I am slowly adjusting to life in the desert once again after just barely making a safe escape from winter in Bend, Oregon. As would be expected, the weather has been delightful, sunny and 60’s by day and cool temps in the 40 ‘s for perfect sleeping weather at night. The constant northerly winds do make my bird photography challenging and when it gusts up to 30 mph I just give up and retreat inside.
The Anna’s hummingbirds were here to greet me even before I got around to setting out the sugar water for them. A few Ocotillos are in bloom around the Yuma Proving Grounds and out in the desert surrounding were I am camped so I am able to grab a bloom now and then to get some nice shots of these guys feeding on their natural foods. I have to confess I have no idea what these little guys are feeding on right now as I can see nothing in bloom, other than the very few aforementioned Ocotillos.
As I recall from last year, it took a while to entice other birds in to the feeders but eventually they did show up in fairly good numbers.
So far, only a lone pair of House Finches has shown up along with …
… a few Gambel’s Quail.
And the few quail that have come in so far are extremely wary and scatter at the slightest sound or movement, and with the constant wind here, there always is something being blown around.
One very unwelcome guest is this guy, seemingly keeping a close eye on any potential meals I may attract for him, avian or small canines, in other words, Pearl. I am keeping a close eye on Pearl any time we are outside and have a short leash on her when I let her out at night so that she can’t wander more than a few feet from the door where I stand sentry.
After four months of confinement in Bend, Oregon, I finally received permission to head south for warmer temperatures. My oncologist told me I was ” in a good place right now ” as far as my bloodwork was concerned and he gave me permission to head south to Yuma where arrangements have been made for me to continue weekly chemo treatments. After surviving several nights of temperatures in the very low teens here in Bend without the motorhome freezing up, I had been granted a little weather relief recently as temps warmed up considerably and the danger of freezing up decreased significantly. But the cold would definitely be reoccurring this far north and I had been anxiously awaiting a chance to escape Bend and head south.
So after my 9 AM doctor’s visit and chemo treatment, I packed up and was on my way south by 11 AM Thursday for the trip to the LTVA ( BLM’s Long Term Visitor’s Area ) at Imperial Dam in Winterhaven, California.
Wanting to avoid the traffic and high gasoline prices going through California, I was pleased to get a good weather window to take the more easterly route to Yuma through the state of Nevada. Route 20 east out of Bend took me to Route 78 east and south into Nevada where I picked up Route 95 south. This route was all 2 lane highway, with a short section of I-80 thrown in, and the road was in very good shape, with no severe inclines or mountain descents, and not a whole lot of traffic. my only concern along the way was along a section of highway that ran around 6000′ elevation and where signs of snow started to appear along the highway.
Fortunately, the only snow I saw was on the distant hillsides and I was able to make great time and covered the 1050 mile trip to Quartzite, Arizona in just two days of driving. After filling up with gas and propane, I spent the night at one of the 14 day stay BLM camping areas in Quartzsite before driving the remaining 60 miles to the LTVA at Imperial Dam, arriving Saturday morning.
Incredibly, I was able to snag my favorite spot here, the exact same campsite I had here last winter. Perfectly isolated with a great view of the surrounding area, uninterrupted by other campers.
As an added bonus, I know from last year that I should be able to entice birds to my site, so I will have something to do here other than just painting and doctor’s appointments.
All the surrounding vegetation provides a lot of cover for the quail and other birdlife here. Unfortunately for little Pearl, it also provides a lot of cover for coyotes. Our first night here, I went to bed around 9 PM, tired from the 2 day long drive, and not 5 minutes after hitting the bed, I was startled awake by a coyote wailing directly under my bedroom window … I could have reached out and touched him/her?, it was that close. Don’t know if it was upset that I settled in on it’s territory or if it was warning me of it’s presence , or maybe it was just the full moon, who knows. But I do know I won’t dare let Pearl out unescorted.
She seems totally unaware of the potential dangers here and wants to get out and investigate all the new smells.
Nice to see the colorful sunrises and sunsets again here in the desert, hope to capture many more before I leave.
Haven’t been able to escape from Bend … yet! Snow almost every night, though no accumulation thankfully. I managed to survive three straight nights of temps in the low teens with no freeze-ups so the minor insulating and interior changes I made to accomodate the low temps appear to have worked … again, thankfully. Glad to now know I can survive in temperatures that low, I thought for sure this motorhome was not built to allow winter camping, but am now pleasantly surprised that it up to the task.
