June 20, 2018 Seabeck, Washington

Juvenile Bald Eagle
Juvenile Bald Eagle

Hood Canal for Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

I visited the Hood Canal in my first year on the road and was absolutely amazed at the number of Bald Eagles gathered here to take advantage of the annual Sculpin spawn amongst the oyster beds here at the mouth of Big Beef Creek in Seabeck.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Unfortunately that was not the case this year. I was told that the number of eagles gathering here has been diminishing every year and I never saw more than five eagles at any one time over the four days I was here. In 2014 there would be as many as 60 eagles present at any one time, and back then I was told that I was there at a ” bad ” time, since there used to be over 100 gathered there during May and June.

( Since I don’t have any great eagle shots from this visit, you can see some of the eagle shots taken here from 2014 if you visit the following blog posts:

May 19, 2014     and   May 20, 2014  )

Bald Eagle
Attack!

Bald eagle diving down to persuade a heron to drop it’s catch.

Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron

There did seem to be as many Great Blue Herons here as there were in 2014, just not as many eagles, and the herons most likely were quite happy about the reduced number of eagles, so that now they could swallow their fish without the constant threat of theft from the eagles.

Bald Eagle Theft
Bald Eagle Theft

Still, on occassion, an eagle would spot a successful heron catch and swoop in to steal the fish.

Juvenile Bald Eagle Harassing Heron
Juvenile Bald Eagle Harassing Heron
Juvenile Bald Eagle with Sculpin
Juvenile Bald Eagle with Sculpin

You can just see the tail of the sculpin this immature eagle stole from one of the herons.

I again stayed at the Scenic Beach State Park in Seabeck as I did in 2014, but could only get a site for Monday through Thursday as the campground has every site reserved for Friday and Saturday. That happens to be the case for almost every weekend during the summer months, not only here but at pretty much every desirable state park here in the northwest. But since there aren’t any eagles here to photograph anyway, I won’t be disappointed that I have to move on come Friday.

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May 2, 2018 Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas

Kansas Storm
Kansas Storm

Great Blue Heron and Scary Weather

I had planned to depart Cheyenne Bottoms for Nebraska Monday morning but decided to stay put when the weather forecast called for 40 mph winds with higher gusts during the afternoon. It is no fun traveling in the motorhome and battling winds that strong, and besides, I don’t really have to be anywhere at any particular time, so I remained here and drove out into the refuge and looked for something to shoot.

Great Blue Heron Catching Catfish
Great Blue Heron Catching Catfish

That something turned out to be this Great Blue Heron ( GBH ). I found him at the same outflow I had been shooting Snowy Egrets the day before ( those images coming next post ).

Great Blue Heron with Catfish
Great Blue Heron with Catfish

He nabbed this catfish and waded out away from shore a bit.

Great Blue Heron with Catfish
Great Blue Heron with Catfish

As usual with these guys, he agonized over swallowing a fish this size and must have played with it for about five minutes, dropping it then spearing it, turning it, flipping it, etc.

Otter
Otter

While I was concentrating on the GBH, out of the reeds came an Otter! He was moving too quickly for me to get any good shots and disappeared as fast as he showed up.

A Frightening Night Storm

Kansas Storm
Kansas Storm

When this area was put under a tornado watch late yesterday afternoon, I figured I had made a good decision to stay put and not travel farther north.

Kansas Storm
Kansas Storm

The area only seven miles north of here was given a tornado warning at 5:30. That warning extended up to the area I was heading for before I made the decision to stay put.

Kansas Storm
Kansas Storm

These storm shots were taken just after it turned dark and were the most impressive and scary lightning displays I have ever witnessed. The sky to the north was was filled with lightning, cloud to cloud as well as bolts to the ground. The lightning was constant for over an hour and a half! The forecast called for two inch hail and damaging winds in this storm.

Here at Cheyenne Bottoms, the sky was clear and filled with stars, but the scene to the north looked terrifying. I guess I made a good decision, and will be heading north towards Alma, Nebraska today.

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June 28, 2017, Bend, Oregon

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Some Good News!

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

First off, I would like to thank all of you that have sent encouraging comments regarding my current health situation, it is greatly appreciated. I originally had no intention of posting progress reports on that front, but several readers suggested I should, so I will keep you posted.

But since the main purpose of this blog is to showcase the landscapes and wildlife of this continent, let’s proceed in that direction first.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I am currently camped along the loop road around the Saint Charles Hospital Campus in Bend. The hospital has a small, eleven space campground with full hookups that it graciously supplies to it’s patients and their families, free of charge. And for me, it has been a lifesaver! The Bend area has a few very nice, and very expensive RV Parks, and the surrounding area also has several public and private campgrounds. However, they all have one thing in common … they all are booked pretty much solid throughout the summer months. And, until I was allowed to park my rig here, I was out of luck trying to find a place to stay for my chemo treatments. So, thank you, Saint Charles !

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I have been here undergoing weekly treatment now for seven weeks and really haven’t had the emotional, or at times, the physical energy to get out and explore the area.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

A couple weeks ago, on a ninety plus degree day, I needed to cool down, so I hopped in the Prius, turned the AC on and did the 100 mile drive east to the John Day area of central Oregon. I only made it to the painted hills section of John Day, but that alone was worth the trip as I hope some of these shots may show.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Earlier this month, I made a return trip to Malhuer NWR in the Prius to check out what the refuge had to offer in early summer. I was really hoping to be able to explore the Stines Mountain area and perhaps get a chance to see some of the wild horses there, but the road was still gated.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

The refuge certainly looked different than on my previous visits, both of which were in very early spring. There was very little bird activity, and the roadside shrubs and bushes were now all leaved out and the fields were now covered with three and four foot high grasses, so even if there was anything there, it would be impossible to see anything.

