Published November 22, 2016
Tags: Oregon, trees
Acer macrophyllum is one big-leafed maple. Also known as Oregon Maple, these trees of the moist, shady canyons of the Coast Range can have leaves 9″ or more long. The leafstalk can be up to a foot long. Just wow!
And, speaking of wow, check out this intersection of the great naturalist David George Haskell with his state’s loathsome plutocratic toady of a Senator in the woods.
Published November 15, 2016
Tillamook Head was the southern-most reach along the Oregon coast of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery in 1806. Captain Clark came in search of a beached whale and called the view here “the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed.”This is now Ecola State Park. The sea-stacks in the distance are off the town of Cannon Beach.We arrived in the rain, left in the sun. A sign warned us of cougars. A couple of Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) were diving in what seemed like very shallow water.
It’s a beautiful country. We got to defend it against the sheer ugliness uniting in Trumpism’s demagogic authoritarianism. Quel figlio di un Berlusconi. Basta!
I found this article most helpful: The next four years will test our country—and our movement—like nothing else we have seen in our lifetimes. Welcome to the fight.”
And here’s Van Jones with some necessary and positive things to say, not least on the differences between right-wing populists and the corporate conservatives who make up the GOP elite.
There’s your beautiful world, NW edition. Here’s Masha Gessen, an old hand at autocracy, on surviving Trumpism, very necessary reading now.
Published November 10, 2016
Tags: Oregon, trees
Seeds of the Giant Sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, and the largest trees in the world from these itty-bitty little seeds.
Speaking of interesting facts, did you know that 3/4s of all Americans DID NOT VOTE for Donald Trump? In fact, fewer of them voted for him than for the Democratic candidate. But, you may say, he’s the President of us all. Oh, really? Like Obama was the President of the Republicans. Sorry, but a precedent is a hard thing to break. #NotMyPresident
Published November 3, 2016
Tags: mammals, Oregon
David Douglas did get the small, vocal Tamiasciurus douglasii named after him, both ways.
We saw one at Ecola State Park and a few more at Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, where this one was photographed well enough to present to you, but mostly we heard them. They let you know whose woods these are…
(Looks like some blood-gorged ticks there on the upper arm and in the ear.)
Published November 1, 2016
Tags: Oregon, trees
Years ago I visited friends living just north of San Fransisco. My flight was delayed eight hours or so, so I arrived in Oakland at four in the morning, when there wasn’t much to do but watch dawn rise over the continent… After a short, unsuccessful nap, I was dropped off in Muir Woods National Monument, where I wandered in a glorious haze-daze amid the Coast Redwoods and Douglas-firs. I was practically the only person there on a weekday morning and, boy, was I flying high! Not because I’d taken anything, but because of the lack of sleep, not to mention the invigorating air, and, of course, those crazy trees.The West’s superlative trees include the tallest—the Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens)—and the biggest, Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). But the “Doug fir” (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is right up there, too, second only to the Coast Redwood in height. They may get a little lost in our (Eastern) minds, though, in the shadow of the fabled “redwoods.”
The trees are named after David Douglas, 1799-1834, the Scottish-born explorer of the Northwest who botanized the region before dying in a freak accident on Hawaii. They are not, however, fir trees, which are in the Abies genus. (That’s why the formal common name has that hypen: Douglas-fir.) Douglas missed out on having his name honored in the scientific or binomial name of the species, which honors Archibald Menzies (1754-1842), another botanizing Scotsman, who sailed with Vancouver. Also, check out that genus: pseudo tsuga, fake hemlocks.
It’s their misfortune to be amazing timber.I had a chance to visit some more of these mighty trees in Portland. It was a delightful return engagement.The classic silhouette, but within the woods they look rather different. This, by the way, is made by Clear Creek Distillery in Portland. And it is delightfully odd.
Published October 30, 2016
Tags: birding, birds, Oregon
Western Gull, Larus occidentalis. Similar looking to Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), but note that heavier, down-turned bill. (All the Larus gulls seem to be able to interbreed, resulting in hybrids of this and that and making a mockery of the old definition of species.)And speaking of taxonomy: the Western Scrub Jay was divided into two species this year. Which makes this a California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica), now distinct from Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, found in the interior west. Here’s another California Scrub, this time in the rain. At a parking lot.Parking lots are actually great places to see birds. Friends who travel much more than we do insist that all the birds will be found near the parking lots. These Eurasian Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) were. They were introduced to the continental U.S. in the 1980s and have spread through most of the country, barring the northeast, but they are on their way here, with the occasional scout already have shown up.Another parking lot, another bird, this time a Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus). More complication: the Pacific Northwest populations are darker, with fewer and more distinct spots, and have different calls. Might they be split off at some point? (Our Eastern Towhee was once lumped along with the Spotted as the Rufus-sided Towhee; the eternal battle between the Lumpers and Splitters, taxonomy’s version of the Ancients and Moderns.)Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), one of my favorite birds. Wish I’d gotten better looks. A later one in the dark of the canopy was even harder to see. Closely related to our Blue Jays. Stellar is right.Another parking lot bird! At Ecola State Park on the Oregon coast, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was up to some nest maintenance. Thousands of American Crows roost in downtown Portland. Twilight presents a spectacle of them flying, playing, and hollering through the sky as they find their trees and building perches for the night and share the intelligence of the day. I find it a joyous cacophany. Dawn presents the spectacle of their shit on the sidewalk, but that’s worth the joy.
Also saw some Common Ravens at Ecola, and one rehabbed bird at the Audubon who said “hello” (!); half-a-dozen Red-tailed Hawks perched next to highway 26 before it rose into the Coast Range; Brewer’s Blackbirds (parking lot); a Peregrine over Portland; several Pacific Wrens (formerly Winter’s); and three, count ’em, three House Sparrows, all lined up on the sign of Mother’s Bistro and Bar, which we can recommend. A first, or life bird, for me was the Red-breasted Sapsucker, joining my list along with the Western Gull, for a life total of 550 bird species, in case anyone is counting.