More Parking Lot Birds
I didn’t intend to bother with anymore cedar waxwing shots from the St. Charles parking lot crabapple trees, but this morning when I glanced out the window, there were so many birds flying back and forth across the parking lot, I had to go out and see what was going on.
Sorry to bore you with still more of the same type of images, but with the roads now slick with ice every morning, me with no snow tires ( and not about to ever get any, ever again ), I am going a little stir crazy stuck here. With the winter conditions, I am now confined to quarters most every day, and have almost gotten used to being a little exited when Wednesdays come around and I have to go for chemo, this now being the only excitement iI have for the week. Pretty weird, to say the least.
A flock of around 50 Robins had joined forces with the Cedar Waxwings, now numbering close to 70 or 80 birds, to strip the remaining fruit from the decorative crabapple trees … and they were making fast work of it! So since I do dare to drive across the road to the parking lots, even with the icey roads, I took the occasion to get out of the motorhome for an hour or so.
The sheer number of birds flying in and out of the trees made getting nice clean shots of the individuals a little tough, as there was almost always a blurred bird in flight darting through the scene when I snapped the shutter.
But, of course, when you snap that shutter 600 times or so, you almost always get a few decent shots.
The problem with getting decent shots here is that these small trees are all situated on little landscaping islands in the parking lot with no way of getting a suitable background for the image. I can only attempt these shots on weekend mornings because of the traffic in and out of the lots all day long. There is no place I can park the car ( needed as a photo blind to avoid scaring off the birds) on weekdays as the lots are jammed full with employees cars, except on weekends when the hospital staffing is minimal.
So even on weekends when I can park myself with the sun behind me, there still are no suitable backgrounds for these shots as the image immediately above demonstrates. That bright red background is the St. Charles Hospital Entrance sign.
What I am always looking for, of course, is an uncluttered, neutral background like this one, made possible when this bird chose the very bottom branch of the tree to feed from and I got the distant pavement to serve as a backdrop.
I wish there were more variety in the types of birds here to photograph, but at least these waxwings remain as one of my personal favorites.
This coming Wednesday I begin my new chemo drugs that hopefully will lead to my being able to escape Bend within a few weeks before I am trapped here for the entire winter. The forecast for the next several days is for warmer temps and light snow, so the freezing up worries are lifted for a bit.
I sort of promise no more Waxwing shots until I can hit the road to warmer climes. The way these flocks are growing, they will have cleaned out these trees pretty soon, leaving me nothing to shoot anyhow.
Unfortunately, I am still in Bend, Oregon and winter has caught up with me. The scene above is what I see when looking out my motorhome window, here at the St. Charles Hospital camping area. The snow is bad enough, but the temperature is going down into the low teens for the next several nights and I am not sure the motorhome is meant to withstand temperatures that low.
I have added foam and fiberglass insulation to the outside storage compartments that contain my water and sewer hookups, and have dumped 4 gallons of antifreeze into my waste tanks, but I am afraid that won’t be enough to prevent me from freezing up. This motorhome was never intended for winter camping and God knows I never had any intention of finding out what camping in the snow would be like.
My plans had been to make my escape and head for the desert Thanksgiving week, but some poor bloodwork test results has my oncologist scrambling to find a new chemo formulation that will get me back on track before leaving the area.
If I do freeze up, then I will most likely be stuck here for the foreseeable future, though I have no idea what I will do for shelter. I’m afraid things are looking a little bleak right now.
On the plus side, my situation has forced me to resume painting ( to keep from going stir crazy ) and today I was able to complete my latest, one that I actually started last year when I was here for treatment. Only took me 13 months to complete this painting, though for 11 months of that period, I never actually worked on it, just moved it around the motorhome any time I wanted to change the bedding or look for anything in the bedroom.
This painting was a composite of two photos, the eagle taken in Seabeck, Washington where the bald eagles gather to take advantage of a sculpin spawn, and the Salmon Glacier landscape background was taken in British Columbia just outside, and high above, Hyder, Alaska. I’m actually kind of proud of this one, one of the more complex paintings I have attempted, and it actually came out quite well ( in my humble opinion, he says ).
Still hoping I may yet make it to the desert, but I am getting very nervous about my chances.