Mom’s 90th

Yesterday would have been Mom’s 90th birthday. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have been too thrilled to hit that milestone; I can hear her voice saying “I’m so old!” Still, it’s impossible to see this date on the calendar and not think of the many positive milestones in her life. There’s no way to tell her whole story in just a few pictures, but here are some of my favorites.

This is the earliest picture of her I’ve found. She’s probably 2 here, with my grandparents, Anna and Morris Rosenblum, and her big sister, my Aunt Selma.
Here she is as a young mother of 3 boys, during the Kennedy era.
Mom and Dad, more than 50 years into their marriage.
Mom as a very happy mother-in-law, grandma, and great-grandma (GG).
Mom’s last birthday, in 2019. This was a really good day: a sing-along at her residence that got her dressed up and out, and after a rest back in her room, a clandestine takeout dinner of her favorite treyf.

Tualatin Hills Nature Park, and Beaverton Creek Wetlands

The Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District covers more than 50 square miles and serves over 200,000 people just west of us in Washington County, making it the largest parks district in Oregon. They have 95 park sites, 70 miles of trails, and 1,500 acres of natural areas, in addition to their rec centers and programs. I recently spent a morning exploring two of their sites: the Tualatin Hills Nature Park and the nearby Beaverton Creek Wetlands Natural Area.

(Click on the image to visit the full gallery.)

Lo De Marcos 2018

As much as I’ve been enjoying my local explorations this winter, I’ve also been reminiscing about not-cold not-gray winter warmth travel in years past. Here are a few photos of some different birds from our trip to Lo De Marcos, Mexico, back in January of 2018. These are from two cameras ago — a Panasonic FZ28 that I had used for years in Santa Barbara. That camera is still plugging away, as Rosa’s first camera. Hoping for a guest blog some time soon!

The house folding guide to Birds of the Pacific Coast of Mexico called this a Colibrí Piquiancho — Broad-billed hummingbird.
Perhaps a Mosquero — a Flycatcher
An Ibis resting in the treetops
Garza-nocturna coroniclara – yellow-crowned night heron
OK, it’s not a bird, it’s an iguana. But it was in a tree.

Whitaker Ponds and Smith & Bybee Lakes, January 2022

Portland and the surrounding cities do a great job providing urban access to nature. There are greenway paths between developments, wetland trails linking parks, more than 30 city “natural areas”, and more than a dozen Metro nature parks. Many of these sites were created by protecting undeveloped spaces, but there have also been many projects to reclaim areas that had been previously impacted by industrial activities. I recently visited two of them: Whitaker Ponds, and Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area.

Whitaker Ponds is a mile away from the Columbia River, with the airport in between. It is adjacent to the Whitaker Slough, which connects to the 19 mile long Columbia River Slough. Part of the area had been a dump, and they say over 2000 tires were removed to create the park. A trail runs between the ponds and the slough, surrounded by cottonwoods and shrubs, passing through a variety of environments supporting many different creatures,

We’ve visited Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area several times in the past few years to walk the nature trail. At 2000 acres, it is one of the largest protected wetlands within city limits in the country. Near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, it is surrounded by warehouses and port terminals. There are two seasonal lakes, a riparian forest, sedge meadows, and a landfill that has been converted to a grasslands habitat. The Interlakes Trail has two viewing shelters, which on this visit were pretty distant from most of the waterfowl action. I heard a bald eagle, and saw an empty nest, but didn’t see one perched or flying in the Natural Area. But I did see a bald eagle at close range on the drive from Whitaker, flying at stoplight height through a nearby intersection.

(Click on the image to visit the full gallery.)

Oregon Coast, January 2022

We spent several nights away from home! Crazy. Using a rental near Yachats with ocean views as our base, we headed out prepared for whatever the winter weather would throw at us. We brought our meals and snacks, and books and cards in case the weather kept us on the dry side of the picture window. As is often the case here in Oregon, we got all the weather, and managed to explore some interesting and unfamiliar parts of the coast in between rounds of ocean storm-watching. We stopped at Finley National Wildlife Refuge on the way there, and at Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the way home. And we pulled over at turnouts, vista points, and roadside parks from Florence to Cape Meares, often following trails leading down to the ocean.

