First dusting of snow: Monochrome Monday

First dusting of snow Redmond, Oregon

The first dusting of snow covered this old shed near Redmond, Oregon. Winter is on its way to the High Desert!

Monochrome Monday

In a High Desert yard: LAPC & Weekly Prompts

Like the rest of you out there, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. This week I’m featuring photos taken in a High Desert yard near Bend, Oregon.

If your gaze is focused downward lately, look at the elements of earth in a new light. This layer cake rock is interesting in color and form.

Igneous rock boulder 15November2020

As your gaze moves up, notice the textures you may have overlooked. The multilayered bark of juniper trees always catches my attention.

In a high desert yard May 2020

Though we can’t be together right now, we get the opportunity to watch those who can. These Eurasian collared doves are sharing a tender moment.

Eurasian collared doves May 2020

We can smile at those taking advantage of the situation. These two mule deer bucks are pausing to share a drink while my dogs are inside.

In a High Desert yard - 2 bucks September 2020

And when all seems bleak, we may be rewarded by lightness at the end of the day. Spectacular sunsets are a surprise worth waiting for.

In a High Desert yard - sunset October 2019

If we keep looking up, things should get better. In a High Desert yard, this splash of color emerged after a dark storm – a special gift from Mother Nature. 😀

Rainbow over junipers June 2020

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Found in the neighborhood

Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge – The Gift

My cactus in summer: Friday Flowers & Fan of…

Last weekend I took a picture of my cactus covered with snow. This post shows my cactus in summer. Aren’t they pretty? I’m missing their beautiful blossoms already.

My cactus in summer June 2020
Cholla in bloom July 2020
Prickly pear in bloom June 2018
My cactus in summer July 2020
Prickly pear in bloom June 2016

Fan of… flowering cacti

In the morning light – 4 haiku: LAPC

In the morning light
Fireworks light up the fall sky
Amazement above

In the morning light sunrise October 2020
High desert sunrise

When the day breaks bright
We find our comfortable place
Basking in its warmth

Pixie-bob cat October 2020
Pixie-bob cat

In the light of day
Our differences stand out
Yet we share our songs

In the morning light - Songbirds drinking water
American robin, house sparrow, cedar waxwing, & lesser goldfinch

In the morning light
Snow melts from prickly branches
Revealing warm hearts

Snow on high desert cactus October 2020
Cholla & prickly pear cactus

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The sun will come out tomorrow

Backyard birding adventures: BWPC & SS

We have a water feature in our yard so we have lots of backyard birding adventures. This summer I bought a special mount to take digital pictures through my spotting scope. This process is referred to as “digiscoping.” Unfortunately, many of the pictures I first took turned out blurry. I’m having much better luck with my brand new mount.

Here’s a photo of one of our California scrub-jays taken with my Google Pixel phone. Isn’t it a beautiful bird?

backyard birding adventures - scrub-jay near Bend

I used my point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix camera for this one. It was a little tricky to hold it in place on the mount. This a European starling and an American robin.

Starling & robin

We get tons of robins at this time of the year and they chase other birds away.

American robins

This image is blurry but it captures a frequent visitor, a robin, next to an infrequent one, an evening grosbeak. Glad I got a quick glimpse of the grosbeak!

Backyard birding adventures American robin & evening grosbeak

Here’s another infrequent visitor, a hermit thrush, and, you guessed it! – a robin. Five different thrushes are in our yard at this time of year.

Hermit thrush & American robin

Mountain chickadees are a common visitor.

Mountain chickadee

Lesser goldfinches are also common. Here’s a group shot of these little lemon-colored birds next to a house finch. We also see American goldfinches occasionally.

Lesser goldfinch

Dark-eyed junco are frequent visitors. They aren’t afraid of the robins.

Dark-eyed junco

The pygmy nuthatches are a bit more shy.

Pygmy nuthatch

The house finches, on the left, and northern flickers, on the right, are not shy at all.

