Yee-haw! We're movin' to Texas!

Well, it's official. Kelly was offered another 6-month position with The Nature Conservancy (the same organization he worked for here in Oregon) studying the federally endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. Working with a federally listed species is a rare opportunity, so although Texas was never a place we ever thought we'd be living, we're excited for the chance to experience yet another part of the country for a while, and to gain some excellent professional experience in the process. We'll keep updating our blog with Texas adventures once we get there, so definitely check back mid-January, when we plan to make the move.

Now that Kelly's job here is over and we know where we're headed next, we are planning on leaving in a couple of days for a 2-week camping trip around California in order to make the most of our last few weeks on the West Coast. We'll definitely be posting some pictures of this last adventure when we get back! Our trip will culminate at Yosemite National Park, where we'll be attending the wedding of a close friend of mine from Taylor. We'll be home for Christmas for a few weeks visiting both our families, and then it's off to the South for us!

We've loved every moment of our time in Oregon, and we will definitely miss it out here. We felt very at home from the moment we arrived in Astoria, and it will always remain a home in our hearts. Thanks for reading about our crazy adventures, and we'll try to keep up the pace in Texas, too!


Hello, Seattle! Here we come, Cascades!

We spent a couple of recent weekends with Brendan and Billi visiting Seattle (Pike Place Market) and hiking/camping in the Cascade Mountains. Our main objective in the Cascades was to find a Rubber Boa, but we were unable to find one. We did, however, find long-toed salamanders, which was also a treat, and we did some great hiking in the beautiful Central Washington country-side.

Us on the ferry with Seattle still far in the distance.

Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum)

On another trip to Olympia, we went to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, where we saw our first Barn Owl, among other things, including:

An American Bittern hiding in the reeds.

A Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla).

A beautiful Northwestern Garder Snake (Thamnophis ordinoides).

We got to see this playful river otter just long enough to snap a shot!

Taylor guys to Mt. Hood

A few weeks ago, a few Taylor grads who are all living in the area got together to camp and hike at Mt. Hood.

From left: Jeremy Heavey, Dave Iula, me, and Ben Reed

It was the perfect time to see the all the colors of the fall foliage

It was interesting to see both the plain and reticulated forms of the rattlesnake-plantain orchid (Goodyera oblongifolia) growing side-by-side.


It's fall and it's apple-licious!

We had a fall extravaganza last weekend with Billi and Brendan! We intended to go hiking with them in the Olympic peninsula and spending a day or so in Seattle, but it ended up that we did neither, and instead went to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge where we saw our first barn owls! We also went to Oysterfest in Shelton, WA where they live (I ate my first oyster shooters, and no one told me I wasn't supposed to chew them up, although I probably should have understood that from their names. They were gross.) The best part, though, was that we also got to hand-make apple cider with Billi's best friend. Fall is my favorite season, and I've been a little disappointed at the lack of true fall colors out here. Whether it's because of the much larger number of evergreens, or whether the wet climate keeps even the leaves on the deciduous trees green until they die, there just isn't much "fall" in the air. But this weekend, I got my fall fix by doing such a quintessential activity, but one that was all new to us!

First things first...we shook the apples down from the trees!

Once the apples are picked, they have to be washed to get all the insects and dirt off before grinding them in the cider press.

Kelly churns the cider press to create fresh juice from the chopped apples.

Fresh cider pours from the press!

Billi strains the raw cider through cheesecloth to get out all the extra solids. The cider will then need to be boiled to make it safe for drinking and canning the extra for later.

Yum! Fresh, hot apple cider!


Ready, Aim...

We spent this weekend with our friends Billi and Brendan in Olympia, WA. A river borders their property, so they built a campsite on along the river's bank. It's pretty amazing. We slept there our first night, then spent a lazy day doing some hiking and birding in the area. On Sunday, Kelly and I got our first tastes of archery. They have a target set up in their back yard and we got to try both their recurved and compound bows. It was great fun, and although I still have a lot to learn, I did actually hit the target a few times!

Is it Kelly. . . or Legolas?

If you click on this picture to blow it up, you can see the arrow right through the deer's heart! Kelly hit the bullseye!

Okay, so my technique isn't the best yet, but hey! I'm having fun!


Hiking Hood

We had another awesome visit from Shawn, so we decided to spend the weekend camping and hiking at Mt. Hood. We found the sweetest campsite, thanks to a tip from our landlord. It was tucked away in the woods and the Hood River ran right alongside it. We decided to forgo the tents again, and slept outside next to our campfire with the sound of the river rapids in our ears.

The next morning we drove to the Timberline Lodge, where we set off for our hike. We made our own trails around the mountain and had a great day of hiking! It was gorgeous weather, too, which made the day absolutely perfect.


Family Fun

My parents came out to visit us this past weekend! We had a lot of fun showing them around the area and immersing them into the lives we've lived these past three months.

They came on Friday morning, so we got to spend the afternoon in Portland visiting the Rose Garden and the beautiful Japanese Garden in the center of town. That night, Kelly made a delicious stir-fry dinner - one of his specialties!

Of course we wanted to take them to the beach, so we drove our favorite beach drive, eating Tillamook ice cream cones along the way. We wanted to show them the haystacks at Cannon Beach, but it was so foggy we couldn't even make out their outline! As we made our way back along the shoreline toward Astoria, we stopped at Sunset Beach for a night-time fire. They loved it!

The next day, we browsed the farmer's market and went to the local play, Shanghaied in Astoria. The acting was horrendous, but the play was a cute vaudville-type complete with the audience throwing popcorn at the bad guys, booing and hissing at the villains and cheering for the heroes. Kelly attended a friend's wedding that day, so he missed out on the play, but the wedding was a great time as well.

