I was sitting in my recliner reading yesterday when I happened to glance out the motorhome window and saw some birds bouncing around the branches of one of the decorative crabapple trees that line the entrance to the hospital parking lot. Being about a hundred yards away, I couldn’t tell what kind of birds they might be, but experience has told me that one of my favorite birds, the cedar waxwing, was most likely to be partaking of the bountiful small fruits that these trees were laden with.
So, I dug out my long camera lenses and hopped in the car to see if I might get a few shots of these beautiful birds. I chose to use the car so that I could use it as a blind, it’s not that I didn’t want to walk the short distance to the trees. And sure enough, my hunch was right … cedar waxwings! Unfortunately, these trees are completely out in the open with no kind of backdrop to shoot against, so all I could get were shots like the one above, a colorful bird against a bright white sky, certainly not the most desirable of shots.
So, I took a short drive around the hospital grounds, looking for more crabapple trees and waxwings. Only a couple hundred yards from my motorhome, I noticed a fair number of birds gathered at the top of a poplar and saw some of them flying down to a couple of crabapple trees to feed, then zipping back to the top of the poplar.
After a couple of false starts, I managed to position the car so that I was shooting with a hospital building serving as a background to the trees, and all I had to do was wait for the birds to choose a branch where I had an unobstructed view of them feeding.
As I stated previously, these birds are one of my favorites, love the distinctive black mask and the small dabs of brilliant color on the wings and tail.
I was a little disappointed that 80% of this small flock were apparently juveniles like the one above, not having fully achieved the distinctive coloration of the adult birds.
When downloading images to the computer of today’s shots, I found this image of a common nighthawk that I took last spring in the campground I stayed at when I visited Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. I couldn’t believe the bird remained still as I took these shots with a short lens, approaching to within six feet of the fence rail he was sleeping on. I didn’t need to get any closer and he was still relaxing there when I walked away after taking his picture.
The opportunity to get out and do some bird photography today was greatly enjoyed and makes me all the more anxious to get out of here and head south for the desert and hummingbirds, quail, and all the other birds that are waiting for me there.
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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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Got a kick out of this lab enjoying himself chasing snowballs on the parking lot snowbanks.
OK, Here’s the Progress Report
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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