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This stunning creature, a Wavy Chestnut Y (Autographa mappa – Hodges #8912), showed up at my back door yesterday afternoon.

I can’t get over his crazy hairdo. It looks precision cut and styled.

He has a very rich color palette of brown and rust and white, with a shimmer of gold dust.

He belongs to the Owlet family.

This one is quite a bit smaller and much more delicate than the Wavy Chestnut Y, and was a bit anxious. He wasn’t exactly cut out for modeling, not with all the flitting around he was doing.

It is a Morbid Owlet (Chytolita morbidalis – Hodges #8355). He was more than a little worn when I found him. Missing some fur on the back of his head, his wings starting to get ragged and part of a leg missing. Though his less than stellar state didn’t seem to slow him down, I doubt that he is long for this world.

My favorite little critter is this Pale Glyph (Protodeltote albidula – Hodges #9048). She is so tiny that I had a hard time focusing on her with one hand while holding her in the other.

Just look at her unroll her proboscis  and flick it around.

 

I suppose it’s stretching it a bit to photo blog about the Civil War re-enactment event I covered for The Chronicle this last weekend. But the activity did, in fact, involve being outside in the fresh air, getting plenty of exercise, firing shots (with my camera), and even crawling on my belly across the grass at times.

Any day spent outside, learning new things and talking with people that are outside, learning new things and sharing knowledge with each other is a very good day.

Our local Veterans Memorial Museum put on the two-day event. It was a lot of fun, I hope to be able to attend next spring’s events

The Chehalis-Centralia steam train pulls into the war zone, loaded down with soldiers ready to pick a fight.

No, no. These aren’t the soldiers. But they are a fun group of SteamPunk fans who drove down from Seattle and Olympia to join in the North vs. South fun and frivolity. I hear they were a HOOT on the Troop Train ride. What fun!

And the shooting begins …

… the South side was low in numbers, but they made up for it in marksmanship.

They took out the Union drummer boy early on in the fight, it seemed to affect the morale of the troops (and the watching crowds) and take a bit of the fight out of them … probably because they seemed to be having to fight themselves not to laugh and grin as the drummer boy went down with a bad case of the squirming, heavy(ham)handed moans and groans before was awkwardly hauled off the battlefield. (The little drummer boy really wasn’t so little.)

Hey! That looks like a GIRL in them britches! YeeeeeHaaaaaw!

Uh oh, there’s someone else you don’t usually see on a battlefield — a photographer. That’s Brandon, former head photog for The Chronicle, current sometimes stringer and full time videographer up in Seattle.

Forward … MARCH!

Scout Spike is watching the Union side come around the hill and get ready to out-flank the Rebs.

That’s it for the Confederates. Better luck next time, boys … and girl!

On the banks of the Cowlitz River, near the mouth of the Blue Creek stands a small snag with a cozy little cavity.

As I stand a few feet into the river I can hear the call of the Chickadee whenever he flies in to the tall branches just above the snag. He is either crowing about his hunting success or he is just giving us fair warning that he’s coming in for a landing — I don’t know which.

One second he’s there, perched at the edge with a bug of some sort hanging out of his mouth …

… and in the next second he’s gone.

Can you see him? That’s his tail feathers sticking up in the air.

Maybe he’s got a bully for a big brother that keeps stealing his lunch so he has to hide to eat his catch.

He didn’t seem to worried about me bullying him, what a handsome bird!

And yes, this was the day that I fell into the river (I talked about it briefly in my column this week). My son is on the left of the line of fisherman, I was standing to the left of him.

It wasn’t deep and I didn’t go under, but that Cowlitz River flows from the snow melting off of Mt. Rainier, so it ain’t cozy warm!

Still, it was a good day of fishing and friendly conversation with a couple of easy going combat steelhead fisherman.

We witnessed a small miracle moment here at The Farm today.

Stosh and I were talking in the front yard, he was taking a break from pressure washing the porch, and then a soaking wet baby pine sisken flew up into his hands.

“What the … ?” was his initial reaction.

When he flew off to the feeders, I handed Stosh the camera and walked over and picked him up. Easy peasy.

He had seed hulls stuck all over this face, here you see him trying to rub them off.

Stosh makes a pretty good camera man … must take after his mother. :)

I wish this rain would go away! Maybe tomorrow?

Either way, rain or shine, Stosh and I are hitting the Cowlitz tomorrow at Blue Creek — we figure we’ll just get wet either way.

There doesn’t seem to be a thing wrong with him. He flies just fine, although he’s a little clumsy at the seed bowl.

 

… this time with my granddaughter.

