Wildflowers in the desert sunshine
Emerging in harsh conditions
Shining with an inner light
Jewels in the sand
Wildflowers in the desert photographs taken at Gray Butte, Oregon in the springtime.
The challenge this week is to show photos of birds seen over the past two weeks. As spring progresses, more and more birds, and tourists, are showing up.
Here’s a California scrub-jay perched on an interpretive sign in Bend, acting like a tourist. They change the flags displayed on this bridge throughout the year. On this day, they happened to match the jay.
I’ve been seeing this lone swan near the flag bridge for several weeks. It was hard to figure out if it was a tundra swan or the less common trumpeter swan. It finally got within a few feet of me last week. It’s a tundra swan. See the bit of yellow near the eye? They don’t always have the yellow patch, but it’s the best clue.
For comparison, here’s a trumpeter swan we saw this week at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The skin between the eye and bill is thicker and all black.
We saw lots of birds at Malheur as we traveled along the Center Patrol Road.
There were several hawks hunting over the meadows. Here’s a rough-legged hawk taking off from a willow tree.
We saw a few pairs of ring-necked pheasants foraging near the road. They’re not native to Oregon, but they fit right into the basin and range habitat.
We saw several sandhill cranes, but not as many as I expected to see. These two were showing me their best side and only putting their heads up one at a time.
This flooded field, north of Malheur, had several kinds of waterfowl. The pintails in the background decided to show me the feature that gives them their name. There’s also a few mallards in this picture.
A nearby pond had more species of birds. A graceful great egret took off right when we stopped. There was also a great blue heron foraging nearby.
I was excited to see white pelicans at the pond. They are one of the birds that I have never been able to photograph well. These three look like they’re in a parade with the double-crested cormarants.
The pelicans made themselves right at home with the other birds. You can see a ring-billed gull, double-crested cormorants, a canvasback (with head tucked), a ruddy duck (with head tucked), and an American coot. A smorgasbord!
I’m ending this post with a blue-colored bird, just as I started it. This mountain bluebird was perching high in a juniper tree a couple miles from my home. I’ll start looking for the pair that nests on our property. The spring birds are definitely here!
Today I’m sharing a sockeye salmon 2-sided rock painting I created. On one side you see what this fish looks like when it’s spawning, and on the other side you see what it looks like at other times in its life cycle. They look SO different!
Sockeye salmon travel from the ocean to freshwater to spawn. Kokanee are a landlocked version of sockeye. If you’re lucky enough to catch one, they are especially delicious smoked.
Here’s a video of sockeye spawning in the Adams River in British Columbia, Canada. The 3-minute video, by Luke Gibson of Life of Luke, shows aerial and underwater shots of the fish. I loved his creative solution to filming underwater shots on a limited budget! A true artist will always find a way to work around obstacles.
Do you have artwork you would like to share? Include a First Friday Art tag on your post.
Close up view of a frosty ponderosa pine pom-pom in black and white.
Last week we visited Crack in the Ground in Central Oregon near Christmas Valley. You may be wondering what exactly this place is. Well… it’s a huge crack in the ground in the middle of the desert.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was impressed by the crack’s picturesque angles and curved surfaces.
There’s a 2-mile trail inside that reaches a depth of ~70 feet below the surface. We took the left path that has a more gradual entrance. It’s in the middle of the picture below. This trail is relatively easy but if you go the whole length, expect to climb over boulders and through some cracks.
But how did this crack get here? It’s an ancient volcanic fissure. I learned in most climates, fissures fill up with soil and rock from erosion. Since it’s so dry here, there has been relatively little filling.
Crack in the Ground sits within the Four Craters Lava Bed. During the Pleistocene, four cone volcanoes were active here. A shallow depression formed when older heavier rock sunk. The fissure opened near the edge where there was tension along a fault zone. This Bureau of Land Management map shows the extent of the lava beds and the location of Crack in the Ground.
As the lava cooled, it formed spots with interesting textures. Great for photos!
As we found out, temperatures within the fissure can be 20 degrees cooler than at ground level. These photos were taken on March 23. When we saw the trail ahead, we decided to stop here.