Backyard birding adventures - house finch & northern flicker

Backyard birding in action

One day I took a lot of pictures through the spotting scope (with the old mount) that didn’t turn out great. Google turned them into a GIF and I like how it turned out. It gives you an idea of how fast these birds actually move. 😀

Backyard birding Gif

I’ll share more of my backyard birding adventures as I get better at taking pictures through the scope.

Bird Weekly Photo Challenge (BWPC) – In Your Yard or Garden

Sunday Stills (SS) – Kinda Backyard Birding

Brilliance of the Desert: One Word Sunday

Last summer we took a trip to southeastern Oregon where we saw the brilliance of the desert.

Contrasting colors atop 9,733-ft Steens Mountain.

Brilliance of the desert - Steens Mountain August 2019

Colorful soils rounding a bend.

Southeastern Oregon Road

Rabbitbrush in bloom near Big Indian Gorge.

Brilliance of the desert, Big Indian Gorge, Steens Mountain, Oregon 28 August 2019

Mountain mahogany trees growing on a ridgetop.

Mountain mahogany at Steens Mountain

Some think of deserts as dull and boring. However, if you look at things in a different way, you’ll witness the brilliance of the desert.

One Word Sunday – Bright

Focus on the form of cactus: LAPC

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is Symmetry. I decided to focus on the form of cactus in my garden by showing them in infrared. It highlights their prickly symmetry well.

Focus on the form of cactus in infrared 1October2020
Close up of cholla cactus infrared 1October2020
Cholla cactus fruit up close 1October2020
Prickly pear cactus in infrared 1October2020
Focus on the form of catus - Prickly pear fruit 1October2020

To see some of these cactus blooming in brilliant colors, see Prickly and pretty.

Shooting stars up close: Macro Monday

Shooting stars up close

Shooting stars up close. Wildflowers blooming on Glass Buttes in the High Desert of Oregon.

Macro Monday

High Desert Mural: LAPC & Monday Mural

High Desert Mural Siobhan Sullivan 17 August 2020

I have been busy filling up space and time by creating a High Desert mural. I recently posted more details on creating my Outdoor Pronghorn Painting. This weekend I added three additional paintings to the mural.

Outdoor pronghorn painting by Siobhan Sullivan August 2020

As I mentioned in my post about the pronghorn painting, I use photos I have taken and other sources to do my first sketches. I like to refer back to field guides and set them up for easy viewing.

Work space for drawing an American badger August 2020

Creamy white paint is painted onto each piece to make the colors stand out. Here are the three back painted pieces.

High Desert mural rough drafts Siobhan Sullivan August 2020

Once I start applying the colors, the piece of paper I use for cleaning my brushes and trying out color mixes becomes a work of art.

Brush cleaning and mixing paper August 2020

Why did I choose these specific critters? They are all characters in books I’m working on. I once heard an author speak about surrounding himself with “artifacts” his characters use while he is writing. I’m displaying some of my characters so that I’ll see them every day, even on the days I’m frustrated with writing and revising.

Manuscript Siobhan Sullivan August 2020

Black-billed magpies are one of my favorite local birds. In my work-in-progress book, the magpie character is named a Chinese word that means “bright.” They are very intelligent birds.

Black-billed magpie Siobhan Sullivan August 2020

The golden-mantled ground squirrel helps save the day in the book she is featured in. Her name means “green” in Spanish because she is the protector of green petrified wood.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel Siobhan Sullivan August 2020

The American badger is featured as a secondary character and is also featured in a fable. Though unnamed, the badgers are important characters.

High Desert mural - American badger Siobhan Sullivan August 2020

I particularly liked how this painting turned out – especially the eye. This badger is guarding some of the rocks featured in my I like rocks! post.

With the addition of these three animals, my High Desert mural is complete. Well… at least until I come up with another idea for a book. 😉

Lens- Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Creativity in the time of Covid

Monday Mural

Ice plants up close: Macro Monday

Ice plants up close near Bend, Oregon July 2020

Here’s a photo of ice plants up close from my garden near Bend, Oregon. I always look forward to seeing their bright, long lasting blooms.

