Visiting Sunriver Nature Center

Learn about the natural world by visiting Sunriver Nature Center

Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory is a great place to learn more about the natural world. This small interpretive center is on the west side of Sunriver, Oregon. It’s in an area that includes pine forests, meadows, and the meandering Deschutes River. The “edges” between these habitats are good places to see wildlife.

 

You can observe local wildlife by walking the trails on your own or going out with a guide. The Sam Osgood Nature Trail winds around the property. In the spring and summer keep an eye out for trumpeter swans. Guided bird walks take place every Saturday morning in the spring, summer, and fall. I have been on several of the walks. You’ll see waterfowl in the pond, raptors flying overhead, and songbirds along the walk. Great gray owls have been spotted in the area occasionally. You never know what you might spot on one of these walks.

 

 

There are also programs for families and kids. There are Kids Nature Camps for kids 4-10 years of age at certain times of the year. Family programs might include offerings such as Family Birding, Aquatic Explorations, and Eco Bike Tours. During the school year, staff travel to nearby schools to give presentations.

 

The Sunriver Nature Center building has live animals, diorama displays of local habitats, hands-on exhibits, and a collection of rocks with a focus on meteors. Their collection of live animals includes birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Birds of prey are used in daily educational talks in the amphitheater.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

This is a licensed rehabilitation center so there may be some birds not on public display. With the help of staff and volunteers, the birds get much needed medical attention. If possible, they are released back into the wild.

The Oregon Observatory

The Oregon Observatory offers spectacular views of daytime and night skies. There are opportunities to see galaxies, nebulae, and planets and their moons. The observatory has a large collection of telescopes available. Kids can learn about astronomy through visits, classes, and through community outreach. Look at these amazing photos from the observatory! Hours vary – click here for the most current information.

A few sights to see at the Sunriver Nature Center

Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

One of my favorite places to hang out is near the bird feeders. You’ll see lots of birds, and an occasional squirrel, taking advantage of a free meal.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

Here’s a room where reptiles, amphibians, and insects can be viewed.  It’s called the Creature Cave.

 

Birds of prey can be seen up close and personal in their enclosures.  A building was constructed recently to house and exercise the Center’s raptors.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

Check their website to find out about current events and to register for camps and walks. Staff and volunteers take some of their wildlife ambassadors (like the great horned owl pictured below) to events in the area. Sunriver Nature Center is a non-profit that depends upon donations. Click here to donate.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

Looking up at Fort Rock: LAPC

Looking up while looking back

Fort Rock Look Up 20May2015

These images from Fort Rock, Oregon focus on looking up. In this photo you see what a town from the early 1900’s may have looked like. Buildings were moved to this site to create the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Village Museum. Each building is decorated with artifacts so it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time.

Fort Rock Look Up 9June2016

Pioneers were promised rich and fertile land. That was not the reality in this arid high desert. Many settlers moved away after unsuccessfully trying to cultivate the land.

Fort Rock, Oregon

Yet some stayed and learned to love the land. In this photo a sage thrasher perches on a shovel next to a re-created pioneer garden. Listen to the thrasher’s beautiful song here.

Fort Rock Look Up 4 10June2016

Fort Rock is a prominent land feature that settlers looked forward to seeing. Some pioneers who settled there cannot imagine living anywhere else. The ever-changing skies make even those of us there for a short visit look up in wonder.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Look Up

Antelope bitterbrush in bloom: Friday Flowers

Bitterbrush blossoms

Bitterbrush Blossoms in Central Oregon 9May2018

The antelope bitterbrush appears to be reaching for the sky in this photograph. This plant gets its common name due to the fact that it is so important to wildlife. Deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, and pronghorn (antelope) browse on its small three-toothed leaves and use its dense growth for cover. It’s also important for deer mice, kangaroo rats, sage grouse, and Lewis’ woodpecker.

Mule Deer browsing on bitterbrush & sagebrush 9March2018I have seen plants over twelve feet tall but in my yard, they only reach a height of about three feet. My “landscapers” love to prune them. In certain parts of this plant’s range, bitterbrush can comprise up to 91% of mule deer’s diet in September.