Why? On this trip we brought our dogs and didn’t want to do our own version of dog sled racing on the slippery surface. 😉
Make sure and bring the essentials, including warm clothing, on this short hike. You’ll travel on a 7.5-mile washboard dirt road to get to the site, but it’s well worth it to view this unique attraction.
Also consider visiting the nearby Lost Forest, another special local attraction.
The 0.4-mile Trail of the Whispering Pines winds its way through the forest near the visitor center. You get great views of pine trees, Lava Butte, and several nearby volcanoes. This path sits on part of Newberry Volcano, a 1,200-square mile shield volcano.
South Sister, pictured on the left above, is the youngest and most geologically active of the Three Sisters volcanoes. The mountain last erupted 2,000 years ago, but a “bulge” began forming in 1997. By 2001, the bulge grew to 9 inches in height and 10 miles in diameter. Its growth since that time has slowed considerably. Both South Sister and Newberry are regularly monitored for volcanic activity.
When I was a young child, my grandfather often told me the tale of the Lost Forest. Here is how he told it…
The people of the village disliked them for their beliefs, distrusted them for their appearance, so they fled. The villagers pursued them so they ran faster and faster.
They paused on a faraway hill and sought shelter beneath the sagebrush. The pursuers shouted in the distance. Unsure what to do, they became a part of the environment.
One by one, they stood still and extended their arms with palms tilted upward. Long green needles sprouted from their fingertips. Puzzle-like bark crept over their skin. They wiggled their toes and pale white roots snaked their way into the soil. A shudder ran through their bodies and branches poked through their buckskin clothing.
And then they grew. They shed their human form and grew taller and taller.
They continued running, dispersing themselves among the sagebrush. One froze in mid-stride when he turned into a tree.
Years passed, and they formed a dense forest, lush and green.
They lived their lives apart from their people, always waiting for their arrival. Aged ones stood until they could stand no longer and then tumbled to the ground.
New lives arose from the old. The young ones learned how to thrive in a land with little water.
The old ones told them tales of their former home. They told them the village covered the plains, hills, and mountains. They spoke of loving people, never of those who sowed distrust.
One day a young woman entered the forest. The oldest pines recognized the beaded pattern on her moccasins and cloak. There was something familiar about how her hair was braided. She was family!
The forest trees whispered and a dust devil carried their voices to her. She cupped her ear and nodded.
“I found you at last,” she said.
Others in the village learned of her experience and visited the forest. Some had concerns over their differences, but the forest embraced their kin.
From then on, they called it the Lost Forest. Though their people lived many miles apart, they were united once again.
My recent visit to the Lost Forest Research Natural Area in Central Oregon inspired me to write this story. This isolated stand was once a part of a much larger forest at a time when the climate was cooler and wetter. The 9,000-acre Lost Forest is 40 miles away from the closest ponderosa pine stand.
Only 9 inches of rain falls in a year near the Lost Forest. Most pine trees need twice that much rain in order to grow well. However, in this location, the unique soil structure, combined with groundwater being close to the surface, helps the trees thrive. The pine trees in the Lost Forest are special in another way since their seeds germinate more quickly than other pines. So even though these trees live “alone,” they have survived.
Here’s a general map of the region from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Close up view of rough & rippling bark of a western juniper tree near Bend, Oregon.
Today I’m featuring photos of waterfowl reflections taken on the Deschutes River. The first picture is of a lone swan that has been hanging around Bend, Oregon for the last several weeks.
Here’s a pair of common mergansers taking off along the Trout Creek trail, north of Madras.
Here’s a pair of hooded mergansers in Bend, Oregon.
This is a Barrow’s goldeneye in Bend, Oregon.
This is a Western grebe seen near Sunriver, Oregon.
This female mallard followed me for a long time when I kayaked the Deschutes near Sunriver, Oregon.
The Deschutes River is 252 miles long and there are lots of opportunities to capture images of waterfowl reflections. I hope to see many more of them soon!
When I walked around a corner into a gallery at the Baker Heritage Museum a couple years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Wow, what a special moment! As you may know, I like rocks and this is an amazing collection of rocks, minerals, and fossils.
One of the first pieces you see is a 950-pound crystal from Arkansas. I would love to have something like that in my rock garden.