I bought my granddaughter her first fishing pole last month. It has taken us this long to find the time when she and I were both available and it wasn’t raining for us to head out to the waters.

We went down to the Cowlitz River because even if you don’t catch a fish (and I was actually kinda counting on our failure), you get to see lots of wildlife. We had a huge, white seagull that was keeping an eye on us, hoping to steal a bit of our catch, I’m betting. And we scared a Bald Eagle out of a tree as we were walking down to the river.

Casting was a little tough to get used to. But once she had it down, she really had it down!

And she never knew what her spinner with a treble hook would bring back to her when she reeled in.

Sometimes it was grass, or weeds, or pond scum or even pine cones and a snail.

“Gramma, I … “

” … Gramma, I think I caught a rock!”


I have a new obsession, obviously, moths. I love getting up close and looking into their faces. So many different “expressions.”

This moth is species Pero morrisonariaMorrison’s PeroHodges #6755

He is a member of the Geometer family of moths.

This one looks like he could blend right into a tree trunk and you’d never spot him hiding there.

I’m amazed that so many seemingly “plain” moths have such rich color, shine and a luxurious look.

This moth is really small, but she seems to be gold-tipped and clothed in satin. And get a load ‘a that eye!

He is a member of the Crambid Snout Mouth family.
Crambus girardellus – Girard’s Grass-veneer – Hodges#5365

This moth is my all-time favorite. I often see her (or one of her kin) clinging to my kitchen window. As I wash my dishes I meditate on all the wonders she represents that make up this world and time moves so much more quickly. Before I know it, the sink is clean and I’m feeling quite content.

This moth is a Spilosoma viginica - Yellow Woollybear, a member of the Tiger Moth family.

Isn’t she amazing?!

After last night’s skunking at the Barrier Dam, my son and I decided to try again this morning. We worked the banks at the Barrier Dam for about an hour before he said he wanted to try Blue Creek. As soon as we were at the top of the hill, a Toledo man hauled in a nice 9-pounder from our spot. (See tomorrow’s Chronicle.)

But we (or HE, actually) had better luck at Blue Creek.

Lucky shot, not the best quality image. He was a fighter!

This one is smaller than the one that got away (of course), but he’ll do!

A nice 24-inch, 7-pound summer run hatchery steelhead.

All I caught was a Great Blue Heron, sneaking in to see if he could get our take.

 

He certainly isn’t the prettiest example of a heron, kinda scrawny looking.

Makes me almost sorry we didn’t hand over the fish. Almost.

I thought maybe we scared off the heron, but then I looked up again after shooting the last frame of the heron flying away and spotted this killer red-breast perched in the heron’s place.

Ya gotta watch out for those Robins, they’ll ‘neak up on ya.

Spent a couple of hours trying to find myself a steelhead to take home. Not even a nibble! But I spotted a few birds, and common though they may be, I enjoyed watching them work the waters.

This little robin was peeking up over the rocks at me, keeping one close eye on my movements as he kept the other eye out for yummy bugs.


A Crow …

A mallard hen duck …




And some fingerlings.

The frog jumping contest held at Toledo High School as part of the Cheese Days celebration this weekend. It was a ton of froggy fun. My granddaughter and I decided we’ll be finding our own frog before next year’s competition. (Fresh frogs jump better than the rented, we determined.)

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I’m guessing that this is a moth from the Noctuidae family, but I can’t tell you more than that.

He has amazing gold flake-like glitter to him.


Have you ever taken a close look at a crane fly?

How about this close? What a beaut of a buggy beast he is!

The pine siskins are always the first to come back to the feeders after the first fright flight as I open the front door.

This little siskin wasn’t the least bit intimidated by my close presence, but the tilt of his (her?) head at each snap of the camera showed at least he was interested. He was also dropping feathers like crazy. Molt?

Not a good shot, admittedly, but it’s the only proof I have that I have at least one new Barn Owl. I have been listening to evening hissing for over two weeks now, it’s about time I finally get to spot my new tenant!

And finally, my bee. I’m glad that he admires my new Missouri Goldenrod plant, bought at the native species sale while I was out on assignment earlier this year.

This one showed up last night. There were two of them, but one just wouldn’t sit still for a photography session. An Isabella Tiger Moth.

She’s quite plain, although her color is very rich and elegant.

And get a load of those orange legs! Stunning.

This is a Pyrrharctia isabella [Arctiidae], an Isabella Tiger Moth

“Wingspan 5.3 cm. Wings with small black spots; forewing is mustard-yellow; hindwing is yellow-orange. This arctiid is widely distributed in western North America and is particularly common west of the Cascade Mountains. Moths fly in midsummer. Caterpillars are generalist feeders on foliage of herbaceous plants such as nettle (Urtica)”

This is the magnificent moth that was published in yesterday’s Chronicle. I wrote about him in my column, it will soon be posted on Lewis County Outdoors.

