Trip to Idaho, Oregon, California and the West Coast August-September 2014

I left Pierre Sunday, August 24 headed for the west coast. I only drove to Bear Butte State Park the first day because I wanted to make the hike up Bear Butte. The second night was at the Owl Creek RV Park near Riverton, WY. It was a long day driving and I got a rock in the windshield too. The crack is spreading but doesn't appear to be too bad yet. On Tuesday, I finally started to get some photos taken, butterflies in the Wind River Mountains. Tuesday night I stopped at a Forest Service campground on the WY/ID border. Here I got some photos of Mountain Chickadees on Wednesday morning. Wednesday afternoon, August 27, I finally made it to Craters of Moon National Monument. I plan to stay here through the Labor Day weekend, then go over to Boise to get my White-headed Woodpecker photos. At Craters of the Moon, I'm finding Clark's Nutcrackers to be common and easy to photograph, which is good because I never had any good photos of this species before. I've been seeing some Townsend's Warblers too, but no photos of them yet. I put photos from the last couple of days at this LINK.

August 28
. Got up early this morning and drove out on the loop road to the Devil's Orchard, as they call it. It is a place where lots of Limber Pine grow in the lava cinders. Here I got more Clark's Nutcracker photos, in better light and at a lower angle than yesterday. I really lucked out with the timing of this, it only happens in late summer when the Limber Pine cones are ripe, the nutcrackers carry away as many pine nuts as they can and store them for winter. There is a variety of Red Squirrel here, I've never any that look like this, with a black tail. There are Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, Yellow Pine Chipmunks and Least Chipmunks. The Least Chipmunks here are very dull colored. I haven't got any photos that I really like of these yet. I have a female Black-chinned Hummingbird at the hummingbird feeder. Some of todays photos are at the LINK.

August 31. My last day at Craters of the Moon NM. I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for Idaho City and hopefully the White-headed Woodpeckers. Birding is kind of slow here, I'm starting to see some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, various Empids, and the other usual birds. Last evening I hiked up to the North Crater but when I got there I realized I had the wrong lens with me for photographing it. It is much to big to capture with a 100mm macro, so I have to go back today with my wide angle lens. I put up some photos from the last few days at the LINK.

August 31. Part 2. I hiked back up to the North Crater, this time with my wide angle lens, which still wasn't wide enough. I suppose I could try to do a stitch of three photos but for now, I'm just going to show some photos. This is the most recent lava flow to have occurred at Craters of the Moon, about 2500 years ago. As the sign on the road out says: "Waiting for the next eruption". My comment about the distant mountain that looks like a volcano (see the earlier LINK from today) was about right, except that the photo takes in a landscape closer to 50 miles wide, the mountain itself is called the Big Southern Butte, and is about 20 miles distant. Wikipedia has this to say about it: "Big Southern Butte is the largest and youngest of three rhyolitic domes formed over a million years near the center of the Eastern Snake River Plain in the U.S. state of Idaho. In fact, it is one of the largest volcanic domes on earth."
Photos the North Crater are at this LINK.

September 2. Today I got photos of a life bird, the White-headed Woodpecker. This is one I've been thinking about for a long time. Before I left Pierre I contacted Jay Carlisle at Boise State University. Jay got his Ph.D. at Vermillion and has been at Boise for a number of years. One of his long term projects is a bird banding station at Lucky Peak and banding hummingbirds at Jennifer Alban's yard in Idaho City. Jay got me in touch with Jennifer, who also has White-headed Woodpeckers in her yard, coming to water and suet. Black and white birds are hard to get the exposure correct on, but I am pretty happy with what I got. See some photos at the LINK. To fill out my files with photos of all North American woodpeckers, I still need Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, a better male Williamson's Sapsucker, and Nuttall's Woodpecker. With luck, I'll get all of these on this trip, except for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, that one will require a trip to the southeast.

September 6. Finally I am getting around to updating this. After a long drive across SE Oregon and into northern California, I wound up at Jedediah Smith State Park for a couple of days. Finally got to see the redwoods. Many are bigger at the base than the Scamp. I scouted out some areas around Crescent City and got some good photos of life birds, including Western Gull, Black Turnstones, Heerman's Gulls, and not so good photos of Chestnut-backed Chickadee. I need to work on those chickadees some more. Today I drove south to the Trinidad area and am staying in a very nice RV Park, called Azalea Glen. It is a small park with a pond and fenced in private sites. The wifi even works good (unlike most RV parks). I paid for a week. I walked down to the coast this afternoon. There is a steep, rocky trail leading down to the shoreline, which is mostly rock and cliffs here. I really lucked out and found a flock of Black Oystercatchers. There are only about 10,000 of these birds in the world and half of them are in Alaska. As I was trying to work my way out to where they were over slippery rocks covered with all sorts of aquatic life (the tide was out), I kept hoping that the tide didn't rise too fast in this area, or a tsunami didn't come up. I made it back.

I looked at some RV parks in Crescent City this morning, but most were right in the harbor area, very near the ocean. In 1964, the Good Friday earthquake in Alaska sent a tsunami that hit Crescent City four hours later, and destroyed 30 city blocks and inundated 60 blocks. It was commonly cited as "the largest and most destructive recorded tsunami to ever strike the United States Pacific Coast."  The area around the harbor was hardest hit. The area has been hit by more tsunamis since then, including one from the Japan in 2011. I decided I'd sleep better on higher ground. Apparently the harbor funnels the destructive force of tsunamis right into that area.

