Sunday, February 16, 2014

300th BLOG!!!!!!!!!! Spring is right around the corner.

Well maybe the first few photos do not indicate "spring is right around the corner" but believe me, I can feel it coming.

I've been told by locals that on occasion we can view the northern lights. Here, just as beautiful is our sunset on a regular basis. 

We took a Friday drive to Sullivan Lake about 40 miles from the house to see if any of the eagles we spotted here a month ago were still hanging out. Here the Pend Oreille River is nearly frozen over but I wouldn't walk on it at this stage.

Donna made a good effort to find some of the birds but none were seen by us. I'll check at the U.S. Forestry Station near the top of the lake to find out if there are resident eagles in the area.

Sullivan Lake is about 5 miles long, 1 mile wide, 300 feet deep and frozen solid shore to shore. I expected to see some ice fishermen but either it is not a great fishing lake or too secluded to consider.

It was fairly easy to see that this ice cliff is formed by a spring along side the road. 

It was a good thing we have four wheel drive in order to get to the forest station at the upper end of the lake. We did find them open during the week but closed for lunch...damn, just my luck. We headed home after the station to free our dogs from the hate mail please, it's heated.

Now to the point of the blog...spring is on its way. The daytime temperatures are hitting over 40 degrees lately and then a 1/2 inch of rain two days ago turned my driveway into an ice rink. Even though the current night time temps are just under freezing I was amazed how quickly and hard the driveway froze.  

I thought about putting salt down but it only melts the ice during the day and then freezes again at night.  Sand came to mind but I didn't want to risk getting yelled at for the dogs and I dragging sand into the house during the next week. I settled on wood chips. I can get a compressed 50 pound bag of shavings for less than $6. All it took was one bag of 12 cubic feet of screened soft pine shaving... compressed to 3 cubic foot... to do the whole driveway. I'm sure it will be easier to sweep up any wood shaving than trying to get the sand out of the house.

I am getting my birdhouses anchored in the trees so when the spring or summer crowd returns there might be a vacant house they can use. This is a robins nest and not much over six feet high from the ground. Obviously they enjoy a very open patio, with a view. 

Here is a house I built for a wren, warbler or nuthatch of different dimensions and height requirements then the robins in order to keep sparrows and european starlings from occupying the property. I tossed around how to anchor the houses to the tree without damaging it and I settled on lag screws. Some folks use bands but unless you adjust the band constantly you could severely deform and damage the tree.

When we bought the house, a plastic ball hanging on the side of the garage was always a question mark for us. In the weeks following our purchase we talked to the neighbors and found out that a northern flicker (woodpecker) was attacking this side of the garage...a common problem here. All failed until the ball was hung, the northern flicker or flickers hated it and left the garage was either that or a pellet gun. 

This is a proper northern flicker (woodpecker) house. I am assuming that if I give them what they need they will leave our house alone. The northern flicker house is stuffed to the top with sawdust, apparently they like burrowing within the house. We have seen northern flickers all winter long on our back patio so we know they not a seasonal resident. 

Here is the screech owl nesting box...time will tell if I can attract one or not, of course based on it's name... do I want to?

The last birdhouse (for finches) is sitting on the workbench waiting for me to place it. I was surprised in researching birdhouses on how the requirements change for each specie. It was automatic for me to include a dowel for the birds to sit upon but nearly all websites advised against dowel...seems they are used primarily by sparrows and starlings, unwanted birds. The work bench, while being thoroughly rejected by a woodworking union, is a recent addition to the original work bench in the garage, because I needed more bench space.

See that little green spike? That is how I know spring is coming. I call it the "Donna Spike" but it's actual name is "Cajun Bell Hot Pepper" sowed on February 1st and will be considered the first occupant of the......

ZWART GARDEN....yeah! This beautiful cut metal sign was a Christmas present from my favorite sister-in-law on my wife's side of the family and will adorn the entrance to the garden...when the soil thaws. ☺

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Middle of February and it's tee-shirt and shorts weather

Donna and I went to a public talk at the library here in town given by a local biologist Chris Logger.

 Before I get to the talk, I have a amusing story of my own. I was headed across town to check up on the motorhome, which is parked very near the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a Red-Tail hawk skimming the brush and suddenly swopped to the ground. I parked and shot a few pictures as he flew away to a fence post and didn't think about it again until I uploaded the photos on our PC. I took ten or more photos and was so focused on the hawk that I never even noticed the deer in the background until I got home.

It is hard to see, unless the previous photo is magnified, the hawk had a mouse or vole in his beak while flying. Here the hawk is on a fence post...having lunch.  Bon App├ętit :-)

I always take the loop around the wildlife refuge in hopes of seeing a moose or wolf but only saw many groups of white tails.

This pretty girl caught my eye while she was resting on the snow. I'll assume most females are long impregnated and it won't be but a few months before we start seeing some fawns.

In all honesty I was thinking this might be a discussion about traveling in our part of America...not so much. 

The "forgotten corner" refers to the circled area which encompasses all of the Colville National Forest and the three mountain ranges within in it, the Okanogan, Kettle River and Selkirk mountains. The forgotten part is partly because the ranges only rise to approximately 7000 feet and we are stuck in the farthest northeast corner of the state. Besides the mountain ranges there are also many great rivers that include the Columbia, Pend Oreille, Kettle and the Okanogan all of which run through glacier carved valleys. 

Chris Logger is a long time Colville resident who has initiated  many studies involving animal behavior, forest animal counts and their habitats . As a bonus his wife is also a biologist 

in plant life of the area.