The silver spots on his wings looked as though they were bits of tin foil, glued on with a thin line of orange glue across the center.

If you would like to learn more about this moth, go to the Butterflies and Moths of North America website.

But be careful! You may get lost in the pages, cruising though to see all there is to see.

What a beast he was! His wingspan was just over 5 inches.

Such beautiful “fur” he carried.

And he was ever so patient with me, allowing me to photograph him from every angle.

His sticky little “paws” allowed him to grab onto the end of a pencil so I could get a really good look at him.

Sadly, this one is gone, hopefully he had time to find a mate and they laid eggs for another generation. This moth is born without a mouth and cannot feed. His lifespan is only four days long.

What an honor it was to meet this one.

My outdoorsman son’s girlfriend, Ariel, hoists up a hefty largemouth bass as she smiles for the camera. I don’t know who’s prettier! (Yes I do! Ariel!)

She and I hit Cabela’s a couple of weeks ago and shopped ’til we dropped in women’s wear. She said the tag on her “Lucky Fishing Shirt” said she couldn’t wash it or the luck would run out. I’m loving my “I fish and tell” t-shirt.

Fishing report on Munn Lake (Thurston County) lunkers in tomorrow’s Chronicle or watch for it later this week in Lewis County Outdoors.


On my way out of the newsroom I caught this petite pair of House Sparrows performing a pas de deux de amour in the parking lot.

He’d strut and shout.

She’d dip and nip.

Ouch!

I spotted a couple of American Robin babies hopping across the side yard lawn today. Aren’t they adorable!



I know that this photo isn’t the best, but I’m just so stinkin’ happy to see this little guy I can’t even tell you! This little Western Scrub Jay is the only one that has survived, as far as I know, and I had despaired of ANY of the babies surviving.

My son found 5 babies, 2 dead, 3 alive but without feathers, at the base of the tree where they were nesting. There is no brush near that tree and the nest was too far up in the tree to put them back, so he put the live babies in the nearest brush and left them.

He didn’t tell me what happened until I mentioned the other day that I thought it seemed my pair of Jays were very sad and that I hoped everything was okay with their babies. (He knows I’m not just soft headed, at times, but also soft hearted.)

Hooray, Scrub Jay!

The eldest son and I were fishing on Swofford Pond Saturday, June 4, sitting out near the middle of the pond when a Bald Eagle suddenly came out from behind the stand of trees to the south and dove down toward the water. He was on a mission.

I couldn’t see what he was after, it’s just a black blur on the screen, sitting on top of the water.

But no sooner had the Eagle set his talons after the object of his desire, than he also found he was being followed by a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds on a mission.

The first blackbird starts to close in, and …

Red-winged blackbirds are agile wingmen. I’ve seen them be to get into places at my feeders made only for the smaller birds to fit into. They are able to land on a swaying cattail with accuracy usually reserved for the most agile of tiny fliers. Very impressive birds.

As the lead blackbird closes the gap, the backup blackbird turns back for home …

That’s one gutsy blackbird, making an inverted hit so near the eagle’s talons.

“Get on outta here!”

“And stay out!”

“Well … THAT was embarrassing.”

It’s always a good day on Swofford (that’s Mt. Rainier in the back).

At Lake Scanewa today for the kid’s fishing derby.

Momma and Pappa Goose kept parading their handsome brood in front of the little fisherman and their parents, always just out of reach of the casts. Thank goodness!

It was a truly GRAND day for fishing and I had the privilege of meeting the derby winners and their fish. The biggest trout of the day, by far, was a beautiful 6 pound 10 ounce whopper caught by an 8-year-old girl in dazzling pink, from Chehalis.

See Tuesday’s Outdoors section for more details on the day.

I’ve mentioned before that Swofford Pond is my favorite place to hang out (other than my own backyard, of course). This series of photos makes it easy to see why.

We were looking for bass along the shoreline, pitching lures into the edges. The constant,  sometimes irritating and always changing song (with seeming endless variety) of the Marsh Wren captured my attention on this day.

It’s the Marsh Wren male that builds the nests, several of them, hoping to capture the attention of several Marsh Wren ladies. It is said that when the female comes into his territory, he takes her on a tour of the nests he has built, hoping she’ll choose one of them and stay.

Here you see the Marsh Wren gathering cattail fluff.

