Borrego Springs, CA

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A few stories from the overlook

Recently a couple of RV volunteer bloggers have written about their duties and a typical day 'on the job'.  I enjoy reading those accounts to see what others are doing.  So, tonight I'll give you an idea of what I do, and a few stories about encounters with visitors to my station.

Every Thursday through Sunday, I'm posted at an overlook to Bird/Goat Island.  I have to haul down all my equipment from the parking lot above, and set things up.  That includes this banner, scope, tripod, books, pictures, first aid kit, cameras, a stool, and a step stool for kids shorter than I am.
I arrive at 8:30 in the morning, and stay until 1:00 in the afternoon.  During this time, my main duty is to introduce the visitors to the breeding seabirds on the island, and the sea mammals that can be seen from the overlook.  Most folks are most interested in the whales and seals.  As you can see, so far I've encountered fog and overcast skies, so I really bundle up in layers for my stint at the overlook.  It's also my duty to pleasantly inform visitors that all of these rocks and islands out in the water are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and are therefore protected areas. They are not allowed to swim or kayak out to them or climb on them.

I've done a lot of volunteering in visitors centers and talking to the public, but never anything quite like this.  I'm finding the wide variety of people I meet most interesting.  Although I've only been here a little over two weeks, I've met quite an assortment of characters.  Probably the funniest was a lady that wanted me to show her the penguins!  Sorry Ma'am, we don't have penguins here, but perhaps you'd like to see some common murres.  They sort of look like penguins.

About every other day that I work, a small white bus arrives and disgorges four gentlemen, and two caretakers.  I believe they're from a half-way house or assisted living facility.  One man is in a wheelchair and comes to practice slowly learning to walk up and down the ramps.  Another makes a beeline over to me.  I always have the scope set on the harbor seals for him.  He always says hello, and then asks to look through the scope.  I've learned that he wants to see the seals most.  Afterwards he will tell me facts that he knows. Yesterday it was the six largest living things in the world.  Then he asks if I've seen any whales.  They are the second largest living things on the planet don't you know, after the Redwood Trees.

The other day, a gentleman came down from his picnic lunch with his wife and friends and told me he wanted to see six new bird species today.  He keeps a yearly list of birds seen, and needed six new ones to make it an even 400 species for the year so far.  I'm at your service sir.  How about a Brandt's cormorant, a pelagic cormorant, a pigeon guillemot, a pacific loon, a common murre,  and a black oyster catcher?  He left happy as a clam!

And then there was the retired lady that travels around on a motorcycle and carries a tent.  She was about to have a picnic lunch at the table just above my station.  She got out all her food, and then turned around to ask me if I'd seen any whales today.
That was a mistake for her.  Lurking nearby was a crow...
...and a western gull.  In the three seconds that she took her eyes off of her food to ask the question, these two bandits swooped in and made off with her entire sandwich and a chunk of cheese!  All she had left was an unpeeled hard boiled egg.  She was fit to be tied, but looked at me, and we both burst out laughing.  Moral to the story?  Don't take your eyes off of your lunch, or only bring hard boiled eggs!

There have been other interesting encounters, but that's enough for tonight.  What a place this is going to be for experiences this summer.

Thanks for stopping by... talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What’s the difference between a rock and a sea stack?

Oregon Islands NWR is made up of all the rocks, islands, and sea stacks that are located off shore from the coast of Oregon.  I’ve been a little confused about what the difference is between a rock, an island, and a sea stack.  I even asked the interpretive ranger here, but I sure didn’t understand her sort of answer.

After the fog finally lifted this afternoon, Emma and I went on a little road trip to view some of the other rocks, islands, and sea stacks north of us that are a part of the refuge.  We headed north on the Highway 101 scenic byway, and drove to Gold Beach, OR, before turning around so that all the overlooks would be on our right on our way back.  The Rogue River enters the sea at Gold Beach, and this is the bridge across the river on the north side of town.  I had driven down from Bandon on this scenic route two weeks ago, but didn’t stop along the way with the rig and car in tow.                                                                                                                                           

There are numerous turn offs and viewpoints along the way, and each one is pretty spectacular.  Many of them are along the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor, and are administered by the Oregon State Park system.  Samuel Boardman is considered the “Father of Oregon State Parks”.  The winds were really howling, and I was glad I was in my car rather than the rig for this drive.


At this stop, a couple of (crazy) people were getting suited up to go out on surf boards with sails on them.  With the high winds and turbulent water, I just can’t imagine wanting to do that.  Guess I’m just too old for that kind of excitement.

