Category Archives: seasons

How Do Birds Deal with the Cold?

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It has been snowing for two days at The Cove with single digit temperatures and as rangers have been plowing and shoveling, wearing several layers of clothing, we are still freezing.  As I look around the only living things out here that are up and moving around are birds.    There are a lot of different birds at The Cove and only some migrate to warmer climates in the winter.  Yesterday I saw Canada Geese, various ducks, Red Tailed Hawks, a Bald Eagle, a crow and numerous American Robins out hunting for food. Have you ever wondered how they cope in the winter?  You’ll be amazed at the amazing adaptations birds have to stay warm and survive the frigid temperatures.

When the temperature drops I crave warm, hearty, calorie laden foods.  These foods mean packing on the calories, which I’ll have to deal with in the spring, but birds need to increase their caloric intake too.  Birds put on fat as both an insulator and energy source: More than 10 percent of winter body weight may be fat in certain species.  It’s important to remember this can only be done in small amounts since they are a flying animal and still need to be able to take off.  As a result, some birds spend the vast majority of their day time hours seeking fatty food sources.  They are adapted to find, store, and remember where the food is so they can find it quickly. This makes winter foraging super efficient.

Birds have to work smarter not harder in the winter.  One of the most effective strategies for having enough energy from food to stay warm is to not do highly energetic things during the cold season such as defend territories, spend a lot of time singing (although the Geese are constantly honking!), don’t build or maintain nests, don’t produce eggs or have hungry chicks around.

Birds of prey highly detailed knowledge of its home range and patience can mean the difference between life and death. During a short break in severe weather, a Barn Owl can fly directly to the best foraging habitat in any given ground, light and wind conditions.  They are more likely to hunt from a fence post than from the air; this saves energy that would be used in flight and reduces heat loss.

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Since birds can’t fly over to their closest Patagonia store or order a jacket from L.L. Bean, they have to find other ways to keep warm.   Here is a list of some of their other adaptations:

  • During the day time they soak in the sun.
  • “Feathers are incredibly specialized structures that serve many purposes including, for many species, keeping them warm,” says Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo.  Larger birds like geese will grow extra feathers.  All their feathers help keep them warm, but especially the downy under feathers and act like tiny little North Face down coats.  Bird feathers are also covered in oil which makes them waterproof.
  • Smaller birds seek out dense foliage or cavities in rocks to avoid the elements and lessen wind-chill.
  • Bird feet are covered with scales and have very little cold-damageable tissue in them. They are mostly bone and sinew. This minimizes the likelihood of frostbite.  Bird feet are generally grabbing at rest, so it takes very little energy to stay attached to a branch.
  • Ducks in Upper Deschutes huddle, bunching together to share warmth, and try to minimize their total surface area by tucking in their head and feet and sticking up their feathers. Some species like certain hawks will forgo a solitary lifestyle and form communal winter roosts.
  • Some birds, like Chickadees shiver. Birds shiver by activating opposing muscle groups, creating muscle contractions without all of the jiggling typical when humans shiver. This form of shaking is better at retaining the bird’s heat.
  • Many species have the ability to keep warm blood circulating near vital organs while allowing extremities to cool down; some can stand on ice with feet at near-freezing temperatures while keeping their body’s core nice and warm.
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Photo Credit: Janet Roper

What can we do to help birds in the winter?

According to the Audubon Society’s Winter Feeding Tips for Birds:  One simple way to help birds when the weather outside is frightful is to hang feeders. To attract a diversity of birds, select different feeder designs and a variety of foods.  For ideas on what to get for your home, go to:  Audubon Guide to Winter Bird-Feeding for tips. The birds benefit from the backyard buffet, and you’ll have a front-row seat to numerous species flocking to your plants and feeders.  USE CAUTION, birds come to rely on this as an easy and unlimited food source.  If you aren’t going to take the time and spend the money to keep feeders full, it’s best not to start.

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Protect winter nesting sites.  Just like humans need a warm place to go, bald eagles need shelter to survive harsh winter weather too.  Winter can cause even large birds of prey a great deal of stress.  The critical point to remember is that bald eagles are very territorial birds, and most breeding pairs return to the same nest site year after year. They may use the same nest annually for up to 35 years. If their nests are disturbed or destroyed, the pair may never build again. The less human caused disturbance the more likely we will have healthy breeding pairs in the spring.

Another thing we can do is not chase birds that are huddled together in large groups.  We all know they will get up and fly away if we run at them.  Their ability to survive a potential threat costs them a great deal of life sustaining calories.

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Annual parking permits on sale now

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OPRD’s annual December parking permit sale started Thursday. From Dec. 1-31, visitors and holiday shoppers can buy an annual parking permit for only $25—that’s $5 off the regular price of $30.  OPRD parking permits can be purchased online at OPRD store

Also, don’t forget you can get great new gifts for the holidays too!

PARKING FEE WAIVED FOR ‘GREEN FRIDAY’ AT OREGON STATE PARKS

Staff at The Cove Palisades State Park are thankful for working in a beautiful place and all of our wonderful park visitors.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) invites the public to visit state parks for free on Nov. 25. For the second successive year, the department will wave day-use parking fees at the 26 state parks the charge them.

