Here’s a white coneflower up close in my garden. I usually see pink or purple coneflowers, but they’re also pretty in this color. Their scientific name, Echinacea, comes from the Latin word for ‘sea urchin’ and the Ancient Greek word for ‘hedgehog.’ The spiny cone-shaped central disk resembles some type of prickly creature.
One of the challenges of photography is capturing images of elusive birds. Sometimes certain species are not considered difficult to photograph, they only elude YOU. Here are a few of mine.
I have been trying to get a decent photo of a black-billed magpie for a long time. These intelligent birds usually take flight when I approach. I finally captured the essence of a magpie recently near my home. This photo shows its long, elegant tail, striking markings, and iridescent plumage.
Slide the slider to the left to see the type of photos I have taken in the past of magpies. This one was near Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. It teased me by hiding behind the sagebrush.
I’m lucky because mountain bluebirds nest in my yard. When I visit Glass Buttes, an hour away, during the spring months, the bluebirds pop out ready to be photographed.
However at my home, the birds are especially shy, as you can see in the second shot. They somehow sense I’ve picked up a camera and fly away or turn their back towards me.
I have seen white pelicans at several locations. On a recent trip to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, I finally got some good photos of them on a pond north of the Refuge. I like this photo because it looks like the one on the left is lecturing the one closest to it. The double crested cormorants are listening attentively. I posted a couple more pictures of them on my recent Spring Birds post.
The second picture is the view I usually get of white pelicans. Way too far away! This lone pelican was near Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone.
The last pictures are of burrowing owls. Instead of taking flight, this little owl often hides underground in its burrow. I was lucky to get a photo of this one near Malheur.
On a previous trip, at another location nearby, windy conditions caused this owl to take shelter. Can you see its golden eyes peering over the dirt mound?
I will continue to pursue some of my most elusive birds in an effort to get better pictures. The quest continues…
Here’s a sepia tone view of Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum in the Oregon Outback. Twelve buildings built in the early 1900s were moved to this site. It’s one of my favorite roadside attractions in Central Oregon.
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 Deschutes River mural is by husband and wife artists, Paul Bennett and Carolyn Platt. The artists created this mural in 2012. This piece, along with their Dogs mural, is on display at the Strictly Organic coffee shop. These works are in the Old Mill District of Bend, Oregon.
In this shot taken from a distance, you can see the smokestacks of the old mill building that now houses a REI store.
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.
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.
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.
This photo of the sun-dappled Mayors Square Mural reflects past times in Troutdale, Oregon. Muralists Dwayne Harty and Tammy Callens created a depiction of what the town looked like in the early 1900s. Completed in the fall of 2016, this work shows every type of ground transportation available in the beginning of the 20th century. The mural includes a train, horse & buggy, automobiles, bicycle, freight truck, and freight wagon.
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.
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.
This morning I woke up with memories of a bison. This is Wooly Bully by local Central Oregon artist, Greg Congleton. This sculpture used to be in the Old Mill district of Bend but was moved several years ago.
The artist includes collected bits and pieces of everyday and historical artifacts. For example, the guts are made from four cylinders and a crankshaft. The eyes are -7/8 inch hitch balls. The lungs are made from a Model A Ford horn. He has the vision and talent to incorporate the unexpected into his unique works of art.
Maybe I was having memories of a bison because I was thinking of Yellowstone National Park. I hope to visit again soon and view the animals that inspired this outdoor sculpture.
To see a couple more of Greg Congleton’s pieces, and those of other artists, see Outdoor Horse Sculptures.
It’s time to share special photos from the past year. Please enjoy this selection of nature, history, and art photos from Bend Branches.
One day, while playing around with editing effects, this mirror image of autumn leaves sparked my imagination. I saw a woman wearing a crimson cape in the photo below. The short story I created, The Tree People of Autumn , is based on edited photos of trees.
I tried to turn my camera towards things in my yard more this year. Here’s one of my prickly pear cactus in bloom.
We created a big vegetable garden this year. Some of our produce may not have won ribbons at the fair, but it was entertaining. 😊
Here’s a black-necked stilt drawing I created with pen-and-ink. The rushes surrounding these birds echo their tall slim form.
Here’s a stilt I saw in the spring in Harney County, Oregon. Black-necked stilts have an almost regal quality to them. They move as if in a procession, slowly and deliberately.
Do you have artwork you would like to share? Include a First Friday Art tag on your post.
I’m representing my feelings towards 2020 by showing it being struck by lightning. Yes, there were some great moments, but I’m glad to be saying bye to this particular year.
See how all the other western juniper trees around this tree are thriving? Can you see the sliver of blue in the distant sky? Once the dark clouds dissipate, we’ll have a brighter future where more of us can thrive.
Happy New Year!
Halters & bridles on display at the Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum in Fort Rock, Oregon.
I saw this visitor in the cottonwoods in Fields, Oregon. Great horned owls like to hang out in this particular stand of black cottonwoods. I was on the Circling Steens Mountain tour that’s a part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival.
The trees weren’t leafed out yet on this April field trip, but that made it easier to see birds. Cottonwoods like to have wet feet, as you can tell in this photo.
If you visit this area, be sure to sample one of the famous milkshakes at The Fields Station.
Oregon grape up close in my yard dressed in seasonal colors. The prickly leaves on this semi-evergreen shrub get burgundy highlights in the fall. Oregon grape plants have yellow flowers in the spring and purple berries in the summer. It’s striking year-round.
One of my favorite local trees is the western larch, Larix occidentalis. This conifer tree is unique because it drops its needles in the winter. Before they litter the forest floor, the needles turn a distinctive golden-yellow color. They stand out from the deep green shades of surrounding trees.
They have a delicate, almost lacey, growth form. Look at these needles radiating out in little groups of 15-30 on this branch. They are softer and more flexible than some of their pine tree cousins.
A wide range of wildlife relies on larch for food and cover. Squirrels feed on the cones and cache the seeds for future use. Songbirds nest and forage in their branches. They are especially important to pileated woodpeckers. This tree is an important food source for several kinds of grouse. Large mammals forage on the needles as a last resort since they are not as tasty as other trees.Continue reading