Macro Monday

All about Purple sage: Friday Flowers

Purple sage and Indian paintbrush  at Gray Butte, Oregon May 2016

     You may have heard of this plant referred to in the classic western, Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. But did you know purple sage is not actually in the sagebrush family? It’s a type of sage in the mint family, Lamiaceae, and one of its common names is “mint sage.” If you crush the leaves in your hand you’ll be able to tell why.

     I’ve seen purple sage, Salvia dorrii, in various high desert locations in eastern Oregon. Gray Butte, just northeast of Smith Rock, is a great place to see this native shrub in full bloom.

Wildflowers at Gray Butte May 2016

    Purple sage grows in the western United States and northwestern Arizona, south to the Mojave Desert. It grows on open slopes, flats, or foothill areas receiving 7-15 inches of annual precipitation. This shrub grows in low to high elevations in sandy, rocky, and limestone soils. It often grows in stands of sagebrush and in pinyon-juniper habitats.

Wildflowers at Gray Butte May 2016

     This plant is a semi-evergreen shrub that grows to a height of 1-3 feet and a width of 2-4 feet. Its narrow, grey-green leaves are rounded at the tips. The flowers are purple and dark blue and they appear in spike-like clusters. Purple sage blooms from May through June. Their gray to red-brown fruit is 1/8 inch or smaller.

Honeybee on purple sage Bend, Oregon June 2020

Purple sage in the garden

     Purple sage can be grown in gardens. This plant grows in full sun and has very low water requirements. Purple sage is propagated by seeds, dividing the plants in early spring, or taking cuttings of new growth. It attracts bees, butterflies, and birds, including hummingbirds. This shrub is deer and rabbit resistant. Purple sage grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 4b through 10a. That includes areas with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of -30 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

High desert landscape Bend, Oregon June 2020

Ethnobotany

     Native Americans made use of this plant throughout its range. Stems and leaves of purple sage were used as a cure for colds by the Kawasiiu, Paiute, Shoshoni, Okanagan-Colville, and Washoe tribes. They also applied poultices to the chest, smoked the dried leaves, and made steam baths from parts of the plant. It was used in various forms to treat headaches, stomachaches, fever, influenza, pneumonia, gonorrhea, swollen leg veins, eye problems, and general illness. Hopi, Kumai, and Paipai used this sage to treat epilepsy, headaches, stomachaches, and other conditions. The Kawasiiu people threw it into the fire to ward off ghosts.

Fun Fact: The genus name of this plant, Salvia, comes from the Latin word salveo. It means “Be well/ in good health.”

Buckwheat blossoms in the summer: Floral Friday #13

Buckwheat blossoms near Bend, Oregon 28June2019

These wild buckwheat blossoms were photographed in the High Desert near Bend, Oregon. I believe this is a variety of Eriogonum umbellatum, the sulfur flower. Their yellow blossoms brighten up the desert like little rays of sunshine!

Floral Fridays

One acre at a time: On the Hunt for Joy Challenge

One acre at a time, Summer Lake, Oregon November 2017
Part of Summer Lake is included in the Diablo Mountain Wilderness Study Area

Last week I helped preserve a bit of the desert, one acre at a time. Sometimes it isn’t apparent how your $$$ help a cause. When you donate to conserve.org, you can see your money in action.

Mule deer doe, near Malheur NWR, Oregon April 2019
Mule deer doe

Making a difference

For only $46 per acre, you can help the Oregon Desert Land Trust purchase part of the 118,794 Diablo Mountain Wilderness Study Area in eastern Oregon. You can view a 360-degree photo of each individual acre and choose which you want to help buy.

They are trying to purchase 880 acres that are currently in private hands. The Land Trust and Global Wildlife Conservation organizations will match funds for each donation to make the $182-per-acre purchase.

Once the purchase is complete, the public will have access to the land. The purchase ensures that the site will not be developed in the future.

Pronghorn herd at Hart Mountain, Oregon August 2019
Pronghorn herd

This bit of the desert includes interesting natural and archaeological features. The salt flats and rimrock hillsides are home to mule deer, pronghorn, greater sage grouse, and burrowing owls. Migratory birds live in the sagebrush and greasewood habitats.

