Friday, April 24, 2015

Celebrating Our Oregoniversary

As hard as it is to believe, today marks the 1-year anniversary of our arrival in Oregon — our Oregoniversary, if you will. After a wearying, but unforgettable 5-day adventure that took us literally from coast to coast, we first set foot together in our new home state on April 24, 2014. It was a decisive moment, but an uncertain one. We had just moved 3,000 miles to a region that we had never even visited, and knew relatively little about. The natural history, the geography, and the culture were all unknowns for us. It was a lot to take in all at once; it was both fraught and exciting. 

But when it comes down to it, there's only one thing to do when faced with uncharted territory: start exploring at once. So that's what we did. Though, to be honest, it wasn't completely novel. I like to tell people that we moved here with a very accurate stereotype of Oregon, and to a large extent that's true. Exactly as expected, there's a young, active vibe up around Portland; people appreciate good food, and care about how it's produced; there's a killer music scene; and the outdoors are celebrated, engaged with, and utilized like no other place we've lived.

Where the stereotype falls apart is in how vast and how varied Oregon is. No matter what direction we travel, whatever the distance, we're always bound to find something worthwhile, something unexpected. As you can see from the map below, we've been off to a quick start in trying to take in as much as we can. Not once during these 365 days have we looked back regrettingly on our decision to move here — we haven't had time to! We've been too busy birding, hiking, driving, and otherwise exploring not to be thankful for our fateful, impulsive move. In homage to our adopted home, here's a look back at some of our adventures from the past year in Oregon.

Every place in Oregon that we've submitted an eBird checklist from

The first time I remember having our minds truly blown was on our first visit to the coast in Newport. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is home to a massive breeding colony of Common Murre, which, along with the nesting Pigeon Guillemots, were the first alcids we'd ever seen. Add to that Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Harlequin Ducks, and a Wandering Tattler, and we were hooked. Hardly a month passes that we don't take a trip down this way. Whether for the birds, the shellfishing, or the tidepooling the coast is always extraordinary.

John Day National Monument is one of those places that you can hardly expect to accommodate in your stereotype of Oregon. For one thing, it's out in the desert — not the first thing people think of when they think Oregon. Secondly, the Painted Hills are a baffling and beautiful mix of red, green, and gold unlike anything else. Not surprisingly, there's great birding out that way of which we've only scratched the surface.

Last fall we attended our first hawk watch at Bonney Butte. Besides Golden Eagles galore and a host of other raptors, including Merlins, Peregrin Falcons, and Cooper's Hawks, Maureen and I each had the opportunity to release Sharp-shinned Hawks from the banding station set up there. Bonney Butte may not get the numbers that some other hawk watch sites do, but it makes up for it in variety: 7 raptor species throughout the day. And with the views of nearby Mt. Hood in the background, it made for some the most spectacular birding we've ever had sitting down.

The Willamette Valley is the heart of Oregon. It's where most people live and encompasses Salem, Portland, and Eugene. To think that just down the street from us are Acorn Woodpeckers, Band-tailed Pigeons, Varied Thrushes, and Wrentits! We're fortunate to have such great birds around at every time of year, and especially to have a great refuge system to support them in. Just a few minutes away, Ankey NWR hosts some of everything, from birds, to butterflies, to frogs, to dragonflies. A little bit farther, and Finley NWR is always good for day trip to hear Pacific Wrens babbling, or possibly run across a rowdy band of Gray Jays.

Klamath Falls was our first impression of Oregon, which we experienced from the car on our drive up one year ago today. When we returned there this February to attend the Winter Wings Festival we got explore the area in much more fully. Prairie Falcons, Oak Titmouse, and Lewis's Woodpeckers were among the highlights from that memorable trip, not to mention great looks at birds like this Evening Grosbeak. As if we needed further incentive to keep coming back to visit the Klamath Basin, it's also apparently one of the best places to catch Western and Clark's Grebes performing their courtship displays in April and May. 

Although I just recounted it in our most recent post, I'd be remiss if I didn't include our pelagic trip in this round-up. As I did earlier, I want to stress again because it bears repeating: we live in a state with albatrosses offshore. I will never tire of this fact, because it's an extraordinary thing. Seabirds are extraordinary things. Hell, the Pacific Ocean itself is an extraordinary thing.

While we've gotten around a good deal in the past year, there's still plenty more to see, and we'll keep on filling up that map. We've got plans over the next months to visit Malheur, Crater Lake, and the Columbia River Gorge. Meanwhile, we'll keep exploring, learning, and making up for lost time (from talking to people, it seems like we've already seen more of Oregon than many native Oregonians have in their entire lives). For two people who have moved around quite a bit, it's a relief to finally feel settled in a place, especially after taking such a risk in coming out here. We're glad to have been able to share so many of our experiences from the past year with you, and we're equally excited about all of the adventures to come!

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