A white coneflower up close: Macro Monday

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.

White coneflower August 2020

Macro Monday

Elusive birds captured – finally!: LAPC

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.

Intelligent & elusive birds

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.

Elusive birds - magpie March 2021Black-billed magpie May 2018

Shy & elusive

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.

Mountain bluebird pair April 2018Elusive birds - mountain bluebird

Distant & elusive

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.

White pelicans, cormorants near Malheur April 2021Elusive birds White pelican at Yellowstone

Burrowing & elusive birds

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?

Burrowing owl near Malheur NWR April 2018Elusive birds Burrowing owl

I will continue to pursue some of my most elusive birds in an effort to get better pictures. The quest continues…

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Taking Flight

In the Oregon Outback: Monochrome Monday

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.

In the Oregon Outback March 2021

Monochrome Monday

Wildflowers in the Desert – Nonet poem: LAPC & SS

Wildflowers in the desert sunshine
Emerging in harsh conditions
Shining with an inner light
Colorful expressions
Jewels in the sand
Ephemeral
Presences
Fleeting
Views

Wildflowers in the desert photographs taken at Gray Butte, Oregon in the springtime.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Colorful April

Sunday Stills – Emerging

Deschutes River mural in Bend: Monday Mural

Deschutes River mural in Bend, Oregon

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.

Mural in Bend, Oregon

Monday Mural

Water falling acrostic poem: LAPC

Water falling
And
Tumbling
Entering a
Rogue river
Finding
A course
Lyrical and
Littoral

Water falling Latourell Falls
Latourell Falls
Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Multnomah Falls
Horsetail Falls in Oregon October 201
Horsetail Falls
Water falling at Wahkeena Falls, Oregon
Wahkeena Falls

Photographs of water falling were taken along Oregon’s Historic Columbia River Highway. For more information, and a map, see Waterfall Tour Loop.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – You pick it!

Crack in the Ground – An amazing sight!: LAPC & FFC

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.

Crack in the Ground, Oregon

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.

2-mile trail near Christmas Valley, Oregon

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.

Fissure near Christmas Valley, Oregon

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.

Crack in the Ground & Green Mountain Campground - BLM

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.

Crack in the Ground, Oregon

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. πŸ˜‰

Crack in the Ground, Oregon

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.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Geometry

Friendly Friday Challenge – Something Learned

Rainbow Splendor, Troutdale: Sculpture Saturday

Rainbow Splendor is a large statue of trout jumping in downtown Troutdale, Oregon. This work is by local residents and world-renown artists, Rip & Alison Caswell. A smaller version is for sale on their website.

Rainbow Splendor sculpture

Sculpture Saturday

The Lost Forest – A short story: LAPC & SWP

When I was a young child, my grandfather often told me the tale of the Lost Forest. Here is how he told it…

Lost Forest in Oregon

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.

Ponderosa pine bark

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.

Lost Forest in Oregon

They continued running, dispersing themselves among the sagebrush. One froze in mid-stride when he turned into a tree.

Bent knee Ponderosa pine

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.

Standing snag in Oregon
Fallen tree in Oregon

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.

Pine cones

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.

β€œI 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.

Lost Forest pine tree

More about the Lost Forest

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 β€œalone,” they have survived.

Here’s a general map of the region from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – A Change of Scenery

Sunday Writing Prompt – Lost

Waterfowl reflections on the Deschutes: BWPC

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.

waterfowl reflections - swan in Bend, Oregon

Here’s a pair of common mergansers taking off along the Trout Creek trail, north of Madras.

Making a Splash, Common merganser pair on the Deschutes River 2April2017

Here’s a pair of hooded mergansers in Bend, Oregon.

Water fowl reflections - hooded mergansers

This is a Barrow’s goldeneye in Bend, Oregon.

Barrow's goldeneye in Bend, Oregon

This is a Western grebe seen near Sunriver, Oregon.

Western grebe Sunriver, Oregon

This female mallard followed me for a long time when I kayaked the Deschutes near Sunriver, Oregon.

water fowl reflections - mallard

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!

Bird Weekly Photo Challenge – Reflections

An amazing collection – Baker City Rocks!: LAPC

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.

Giant crystal from Arkansas

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.

  • An amazing collection in Baker City

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.

Malachite and azurite

This cabinet features moss agate. It often contains formations that look like mossy growths and specimens can be found not far from Baker City.