It is usually foggy and kind of dark for photography. I've been taking lots of photos that I just delete. I hope that sun comes out once in a while. Links to photos as follows:

LINK to Gulls, Black Turnstones, and others from the Crescent City area

LINK to photos from today including the Black Oystercatchers

September 7. This morning it was very dark and foggy until around 11 am. I went for a long walk along Clam Beach. Didn't see much new except for a Whimbrel (actually saw two). I don't know how many times I've chased after some Whimbrel that someone else saw only to find it gone when I get there. I may have more photos later today, but for now, here's the WHIMBREL.

September 7 Part 2.
This afternoon I climbed back down to Patrick's Point (where I got the Black Oytercatchers yesterday). The oystercatchers will still there but way out on the rocks. I found a good spot to watch and just waited to see what would show up. Took distant photos of three species of birds that are lifers. Wandering Tattler (I could see it dipping and bobbing), Brandt's Cormorants, and a Common Murre. Saw a Peregrine chasing a Black Turnstone but no photos. I put the photos at this LINK. None are very good but I'm surprised how much detail still shows up, they were all way out there.

September 9. Two days of hard birding, I'm beat. But, I had some good success finding lifers and getting photos. Explored new areas by Eureka and Arcata. I'll be going back there tomorrow, there are two jetties that get me out into the Pacific a good distance. I could see Sooty Shearwaters out there but way too far out to photograph. I had several Parasitic Jaegers fly by but I wasn't ready for them, also flocks of Surf Scoters. Lifers for today are Pigeon Guillemot (I thought I had a Marbled Murrelet at first) and Wandering Tattler (well, I saw one a few days ago but it was a long ways out).  My favorite though is the Chestnut-backed Chickadee that was very cooperative. Photos at LINK.

September 10. New bird for the day was Surfbird. I haven't seen any until this morning, then I found 10-15 scattered around on the jetties. I guess they just migrated in. I got some photos of a Wrentit, but they are sure hard to get out into the open. These might be the best I can get. Photos at LINK.

September 12. Yesterday I took a long drive east hoping to find some woodpeckers and maybe some new campgrounds that I could use when I leave Trinidad. One doesn't have to go far inland to be reminded that is still summer. Temperatures quickly rose into the 90's and then the 100's. All could find was a couple of juvenile Red-breasted Sapsuckers that weren't very cooperative. At least I got them for my lifelist, but not very good photos. Today, I found a pair of more cooperative Wrentits. I decided to stay here at Trinidad for another week. It is too hot to the east and the forecast is for no change in the weather for the next week. Photos are at the LINK.

September 15. Haven't been finding any life birds lately, but have had some good luck with the birds. It is usually too foggy and dark to do anything in the morning, but by midday, it is light enough. Today, the sun was out most of the afternoon and I spent most of the afternoon on the north jetty, trying to get closer shots of jaegers. It didn't work out too good, but earlier in the day, I had a good time with some Whimbrels and a young Peregrine Falcon. Photos are at the LINK.

September 16. Not much new for birds today. I'm going to post to some Gray Whale photos. I saw a few whales last week, and took distant photos, hoping for some to show their tail as they dove. None did, but today I saw another one that was more cooperative. According to my Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America, Gray Whales range from 36-50 ft. in length and weigh 16-33 tons. They stay out from shore quite a distance, but something that big can be photographed with 720mm focal length. I put some photos at the LINK.

September 20. The last few days have been slow until this afternoon. I took some very distant photos of Sooty Shearwater a couple of days ago. Yesterday I finally got a Pacific Wren out in the open with enough light to photograph it. In the evenings I've been reviewing Ebird records trying to find a good place to go when I head east, which I did this morning. I'm in Anderson, California now, a few miles south of Redding. Ebird records led me to park in Anderson, on the banks of the Sacramento River, where I should find Nuttall's Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, California Thrasher, Yellow-billed Magpie, California Towhee, maybe Tri-colored Blackbird. It was hot this afternoon when I got there but I did find three of them, all lifers. Not very good photos yet, but I hope better ones are to come. I'm in an RV park for three days. I put photos at the LINK. I was kind of hoping to experience a small earthquake before I left the coast but nothing happened. Today I was checking the USGS earthquake website, there was a 3.1 near Arcata this morning, right after I left.

September 21. Had good luck this morning, got in close to a male Nuttall's Woodpecker, and even with low light, got some pretty sharp images. Also got my lifer Yellow-billed Magpies and California Towhees. I saw some California Quail too, another lifer, but they are very skittish, I only got some distant photos. The park was full of people, expected for a Sunday, but tomorrow morning should be better. I put some photos at the LINK.

September 22. This morning I took my camo netting and a seat into a clearing where the quail were feeding yesterday. I got set up where the sun would be behind me when it came up and waited. Of course the quail came out behind me. I got turned around slowly and took a few shots. In a few minutes they spooked and ran back into cover, I moved to get the sun behind me again. This time they came out where I wanted them to in the first place, so now they are too far away. Well, I got some decent shots, but not the nice close ups in good light that I wanted. While waiting for quail, a California Thrasher came out to feed and gave me some nice shots. What a difference it makes when a bird gets out in the sun, colors really come out, a gray thrasher suddenly has some brown. Photos are at the LINK. More woodpecker photos from this afternoon at this LINK.

September 24. I'm in a KOA somewhere near Lyman WY. Drove all day, then just about sundown, I got stuck behind a long line of traffic on I-80 behind a major accident. That took about an hour, I drove another 10 miles, saw a sign for a KOA and pulled in. It is very quiet here. Last night I stayed at Rye Patch State Park in Nevada. I hit Salt Lake City right at the 5 PM rush hour, that was pretty wild. Yesterday, I had a nice drive through the Sierra Nevada. At one rest stop, I saw my first Chickaree and managed to get some photos after chasing it around for awhile. I put some photos at the LINK.