One of my stops along the way was at the Arch Rock viewpoint.  Nice view, but I sure didn’t see any arch.  This area had picnic tables and pit toilets.  Eventually I saw a small sign pointing down a trail to the arch overlook.

The trail is maybe a quarter of a mile long to a nice bench that overlooks the sea, and Arch Rock is right in front of you.  It was here that I learned what a sea stack really is.  These huge rocks (islands?) take a real beating from the winds and waves, and some of them erode away in spots to form the arches.  Waves continue to take their toll on the rock and widen the arch.

Eventually, the arch collapses, after eons, and what is left are standing sea stacks on the sides.  Makes sense to me.  Not sure why the ranger couldn’t have just said that.  I know I probably could have looked up the definition of a sea stack on Google, but finding out this way with the arch right in front of me, I’ll more easily remember it.  I noticed those round black holes on the arch rock.  Beneath each hole is a lot of bird whitewash.  Some sea birds nest in this arch, but I didn’t see any around.


The last viewpoint we stopped at was House Rock.  That’s where we found a monument dedicated to Samuel Boardman.  The view to the north was wonderful, even though a bit hazy.

Emma especially liked hopping up on the wall around the monument for a better view.  Winking smile  I had another visitor ask me if I tied the leash around Emma’s middle on purpose, and I told him I sure did.  With that gentle reminder, she is quite calm on leash.

It’s always a good day when you have beautiful scenery, and learn something to boot!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

P.S.  This was originally Tuesday night's post that I couldn't get published with Live Writer.  What a frustrating afternoon it was for me today, Thursday, trying to get it moved over to the Blogger platform.  I really hate going back to this method of posting.  :(

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Live Writer woes

Well, I had a post to publish last night, but like everyone else that uses Live Writer, I couldn't do it.  It's been five years since I've used the Blogger format for posting.  It's kind of like going back in time.  I don't like it one bit.

So, I'm going to wait until they get things fixed.  I hope it's soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Learning about tide pools

I was at my seabird observation station for an hour and a half this morning, before I packed things up and headed off for a tide pool hike. 


I got to the South Beach Trail a little early so I could make my way down the steep decline to the beach without holding up the scheduled tour group.  The group had adult campers and young junior ranger program participants.  I went on the tour because I didn’t know a thing about tide pools and I was eager to learn.


I was hoping to see and learn about as many of the species on the information board as possible.  Here’s what I saw.


First up was a sea star and anemones.  Sea stars is their proper name.  I grew up calling them star fish, but they aren’t fish after all, of course.


Now these sea anemones sure didn’t look like what I expected, but that’s because the very low tide meant they were high and dry.  They kind of curl up when they’re above the water and exposed to the air.


This, and the next two pics show what they look like when they’re under water.  Now that’s more what I expected.


They do come in a variety of colors.  I can’t wait to show them to the grandgirls when they come to visit in July.


I learned something with this shot.  It’s better to take pictures of these anemones in the shade to show the true colors.  Aren’t they neat?


That’s Cheyenne, the park interpretive intern, showing the little ones a sea star.  Funny thing about a couple of these would be junior rangers.  Two of them were on the tour with their grandparents.  Well, grandpa was constantly hounding them not to get their feet wet.  What??  You take two youngsters to the beach where we had to cross an inlet through the water, and you don’t want them to get their shoes wet?  In my opinion, that’s like asking pigs not to wallow in mud.  Lighten up, Gramps!


          Of course, the sea star was returned to its original position in the sand to await the tide coming in.

Gooseneck Barnacles?

Did you know these are gooseneck barnacles?  I didn’t.  I think they’re kind of neat when you take a close look at them.

_MG_2013 _MG_2016

The last big find of the hike was a gumboot chiton (I think).  They kind of curl of in defense.  The kids weren’t too crazy about this creature.


As we headed back to the trail up the hill, we once again had to cross this inlet.  Good old gramps carried his young grandson over the water and set him down on the other side.  I had to laugh out loud as the young whippersnapper ran right back to the inlet and jumped in saying, “I can cross it myself, grandpa!” 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A different view of the beach

On Wednesday mornings, most of the volunteers at Harris Beach State Park and two other close by parks meet for breakfast at Mattie’s Pancake House in Brookings.  I may be a volunteer for the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service, but I’m stationed at an Oregon State Park, so I decided to participate.  I don’t think I’ve eaten out for breakfast since 2008! 