Moss agate collection

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. πŸ™‚

An amazing collection in Baker City, Oregon

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.

Muscovite, selenite, & jade

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.

An amazing collection in Baker City, Oregon

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.

Adamite and other crystals

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.

Desert rose, rhondonite in Baker City, Oregon

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.

Amazing collection of 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.

Amethyst and rose quartz, etc

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.

Cool quartz

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.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Special Moments

Fiery red oak tree: Thursday Tree Love

I watched the colors turning last fall on this fiery red oak tree in a local park in Bend, Oregon. This young tree doesn’t yet have the twisting branch structure of mature oaks, but those uniquely-shaped leaves are beautiful three seasons of the year.

Thursday Tree Love 105

After the fire near Warm Springs: Monochrome Monday

After the fire, this split-trunk western juniper tree is still standing tall in the grasslands near Warm Springs, Oregon.

After the fire

Monochrome Monday

Mayors Square Mural in Troutdale: Monday Murals

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.

Mayors Square Mural

Monday Mural

A Cooper’s hawk visited me: BWPC & SSPC

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.

Coopers hawk visited me
Bird scratching its head
Coopers Hawk visited me

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!

Hawk trimming its talons
Bird grooming itself
Bird grooming itself
Coopers hawk visited me

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?

Coper's hawk yawning and stretching in Bend, Oregon 5 February 2021

Bird Weekly Photo Challenge – Hawks

Sunday Stills Photo Challenge – Feed Those Birds!

Favorite songbirds of Central Oregon: Bird Weekly

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.

Favorite songbirds Sage thrasher
Sage thrasher

The second bird is a varied thrush. They look like a robin with a mask, necklace, and checkered wings. I love their haunting song.

Varied thrush
Varied thrush

The third bird is a California scrub jay. These bold birds have expanded their range. They’re entertaining to watch and hear.

Favorite California scrub jay
California scrub jay
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Using digital magic to edit photographs: LAPC

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.

Clean up an image

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.

Edting with digital magic
Steens Mountain, Oregon (Unedited)
Purple mountain majesties Steens Mountain, Oregon
Steens Mountain, Oregon

Crop an image

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.

Editing with digital magic
Burrowing owls, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon (Unedited)
With two you can share wisdom. Burrowing owls at High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 2016
Burrowing owls, High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon
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Memories of a bison: Sculpture Saturday

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.

memories of a bison

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.

Sculpture in Bend, Oregon

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.

Sculpture Saturday

Special photos from 2020: LAPC & SS

It’s time to share special photos from the past year. Please enjoy this selection of nature, history, and art photos from Bend Branches.

Nature Photos

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.

The tree people of autumn

I tried to turn my camera towards things in my yard more this year. Here’s one of my prickly pear cactus in bloom.

Prickly pear cactus with petals radiating Bend, Oregon 4June2020

We created a big vegetable garden this year. Some of our produce may not have won ribbons at the fair, but it was entertaining. 😊

Three-headed carrot Bend, Oregon August 2020
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Black-necked stilt pen-and-ink: First Friday Art

Here’s a black-necked stilt drawing I created with pen-and-ink. The rushes surrounding these birds echo their tall slim form.

Black-necked stilt by Siobhan Sullivan 2020

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.

Steens mountain tour, black-necked stilt in eastern Oregon 6April2018

Do you have artwork you would like to share? Include a First Friday Art tag on your post.

Struck by Lightning – Bye 2020!: TTL

Struck by lightning western juniper tree June 2020
Western juniper tree struck by lightning near Brothers, Oregon

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!

Thursday Tree Love (TTL)

Halters & bridles of old: Monochrome Monday

Halters & bridles at Fort Rock, Oregon  November 2020

Halters & bridles on display at the Fort Rock Homestead Village Museum in Fort Rock, Oregon.

Monochrome Monday

A visitor in the cottonwoods: Thursday Tree Love

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.

Visitor in the cottonwoods - great horned owl April 2018

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.

Black cottonwoods near Fields, Oregon April 2018

If you visit this area, be sure to sample one of the famous milkshakes at The Fields Station.

Thursday Tree Love

Oregon grape up close: Macro Monday

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.

Oregon grape up close October 2020

Macro Monday

Western larch – A beauty in gold: Thursday Tree Love

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.

Western larch near Sisters, Oregon October 2020
Young western larch tree

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 home for wildlife

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.

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