Monday we went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which is a pretty interesting museum with lots of local history. It's in one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in the city. Afterward, we had to check out the local sea lion population, and they didn't disappoint! One of the males was fighting off competitors for his pier space, and giving us a really good show! We also drove up to the local iconic landmark, the Astoria Column, to get the gorgeous views of the river, the city, and the surrounding countryside. My dad and Kelly climbed the 164 stairs to the top!

My sister was supposed to come out with them, but she unfortunately got sick and wasn't able to make it. We were really bummed and missed her this weekend, but we still had a great time with my parents! We were really pumped that they got to see where we've been living and spend some time falling in love with this area of the country, just like we have.


A Bonding Experience

Last weekend, Kelly and I went with a friend of his from Ball State and his fiancee on a pelagic birding trip. We geared up in our warmest, most weather-proof clothes and took to the high seas about 35 miles off shore in a teeny tiny little fishing boat with guides that are experts at finding and identifying pelagic sea birds. For Kelly and Brendan, this was a chance of a lifetime to expand their birding life lists. For Billi and me, it was a labor of love.

Bleary-eyed and with coffee and scones in hand, we set off at 3:45 a.m. for the trip. Kelly and Brendan maintained excited conversation the entire three-and-a-half-hour drive, while Billi and I promptly fell asleep in the back seat. When we arrived on the dock, we were not surprisingly the youngest participants by a margin of at least 30 years. Excited for the trip, we boarded the boat and stored our food, our seasickness preventatives (candied ginger, Pepto Bismol, and Tums), our water, and our extra clothes in the cabin and took our places at the prow of the boat. That was the last time we’d see most of the things we’d brought with us for the entire 10-hours we were at sea.

At first, the 15-foot swells racing toward the boat and the crashing of the hull upon the water were anticipated with glee, and maintaining our precarious balance like bull riders was exhilarating. After a few hours though, the captain stopped the boat to put out some bait to attract more birds, and that's when it all went downhill. The back-and-forth rocking of the boat was more than our empty stomachs could handle, and Kelly, Billi, and I, all of us a sick shade of green, ended up spending the next few hours hanging over the side of the boat--downwind, of course. There's nothing more intimate than loosing your breakfast (again and again) in front of 20 strangers!

Aside from the few hours of green pallor and churning stomachs, we were we were still able to see a lot of great birds, and Kelly and Brendan added about 15 species to their life lists. After we reached the dock at the end, though, we were ready to put a little good food in our stomachs and none too sad to pull away from the rocking boat!

We camped out under the stars that night, tossing our sleeping bags down on the ground next to our campfire, and had a great breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, coffee, and orange juice for only $4 the next morning! Sunday we continued up the coast back towards home, stopping every half-hour or so for a jaunt out to the beach, across a jetty, or into a small town for a home-grown treat, like cheese from the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook ice cream from a sweet shop in Gearheart, or clam chowder at Bill's Tavern in Cannon Beach. It was actually a great weekend shared with good friends, and the seasickness became the joke of the entire trip — once it was over, of course!

Brendan, Billi, Kelly, and me with sunburned faces at Bill's Tavern, feeling much better after a good night's sleep!


Fuzzy dorsal view of mystery Clubtail

Not the best photo, but the back pattern may help to narrow it down.


Fauna selections of the Ontario fishing trip

I paid much attention to the birds of Ontario, but found it easier to take pictures of other things, with the exception of a bird in an egg (they can't fly away).

What is this Clubtail? (Gomphus sp.?) on Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

Green Comma (Polygonia faunus) on a flaky-barked tree. Pretty effective camouflage I think.

One-eyed Sphinx Moth (Smerinthus cerisyi) conveniently (for me) attracted along with many other moths to lights left on at night. Unfortunately, many moths don't accomplish the reproduction necessary for the next generation to exist because of the lights we leave on and because of their inability to fight the seemingly stupid attraction to those lights.

Common Loon (Gavia immer) nest with single egg. Apparently most loons lay more than one egg, and one-egg nests are usually due to the loss of the first egg.

This mouse, along with a couple others that showed up in our cabin, was just cute enough for me to include on this post. I forgot my mammal guide in Indiana, so I haven't been able to try to identify it yet. If anyone can tell, I'm all ears.


Flora selections of the Ontario fishing trip

While not fishing, usually while others were sleeping, I had to do some exploring. These are a few plants that look nice in the photos.

Yellow Clintonia (Clintonia borealis)

American Mountain Ash (Pyrus americana) with Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)

Pink Corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens)

Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

Pale Laurel (Kalmia polifolia)


The crackle of the fire; the roar of the sea

One of the best things about living where we do is having fires on the beach at night. We got a visit from a very close friend of ours this weekend, and spent both nights around the fire, with great conversation and delicious fire-grilled teriyaki steak kabobs, all set to the natural soundtrack of crashing waves and crackling flames. Does it get any better than this?

We also had a great time at Cannon Beach showing Shawn the puffins and the haystacks.


old faces, new places

The past few weekends have been pretty low-key for us. We got to hang out with some Taylor friends of ours in Portland a couple of weekends ago, which was great. We got to tour the town from the eyes of locals, and it was really nice to see the familiar faces of people that we share some history with.

Last weekend we went to Long Beach in Washington, which claims to be the longest in the world. It's a beautiful area, and we were virtually alone. . . which is an amazing thing on a huge stretch of sandy beach. It's a breeding habitat for the endangered Western Snowy Plovers, so a lot of the beach is blocked off to preserve their nesting sites.