The Marsh Wren is so quick — constantly on the move, flitting about — that it’s hard to get a good focus on him. I’m just grateful to get any kind of image at all of this elusive little tweeter.

 

Accompanied by the courage I am inspired to feel whenever I can hide behind my camera lens and reporter’s notepad, I’m able to walk into almost any situation, stick my nose in where it normally wouldn’t belong and say, “Hey, what’s going on around here?”

I love my job, it takes me to amazing places. Saturday I took a ride I will never forget.

Packwood Lake Trail #78. That’s Johnson Peak in the background and Doc Wesseluis on his horse, Rocky, and a father and son out fishing for the first time at Packwood Lake.

It was National Trails Day and the Lewis County Chapter of the Back County Horsemen of Washington invited me along for the ride to “brush back the forest and push logs down the hill” all along the 4.5 miles of trails deep in the Cowlitz Valley vicinity of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Doc and his wife Deb loaned me a horse and let me tag along to chronicle their trail-busting journey for tomorrow’s issue of The Chronicle.

That’s my new friend Lacey. She’s 29-years-old and doesn’t look a day over 12 and a half. She put up with my nonsense for over 6 hours, she probably deserves a medal and an extra serving of oats.

She wasn’t all patience and kindness, however. As the day wore on and my, er, knees (yeah, knees) started getting tired, I caught her rolling her eyes at me when she thought I wasn’t looking. Then she called me a “sack of potatoes” when my tired, er, knees gave out and I bounced around in an undignified and uncomfortable manner as she tried to hurry down the hill to home.

It couldn’t have been a better day for the ride. It had been dry for a couple of days, so there was little mud and muck on the trails, for which I was very grateful. Here you see a gentle drop off, but there were plenty of more dramatic turns along the way.

Doc rode in front of me and Deb rode behind me.

Do you see that white stuff behind Deb? That’s snow. Packwood Lake is only 7 miles (as the crow flies) from the White Pass Ski Resort and it has been a long, cold spring. Doc told me he has never seen the snow last this long into the year, and he has been riding in this area since about 1988.

The first log the crew cut up yielded an interesting possibility …

“Hey, maybe I should take this home to my wife,” Lance said, “it’d make a great planter.”

Doni skootches Whiskey over a little bit to allow Doc back through the line while John watches over her. It was Doni and John’s first trip with the group. It seemed to me that everyone was hoping it wouldn’t be their last.

The trails were plenty steep in places. I tried to keep my eyes glued to the back of my camera — kinda like a horse wearing blinders.

The snow caused the riders to dismount and walk through a couple of dicey patches.

Uh oh, Ringo!

Pack mule Ringo Starr gave Ray (17) a bit of trouble as they first headed into the snow. A hard hat flew from the pack while Ringo’s hooves kick chunks of heavy spring snow into Rays face. Ray dug in his heels and didn’t let go of the rope.

It took Ray only a few (heart-stopping) seconds to get Ringo calmed down and heading up the trail again.

The crew used chainsaws to cut and clear away the fallen logs — but only as long as we were outside the designated wilderness area.

Once we passed by this sign, they had to put away the chainsaws and use a little more teamwork and lot more muscle.

Sometimes the job needed two men …

Sometimes the job required four men and a woman.

And at other times some may have thought the job required a little friendly advice and supervision.

But if you’re willing to criticize, you’d best be ready to jump in and show ‘em how to do it.

And I guess Jim was doing all right because I see Ray giving him the double thumbs up there in the background.

We met many hikers along the way. As we passed by each of them, Doc would say, “It’ll be clear the rest of the way down!” and they’d shout after him, “Thank you very much!! You guys do great work.”

These guys came along just in time to give Lance and John a break. That log you see up in the air under Lance’s hand was “talking” to him, creaking and moaning, the whole time they were sawing on it. Once the log broke free and stopped moving, everyone was able to take a breath and sigh in relief. You never know for sure which way to log’s going to move, but they do the best job they can to keep everyone safe.

The job’s done, 4.5 miles of trail cleared. Time to go back home.

Back at the trailhead, Lacey seems pretty pleased to have me off her back.

And now, finally, the saddest moment of my day.

Thanks for the great day, LCC-BCHW! If another invitation to ride with you guys is ever offered to me again, I hope you know that you’ll be seeing me on your doorstep before the call, email, text or letter leaves your hands. :D

Wait, this just in … Me!

Thanks for the photo, Deb!

This Brewer’s Blackbird lady has a boyfriend who is crazy over her …

My oldest boy and I traveled over to Swofford Pond yesterday for a little bass fishing in the weeds along the eastern shore in his aluminum boat.