The Paisley Caves contain evidence of humans that dates back to over 14,000 years ago. The nearby Fort Rock Cave and Catlow Caves contain similar artifacts.

Catlow Caves artifacts, Oregon April 2019
Catlow Cave artifacts

If you donate to this site, you can visit “your” acreage. I haven’t visited the parcels I helped purchase yet, but I can’t wait to see them in person. It will bring me great joy to see how I made a difference, one acre at a time.

Burrowing owl pair, Malheur NWR, Oregon April 2017
Burrowing owl pair

New photo challenge

There is a new weekly photo challenge called “On the Hunt for Joy Challenge” and the topic this week is “Get Outside.” I thought this would be a perfect time to feature this conservation opportunity.

On the Hunt for Joy Challenge – Go Outside

Prostrate lupine – a tiny beauty: Friday Flowers

Prostrate lupine on Steens Mountain, Oregon 29 August 2019
Prostrate lupine

We stopped at the Kiger Gorge overlook on Steens Mountain in August and saw tiny flowers at our feet. These are prostrate lupines, Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii. I put my hand in the picture just to give you an idea of the scale.

This native plant grows in alpine habitats. The tiny blue or purple flowers measure 1/3 inch across. The plant grows to a height of 4-6 inches. Another common name for this low profile plant is “dwarf lupine.” Lupines have distinctive leaves that are almost star-like in form. The seedpods are often covered with soft “hair.”

Prostrate lupine blooms in June, July, and August. The plants I saw in late August were growing at 9,000 feet in elevation. Everything blooms later there.

Kiger Gorge Overlook, Steens Mountain, Oregon 28August2019
Kiger Gorge Overlook

This lupine ranges north to the Cascade and Olympic mountains in Washington State, south to northern California and east to western Idaho and Nevada. Prostrate lupines grow on talus slopes and in rocky pumice soils at high elevations.

Prostrate lupine is a perennial that grows in areas with heavy snowfall in the winter and short dry summers. Like other lupines, its flowers attract pollinators.

Friday Flowers

California Quail near Winter Ridge: BOTD

California quail near Winter Ridge in Central Oregon. 30 March 2018.
California quail near Winter Ridge in Central Oregon. 30 March 2018.

This lone California Quail perched on a fence post near Winter Ridge and called loudly. Listen to the distinctive Chi-ca-go call of the California quail.

All About Birds describes this bird as “a handsome, round soccer ball of a bird with a rich gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping head plume.” A great description of this bird!

I’m lucky that they are common where I live and sometimes even show up in my garden.

Granny Shot It – BOTD

Raptors in Eastern Oregon

Birds of Prey Tour

I saw plenty of raptors on a Birds of Prey tour in the wide-open country of Harney County, Oregon last April. We ventured briefly into the Malheur National Forest in search of eagles. Though we didn’t see any eagles, we did get a nice view of an American kestrel.

Raptors in Malheur National Forest, American kestrel 13April2019
American kestrel

We saw immature and mature bald eagles later that day. It’s always exciting to see them.

Some of the wildlife out there was keeping an eye on us. This herd of elk on a distant ridge top watched us for a while.

Rocky Mountain Elk, Harney County, Oregon 13April2019
Rocky Mountain Elk

Raptors were common and we saw many of them perched on fenceposts and telephone poles.

Raptors field trip, Swainson's hawk, Harney County, Oregon 13April2019
Swainson’s hawk
Ferruginous hawk, Harney County, Oregon 13April2019
Ferruginous hawk

Ground squirrels hang out in the irrigated fields and the birds of prey congregate there to find an easy meal. They like to perch on the pivot irrigation systems.

Raptors, Bald eagles perched on pivot irrigation system, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Bald eagles perched on pivot irrigation system
Swainson's hawk grabbing some fast food, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Swainson’s hawk grabbing some fast food

Turkey vultures also enjoy some nice fresh ground squirrel. This one was close to the road and we had a great view of it having a little snack.

Turkey vulture, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture eating ground squirrel, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Turkey vulture eating ground squirrel

We were lucky to see a prairie falcon, the only one we spotted that day.

Raptors, Prairie falcon, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Prairie falcon

Mule deer were common. This herd had 30+ deer.