Two sisters in Baker City, Mamie Cavin and Elizabeth Cavin Warfel, collected specimens for 45 years and donated their collections to the museum in 1983. The 18-ton Cavin-Warfel Collection, together with other donations at the museum, is considered to be one of the best collections in the country. In fact, at one time the Smithsonian offered $500,000 to acquire it.
Cabochons and cut pieces of picture jasper cover one wall. Cabochons are gemstones that have been shaped and highly polished, rather than faceted. Billy Wyatt donated this collection.
Colorful specimens of green malachite and blue azurite are in this cabinet. Both are secondary minerals found in copper deposits. Malachite is one of my favorites and I have a few in my collection. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries donated specimens related to mining to the museum.
This cabinet features moss agate. It often contains formations that look like mossy growths and specimens can be found not far from Baker City.
This cabinet holds fossils on the top shelf and petrified wood on the bottom shelf. The middle shelf holds fossilized bones. One of the best places to collect fossils in Oregon is in the town of Fossil. 🙂
There are several slabs of Muscovite on the top right shelf and clear Selenite below it on the second shelf. Can you find the jade in this display? Rockhounds can find jade in the southwest corner of Oregon.
This display has a wide variety of specimens. There are examples of marble on the third shelf. I like the tiny carvings in the lower right corner.
The middle shelf contains many examples of quartz. I like the greenish rock on the top left shelf. It’s the mineral Adamite and it has a neon green glow under ultraviolet light.
The brown crystal clusters in the middle of the next photograph are “desert roses.” Their flattened crystals look like rose petals. Some of the pink rocks on the top shelf are Rhodonite.
There are some nice slabs of Brazilian agate on the top row. I have several that I use for coasters. The agates on the second row are Oregon bubble agates.
This case contains some great amethysts on the second row. Did you know the Ancient Greeks thought if you held an amethyst in your mouth it could prevent drunkenness? There are a few rose quartz rocks on the right side of the top row.
There are some beautiful quartz crystals in this display. The ones on the top shelf are from Arkansas – tiny cousins of the giant one at the beginning of this post. The bottom shelf contains Oregon quartz crystals.
If you’ve visited this museum in the past, consider stopping by again when it reopens since displays change. Members of the Baker Rockhounds have put hundreds of hours into organizing, cataloging, and cleaning materials in the collection. With the help of geologists, everything is getting labeled correctly. Sometimes they make unusual discoveries and if you look long enough at this amazing collection, you will too.
After the fire, this split-trunk western juniper tree is still standing tall in the grasslands near Warm Springs, Oregon.
Walking among the hoodoos in the morning light, feeling out of my element.
Sculpted towers surround me, casting tall shadows. Their wind-carved faces turn towards the sun,
until clouds block their view.
Shadows lengthen, darkness threatens me.
Snowdrifts create luminous lights.
Hoodoos retreat, marching towards another day.
Snow-capped mountain ash berries are a delicious dessert for our feathered friends.
Close up view of a cluster of crystals sprouting off of a matrix.
During the chilly winter months, I sometimes think of the steam-filled landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. I wish I had a natural hot spring in my backyard. The thermal activity beneath Yellowstone is always producing steamy white clouds.
This view is from the Artists’ Paint Pots trail. Lots of contrasting colors and great views of the steaming basin from the top of the trail.
This is a hot spring near Morning Glory Hot Spring, one of my favorite sites in the park. See the ravens enjoying the warm water?
Grand Prismatic has rainbow colors, layered soil, and lots of steam. Did you notice the bison tracks in the foreground?
The bison spend time near the hot springs throughout the year. Here’s a pair grazing near a boardwalk trail.
Sometimes the steam blends in with dramatic cloud formations. This photo was taken at Excelsior Geyser moments before a downpour.
Mud Volcano used to have a 30-foot tall cone, but it blew apart before the park was established in 1872. Now this constantly boiling pot of gray mud produces wispy steam clouds that drift over the surrounding hills.
This is Steamboat Geyser and when it erupts, it can shoot water 300 feet into the air. We missed its eruption by a few days. 🙁
The Norris Geyser Basin is a great place to see steam-filled Yellowstone landscapes. Just a reminder–this basin sits at 7,600 feet in elevation. I was the only one on the trail on this late-May day when a snowstorm moved in. Brrr!