Friday Flowers

Outdoor Bonsai: Artful Miniatures LAPC

A sculpted garden of outdoor bonsai plants

I saw these outdoor bonsai trees on the High Desert Garden Tour in Bend, Oregon this summer. I marveled at the artistry that went into sculpting these plants. Though I’ve seen bonsai trees in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to see tree species that grow locally sculpted into small replicas of full size trees. You can see why they are referred to as “living art.”

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Small is beautiful

Red fox in action: Lens-artists challenge

A lucky sighting of a red fox

Red fox, Yellowstone National Park 1June2018

We saw this red fox in Yellowstone National Park in June of this year. This is the Rocky Mountain subspecies, Vulpes vulpes macroura.

The red fox is not seen often in the park because they are nocturnal and they blend into their preferred habitats along the edges of meadows and forests. The females nurse their kits during late spring and this may have been a female out looking for food. Foxes usually use dens created by other animals.

Fox kit, Yellowstone National Park

We were fortunate to see a female with kits on another spring visit to Yellowstone. Litter size averages four to eight kits. Vixens gives birth in late March to April.  Both parents care for the young through their first few months of their life.

When wolves were introduced into the park, many coyotes were eliminated by the wolves and this may have caused an increase in the number of foxes. Coyotes prefer sagebrush and open meadow habitat and hunt more by day so they don’t compete as much with foxes.

Red fox, Yellowstone National Park 1June2018

 

The red fox is the smallest dog-like mammal in the park. The males weigh 11-12 pounds and the females weigh 10 pounds. They average 43 inches in length. Most foxes live 3-7 years but in Yellowstone can live up to 11 years.

Red fox, Yellowstone National Park 1June2018

Foxes can have a wide variety of coat colors–from red to black. Their thick tail aids in balance and they use them to signal to other foxes. Foxes wrap their tail around themselves in cold weather to help them stay warm.

Red fox, Yellowstone National Park 4June2015

Red foxes have a varied diet. They feed on voles, mice, rabbits, birds, amphibians, eggs, carrion, and some plants.  Animals that prey on foxes include cougars, wolves, and coyotes.

Video of a flying red fox

Here’s a National Geographic video of a fox hunting in the winter. They have extremely good hearing and listen for animals beneath the snow. When they sense prey, they pounce or “fly” to catch it under the snow.  Flying Red Fox 

Lens-artists Photo Challenge – Action

 

 

Ascent: Climbing Explored Exhibit

Reaching for the sky in the Ascent exhibit

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

Sometimes you may have looked up at rock climbers on Smith Rock (near Terrebonne , Oregon) and wondered what drives them in their quest to reach the top. This new exhibit helps answer that question. Ascent: Climbing Explored, looks at the history, evolution, and culture of climbing and mountaineering in the West. What began as scientific exploration, grew into an activity people take part in for sheer joy of the experience.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

One of the first things you see in the exhibit is a journal entry from John Muir. Muir taught people about conserving wild places through his eloquent writings. In another section of the exhibit, the artwork of Thomas Moran is featured. The paintings he created of Yellowstone in 1871 helped to establish the world’s first national park. The artwork and writings of early explorers were the “social media” of their day. Artist Sarah Uhl, also featured in this exhibit, presents landscape art that is a continuation of themes first presented by 19th century artists. James Lavadour, of the Walla Walla tribe, did the bold bright paintings of mountains near the exhibit entrance. His paintings, and the clean lines of the exhibit, bring a modern look to the displays.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

A bit of history related to climbing

Many of the objects displayed in Ascent are on loan from the Mazamas. The Mazamas climbing club was founded in 1894 in Portland. William Gladstone Steel was one of the driving forces of the organization.  From the start, they have played an active role in conservation. The Mazamas club was also ahead of the times in allowing women to enroll as full members. As Steel said, “No climb is complete without them.”

One item featured in the exhibit belongs to the company founded by rock climber Yvon Chouinard.  In 1970, Chouinard purchased pre-made Rugby shirts and affixed his brand name onto them. You can see one of these shirts near the van scene. He later had great success with Patagonia, the company he created.