Herd of mule deer, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Herd of mule deer

We stopped in another spot to take pictures of deer then noticed something else in the foreground. Two burrowing owls! Can you find both of them in the photo with the deer? That was my favorite observation of the day.

Three mule deer in the back ground & two burrowing owls in the foreground, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Three mule deer in the back ground & two burrowing owls in the foreground
Raptors, Burrowing owl, Harney County, OR 13April2019
Burrowing owl

This tour was part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. Our guides that day were Ben Cate, from the High Desert Partnership, and Melanie Finch, wildlife technician with the U.S. Forest Service .

Raptors Pocket Guide

Though I know certain species well, I’m no expert when it comes to identifying raptors. I rely on helpful tour guides and field guides. I have field guide books and the iBird Pro app, but this handy fold out pocket guide is really helpful.

This guide includes silhouettes, identifying markings, and different color morphs. It was a dark spring day on this trip and the silhouettes page helped make identifying birds easier.

We saw quite a few raptors so it was a successful seven-hour field trip. Until next year…

Nature Walks with Llamas

Llamas in eastern Oregon 13April2019
My guy, Marty McFly

This spring I tried something new by going on two nature walks with llamas. The first hike was part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival in eastern Oregon. The second hike, just north of Burns, Oregon, was to help a llama get certification for the Pack Llama Trial Association (PLTA).

First Hike

On the first 4-mile hike, my llama was Marty McFly, AKA “The Professor.” He was not the most dominant llama there, but he was considered to be the smartest. He was always on the lookout. Llamas have large eyes, much like pronghorns, so they can spot predators.

Close up of Marty McFly 13April2019
My, what big eyes you have

If you go on a hike with pack llamas, they can carry all of your gear. Well, at least 60 pounds of gear. You have to weigh each pack so that they are about even on both sides.

On both of the hikes I went on, I worked with llamas from the Burns Llama Trailblazers group. They have llamas that are trained in packing, cart pulling, and livestock guarding. They train the llamas to do packing from a very young age by having them carry miniature packs.

Pack llamas getting ready to head out 13April2019
Getting ready to head out
Pack llamas ready to hit the trail
Time to hit the trail

So what’s it like walking with a pack llama? Kind of like walking with a very big and inquisitive dog. These highly-trained animals keep a loose lead and they’re very sure footed. Though some are more spirited than others, they have an overall gentle nature.

Movin' on down the road 13April2019
Movin’ on down the road

We stopped for lunch at a small lake and tied off our animals. My llama had been quiet the whole trip, but once we stopped he became more vocal. I thought he sounded like Chewbacca from Star Wars. The reason he was complaining was because he wanted to keep going. Llamas can walk many miles in a single day.

Barn swallow 13April2019
Barn swallows were having a little lunch too

Second Hike

On the second hike I went on this spring, we traveled three miles. My llama that day was a young female named Manzanita. She was going for Basic Pack Llama Certification. She had to walk a three-mile course with 250-500 feet elevation gain. The llamas in this level carry 10% of their body weight.

Manzanita waiting to go on the trail 3May2019
“Hi, I’m Manzanita!”

We would encounter five different obstacles. These would include walking through tight places, moving up/over/across obstacles, and walking at least ten feet down a flowing creek. Did you know llamas often have a fear of water? Neither did I.

Cattle & horses, eastern Oregon 3May2019
The local livestock was keeping an eye on us

Manzanita did fine and passed all of the tests with flying colors. There are four levels of PLTA certification. At the highest level, the llamas walk on a 10-mile course with 2,500-3,000 feet elevation gain. There are 20 obstacles. The animals carry 25% of their body weight.

I was happy doing the shorter hike. My llama companions had a good walk and so did I.

If you are interested in helping out with pack trials, they can always use more volunteers to lead the llamas so contact the Pack Llama Trial Association .

Llamas from behind 3May2019
The end of the trail is near

Delicate Beauties: Friday Flowers & LAPC

I don’t see the desert as barren at all; I see it as full and ripe. It doesn’t need to be flattered with rain. It certainly needs rain, but it does with what it has, and creates amazing beauty.