I was able to get a suggestion of where to get a hair cut.  There’s a lady barber in town that only takes walk-ins, is fast, very reasonable, and didn’t scalp me.  Can’t beat that.  A bonus of finding the barber shop was that I also found a farmer’s market just setting up.  I love farmer’s markets.  As I approached the booths, the fragrance of fresh strawberries was dominant.  You can bet I’ll be there most Wednesday mornings while I’m here.  I won’t linger on the homemade macaroons and jar of strawberry/balsamic jam that I also purchased…

It was back to work for me today, and I was set up under overcast skies by 8:30.  I had a few visitors, but by 11:00 a huge fog bank had moved in that obliterated any view of the island.  Time to pack up and go home.  This assignment is totally weather dependent.  If you can’t see anything, you quit for the day.  I can live with that.


By the middle of the afternoon, the fog had backed off a bit so Emma and I went for a walk on the Rock Beach Trail.  There is a nice view of the bay from some wonderfully placed benches along the trail.  I’m thinking this may become my favorite spot during my time here to just sit and enjoy.


The view near the railing gives a little bit different perspective of the beach.  You can see and hear the wave action, but you’re way up on topIMG_1050Looking to the right, you can see the day use area down below.  All of those rocks and islands out there are part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.


This is the first time I’ve tried using the ‘Paint’ program to point some things out to you all.  The arrow on the right shows the overlook area where I set up my scope to show folks the birds.  The arrow on the top left is Bird/Goat Island where the birds nest.  And the dot by the lower left arrow is, in my opinion, a crazy person out trying to ‘catch a wave’!  The outside temp is only in the 50’s, and I can’t imagine how cold that water is. 


If you look to the left from the railing you can see the water filling in between the mainland and this big rock island as the tide comes in.  There’s a tide pool hike scheduled for Saturday morning that I think I’ll go to, and I believe this path leads to those tide pools.  I need to learn about the tide pool inhabitants so I can let visitors know about them.

As the holiday weekend approaches, the campground has already begun to fill up.  From what I’ve heard, there won’t be one empty site come tomorrow night.  Maybe I’ll have a few more visitors at my overlook this weekend?

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A sad day in Blog land

This afternoon I was shocked to read KarenInTheWoods’ blog to learn that fellow RV blogger Hazel had died early this morning.  It’s one of those awful things that take you by surprise.

I didn’t know Hazel well, but we had been reading each others blogs for quite some time.

IMG_1386She even came to take one of my bird tours at Imperial NWR last December.   She brought her beloved greyhounds with her, and they behaved splendidly in her vehicle while she went on the tour.

I think I’ve only met three or four other solo female fulltime RVers, and Hazel was one of them.  She also did a lot of volunteering at New Mexico state parks.  We had a lot in common, but she was obviously more fashion conscious than I.  Notice the matching boots and jacket?   I’m sorry to see her go before I could get to know her better.  Karen, highlighted above, wrote a very nice tribute to Hazel. 

I think Hazel was happy and lived her life the way she wanted to.  I can only hope I go as swiftly as she has.  Rest easy, my friend…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Settling in, and a trip back to California

What a surprise on Saturday night when I got a call from the DISH network installer guy saying he could come out to my rig on Sunday afternoon to install a new DISH.  And that’s just what he did.  It wasn’t easy considering all the huge trees I’m surrounded by, but at least now I’ve got TV for my three months here.  It took him two hours to get the job done since we had to scrounge up a wooden pallet to screw the tripod to so it would be tall enough and stable enough to get a signal in between all the branches.  My cost for this?  $40 total, and that was for the tripod.  The rest including the satellite dish, 50 mile travel time, and labor was covered by my service agreement. 


When the sun finally made an appearance this afternoon in Brookings, I decided a little road trip was in order, so I headed south back into California.  After about 25 miles, I found myself at the headquarters for Redwood National Park.


I had read online about the Stout Grove of Redwood Trees that are located in Jedediah Smith State Park, and thought that would be a nice afternoon trip.  What I read said it wasn’t the most popular place to go, so I didn’t expect much traffic on the lumpy, skinny, windy, up and down gravel road.  I don’t know when that information was printed, but it was busy!  I seldom even made it into second gear because of the condition of the road, and had to back down a hill on a steep grade so a pickup truck could get past.  Much of the road is single lane.  Yes, it’s surrounded by Redwoods too.


After 6.8 miles, that seemed like 20, I found the trail head parking area, and it was full.  Sad smile  Being in my little Focus, I squeezed in along the side of the road.  After the harrowing drive to get here, I wasn’t about to leave.


Of course once I got to California, the overcast skies rolled in and hampered good pictures in the forest.  After a relatively short downhill entrance to the grove, the loop trail is very flat and even. 