There are two large display cases that show historical and current gear used in mountain climbing. Some equipment has changed little, while other items, such as footwear and climbing rope, have changed radically. One of the most significant changes was in the materials used in shoes. Since the 1980s, they have become significantly lighter.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

Different techniques of climbing

Climbers and mountaineers are always looking for new ways to see the mountains. In the 1920s, methods to reach the summit included using metal spikes, known as pitons, into the rock. One of the hands-on displays shows protective gear climbers use to anchor themselves to the rocks. While pitons  and other equipment help make the sport safer, some prefer to “clean climb” without hammering things into the surface they climb over. The bolts cause damage to the rock from repeated placement and removal.

In the 1970s, climbers lives revolved around climbing. They preferred to free climb, using only their hands and feet. We called these athletic climbers “rock jocks” when I was in college. Climbers were often referred to as “dirtbags”. Dirtbags often lived in vans, such as the one in the exhibit, and some experimented with drugs.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

The drive towards ascent

Climbers are driven to reach summits despite the risks. As one climber quoted in the exhibit said, “It breathes life into me.” Climbers climb for many reasons. The physical and mental challenges are just a part of the experience.

Certain locations, such as Yosemite and Smith Rock, are particularly challenging and draw in climbers from all over the world.  The Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) rates the difficulty level on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest level. By the 1950s, this scale was further refined with the addition of decimal points and letters.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

The first ascent of Smith Rock was made in 1935 by Central Oregon resident Johnny Bissell. In the 1950s, national attention came to Smith Rock after Madras residents Jack Watts, and brothers Jim and Jerry Ramsey, established climbing lines on the peak. A 650-acre state park was created at Smith Rock in 1960 to conserve the site. Though many considered the various routes “climbed out” by the late 1970s, Alan Watts, Jack Watts’ son, started developing top down routes. At the time, they were considered the hardest routes in the world with a YDS of 5.14a. One of Watts’ routes was featured in 1986 on the cover of Mountain, an influential climbing magazine, and climbers soon flocked to Smith Rock.

Rock climbers come in all shapes and sizes and one display features information on adaptive climbing. Climber Mark Wellman was the first paraplegic to summit El Capitan at Yosemite. Gear has been modified over the years to meet the needs of climbers’ specific needs.

The next generations to ascend

Ascent6 15May2018A large climbing wall for kids is a popular part of the Ascent exhibit. The wall is for future rock climbers between the ages of 5-12. The kids I saw were thrilled to climb up the blue wall studded with colorful hand- and footholds. It was almost as if they were climbing for the sheer joy of the experience.

 

This is a reprint of a July 2018 article in High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see more issues of the newsletter, go here.

This exhibit at the High Desert Museum runs from April 28 – September 9, 2018

 

The Toad Queen: FOWC

Emerging from the earth

Spadefoot toad emerging from the earth 4May2018

The Spadefoot Toad Queen

The ground trembled beneath a stunted sagebrush shrub. The Toad Queen emerged from her burrow to a changed world. Clouds of smoke hung over the land from a wildfire. The spadefoot toad gazed at this new world through golden slitted eyes. Sand tumbled down her spotted back.

A purple larkspur plant stood near her burrow. Its head of flowers tilted toward the earth, wilted from the blistering heat.

The Toad Queen heard a meadowlark singing nearby. The song stopped abruptly, interrupted by a fit of coughing.

“What happened while I slept in my burrow?” She glanced around at the desert landscape.

GreatBasinSpadefootToad 4May2018She and the other spadefoot toads had pulled moisture from the soil as they slept underground and it helped them survive. Other creatures had not been so lucky. The carcass of a sage sparrow fledgling lay near her burrow. A few feathers clung to the tiny dried out body.

“Wind and fire are taking the water from the land,” her mate said. He had emerged from his own burrow. The toad shook the sand off the black spades on his hind feet.

“The sun is drying everything,” she said. “We must call for help.”

A call for help

Her mate called the spadefoot toads. His loud croaking call carried far over the sagebrush steppe. Other toads joined in and soon the air was filled with a chorus of croaks.

Over their heads, dark clouds collected in the smoky skies. Thunderheads formed. The patter of rainfall on the earth woke other spadefoot toads. They emerged from their burrows and joined in the chorus. The air was alive with the energy created by their song.

Rain fell, dousing the fires. White smoke rose from the burning trees and shrubs doused by the rain. Hours later, the fire was out.

“Thank you,” the Toad Queen said. She smiled at the group of spadefoot toads gathered around her.

Steens mountain tour, western meadowlark eastern Oregon 6April2018The meadowlark alighted on a greasewood shrub near the Toad Queen. His melodic song of gratitude echoed across the landscape.

Renewal and change was coming to this land, but it would take time.

FOWC – Energy

Patterns in water: Lens-Artists Challenge

Hard and soft patterns in water

To me, this image of patterns in water looks like the chiseled profile of a white-frosted creature from another world. The shape is echoed in the shoreline across the stream.

Patterns in water Amber Echoes 2June2018

Amber Echoes

This image looks like an alien planet where worlds float on pale greenish-gold islands anchored by strong strands of green. Once the worlds are full, they detach from their moorings and float away.

Patterns in water Floating Green Worlds 2June2018

Floating Green Worlds

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Patterns

 

Apple blossoms: Friday Flowers

McCoin Orchard apple blossoms

Apple blossoms at the McCoin Orchard at Gray Nutte, Oregon 9may2018

I saw these apple blossoms in the McCoin Orchard near the trailhead for the Gray Butte trail. This orchard, near Terrebonne, Oregon, was originally planted in the late 1880s and it was rescued by range specialists 100 years later.

There’s a nice hike here with some spectacular views of the country. The close up views of spring flowers are great as well.

Soft sights at Sunset Lake: LAPC

A harsh landscape with soft edges

Soft sights at Sunset Lake, Yellowstone National Park, WY 2June2018

There are many soft sights to see in Yellowstone National Park’s harsh environments. Soft and steaming mist drifts over Sunset Lake. Soft puffy clouds float over rounded hills in the distance.

Soft sights at Sunset Lake, Yellowstone National Park, WY 2June2018

The colors along the shorelines blend softly into one another giving the lake its name. To me, it is a mystical sort of place that has many stories to tell.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Soft

Red Hot Poker: Friday Flowers

Red Hot plants in the garden

Red Hot Poker plants in Bend, Oregon 25 June 2018

Sometimes the common name of a plant really fits. Here is one of those plants. The red hot poker plant is native to Africa and it grows well in the high desert of Oregon. It is a  drought tolerant perennial that has both herbaceous and evergreen species.  They are also known as torch lilies.

Red Hot Poker plants in Bend, Oregon 25 June 2018

Red hot plants can grow to a height of five feet and their colorful flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Orioles are also attracted to the nectar. Here’s a post from Mountain Valley Growers showing orioles busy sipping nectar. This plant is deer and rabbit resistant.

The Better Homes and Garden site refers to this plant as “an eye-catching burst of color that is both whimsical and architectural.” Yes, that description fits the red hot poker well. 🙂

 

Bison coming right at you: TWI – Action

Up close and personal with bison

Bison coming at you in Yellowstone National Park,WY 30May2018

I was glad I was inside my car when I saw these bison coming right at us. Some people think they are calm and tame like a domestic cow. They’re not! Bulls weigh up to 2,000 pounds and cows weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Since they can run up to 30 miles per hour, it’s best to keep your distance.

Here’s another post on them plus a link to more information. Bison Celebrating 4th.

Travel with Intent Photo Challenge – Action

 

 

Scooby Doo & Calypso Too: TWI – Dwarf mini

A dwarf mini with big attitude

We used to have two miniature horses. One, Scooby Doo pictured on the left, was a dwarf mini. He stood at only 27″ at the withers. His pedigreed companion, Calypso Blue pictured on the right, stood at 32″.  Calypso was calm and even-tempered. Scooby had a lot of personality and let you know it.

Scooby Doo & Calypso too Dwarf Mini and Mini horse 9January2002

When it was time to move, the farrier who trimmed our horse’s hooves took Scooby. He had worked with a lot of horses in his days and could see that Scooby was a big personality in a small package.

Travel with Intent – Dwarf

Cooling Otters: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge

Three guys cooling their jets

When it’s as hot as it’s been (102 degrees here yesterday!) I wish I could do a little cooling off by being an otter. Here are three cooling otters in motion.

Three Otters Cooling at the High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 19March2018

They always look like they’re having so much fun.

Can you imagine sliding down an embankment and cooling off in a clear mountain stream?

