Sunday, August 24, 2014

HoJo Birding

Despite the incredible cross-country road trip we took moving from Savannah to Oregon, our new life here had started a little rough. We had never had trouble easily finding an apartment when moving to a new place before, but we ran into quite a bit of difficulty finding availability in the Salem area. We moved here at the end of April, and apparently almost everyone here prefers to move in the middle of summer, when there is less chance of rains impeding a move. Living in Florida and Georgia, summer moves were actually avoided if possible because of the crazy heat and humidity that meant sweating profusely in already sauna-like conditions.

Pretty Flowers

We felt like Mary and Joseph being told there was “no room at the inn” as we went to apartment after apartment that had no availability for weeks. We finally accepted that we would not have an apartment any time soon. So, in the meantime, we HoJo’ed it for several weeks. All we really needed was a clean room and free breakfast anyway. And to keep the cabin fever at bay, we explored various parks around the area. We even found a little city park tucked behind our second home at the time, Wal-Mart. 

Canada Geese & Goslings

Momma Mallard and Ducklings

Cascades Gateway City Park has a grand name, but it was a humble little park with a fishing pond and a Frisbee-golf course. Here we had some pleasant surprises and lifers. Upon our first pass through the park via car since it was a rainy, soggy day, Nick spotted a lifer Greater White-Fronted Goose. Luckily it was still there the next day when it wasn’t pouring.

Greater White-Fronted Goose next to Greylag Goose

Greater White-Fronted Goose

We could easily distinguish it next to the big-fat domestic Greylag Geese with which it was hanging out. Although they look so similar in the field guides, there was no doubt once you saw the size of the Greater White-Fronted Goose next to the Greylags. It looked like a stunted version of these large geese, and I could just hear it thinking to itself, “You kinda look like me, so I guess I’ll tag along with you guys.”

Greater White-Fronted Goose tails the other geese

This park also gave us great looks at another lifer – Bullock’s Oriole. We kept seeing flashes of orange and black swoosh past us. It turns out that there was a nesting pair there, calling to each other, and probably warning us to stay back. After trying for a while to get looks at the orioles in their well-concealed nest, the male decided to pop out and hang out low to show off his beautiful colors.

Male Bullock's Oriole

There were swallows all around us, both Tree and Violet Green. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get good shots of the Violet Greens. They would fly by too quickly, and often too close, for me to capture them. However, a trusty Tree Swallow gave a flashy performance as he went in and out of his nesting hole.

My best attempt at capturing a flying Violet-Green Swallow

Tree Swallow

But the grandest show of them all was definitely the aerial harassment of a Bald Eagle on an Osprey. The Osprey did his hard work and caught a fish, but the bully Bald Eagle chased him down with the fury of a thousand charging knights (sorry, we just watched all the Game of Thrones episodes). 

Determined Bald Eagle chasing after an Osprey with a fish

I'm gonna get you, sucka!
Oh gosh, so close!

There were a couple of close calls as they zoomed right above us. The eagle’s face was like cool steal as the Osprey struggled while flying with his fish. The Osprey somehow did make it away this time, but you better believe this was one tight raptor dogfight.

Gorgeous Bald Eagle


  1. It makes me very happy that now, on the immortal internet, HoJo and birding are linked together.
    I had to make a few HoJo stops in south Texas this summer. It was endearingly terrible, an 'any port in a storm' sort of comfort.

    I'm sorry to hear about all of the moving troubles though--that's a terrible introduction to a new town.
    Congratulations on the lifers though; way to make some lemonade out of those birds. I have never seen a Bullock's Oriole just chillin' on the ground like that before. Everything is more chill in Oregon I guess.

    1. Thanks, Laurence! Yeah, that was quite a surprise from the Bullock's Oriole. And the HoJo was actually not all that bad. But it was definitely an experience - hopefully not one to be repeated, though ;)

  2. Great pictures! This spring, we saw the reverse showdown between an Osprey & a Bald Eagle at Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Hillsboro (which you should totally check out if you haven't yet). The eagle was on the ground, presumably eating something (though we were too far to see for sure) and the Osprey kept dive bombing it. The eagle would shriek and flap its wings, which would drive off the Osprey for a few seconds, and then it would dive again. I wonder if the eagle stole the fish from it to begin with. It was amazing to watch.

    I hope you're all settled in now! Oregon is fantastic, but weeks in a HoJo is not exactly a great introduction to our splendor.

    1. Thanks, Julia! How funny about your Osprey/Eagle encounter. Maybe the Eagle was too close to the Osprey's nest? And yes, we are settling in nicely. Even staying at a HoJo for weeks couldn't keep us from realizing how beautiful Oregon is!

  3. Nope... the Osprey's nest is on the other side of the preserve from where that happened. It was quite close to the eagle's next, as a matter of fact. We watched them carry on for at least 10 minutes, but then moved on. We see the eagles and osprey almost every time we are there (at least once a week) and had never seen anything like it before. I wish we had a video camera with us!