Donna enjoyed the discussion especially when the talk turned towards birds of prey.

This is Chris's way of telling us he is not the Paul Bunyan of the forest despite his last name.

Most all the photos were shot with my phone from slides that were projected on the wall so the quality may be slightly lacking...this is done in order not to annoy any of the other listeners.

Chris lectured that at the moment the forgotten corner is the only place in the lower 48 states that still have as residents the same large mammals that were here at the time of the Pilgrims landing.

I'll assume buffalos were not living in the area at that time.

While it may look like the wolverine is trapped or stuck on the tree stand he wasn't. The wolverine is hard to study as they roam large tracks of land from the Arctic through Canada and the top of the lower 48 states and although they (biologists) have proof he passes over the Colville Forest they have no proof he resides here. He was captured on film by a "game camera" set up over looking some meat hung in the tree.

I love this description by Doug Chadwick:

"If wolverines have a strategy it's this: Go hard, and high and steep and never back down. Not even from the biggest grizzly and least of all from the mountain. Climb everything.... Eat everybody. Alive, dead, long dead, moose, mouse, fox, frog, it's still warm heart or frozen bones. 

You can in the years following the ban on DDT this area boasted three nests of the bald eagles.

Just 15 years later you can see what a tremendous success banning DDT and protecting the bald eagle with the Endangered Species Act of  1973 has had on the amount of nests in our area...but this does come at a cost.

Loon chicks are a favorite of the eagles as are the great heron babies. Osprey have also been pushed out of our valley by the sheer number of eagles that live and nest here. One of the biggest problem with the loons are that people regard them as ducks which of course they are not. Ducks can reach sexual maturity within the first year and have many chicks per birth but loons do not generally have their first clutch of (two eggs) until they are 7 years old. Long lived but an extremely lengthy time to sexual maturity along with an ever increasing eagle population doesn't bode well for these beautiful birds. 

Seems like every time we humans attempt to control nature it bites us in the butt.

Our talk included flora and insects such as this "white-butt bumblebee" which Chris asked us to keep a sharp eye out for in our yards. This benifcal insect pollinates many of the fruits and flowers that our gardens need. The newspaper article from last years Seattle paper will tell you how rare the white butts have become.

About the title of this blog. Yesterday we got 3 1/2 inches of snow on top of the 8 inches already on the ground. This morning I woke to 38 degree temps (I have a weather station in the yard) and it rose to an unbelievable 49 degrees. By listening to the roof gutters you'd think it was raining, the snow was melting that fast.
Well, off to get the deer some more alfalfa.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A week in Colville

I'm sure you are asking yourself "what's with the photograph of a garbage can"?
Well, to make a long story even longer it started two weeks ago. We had a storm a day or two before "pick-up" but really no big deal. Garbage day comes and we all put our cans out and that first night they are still sitting by the road, full! Okay, I'll leave mine out by the road another day and when there was still no pick-up, I finally called the office in Spokane. "Hello, somehow our road was missed on the pick-up day" sorry I was told..."too much snow" WTF? Hey, we live 30 miles from the Canadian this something that might not of been anticipated? No, I did not say all of that, but I was thinking it in my head and instead asked "well what happens if we get more snow next unlikely (ya right) as that sounds... what do we do"? Her answer was that they would credit our bill which helps me none whatsoever because there is no local place to dump around here without a charge. Heck this same company will charge us extra if the lid is cracked open only a slight amount. I was happy to see the garbage truck today but still can't help thinking that "Sunshine Disposal" really didn't think it through when they bid for our service. (or maybe their name is a clue we should of caught ahead of time)

Well that's enough griping about trash. Last Sunday Donna and I did what every good Washingtonian the Superbowl.
I first have to admit that I am not a huge football guy but seeing that I had a substantial wager with my young sister in Denver.

We enjoyed a couple of beers and sandwich while watching part of the game at one of only two bars in town open and celebrating the game. I did feel bad for my little sis, because from the very first down of the game I am sure she was physically sick...but I will enjoy my $25 Starbucks card all the same...thanks Teri.:-)

Another cold spell hit us this week and I find it hard to believe in a few months I could be fly fishing for german browns that hang around in the Colville River, in the meantime I might give ice skating a try.

We have seen many eagles in the valley but this "first year immature" bald eagle was just sitting off the road going into town so I had to shoot it. I can tell it is a first year (born in the summer of 2013) because of how much white he is still carrying and the beak has not started to change color to yellow.

Like all birds of prey, he/she only gave me one shot before taking off... even though I was 100 yards away.

Donna and I have seen 5 or 10 of these small buildings, usually 10 to 20 feet from a residence, (some no larger than a big bathroom) and guessed that they might be smokehouses with all the wood stacked around the outside walls. I knew that didn't make sense because the smoke is going up a smokestack, hardly an efficient way of smoking meat. Curiosity got the best of me, I stopped at a fireplace company and asked the guy at the counter. He thought it could be a smokehouse too. Lucky for me the bosses door was open and heard the conversation so he stepped out to the counter clueing both of us. Seems years ago a lot of homes had "boiler buildings" that supplied hot water to the floors of cabins or homes for heat. Not environmentally clean and outlawed for now but if you are grandfathered in, you are good to go.

Just so you don't think I am the only "tree hugger" in the area. I have driven past this farm many times, never having my camera when I needed it, while witnessing the farmer haul bales of alfalfa with a tractor out to his horses all the while the deer are a mere 50 feet away... just waiting. He doesn't think twice about shooing them away but he might take one or two a year for meat...I got no problem with that!  

Happy February