Thursday, September 24, 2009

Swift Watch 2009

Wednesday night, we got to do something new and different in our own neighborhood... I love that!

At sunset, we headed over to Chapman School to watch the Vaux's Swifts, a flock of up to 15,000 tiny birds that migrates south every fall. During migration, every night at sunset the flock finds a place to roost (sleep) overnight. The swifts have been coming to the chimney of this school every night in September since the late 80's. It has turned into a huge event, with hundreds and sometimes thousands of people gathering on the school lawn every night to watch the giant cloud of birds swirl into the chimney.

Chapman School

I knew it was a popular event, but I was still surprised to see the turnout. Parents, children, neighbors, and out-of-towners turned out in droves. Throughout the event, children were sliding down this big hill on cardboard toboggans and excitedly running straight back up, which was sort of cute.

Bombs away

Since the new camera does not have a video recording mode, I did my best with photos in the low light. The swifts are tiny, so I strongly encourage you to click on the photos below which will open them up at full size, so you can actually see what's happening!

Just getting started, the swifts are scattered and flying all around

As if on cue, they start swirling and slowly funneling into the chimney

The swifts just kept coming. The sky was darkened by this huge swarm of little flapping birds, it was crazy. If you enlarge the picture below, you can see how the vortex of birds reaches way far up into the sky.

We also apparently witnessed a somewhat uncommon event when a few falcons (I'm not sure exactly which variety) came around, and starting dive-bombing into the thick of the flock. One of the reasons the swifts choose this location again and again is for the lack of predators. Not tonight though. We saw a couple of them reach out and snatch a swift in their talons and fly away... brutal, but pretty cool too. Nature.

There were about twice this many people behind us on the hill too

There is a good video of the event on youtube here. It's only a couple minutes long, I recommend checking it out. The truth is, it's hard to capture this event on any sort of camera as it literally fills the sky above you. But you get the idea. I'm glad we got to catch it this year!

Earlier in the day, Buckley got to go for a walk in Forest Park with his new buddy Pinot, a Vizsla puppy that Eric and Kelly just got a few weeks ago. She is SO cute... so these pictures are just for cuteness sake. :)

Meet Pinot

She really had it out for Buckley

Play play play


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Grandparental Visit

The Grandparents Horvath (that's Paul's Mom's parents) made their first trip to Portland ever to visit us over the weekend. We had approximately 24 hours to show them our home... what to do?? It's hard to fit it all into a day - or even into a year, as we've learned - but we did our best.

They arrived Friday evening, and while I was still at work Paul took them on a long walk through the Pearl District and then into Nob Hill and NW 21st and 23rd. I met up with them for a ridiculous dinner at Paley's Place. They wanted a true Pacific Northwest dining experience and Paley's is definitely the spot. We had a perfect dinner... poached halibut, NY strip, mushrooms sauteed in duck fat, smoked brisket, dungeness crab and corn risotto... I was so tired and starving from work though, that I failed to take any photos of our dinner! G'ma and G'pa took some, so I will post those once they send to us.

After visiting me at VQ for a (obviously) delicious brunch, Paul took them out of the city to see the Columbia River Gorge and the many waterfalls along the historic highway that winds through the gorge. First was Latourell Falls, a 249 drop straight down off a basalt cliff. All photography credits for the gorge/waterfall shots go to Paul!

Latourell Falls

Bob and Esther (aka Grandpa and Grandma)

Next stop was Wahkeena Falls, another falls right along the historic highway.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena is a little less about the sheer plunge of the water, and a little more about the cascading flow down the fall and winding down the creek.

Ah, tranquility



Wahkeena Falls

Grandma and Grandpa at Wahkeena

And of course, they had to visit the famous Multnomah Falls, the second tallest year-round waterfall in the country at 620 feet.

Multnomah Falls

Upper Multnomah

We wound down their day in Portland with happy hour at Departure, a restaurant and bar on the top floor of the Nines hotel downtown (we went there with my parents back in April).


Having a good time

Paul, Grandma and Grandpa on the rooftop patio

After a few good cocktails (and meeting a former professional ballerina, and a Maui businessman, and possibly a few broken ribs - just your typical Portland evening) it was time to call it a night for the grandparents, since they had a 6am flight the next morning. We loaded them onto the MAX and off they went!

It was really nice to have them in Portland, even though it was just for a whirlwind 24 hours. I think they had a lot of fun (there may have even been an "I could live here" comment in there somewhere!). Okay, who's next?!

Just for fun, on Sunday we went on a long walk through our neighborhood to find interesting things to photograph. There wasn't a ton, but here are some of the shots!

I can't tell if this says anything... hopefully it's nothing offensive!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sunset, Moulton, and Lucia Falls

Our original plan on Monday was to head to Silver Star Mountain in SW Washington for a hike - our first real hike in quite some time. However, our efforts were thwarted when the road leading up the mountain got progressively rockier and ruttier... too much for the little Honda Civic Hybrid Zipcar we were in to handle. Boo! Instead, we checked out some of the gorgeous waterfalls along the way on the Lewis River.

First stop was Sunset Falls. The falls are a little thinner than usual this time of year, but there was still plenty to look at.

Up above, just behind the falls, was a giant swimming hole. It was about .5 seconds before Buckley was in. He loves to swim!

The water was amazingly clear

Endless games of fetch

The rocks I'm standing on are a good five feet above where Buckley is...

...and in a single bound, he's up!

Posing pretty

"Daddy! Please throw the stick! Please? Pleeeaaase!!"


Sunset Falls

Looking downriver

Waiting for lunch...

After Sunset we headed to Moulton Falls, just a short drive away. This park is home to two waterfalls, ancient Indian meeting grounds, and volcanic rock formations. The water level was a little low here as well. We plan to head back in the spring, when all the snow melt is on it's way down.

Just before the falls, the water is eerily still

Water rushes through the volcanic rock formations

There was plenty for Paul and Buckley to climb on

Smooth volcanic rock

Our last stop was Lucia Falls park, just about two miles from Moulton Falls. The rocks and water were beautiful here. Much to Buckley's chagrin, there is no swimming or water activity allowed here, as it is a sensitive spawning area for salmon. In the spring when the salmon run, you can see them all leaping up these falls to head upstream - another reason to check these falls out again in the spring. I didn't catch it on camera, but we did see one salmon trying to leap up the rocks!

Lucia Falls

Looking downstream

Lots more rocks for climbing - Buckley's second favorite thing after swimming

Looking back upstream - you can see on the rocks how the water level changes

Lucia Falls

At the end of the day, I had taken almost 500 pictures. What?! It's very easy with this camera to just keep shooting, in the hopes that one shot out of a series will come out well. Gonna need a faster computer to keep up...