Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Working Vacation (kinda)

Little J and I got back from a week long trip to Oregon last week that was all kinds of fun! We stayed with my parents and had the best time ever. We had to get out of Phoenix for a while as the temperatures in the afternoon were reaching 112 (!!) and we just couldn't handle it any more. I'm hoping this cool weather trip will last us the rest of the summer here in the Valley of the Sun.

Little J did AMAZING on the plane on the way there. It was like he was an entirely different kid for the whole day. He slept half the way from Phoenix to San Francisco and we spent the other half reading books. He didn't even wiggle that much! With my fast-disappearing lap, I was worried how he would do surrounded by strangers in a metal tube in the sky, but he loved it. He did great in the airport and totally dug checking out all the planes on the tarmac. Then he slept all the way from San Francisco  to Redmond. Miraculous. I even had people come up to me and tell me that he was the best behaved toddler they had ever seen on a plane. WHAT? I'm usually chasing him around because he's pretty uh, spirited most of the time and has no separation anxiety. None of that this time. I will be forever grateful.

Ok, here come a BOATLOAD of pictures, so settle in for a nice little cruise through the Oregon High Desert, complete with baby birds of prey, cute kids, and some nice cow patties.

Nana treated us to a tasty smoothie, which Little J
promptly smeared all over his face.
My brother and his three sons arrived the following day after we did, and Little J LOVED meeting his cousins, especially Joseph, whom he immediately adored. I'm pretty sure he would have rather gone home with him instead of me.

Our first day in the desert was spent looking for Ferruginous Hawk nests. We didn't find any active ones, but we did find a box of kestrels to band.
Poor guys. Juniper trees are pretty killer on your body,
and they were stuffed in that tree like sardines. Arboreal sardines.

Just look at that fierce little kestrel face!

Boppa putting a tiny band on its leg. It doesn't hurt the bird. And if the adult bird
is found later, the band can be mailed into the banding lab and supply information
about migration and habitation patterns. Cool, eh?
While we were banding kestrels, Little J occupied himself
with pulling moss off rocks. Yes, I'm aware that's a cow patty.
No, I wasn't worried about it. It's the desert, and that thing
had all the germs baked out of it ages ago.

Our next day was spent out in the Fort Rock Valley banding Ferruginous Hawk babies. We looked at other nests, but none of them were active. Lots of nests, very little activity, which is disconcerting.

This is a Ferruginous Hawk adult. It was hanging around and swooping
down on Tom and Sam while they were extricating the babies from the nest.
What a good parent.
Our friend Carol is on the right. She manages raptor welfare at the Portland
Airport, which is the coolest job ever. Little J also fell in love with her, and
fed her cookie crumbs all the way home from the desert one day. Poor woman.

Little J was really interested in the hawk babies!
We took a break from driving around in the hot dusty desert all day and headed up to Prairie Farm near Green Ridge. It was nice to be up in the mountains, and we had the perfect day up there. 

Little J and Big Old J. I will never tire of taking
pictures of these two together.

The pond is ephemeral, meaning it only exists for a few months a year. We
visited at a great time when it was full of garter snakes, tadpoles, and axolotls.
It was also swarming with butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies.

Nana Sue doing what she does best. Note the carpet of
blue butterflies on the mud.

We went swimming in the pond, and we didn't have
a swim diaper with us. So, Little J's diaper was SOAKED
and GIANT and this is him just noticing it.

A gorgeous Lorquin's Admiral.

It was so focused on sucking nutrients out of the mud,
it didn't notice Nana Sue sneaking up on it.

BAM! Captured so we could take a closer look at it.
Another day, another batch of baby Ferruginous hawks banded. This nest was pretty precarious to get into, but Sam and Tom, both old hats at it by now, were not daunted by the task.

Giddy-up lava rock!

Our next adventure was to Fort Rock to meet up with some school kids on a field trip. We walked around Fort Rock, chased lizards, and had a fantastic time.

Little J discovered he could play in the water fountain,
and he (and apparently me as well) was thrilled.

This is my favorite location on Earth.

Just look at that happy face!
That night, we met up with a photographer who does nighttime wildlife photography. He set up his equipment and we could see the bats coming in to scoop water out of a puddle. He got some amazing shots, like this:

We had a great time out playing in the desert and mountains with my parents, but we were missing Daddy, and were excited to go home. Little J was the typical toddler on the way home, and he did just fine. The flight from Portland to Phoenix wasn't full, so Little J and I got an entire row to ourselves! Wahoo! Everywhere we went, people were incredibly nice to us and went out of their way to make sure we were happy. Something about a pregnant lady travelling with an excitable toddler made people feel sorry for us, I guess.

Little J still asks for Nana, Boppa, uncle Dean and Joseph on a daily basis, which is completely adorable.