“We invite you to join a new tradition: Green Friday,” said OPRD Director Lisa Sumption. “Why not skip the mall, and instead come out to play with your family and friends at your favorite state park?”

11/25/16 – To Celebrate, The Cove Palisades State Park – Join Ranger Erin Bennett for a hike on the Crooked River Wetlands Trail at 9:00 am.  Meet at the Crooked River campground check-in booth.  Hike is approximately a quarter mile, on flat surfaces and is ADA accessible.  FREE

Parking is free year-round at almost all state parks; the waiver applies to the 26 parks that charge $5 daily for parking. The waiver applies from open to close on Nov. 25, except at Shore Acres State Park, where it expires at 3 p.m. for the Holiday Lights event that runs Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. A list of parks that require day-use parking permits is at http://bit.ly/OregonStateParksParking.

Visit the Oregon State Parks website for directions to each park: www.oregonstateparks.org.

Did you know that porcupines eat pumpkins?

One of my favorite Central Oregon animals is the porcupine, which happens to be the second largest rodent in North America (third in the world, after capybara and beaver); but it is not the animal that first comes to mind when I think of Halloween.  North American porcupines eat plants and favor any number of herbaceous delicacies.  Porcupines rely entirely on their nose for food search.  Considered a nocturnal, generalist herbivore, porcupines consume tree bark, leaves, conifer needles, buds from conifers and deciduous trees, wildflowers, fruit, nuts, rose hips, and ground vegetation.  They’ve been known to chew on axe handles and tires for salt.  So I guess squash shouldn’t be a surprise.

This summer I was preparing for a porcupine program and found a YouTube video you have to see!  Meet “Teddy Bear” the porcupine – Teddy Bear was orphaned and taken to animal shelter called Zooniversity in Dallas. He now travels to schools teaching people about porcupines – and winning their hearts with his cuteness!  As zookeeper Allison Blankenship asks questions, Teddy’s little squeaks seem to answer her back.

Watch and listen to Teddy as he enjoys his Halloween Treat

Happy Halloween!

Porcupine Facts:

  • Porcupines live up to 20 years old.  They are the second oldest living rodent in the world. (following Naked Mole Rats)
  • They do not hibernate, they are active all year.
  • Like monkeys they are divided into old world and new world species.  Old World porcupines are much larger than New World porcupines with quills up to a foot long.  In Africa, they are thought to bring good luck and are worn as ornaments by many tribes.
  • North American porcupines have approximately 30,000 quills on their bodies.
  • They are very peaceful yet territorial rodents and may become offensive when threatened.
  • Porcupines cannot throw their quills at predators; rather the quills get detached from their body when in proximity to other animal’s skin.
  • North American porcupines do not eat and sleep in the same tree.
  • Porcupines can accidentally stick themselves to a branch, or any other thing while falling from a tree.  They are the only mammal that can produce their own antibiotic.
  • If you want to see one up close, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.

First Rain Storm of the Season

That wonderful smell of rain on wet asphalt, is actually a chemical reaction. The air smells good after a rain, and much of the reason is a thing called “petrichor.”

“Petrichor,” is constructed from Greek petra, meaning “stone”, and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology (Blood of the Stone).  The smell itself comes about when increased humidity – a pre-cursor to rain – fills the pores of stones (rocks, soil, etc.) with tiny amounts of water.  While it’s only a minuscule amount, it is enough to flush the oil from the stone and release petrichor into the air.

Some plants secrete oils during dry periods that accumulate in dirt and rocks, and when it rains, these oils are released into the air. As the water activates the oils it invariably hits you: the sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative smell of fresh rain.  The second reaction that creates petrichor occurs when chemicals produced by soil-dwelling bacteria known as actinomycetes are released. These aromatic compounds combine to create the pleasant petrichor scent when rain hits the ground. Studies have revealed that the human nose is extremely sensitive to geosmin in particular—some people can detect it at concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion. You may also smell this if you are turning soil over in your garden.

Another scent associated with rain is ozone (O3). Some people say they can smell a storm coming.  This can occur if wind pushes the ozone ahead of the storm.  During a thunderstorm, lightning can split oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere, and they in turn can recombine into nitric oxide (NO). This substance interacts with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form ozone, which has a sharp smell faintly reminiscent of chlorine and it can carry over far distances from high altitudues.

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Happy 1st day of Fall!

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Autumn Equinox September 22, 2016

The term equinox is used by meteorologists to mark the change in seasons in spring and autumn, and occurs when the sun passes directly over the equator, creating a day and night that are the same in length.  The equinox occurs because of the tilt of the Earth in relation to the sun.  The Earth’s tilt is 23.5 degrees relative to the plane of its orbit and means that, although one revolution of the planet takes 24 hours – it’s different depending on the time of year. On the autumnal equinox, the Earth hits the turning point in its orbit where neither the North or the South poles are tilted towards the sun. That means the amount of daylight and night time is the same at all points on the Earth’s surface.

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“Campers” in Deschutes Campground today enjoying the sunshine and green grass.

 

 

Planning Your Fall Weekend

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Labor Day has come and gone.  The rabbitbrush is starting to fade.  Geese are beginning to fly south, taking summer along with them.  Crisp nights and cool mornings are a sure sign that fall is here.  Is there anything to do at The Cove once the summer season is over?  Most definitely!  In fact, fall can be one of the most magical times here at the park.  The cooler weather makes for a great time to hike the Tam-a-lau Trail.

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You can access the trail from the Upper Deschutes Day Use Area and embark on a seven mile journey.  The initial climb, an elevation gain of 600 feet in the first mile, is worth it when you reach the top and see the spectacular views of the park this trail affords.  You are certain to see some of the most awe inspiring views of Lake Billy Chinook .  It’s definitely worth lugging a camera and water with you!

Not a hiker?  Being on the water provides a whole new perspective of the park, and the peace and quiet of this slower time of the year can really give you the opportunity to relax and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you.  Bring a kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board and try paddling along the Deschutes or Crooked Rivers?  Our all new non-motorized, water trail along the Crooked River will guide you on the best route for how far you want to go.

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Prefer a little more information as you paddle along?  Book a guided kayak tour of the Deschutes arm of the lake!  Your guide will point out some of the geological features of The Cove and help look for wildlife as you go along.  These tours are available Thursday and Saturday mornings in September and Saturday mornings in October.  Call the park office for details and to reserve your space (541) 546-3412.

If you’d rather just to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the area;  reserve a site at the Crooked River Campground, grab some extra blankets and wood, and enjoy the colors of fall as you watch the sun set over Mount Jefferson.  If you’re up for a short walk, you can take the Crooked River Wetlands Nature Trail, accessed from the boat and trailer parking area, which provides views of the first two ponds in our wetlands.  As you walk this easy quarter mile loop, you can see the bluebird house and bat boxes built by Culver students, as well as the Certified Monarch Way Station the middle schoolers planted last school year.  You never know what kind of wildlife you might encounter along the way.

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As summer leaves, the busyness settles down, and fall colors peek out around the park, so does the wildlife.  This is a great time of year to see some of The Cove’s residents who prefer a bit less human interaction.  Deer are more active as they prepare to rut, ducks are pairing up and coyotes have been howling.   In fact, just about any trail or dock you wander along could afford you that opportunity.  Maybe take a stroll along the water and see if the river otters are out playing.  Or just find a nice, quiet, pretty spot to sit and relax and see what wanders along.

DSC_0063.JPGDon’t think that just because summer is over there’s nothing to do or see here at The Cove.  Come on out and take a look.  You just might surprise yourself.

 

Cove Kayak Tour Flyer

Deer have Adapted for Winter

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Mule Deer in the Crooked River Campground on a cold, wet, morning.

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are native to western North America and are one of the most commonly seen animals at The Cove, especially in the winter when visitation is low.  I was talking to a young park visitor the other day and he asked, “Do deer get cold when it snows?”  And I thought, what a great question to write about!

Deer have wonderful adaptations to survive in the high desert’s frigid winter temperatures.

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Mule Deer, Photo credit ronjbaer

First of all, most deer don’t live in the same place all year.  They move to winter ranges in lower elevations, where they can find more nutritious foods when it gets cold.  They are commonly found on warmer south facing slopes with less snow cover.  This is smart because when there is more than eleven or twelve inches of snow, it’s hard for them to move around.  In fact deer typically won’t stay in area that has more than a couple of feet of snow for a prolonged period.  They prefer forests with plants of different sizes for cover from predators, thermal protection and snow interception.

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Mule Deer foraging, Photo credit, Ron Stewart, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Deer are always eating.  Fall grazing for deer is full of high energy plants, seeds and nuts that allow them to fatten up for winter.  When winter comes, deer move around less to conserve energy and browse (eat) woody plants that are easy to digest like sagebrush, bitterbrush and rabbitbrush.  Their metabolism falls to half of what it is in summer, so the fat stores last longer.  If you have deer in your yard, it’s better not to feed them.  Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife discourages feeding wildlife as deer can only digest wood browse, and the extra energy used to go to and from the artificial food sources can actually exceed the energy they would get from it – making them hungrier.

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Just like people, they have a winter wardrobe.  Their thick winter coat has hollow guard hairs, like polar bears, and fine hair under the guard hairs act like a fleece jacket and insulate them from the cold.  The dark color of their fur absorbs the suns heat and helps keep them warm.  Also in extreme weather, deer experience horripilation  or “goose bumps” like we do.  This occurs when skin tightens up and traps a layer of air near the skins surface which helps keep it warmer.

As you fulfill your new years resolutions to get out and exercise, find a park and marvel at how amazing our mule deer are.  Be sure to educate your children not to scare them though.  If deer get scared and run, it just uses up necessary calories they need to stay warm.  Read the rest of this entry

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