A couple weeks ago, a Cooper’s hawk visited my yard for two hours. She perched atop a snag for a long time grooming herself.
I’m guessing this was a female because it was a big bird with orange eyes. Females are larger in size than males. Cooper’s hawk eyes can be yellow, orange, or red. Mature males have deep red eyes but few females do.
Here are a few photos of her close up.
And here are a few photos from a little bit farther away. She was trimming her talons and flipping her head around to groom hard to reach places.
When this Cooper’s hawk visited my yard, I couldn’t stop watching her. She was so entertaining!
While this hawk was in my backyard, there was not a single songbird in sight. We don’t have bird feeders, but the songbirds flock to our water feature. The hawks have figured out it’s a fly through fast food restaurant.
These images aren’t in perfect focus but they make a funny GIF. See her yawning and tapping a foot?
A planter full of color near the flag bridge in Bend, Oregon.
bound by ancient roots
branches sway in desert winds
old one’s last winter
Walking with Winter along a River of Falls
Where snow softens hard edges of steel
And creates ephemeral works of whimsey
Where snow and ice form furrowed bridges
And crystalline waterfalls frozen in time
Where icy peninsulas extend the reach of land
So winged ones can walk on water
Walking with Winter along a River of Falls
I have many favorite birds, but today I’m turning my lens towards favorite songbirds that live near me in Central Oregon.
The first bird, is a sage thrasher. Plain of feather, these birds have a lovely melodic song. Thrashers are one of the songbirds of the sagebrush sea that I studied for my graduate work. They are a canary in a coal mine kind of bird.
The second bird is a varied thrush. They look like a robin with a mask, necklace, and checkered wings. I love their haunting song.
The third bird is a California scrub jay. These bold birds have expanded their range. They’re entertaining to watch and hear.
I like using digital magic to bring out the best in my photographs before I post them. I use Corel PaintShop Pro, a less expensive alternative to Photoshop.
This is a slide I kept in my tent during fieldwork and tiny spots of mold had grown on it. They couldn’t be removed physically so I used a digital scratch remover and cloning tool to erase them.
I took this picture of a pair of burrowing owls at the High Desert Museum. There was a lot of glare on the window of their enclosure. I cropped the photo, and in the edited version, they look like they’re in a natural setting.
Showy layers of crepe paper-like red petals encircle a yellow melon-shaped ovary. Golden-anthered stamens stand guard over the precious seeds within.
I saw this old oak tree at Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland last winter. I think they are one of my favorite trees without leaves. Look at those branches!
Juniper caught misty moon on a chill winter night
Struggling to escape, moon gave up on the fight
Scrub jays gathered atop the great tree
Pecking and prodding until moon was set free
Monochrome Monday in infrared
These American bison are following an ancient pathway along the Gibbon River in Wyoming. The well-worn trail has been carved into the turf by the hooves of many.
Here’s a slightly closer view of the bison. Though they may look docile, you don’t want to get too close to these animals that can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and travel at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. I photographed them while safely inside the car.
Captured by frost spikes
Struggle against winter’s grip
Glints of sun, released
This yew plant in my garden measured three feet in height for many years. I don’t think it was fond of our High Desert temperature fluctuations. Last year it finally grew taller so now it’s almost five feet tall.
Yesterday I caught one of our resident “landscapers” chewing on the new growth. Guess he thought it needed a trim. 😉
Today I’m featuring images portraying oceans of emotion from a trip last year to Northern Ireland and Ireland. The images reflect the eight basic emotions defined by psychologist, Robert Plutchik.
Anger – Winds at the Giant’s Causeway were reaching 80 miles per hour. As each wave crashed upon the shore, froth shot out of a hole on the left side of this picture. It was as if Mother Nature was foaming at the mouth.
Fear – The incoming storm frightened most of the tourists away from Carrick-a-Rede. It shut down shortly after we crossed due to high winds.
I saw this decorated tree near Sisters, Oregon. There was a nice contrast between the rough brown ponderosa pine bark and the delicate tufts of fluorescent green lichen.