_MG_1966 _MG_1980

When I wasn’t looking up, I enjoyed the designs in the trees’ bark.  Some I think are burls, and others appear to be from the tree sustaining an injury.  I was happy to see that most of the carving of initials that people seem compelled to do was located on dead, downed trees. 


This was my favorite tree in the Stout Grove.  The 44 acres of the Grove were donated by Mrs. Stout in honor of her husband.  He was a lumber tycoon in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  Thank you Mrs. Stout for saving this beautiful place.


It’s hard to depict the size of these giants in a photo, so I grabbed another visitor and asked him to take a shot of me to give some perspective. 


This is certainly a place where you could easily end up with a stiff neck.  I just couldn’t stop looking up.  Magnificent!

Today’s little adventure just touches the tip of the iceberg of Redwood National Park, but I’ve got the summer to make more day trips.  Giant Redwoods and the Oregon Coast.  What a way to spend the summer!

I leave you tonight with one last shot for Sherry and David:  Hugs to you!


Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, May 16, 2015

First day ‘on the job’

Set up my station at 8:30 this morning for my first five hour shift as wildlife interpreter.  All the other volunteers at this Oregon state park refer to me as the Bird Lady.  Where have I heard that before?  I’m the only volunteer working for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.  Anyway, it takes some time to haul everything down to my site by the handicapped picnic table.  Should have gotten some pictures of my set up, but I didn’t.  Too excited I guess.  Maybe tomorrow.


Remember this picture from yesterday when I showed you where I’ll be set up?  Well, several readers have expressed interest in all the photos I’ll have of sea birds and whales.  I just want to tell you that all the birds are around that rather distant island, and the whales don’t exactly come close to where I’m stationed.  All of these rocks and islands are part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and are protected.  That means no one can be on these islands or even closer than 500’ of their shoreline.  Not much chance of getting close-ups of their inhabitants.  My, and visitor’s, views of the puffins, other seabirds, and sea mammals are through a spotting scope.  I’ll try to show you what I can through my 300mm telephoto lens.  Here’s an example:


Believe it or not, I spotted a grey whale on my first day!  I was talking to a visitor about Bird Island when I caught a glimpse of a spout out of the corner of my eye.  The whale surfaced about a half mile out several times over a ten minute time span.  Not an impressive photo, but what a thrill to watch!  A park ranger thought it was a female with her calf traveling with her in about 60’ of water.  I didn’t see the calf, but it almost looks like a small spout to me in the middle of the large whale’s back.  She’s on her way to Alaskan waters, and travels near to shore with her calf to try to avoid the Orcas (killer whales, that would like to dine on her offspring).

81 Oregon Islands NWR 2015

From my perch, I can also enjoy all the folks that come to the beach.  Some come to contemplate, some come to surf, and some just come to have fun in the sand and water.  I watched two young boys construct a nice teeter-totter out of driftwood this morning.  Whatever the reason, isn’t it better than sitting in front of a computer screen or playing video games?  I’m thinking I’d like to document in photos how so many people find different ways to enjoy this place.

IMG_0393People weren’t my only visitors today.  These ground squirrels seem to be quite abundant running hither and yon among the rocks along the shore.  Despite signs asking people not to feed them or any other wildlife, they seem to have become quite good at begging for food. 


I even had a black-capped chickadee or two flutter through.  Lots to look at and take note of on my duty stints.  Sure beats sitting inside of a VC!


Here’s another example of my far away view of Bird Island.  Those are harbor seals on the sand at the base of the island.  Some females come here to have their pups.  They’re all just basking in the sun.

I’d also like to answer a couple of other questions that folks had about my time here.  Mike and Terry asked if the volunteer’s RV sites were separated from the general public.  Nope, my site is right in the middle of the state park campground.  That’s quite different from my normal assignments with National Wildlife Refuges.  And as expected, it’s turning out to be a lot noisier than what I’ve been accustomed to.

Donna Cave asked if there wasn’t something I could do about my lack of DISH reception.  I’ve investigated two things.  Tomorrow or Monday, I’ll be finding out if I can move to a different site where I think I could have access to the satellites.  With this being such a popular state park, I’m not sure how that will go over.  Secondly, I called the DISH closest support company, but talked to a rather rude man about them bringing me a portable DISH that I think would work at my present site.  I won’t go into all the details of that conversation, but it may be an option.

I’ll be back at my station tomorrow morning.  I’m looking forward to it, and the other minor problems will get worked out somehow.


                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy