers, I have been documenting as much of it as possible.

Right now, waterfowl are incubating eggs in nests such as the cinnamon teal's above.

Year-long resident songbirds, such as the red-winged blackbirds above, are fledging from their nests and begging food from their busy parents.

Willow flycatchers, lazuli buntings, and other migrants have recently arrived and are pairing up, about to begin the nest construction process.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Local Produce Update

Summer weather has arrived in western Oregon and the local food season has truly begun.

So far, our shares consist mainly of greens, so we have been eating plenty of salad.

Earlier this week, we planted our tomato starts in our borrowed garden space at the Turner's house. We now have 11 tomatoes and three tomatillos in the ground.

We still have tomato sauce left over from last fall, which we are using for pizza and pasta.

Our sauce reserves should last until it is time to cook up the new crop.

The fresh berry season is more rapidly approaching, and we are scrambling to use our frozen berries before the u-pick season starts.

We have been drinking smoothies as often as possible and we may need to throw a cobbler party.

We are down to our last two jars of pickled beans, which have been popular appetizers at family functions. Our pickled cucumbers, which were a bit too squishy and acidic, were not as well received, so we will stick to canning beans next fall.

It's funny how we preserve fruits and veggies for winter consumption, but end up eating most of them in the spring and early summer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Haystack Rocks

My favorite landmark of Pacific City, Oregon is Haystack Rock.

Wherever you are in town, this massive island peak is hard to miss when the weather is not too cloudy or foggy.

Sixty miles to the north in Cannon Beach, Oregon, lies another Haystack Rock, pictured below.

Both rocks are of volcanic origin and are protected as Wildlife Refuges.

Cannon Beach’s rock is smaller that Pacific City’s and is located closer to the shore. At low tide, you can walk to the base of the Cannon Beach Rock to look for tide pool creatures and a variety of shorebirds.

This rock is one of the most reliable places in the state to find tufted puffins and harlequin ducks.

Pacific City’s rock is about a mile away from the shore, so the birding is not as easy. Regardless, this rock is a great place to see large numbers of birds throughout the year. During the summer, the rock is an important nesting site for hundreds, if not thousands, of seabirds.

Western gulls appear to nest on the gently sloping southeastern face.

Large cormorants, either double-crested or Brandt’s, occupy the rocky areas near the top of the rock.

The smaller pelagic cormorant builds platform nests on ledges of vertical cliffs, closer to the water. Some years, I see common murres packed onto some ledges as well, where they are probably nesting too.

Pigeon guillemots likely find spaces to nest in small caves on the north face of the rock. There are some patches of grass there as well where tufted puffins, rhinoceros auklets, and storm-petrels may dig burrows for their nests. Since I am limited to viewing the rock by through a spotting scope, I’m not sure if all of these birds are currently nesting out on the rock, but I like to think they are.

During the winter, Pacific City’s rock is a popular roost for gulls, cormorants, and other seabirds.

In spring, summer, and fall, Brown Pelicans roost near the top of the rock and at its base. Every once in a while, I spot a California seal lion hauled out near the base at low tide.

It seems like there is always something going on at Pacific City’s Haystack Rock and we are lucky to have such a great view.