(Click on the image to visit the full gallery.)

Sandhill Cranes and Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, January 2022

Our first outing of the new year was to the Vancouver Lake Lowlands for a tour of the Sandhill Cranes wintering habitat, given by the Columbia Land Trust. Accompanied by the intrepid Rosa, we stayed with the cranes as long as we could in the cold wet weather, and then headed up to the Ridgefield WIldlife Refuge for a circuit around their auto-tour before the early winter sunset. Four days later Nancy and I returned first thing in the morning, to find the river socked in with fog. We sidetracked for a walk along Vancouver Lake, and then returned to the river to spend the rest of the cold sunny morning with the cranes.

(Click on the image to visit the full gallery.)

Papa’s Birthday

My grandfather, Martin Moses, was born on this day 132 years ago. He was the oldest of his generation in my family that I knew well growing up, my link to the 19th Century. As a toddler I called him “Papa” instead of the more appropriate German “Opa”, and the nickname stuck. I had hoped to be “Papa” when I became a grandfather, and in a similar fashion Rosa insisted on calling me “Pa”. But in every other way, he remains my model of what it is to be a grandfather.

He was born in a village, was conscripted into the German army for World War I, and after the war became an “entrepreneur” whose business ventures eventually brought him to Berlin. There he met my grandmother Rosel (Oma) and started a family. Just weeks before Kristallnacht they fled the Nazis and emigrated to Ventura, California. I was 40 years old before it sunk in that, when he was older than I was then, Papa started over in a new country, with few possessions and no English, and he and Oma managed to build the world of family and support I was born into.

He was a part of my life the whole time I was growing up, and I remember our times together often as I now play the role of grandfather. Here are some of the family photos I’ve collected from his life.

Papa and Oma on a walk in the woods. My guess is this is late 1925; they were married in June,
Uncle Jimmy was born in May 1926, and this looks like a maternity dress to me.
Papa with my Dad (L) and Uncle Jimmy, Germany, mid 1930s.
My arrival, September 1955.
Me and my brothers. I am now just shy of his age in this picture.
Papa would regularly host barbeques, which always felt like special occasions. Jerry and I
still use his seasonings and offer people “tasters” off the grill before serving.
This is from a local newspaper article about Passover. Early 60s.
Papa and Oma at their 50th wedding anniversary, 1975.

New camera!

This past November I got myself a new camera. Without geeking out too much on the selection process here, the short version is I wanted a flexible single lens camera that could reach birds from a distance as well as do a good job on landscape and travel shots, with a fast enough lens to capture birds in flight and in low-light shadowy forests. I ended up with a Sony RX10-iv. I have a lot yet to learn, but I am quite happy with it, and looking forward to continued experimentation.

Here are some of my first efforts, starting with a cool morning in our backyard.

Hadn’t seen much of the goldfinches since the sunflowers came down.
House Finch. Being able to focus and expose on the bird instead of the bush was one of my main goals with this camera.
Spotted Towhee, enjoying the ground cover seed I spread on the raised bed.

The next opportunity was a quick getaway to the nearest nature preserve, the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, just 25 minutes down the road. Some of the trails are closed during the nesting season, and the migrating waterfowl all kept their distance this time, but as always there was plenty to see.

Our local watershed, the Tualatin River. The creeks in our neighborhood flow into the Tualatin, which flows south before dumping into the WIllamette to then flow north to the mighty Columbia.
Every nuthatch I’ve ever seen has been upside down. I wonder where they winter? 🙂
This heron was fishing about 30 feet up the creek from where I crossed, and I was pleased with how well the camera found him in the shadows …
… and with the reach of the zoom!

Next up was an outing with Rosa, my 10 year old photography buddy. We went to Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, a beautiful morning drive through the farmlands west of us. The day turned foggy and cold, with more bird hearings than sightings, but it was still lots of fun.

Cormorants checking out the view.
Pintail ducks

Finally, a very early and cold morning visit to Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, part of Portland Parks and Rec. This is a favorite spot, always something interesting. On this day, many Great Blue Heron. With frozen fingers, large slow moving birds were the perfect target.

This heron resting in a tree, one leg at a time.
Wood ducks
A young coot, unlike the photographer.