The only shot I even took was of this common nighthawk sitting in the middle of the refuge road.

Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor

Memorial Day weekend, I drove up to Mount Bachelor, only 20 miles out of Bend. Base depths on the hill were still at eight feet at the end of May and the parking lot was quite crowded, with many RV’s and folks staying in tents below the high parking lot snow banks.

Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor

Seventy-five degrees and sunny, ideal weather for golf or fishing down in town, yet perfect spring asking weather half an hour away, not hard to see why this area is so popular. Just an incredible amount of building going on and housing is very expensive here.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

Got a kick out of this lab enjoying himself chasing snowballs on the parking lot snowbanks.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

OK, Here’s the Progress Report

Hood Canal Action
Hood Canal Action

I have forced myself to resume painting and just completed my first acrylic painting on canvas. This is a composite of a few photos from the Hood Canal in Washington, where Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons congregate in late spring to take advantage of the sculpin spawn in the oyster beds along the shore where  Big Beef Creek enters the canal.

This painting measures 24″ x 16″ and depicts the way the Bald Eagles harass the herons to give up their catch. The eagles perch in tall pines along the shore and watch while the herons hunt through the oyster beds looking for the spawning sculpins. As soon as a heron plucks a fish from the water, the eagles swoop down from the pines and force them to give up their catch. You can right click on the image if you would like to see a larger version of the painting.

On the myeloma front, I just completed round two of my multi-drug chemo therapy, and my oncologist is very pleased with the results thus far! My kidney function, not that long ago at a stage four kidney disease level, just a hair’s breath away from requiring dialysis, has already returned to completely normal function. My red blood cell count is slowly increasing and all the bad stuff is rapidly decreasing, indicating that the chemo is doing it’s job. Other than some severe fatigue initially, the result of the disease and the aggressive chemo approach, I really have had very little, if any, adverse side affects, no nausea, no pain, no hair falling out, etc., and the last couple of weeks, even the fatigue has gone away, as the red blood cells continue to increase.

My oncologist says I am, in his words, ” way up on the good side of the bell curve “, as far as my chances of having a good outcome to this process. He says the fact that I have had such a rapid reversal of the progression of the disease, along with my bodies ability to tolerate the potent drugs, bodes very well for my immediate future.

He assures me that I am a very viable candidate for a stem cell transplant and that procedure could possibly be done as soon as August. He has also suggested that perhaps, and he says he is about at a 50/50 position on this, I may be one of the folks that may be able to keep the disease in remission without the transplant because of how my body has responded so far, but the final decision will be made after another round of drug therapy.

But the overall prognosis has decidedly changed in a positive way, and for that, I am most grateful.

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June 2, 2014 Belfair State Park, Washington

Bald eagle approaching perch
Bald eagle approaching perch

 

My Last Day With the Eagles

This morning I drove up to Big Beef Creek for my final session with the eagles. On the way I stopped in Silverdale at the Bank of America branch to deposit the check from closing out my Citizens checking account, thus cutting my final tie to the state of New Hampshire, home for more than 30 years.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Great blue heron landing
Great blue heron landing
Great blue heron landing
Dropping in

As usual, the great blue herons were the first to arrive on scene.

Bald eagle in tree
The lookout

Then the bald eagles, first one,

7 eagles in a tree
Favorite lookout tree

then many. At one point today, I counted 14 eagles perched in this one tree over the beach.

Bald eagle coming in for a landing
Coming in for a landing
Bald eagle on the oystertbed
Bald eagle on the oystertbed

A bald eagle coming in for, and then sticking a landing in the oyster beds.

Juvenile bald eagle
Juvenile bald eagle
2 bald eagles
Stealing from junior

This juvenile eagle was heading for the trees to enjoy his seaweed wrapped lunch until one of the adults attempts a midair heist.

Low flying bald eagle
Low flying bald eagle

A low flying eagle, for a very large bird their in air dexterity is pretty amazing to witness.

Bald eagle in dive
Dive
Bald eagle in dive
Dive

They hit some pretty amazing speeds when they see something and suddenly dive towards a fish, a heron, or another eagle.

Bald eagle with fish
Checking the cargo hold

This guy is doing his midair check of how visible his catch will be to other eagles before he makes the run to the trees to eat.

Redhead
Sorry, the red hair distracted me

Sorry, I don’t know why this is in an entry on eagles, but the red hair distracted me, kind of got the camera’s attention. Back to the eagles now.

Bald eagles
Bald eagles

At times these guys are all hanging around on the oyster beds, often shoulder to shoulder,

Eagle dispute
Food dispute
Bald eagle dispute
Bald eagle dispute
Eagle squabble
Eagle squabble

and then something to eat comes along and it suddenly just isn’t quite so buddy, buddy.

 

Bald eagles in flight
Bald eagles in flight

Wonderful weather continues on, but the harsh noon day light coinciding with the low tides once again made photography difficult.

2 eagles in flight
Chasing a free meal

I ended up spending about 3 hours on the beach, then said my good byes to my new found friends and headed back to Belfair State Park. All in all, an amazing time at this great spot, probably the best place in the lower 48 for bald eagles. I really hate to leave, and the friendly folks I have met here are a large part of the reason why. Thanks everybody!

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