Joy Harjo

Here are a few delicate beauties growing in the High Desert near Bend, Oregon. Enjoy their rainbow colors and gentle grace.

Delicate-Beauties-Blue flax 24May2019
Blue flax
Prickly poppy-24June2018
Prickly poppy
Delicate-Beauty Dwarf monkeyflower-24May2019
Dwarf monkeyflower
Delicate-Beauty Chive-24May2019
Chive
Delicate-Beauty-Yellow bells 13April2019
Yellow bells

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Delicate

Sand lily – High Desert Star: Friday Flowers

Sand lily - High desert star
Sand lily, Leucocrinum montanum

The sand lily, also known as the star lily, is a delicate perennial wildflower found in western North America. It grows in sagebrush deserts, open montane forests, and in sandy and rocky soils.

The plant above is growing near sagebrush in an uncultivated part of my property near Bend, Oregon. There is only one plant and I look forward to it blooming every spring.

Sand lily - High desert star 15May2019
A field of sand lilies

I have seen “fields” of sand lily growing in other locations. This field was seen on a hike near Tumalo dam.

Sand lily - High desert star 15May2019
Sand lilies grow well in hot, dry conditions

Last year I planted two sand lily plants I purchased at WinterCreek Restoration and Nursery and they bloomed a couple weeks ago. This nursery specializes in native plants that use little water.

If you see sand lilies in nature, you may be tempted to dig them up to plant in your yard. Unfortunately, this plant, with its long rhizome growing beneath the soil, does not transfer well.

Please enjoy them in nature and purchase them from a trusted source. They will grow in USDA zones 5-9. They do well in rock gardens with lots of sunlight. Sand lilies require very little water to shine brightly in your garden.

Here’s a haiku about this plant I featured in a previous post – Tiny Oasis

Harmony in Nature: Songsters of Spring

“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.” e.e. cummings

At this time of the year, I often think of harmony in nature. Every time I go outside, I hear the songsters of spring. Here are a few local songsters whose voices and plumage are full of gold.

Click on the word “song” in the caption below each photograph to hear the harmony in nature these birds share with us.

Songsters of Spring Western kingbird 17April2017
Western kingbird at Fort Rock, Oregon. Their song.
American Goldfinch On Cattails 30March2018
American Goldfinch On Cattails at Summer Lake, Oregon. Their song.
Harmony in Nature Yellow-headed blackbird 5April2018
Yellow-headed blackbird at Malheur NWR, Oregon. Their song.
Harmony in Nature Western Meadowlark  5April2018
Western Meadowlark at Crane Hot Springs, Oregon. Their song.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Harmony

River Ranch Barn – Seasoned by the Seasons: LAPC

River Ranch Barn 30March2018

The River Ranch Barn at Summer Lake Wildlife Area in eastern Oregon is weathered to perfection. Here are a few pictures of its exterior from a distance and close up. Winter Ridge rises majestically behind the barn.

River Ranch Barn roof 30March2018

The shakes of its roof line up in irregular and interesting patterns.

Barn roof close up 30March2018

Here are a couple pictures of an outbuilding next to the barn. The weathered barn wood has a variety of warm tones and a distinct personality all its own.

Outbuilding Close up  30March2018

This pale knotty eye watches the wildlife visiting this oasis in the desert with a look of approval.

Outbuilding Close up Siding 30March2018

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Worn & Weathered

High Desert Voices Newsletter – March 2019

I’m sharing the March issue of the High Desert Voices newsletter. It’s a newsletter for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. I help out with the newsletter and I’m particularly proud of this issue.

High Desert Museum newsletter, High Desert Museum entrance

This issue of the High Desert Voices newsletter includes a History event – 19th Century Making & Mending; Art – a new exhibit by Native American artist, Rick Bartow; Nature – a fact sheet on white sturgeon; People – a profile of our Communication Director; and Recreation – a trail through the colorful Blue Basin. There’s a little more related to updates for the different areas of the Museum and kudos, for work well done.

Enjoy the newsletter! To see more, go to Volunteer Newsletters.