Outside of my own backyard, Swofford is my favorite place to be in all of Lewis County. Peace is pervasive there (yes, capital “P” kinda Peace), it invades every molecule of my being as I sit on or beside those waters.

Not even the sounds of a loud, large family on the other shore could break the peace of the pond. Filtered through the air over the water, heavy with the pulsating breath and life underwater and overhead, the sounds drifted to my ears as a Symphony of Joy and Celebration, the perfect accompaniment to a perfect day spent in the worship of the God of Peace.

Besides, even on a bad day of fishing, that pond is sure to give you a reason to grin like a happy goon. (See below.)

When I got tired of casting I rigged up a bobber and worm and then hauled out my camera to focus on the even smaller aquatic life forms while Stosh skippped through the lily pads with a frog lure. He didn’t catch a bass with the lure, but he DID lure this guy out of the weeds …

The blob of yellow on a swivel is the frog lure. I thought at first that the lure perhaps brought out a romantic side in the frog.

But then I saw that he wasn’t trying to get romantic with the lure. He was trying to eat it.

P.S. No frogs were hurt in the taking of this series of photographs … although my son did get a little irritated at me asking him to cast and drag through the weeds for a good half hour. :P

I know that to many of you the Mourning Dove is as common as the dirt under your backyard bird feeders. But to me and my backyard, this bird is a newcomer.

The whistling sound that this bird makes as it flutters off is just amazing. I can’t imagine the sound of a dozen of them, it must be deafening!

Holly the Photog and I went to the Toledo Saturday Market today. I think we spent more, much more, than our assignment will get us.

We both bought a little yard art from Ron Smith of Recycled Ranch Relics. She bought a cow planter and a large flower and then ordered a “wino.” I bought a chicken and an owl.

Normally my birds will stay away from anything new in the garden for at least two days — even new bird feeders!

But not my new yard art! They seemed to know immediately what these were for …

Now I wish I had gotten the crazy bird bath piece with saws as wings.

Ron will be at the Toledo Saturday Market again on June 11th, if you want to do a bit of shopping. Just don’t get MINE before I get there!

She looks innocent enough, but this little lady can lay up to 40 eggs in a season — and never in her own nest!

She a Brown-headed Cowbird. She and her monkish-looking boyfriend fly into town and scout out spots nests to drop off their orphan children. How bad can this be? Just an egg or two here and there, right?

Pretty bad. The nests the cowbirds most often choose to invade are nests belonging to smaller species. Therefore, when the little chicks emerge from their shell, the bigger and bolder cowbird baby elbows his way to the front of the line at feeding time, hogging all the grub.

I have only seen this pair, so far. If I see more, I’ll take down most of my feeding stations for a couple of days in hopes of chasing them off. It was two or three years ago when a whole flock of them flew into town and stayed long past their welcome. I switched to a feeder that they couldn’t get into and they went away within a few days.

I’d rather have a whole flock of European Starlings than even just one pair of Cowbirds.

Coy Girl. Mean Boy.

 

Who knew the black-headed grosbeak was hiding all that yellow under his wing? (um … bird experts did, I suppose, but I’m just an amateur, so … )

I think the lady above is a female Brewer’s Blackbird. Her coloring is so rich and beautiful. Did you know that the Brewer’s Blackbird enjoys a steady diet of roadkill? Yup, insect roadkill.

The Brown-headed Cowbirds (below) may be considered pests, but I think the lady cowbirds are some of the most elegant birds around.

A cowbird lady, however, will lay her eggs in other birds’ nests and let them raise her children. Apparently, building nests and incubating eggs don’t fit into this nomadic lifestyle.

I’m still chasing after the Western Scrub Jay, trying to get a clear shot. This bird has a nest just outside my kitchen window, I watched them fly in and out of the tree building it, but I still can’t get close.

The grosbeaks have been here for a couple of weeks — the men a week earlier than the ladies, actually — but they have been pretty camera shy. I’ve finally captured a few shots of what is one of my all-time favorite birds.

The odd way they cock their head when something peaks their curiosity is charming, but at the same time it’s a little eerie — they remind me of the velociraptors of Jurassic Park movie fame.

The Hummingbirds weren’t cooperating with me tonight, they all seemed to want to sit in the shade at the hummingbird tree (alder) outside my mother’s breakfast room.

This one even dared blink and stick out her tongue at me while I was trying to take her picture.

This gal (below) is new. I’m guessing she is an Anna’s Hummingbird, unless someone tells me different.

She’s very Plain Jane, but quite elegant.

But not a bit of color under her chin — at least none that she was willing to show me.

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