Otters Cooling 2 27September2016I’m also including a short video of three North American river otters at play at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. You can hear fellow volunteer Jonny Goddard, AKA Otter Brother, in the background “directing” them.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Cooling

Green Worlds Beneath Me: Photo Challenge – Wonder

Tiny worlds beneath me

I often have to remind myself to look down and notice the worlds beneath me when I’m taking pictures. Here’s a picture of aquatic plants being combed by the waves and highlighted by the sun.

Green worlds beneath me. Aquatic plants at Yellowstone National Park, WY 2June2018

Here’s a picture of a lichen “forest”  growing on weathered wood. Worlds of wonder exist in landscapes large and small.

Worlds beneath me - a lichen forest on weathered wood 21June2018

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Wonder

Clarno Palisades Hikes

Stepping back in time at Clarno Palisades

Arch at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

Arch at Clarno Palisades

In May I visited the Clarno Palisades area, 18 miles west of Fossil, Oregon in the Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This unit gets light usage.  We only saw a few other visitors.

The palisades at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

The palisades

There are three short hikes near the covered picnic area. The Geologic Time Trail winds along ¼ mile to connect you to the other two trails. Interpretive signs note the changes of the last 50 million years. The colorful small signs explaining the geologic history looked brand new. The Trail of Fossils takes you up a ¼ mile loop trail on the hillside and shows you fossils that left their imprints in large boulders.

An almost-tropical forest covered this region 44 million years ago. 120 inches of rainfall per year, compared to about 9 inches today. Bananas used to grow here! Bear-like predators, four-toed primitive horses, and other creatures once roamed this land. The Clarno Arch Trail takes you up ¼ mile trail (yup, another ¼ mile one!) to the base of a cliff with a natural arch cut into the stone. This trail has a 200 foot elevation gain. If you hike all the trails out and back, it adds up to 1.25 miles.

Spring shrubs and flowers

When I was there in mid-May, wildflowers were in full bloom. The rose bush featured in one of my earlier posts—Wild Rose: Friday Flowers—was near where we parked. The “trunk” of that shrub looked like a formidable weapon!  We saw orange globemallow blooming along the trail.  Large netleaf hackberry shrubs grew on the slopes near the cliffs.

Canyon wren at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

Canyon wren

Birds of the cliffs

There were a handful of birds out that day. Canyon wrens serenaded us with their descending song. A prairie falcon, American kestrel, and golden eagle flew near the cliffs protecting their nest sites. A California quail called Chi-ca-go in the background. Swallows flitted overhead.

Fossilized logs forming a "T" at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

Fossilized logs forming a “T” on the cliff face

Logs and lichens

We spotted several fossilized leaves and branches along the Trail of Fossils. When we went up the Clarno Arch Trail, we saw large fossilized logs sticking out of the cliff face. The colorful lichens covering the rocks attracted my attention as usual.

Colorful lichens at Clarno Palisades 8 15May2018

Colorful lichens on the rocks

Stairway to the arch

The columns of the Palisades were formed by volcanic lahars 54-40 millions years ago. They are stately and beautiful but the stair step-like structure beneath the arch really got my attention. Water must have pooled up in each “step” before falling.

Steps beneath the arch at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

Steps beneath the arch

When we were there with Bend Parks and Recreation, it was a cool day. I imagine it gets hot in the summer here so plan your visit with that in mind.

The palisades at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

The palisades

Other attractions nearby

I highly recommend visiting the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, an hour and a half southeast of the Palisades. Read my post on that amazing place here.

Here is a Trail Guide for hikes in the Clarno, Painted Hills, and Sheep Rocks Units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

An ombre monolith filled with fossils at Clarno Palisades 15May2018

An ombre monolith filled with fossils

Layers at Three Creek Lake

Looking for layers

I was just thinking about a kayaking trip last fall to Three Creek Lake near Sisters, Oregon.  When I was looking for photos of layers for the Travel at Wit’s End challenge, that trip came to mind.

Yes, there were obvious layers in the rock faces bordering the lake, but there were other layers as well.

  • Green reflections of trees in the lake.
  • Snow covering parts of the scenery.
  • Reflections in the lake highlighted by snow.
  • New growth in a forest bordered with an edge of sedges.
  • Rocks in volcanic-hued rainbows of color.
  • Waves lapping at the shore.

Sometimes you need to look a little harder to find nature’s hidden layers.

Travel At Wit’s End – Layers